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Italy has some of the oldest wine production methods in the world and almost every part of the country is planted under vine. From the Alps in the north to the very southernmost parts of Sicily where Africa is almost in sight, wine is successfully cultivated. In addition to the latitude covered, Italy's many mountains and hills provide a plethora of altitudes for grape growing in various soils and micro-climates. The extensive coastlines along the peninsula that is Italy provide maritime climates for the coastal wine-growing areas. Over 350 grape varieties are 'authorised' in Italy, though up to 550 varieties are thought to be grown.
The classification system of Italian wines has four classes, with the intention of defining a wine's origin a quality. Two of these classes are table wines, whilst DOC and DOCG fall under the EU quality wine produced in a specific region category. Vino da Tavola (VDT) means that the wine comes from Italy. Most of these wines are generally basic table wines that are consumed domestically. Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) denotes a more specific region within Italy, and the resultant will be of higher quality than simple table wines, but won't conform to the rules required for higher certification. Both Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) are regionally more specific than IGT, and have stricter rules regarding the grape varieties grown, yields per hectare, minimum alcohol levels and so on. The major difference between DOC and DOCG is that the latter has to undergo a blind-tasting session to ensure the highest quality is achieved. Italy has 32 DOCG appelations, 311 DOC appelations and 120 IGT zones.
Key regions include Piedmont, Tuscany, Abruzzo, Veneto, Sicily and Sardinia. Common white varieties grown are Pinot Grigio, Arneis, Vermentino, Verdicchio, Fiano and Moscato. The red varieties grown the most are Sangiovese, Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Montepulciano, Primitivo, Nero d'Avola and Corvina.
The Puglia region of Italy is part of the heel of the ‘Boot’. More a grapegrowing region than a wine-producing one, Puglia is split into three subregions: Foggia in the north, Bari and Taranto in the centre, and Brindisi and Lecce in the south. Along with Sicily (with which it is tied), it is the second largest wine region in Italy, behind Veneto. Sunny, dry, and surrounded by water on three sides, Puglia boasts a warm Mediterranean climate, fertile soil, and mild vineyard temperatures, making it ideal for growing many varieties of grapes. The region is known primarily for its red-wine grapes, including Primitivo, Negroamaro, and Bombino Nero. The wines from this fruit, including the popular Salice Salentino from the Negroamaro grape, are typically fruit-forward, ripe, full-bodied, and delicious; plus, they usually offer great value for money and make for excellent food pairings with lots of different fare.
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