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Italy

swirlingwine.gif (1374 bytes)They drive speedily on Italian roads.  It's not that they're in more of a hurry than the rest of the world, it's probably that they're simply "late." 

The same goes for the world of Italian wines.  When wine has been made in an area for a few thousand years, the drive to improve its quality has come only in the past ten or fifteen years.  While many wines were simply not of "international quality," Italy is now hell-bent on making its mark in the world of wine and is doing so with the same speed exhibited on its autostradas. 

Winery after winery is (or has) installing stainless steel, temperature-controlled fermentation tanks.  New oak barrels are everywhere (this is both good and bad).   More importantly, Italian winemakers are traveling around the world and tasting the wines of their competition.  (The best wines in the world are often made by winemakers who are well-versed in the wines from far-away lands.)  

italy.gif (4544 bytes)I have been fortunate enough to have traveled in Italy for nearly 20 years and have witnessed the dramatic changes with my own eyes (and palate).  I speak the language (now) and am always curious to see what new discoveries are to be made with each visit.  

 

 

 

 

How To Interpret Italian Wine Labels

Good luck!
Here's why there's so much confusion:

1.  The winery name often is not prominently displayed on the label! 
Sometimes it appears in very small print at the bottom of the label and sometimes it's even abbreviated to a bunch of unintelligible letters. 

2. How can you decipher if the name of the wine is a grape or a place?
Not without doing a bunch of homework!  Some wines are labeled with the grape name being the most prominent on the label and other wines take the name of the place where the fruit was grown as the wine "type." 

3.  What's up "DOC"?
The initials "DOC" indicate the wine is made according to certain rules which regulate the type of grape(s), the area of production, the maximum amount of tonnage in the vineyard, the minimum alcohol content, the aging of the wine in wood (if applicable) as well as in bottle.

4.  What's "DOCG"?
The "G" stands for "garantita," like there's a guarantee of quality.  The only "guarantee" is that the wine is supposed to come from where it's supposed to come from and we're, frankly, not putting much faith in that, either.

5.  What's "IGT"?
This designation is the equivalent of a French "Vin de Pays" and signifies "Indicazione geografica tipica."  It is supposed to provide the consumer with more information on a wine label rather than having, simply, "vino da tavola" and no other info.

6.  Why are "Vino da Tavola" sometimes cheap and sometimes expensive?
Many wineries make wines outside the DOC rules and regulations.  These wines allow the winemaker to run wild and unimpeded by the local traditions.  As a result, some of Italy's best wines have not had any sort of "appellation" or "denominazione," so wines such as "Sassicaia" had been relegated to simple "vino da tavola" status, much like the plonk you might find in a bulk demijohn in the local trattoria being served in something barely more classy than a dixie-cup.  

7.  Why the confusion?
Because it's Italy!   There are something like 3,200 different wine types being made in Italy.  Sorting through these is like looking for a particular strand of spaghetti in a huge, family-sized bowl!

Other Thoughts:

Many Italian winemakers now speak about "international-style" for their wines.  This is usually translates to "oak." 

Winemakers often attempt to curry favor with wine writers.  They'll read some reviews, see what scores highly and alter their winemaking in an effort to get close to the 100-point rating.   Hence, you have Tuscan vintners (and many others) adding Montepulciano wine from Abruzzo or some dark red from Puglia to "beef up" their red wines.
It's all about the score and rating.


Winemakers seem to be less sensitive to tannin than wine drinkers.  In the past decade, or so, winemakers seem to have gotten a handle on tannin.  

We used to find many wines of Italy to be extremely tannic.  What's the point in having an astringent, tannic, yet fruity red wine?  For example, we view Dolcetto as something to drink when it's young.  Yet many producers make a wine which has the same fierce tannins as Nebbiolo-based reds.  This seems foolish to us.


One feature of many Italian wines is they really taste better with food.  This may be, partly, a function of the tannins present in so many Italian wines (red ones, anyway). 


PIEMONTESE WINES

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wpe1.jpg (12344 bytes)Photo Taken by Gerald Weisl
No reproduction or use of this photo is permitted.



  Winery Brooms  
Photo taken at the Vietti winery in Castiglione Falletto in 1984.

   Can you tell this  winery makes red wine?







IF YOU'D LIKE TO SEE A SHORT PROGRAM (about 3 or 5 minutes) which will explain precisely how Italy differs from the rest of Europe, CLICK HERE.

(Don't forget to come back though!)

 

 

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