Almost all exported Italian wine is sold under one of three designations: DOCG, DOC, or IGT (soon to be just DOP and IGP, but that’s for later). Together, these three designations contain roughly 524 different appellations across Italy, and the list keeps growing. My goal, which will be chronicled here, is to try them all.
When wine first started to turned from a casual interest into an obsessive passion and I began to learn more about it, I started simple – mainly with wines from California. As my knowledge grew, I learned more about grapes and regions outside the US, and though I became familiar with many wines around the world, Italy always remained somewhat confounding.
The main issue I’ve always had with Italian wine is labeling. While labeling and naming practices in most countries follow a specific pattern – labeling wine either by region or by grape, depending on the country – Italian wine can’t seem to decide what pattern to follow. Some wines are named for the place (Barolo), some are named for both the grape and the place (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo), and some labels just display the grape (though most of these wines come from growing regions that are formally named for both grape and region, such as Aglianico del Vulture). Throw in the number of growing regions, the large variety of grapes (many not often found outside of Italy), and the fact that some appellations are labeled differently by different producers (Gavi and Cortese di Gavi are the same thing), and you end up with what can be a very daunting section in your local wine shop.
But for me, that’s what makes it fun. I love wine largely because there is always more to learn and new wines to explore, and no place exemplifies this as well as Italy. So this is my journey through the crazy world of Italian wine. Here’s to hoping I make it out on the other side. Salute.