Italy is a country which is home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. Etruscans and Greek settlers produced wine in the country long before the Romans started developing their own vineyards in the 2nd century BC. Roman grape-growing and winemaking was however, prolific and well-organized, pioneering large-scale production and storage techniques like barrel-making and bottling. It is the world’s second largest wine producer behind France. Wine is extremely popular in Italy, it is ingrained in the culture, and hardly a day goes by in the life of an Italian without reference to wine at some stage. In fact Italians lead the world in wine consumption by volume with 70 litres per capita consumption, compared to 25 litres in the US and 20 litres in Australia.
For me Italian wine is the best in the world, it offers a quality that runs through every level of the industry, whether you pay €5 or €100 for a bottle, you can be confident to find a fantastic wine. The variety of the Italian landscape, and climates in the different regions which stretch from the Alps to within sight of north Africa, along with the variety of the grapes (over 350 authorised varieties), some which very old and some which are only to be found in a very localised area, offers a diversity of flavours which will keep you wanting to discover more and more. Some are complex and some are simple but equally desirable, whether you like red, white, rose or desert wine you won’t fail to be impressed by the wine of Italy. Some of the more famous and appellations include Amarone, Chianti and the Killer B’s, Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello di Montalcino. The Franciorcorta region of Lombardy, produces sparkling wine which rivals anything produced anywhere in the world, including the Champagne region of France. But you don’t need to buy these famous Italian wines to drink good Italian wine, you can pull in at any one of the thousands of small local Cantinas and you will almost certainly find your new favourite wine.
Lake Garda is positioned so that three of the 20 regions reach its shores, Lombardy in the south and west, Veneto in the east and the Trentino-South Tyrol region to the north. It is therefore a fantastic location to begin your adventure with Italian wine. Reds include the aforementioned classic Amarone, and also Valpolicella, Marzemino, Lagrien and Groppello. The finest of the whites is Lugana, which is mostly grown along the south shore, where the town of the same name is situated. Soave is from the Veneto region is probably the most well known outside of Italy, and Gewürztraminer, from the Alto-Adige region in the very north of the Trentino-South Tyrol region, is a very good find. But again, there are hundreds if not thousands of vin yards that line the shores of the lake, for you to stop off at and find out for yourself, the wonders of Lake Garda wine.
Vin Italy, the largest and most important wine fair in Italy, if not the world, is staged every year in Verona (usually late March or April). “Vinitaly is the main reference event in the wine sector: the 2011 edition welcomed more than 4 thousand exhibitors over a show area of 95 thousand square metres, with 156 thousand visitors (more than 50,000 international from more than 110 countries). Four days of major events, meetings, tastings and targeted workshops to encourage contacts between exhibiting cellars and trade operators, together with an impressive convention programme discussing and analysing topics associated with supply and demand in Italy, Europe and the rest of the world.” -Vin Italy website
If you are fortunate enough to be in the region at this time of year and you like wine then you must go on line and try to get yourself a ticket. Although the fair is primarily a trade fair, many of the public do visit, especially on the last day, when as the afternoon approaches a party atmosphere develops.