With a wine history dating back more than 4,000 years, Italy is one of the most diverse winemaking countries in the world. The statistics are staggering: 4,000 years of winemaking history, 20 wine regions, 96 provinces, 1,000-plus grape varieties, 4,200 or more wine styles, and thousands of producers.
The geography and climate of Italy is as diverse as its culture, from the chilly Alpine area in the north to the southern tip of the boot that is on the same latitude as North Africa. The Apennines mountain range runs down the center of the country, providing slopes of every conceivable altitude, soil, drainage and exposure. This produces a wide range of options and styles in Italian wine that are as exciting as they are varied.
Even the geographic regions eschew consistency; each of the 20 regions is an entity of its own, with certain powers that tend to stray from national winemaking standards and laws. Each region is subdivided into provinces that take their names from the principal village they occupy.
Italian wines are marked in a classification system that has roots dating back centuries. The governing body for quality designations is the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC). This means the area in which the vines are grown and wine produced is a protected area.
Wines of even higher quality are given DOCG status, which stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita, or “guaranteed in the style and regional authenticity” of the wine. Italian DOC laws differ from their French counterparts in the AOC in that Italy requires aging of the wines and that there are no Premier Cru or Grand Cru systems in place for classification.
At present, there are more than 300 DOC appellations, which account for approximately 20 percent of total wine production…