Wine quality level (IGT); see under Italy.
Italy is one of the oldest wine-growing countries, with origins dating back at least to 1,000 BC. At that time, the Etruscans appeared in central Italy and settled areas of the four present-day regions of Abruzzo, Lazio, Tuscany and Umbria. The origin of Italian wine culture lies primarily in Greek colonisation, which brought Greek viticultural culture to the peninsula beginning in the 10th century BC on the island of Sicily as well as Campania and Calabria. The Greeks brought many of their grape varieties with them and named the land ideal for viticulture Oinotria (land of vines grown on stakes). Likewise, at this time, the Phoenicians (Punic), who later became a great enemy and established bases in Sicily and the Mediterranean, exerted an influence. From the 6th century BC, a lively trade began with the Celts in Gaul (France), who imported considerable quantities of wine from Upper and Central Italy.
The Romans willingly learned from all these peoples and brought viticulture and winemaking to a high art and blossom. By the 3rd century BC, grapevines were widespread throughout the peninsula and by the 1st century BC, wine culture reached a peak. The city of Pompeii was the wine trading centre and main supplier to Rome until its destruction by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 BC. The most famous ancient wines at this time included Caecuber, Falerner, Raeticum and Surrentiner. The Romans planted vineyards in the newly won provinces in what are now France, Spain, Portugal, Germany and England. Wine became an import and export article and the Romans already made wooden barrels for it, having learned this from the Celts (Gauls).
Many Roman authors wrote very extensive works about viticulture and wine culture in the Teril, thus providing a very precise picture. The spectrum ranges from purely scientific (doctrinal) writings to poetic descriptions and descriptions of the eating and drinking culture. Of particular note is Satyricon, a portrait of the manners of the Roman upper class. The most important authors in chronological order are Cato the Elder (234-149 BC), Virgil (70-19 BC), Horace (65-8 BC), Ovid (43 BC to 8 AD), Columella (1st half of 1st century), Petronius (14-66), Pliny the Elder (23-79) and Palladius (4th century). Wine became a cultural medium of the first rank; in continuation of the Greek cult of Dionysus, the wine god Bacchus enjoyed great veneration. The Romans were very creative when it came to wine-making techniques. One speciality was flavouring to make the wine tastier and more durable.
Sparkling wine was already produced by storing the amphorae in cold spring water (interruption of fermentation). In the first century AD, people were intensively engaged in the breeding of grape varieties and tried to find the most suitable vine for the respective soil. Pliny recognised that above all the area and the soil, i.e. according to today's nomenclature the origin and the terroir, determine the quality of the wine and that, for example, Uva Rhetica (variety for the Raeticum) does not produce good wine outside its cultivation area, but only produces quantity. It was recommended that vineyards should be cultivated and vinified in single vineyards, so that the varieties could be better assessed. Many of today's autochthonous vines are descended from the ancient grape varieties cultivated at that time. With the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century and the turmoil of the migration of peoples, wine culture fell into oblivion and was only cultivated by monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church through the production of mass wine.
There was a great upswing at the beginning of the Renaissance in the 14th century. In order to revive viticulture, Pope Paul III. (1468-1549) put French wine under ban and had surveys of Italian wine drawn up. As early as 1716, under Grand Duke Cosimo III. (1642-1723) from the Medici dynasty in Tuscany, the zone for Chianti was established, making Italy one of the first countries with a designation of origin. But it was not until the 19th century, when wine types such as Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti were created with French help, that a new beginning was ushered in.
The soil is characterised by great diversity, but the climate has common influences despite local differences. The Alps shield against cold north winds, the Apennines form a 1,500 kilometre weather divide from Piedmont in the north to Sicily in the south. The Mediterranean Sea to the east and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west of the boot, as well as the numerous rivers and lakes, have a determining effect. The best regions have temperatures between 12 and 16 °C, sufficient snow and rainfall in winter and warm to hot summers with sunshine until late in autumn. Vineyards are planted from sea level up to 1,000 metres above sea level. The 20 wine-growing regions coincide with the political regional boundaries:
|Valle d'Aosta (2)||Valle d'Aosta||Aosta||500|
|Basilicata (4)||Basilicata or Lucania||Potenza||2.000|
|Friuli-Venezia Giulia (6)||Friuli-Venezia Giulia||Trieste||27.000|
|Sardinia (15)||Sardegna former Tinakria||Cagliari||26.700|
|Trentino-South Tyrol (18)||Trentino-Alto Adige||Trento||15.500|
Grape varieties and vineyards
At the beginning of the 1990s, the area under vines was still well over one million hectares, but this has been reduced by around 200,000 hectares due to subsidised grubbing-up programmes by the European Union and subsequently other measures. In 2014, 44.3 million hectolitres of wine were produced from 690,000 hectares of vineyards. This puts Italy in the top league worldwide (see under wine production volumes). Wine is grown from the north of the country (Trentino-South Tyrol) to the deepest south (Sicily) and on the islands in the Mediterranean. However, the more than 400 DOC and DOCG zones account for only about one fifth of wine production. There are around two million grape producers, 340,000 cellars and 45,000 wine bottlers. With over 2,000 different grape varieties, Italy has the most in the world, quite a few of which are of ancient (Greek) origin. Of these, however, "only" 400 are officially authorised. The grape variety table in 2016 with the top 50 (statistics Kym Anderson):
Synonyms / Italian name
|Sangiovese||red||Brunello, Prugnolo Gentile, Nielluccio||68.428|
|Trebbiano Toscano||white||Trebbiano di Cesena, Tália, Ugni Blanc||35.441|
|Catarratto Bianco||white||C. B. Comune, C. B. Lucido||28.563|
|Glera||white||until 2009 Prosecco, Teran Bijeli||19.730|
|Trebbiano Romagnolo||white||T. della Fiamma, T. di Romagna||19.059|
The glossary is a monumental achievement and one of the most important contributions to wine knowledge. Of all the encyclopaedias I use on the subject of wine, it is by far the most important. That was the case ten years ago and it hasn't changed since.Andreas Essl