The ancient Romans began organizing vineyards in the 2nd century BCE, after defeating the Carthaginians. Shortly thereafter, the Romans provided technological advancements in barrel-making and bottling; wine was clearly on their minds. Wine-making became so popular that Italy was running out of land for other agricultural purposes. In AD 92, Emperor Domitian ordered that some of the plantations close in order to provide land for food production. Italians were so proud of their wine that the Romans prohibited any other provinces from producing it. Not until many years later did the Roman Empire relax its laws, allowing the rest of Europe to produce wine.
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Regions of Wine
The characteristics of a given wine are reflective of the culture in which it is made. Each of Italy’s 20 wine-producing regions proudly claim their own subcultures and cuisines, leading to many variations of wine. The following wine-producing regions of Italy are listed in an approximately clockwise order from Northwest to Southeast.
- Valle d’Aosta
- Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol
- Friuli-Venezia Giulia
- Le Marche
Italian Wine Classification System
Four subclasses fill out two main categories in this classification system. The ‘Table Wine’ category contains two subclasses; another two fall under the EU category of “Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region.”
Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) – Wines that do not follow the strict laws and criteria of old Italy, but are still considered high quality. These wines are from a specific region of Italy. This category is home to the red “Super Tuscans.”
Vino da Tavola (VDT) – While few quality Italian wines fall into this classification, most are considered inferior. Italian wines that do not follow current laws also meet the criteria for this category.
Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region:
Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)
The main difference between DOC and DOCG wines are that the latter must pass both strict local designation requirements in addition to a blind taste test for quality purposes. According to the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Italy has 34 DOCG and 300+ DOC wines in 120 IGT zones. Both the permitted grape varieties and the zoning of DOC and DOCG wines are more specific than an IGT.