Wine has been a part of Italy for more than 4,000 years. Whether the grapes were brought from Asia by the Etruscans or they were a wild crop already living on the land, the cultivation of vineyards is a central part of Italian agriculture. Through the centuries of invading cultures, including the Greeks and Romans, wine became a central focus of the social and economic life in Italy.
The formation of the Catholic Church in Rome in the 3rd century AD further solidified the role of wine in Italy as it was required for the church’s sacrament of forgiveness. As Rome began to conquer the world, its Catholic faith was disseminated alongside a Roman legion. During the centuries, Italy continued refining its winemaking techniques. In 1710, the first flask of wine from Tuscany was exported.
Exportation would increase until two events:
- Late 1800s – early 1900s: The phylloxera vitifoliae blight occurred and destroyed many of the Italian vineyards. Those vineyards that were replanted focused on maximizing quantity and as a result, Italy became known as a source of inexpensive wines.
- World War II: A significant portion of WWII was fought in and around the vineyards which devastated the wine industry and left many wine producers with insurmountable debts.
In 1963 Italy established regulations protecting their regional wines and within 20 years the quantity of wine produced was cut in half and a new focus was placed on quality. The results have been a world-wide recognition and reputation for excellence.
Today, there are 20 major Italian wine regions. When buying a bottle of Italian wine look for DOC, DOCG, or IGT on its label. DOCG is the highest designation of quality and has been given to only 21 areas within the wine regions, with Piedmont and Tuscany being the most famous for their high quality production of wines.
|Wine World Ranking||
Italy is the second largest producer of wine and provides 19% of the world’s demand for wine. Over the last decade, due to its dedication to quality, it has increased the overall value of its wine by 70%, providing greater revenue per bottle for the wine producers. The Italian wine industry employs more than 1.3 million people.
|Most Common Varietals||
Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Merlot, Trebbiano Toscano, Nero d’Avola, Barbera, Pinot Grigio, Prosecco.
|Time of Year To Go||
The best time to visit Italy is between April to June and September to October. During these months, the temperatures tend to be mild, the tourists are fewer, prices tend to be lower, and the Spring and Fall colors are at their peak.
|Traveling to Italy||
Italy has several international airports. Depending upon your itinerary you will want to fly into Rome Leonardo da Vinci (Fiumicino) or Milan Malpensa and then either take the train to your other destinations or pick up a rental car and drive. Or, you may want to fly to Zurich so that you can take the train through the alps into the Lake District of Northern Italy.
|Where to Stay||
In Piedmont there is only one place to stay, La Villa. Nicola has poured her heart into creating a magical place for travelers to stay while they explore the top rated wine region of Italy. The commitment to excellence in all things is palpable – from the interiors to the cuisine. A driver or rental car will be required to reach La Villa. Their website includes information on nearest airports.
In Tuscany there are many choices of charming places to stay – both villas and hotels.
|Getting Around Italy||
Once you have defined your itinerary in Italy you can use the app, Rome2Rio to help you in planning your transportation.
The following are some general guidelines:
If you will be visiting a number of smaller villages, on and off of the Italian train line, a rental car or private driver may be required.
On those days when you will be touring the vineyards and participating in tastings I would recommend that you hire a driver or join a small group tour. A few suggestions for Tuscany may be found here and for Piedmont here. The roads are narrow and can be poorly marked. And besides, it’s no fun to have to sit out a tasting if you are the designated driver!
|Notable Places to Eat|
Movies filmed in Italy include:
Music from Italy:
Food from Italy:
Some of my favorite authors and books set in Italy:
What about doing an in-home tasting of Italian wines?
For planning ideas refer to:
Mary Beth I have a passion for creating and experiencing unforgettable moments and sharing those with others. I hope that this story has helped you experience one of those moments.