Snow in Italy? Yes, and they speak German here
According to the U.S. Tour Operators Association annual survey, Italy is the world’s top vacation destination. Italy has something for everyone. Its attractions include secular and religious sites spanning centuries if not millennia, isolated villages and dynamic cities, beaches, ski resorts, and world-class fashion. Of course let’s not forget their outstanding cuisine, and their unique wines, what wines. Italy has an unmatched selection of local grape varieties. And if you prefer international grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, you won’t be disappointed.
Did you know that Italy is divided into twenty regions? Each and every one is different, and well worth touring. Some such as Piedmont are world famous. Others such as Bascilicata are almost never visited by foreigners, or even by Italians themselves.
Italy can be divided into three major sections: Northern Italy, sharing a border with four European countries (France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia), Central Italy, and the South, traditionally the poorest part of Italy.
Northern Italy is composed of eight regions: The Aosta Valley, Piedmont (whose capital is Turin), Lombardy (whose capital is Milan), Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto (whose capital is Venice), Emilia-Romagna, and Liguria (whose capital is Genoa). Central Italy is composed of six regions: Tuscany (whose capital is Florence), Umbria, The Marches, Abruzzi, Molise, and Latium (whose capital is Rome).
Southern Italy is composed of six regions: Apulia, Campania (whose capital is Naples), Basilicata, Calabria, and the islands of Sicily (whose capital is Palermo) and Sardinia.
Each article will present a region and several of its tourist attractions. We love Italian wine and food (as expressed in our series I Love Italian Wine and Food), so we’ll present regional wines and foods of special interest.
Because we’ll be discussing regional wines, let’s briefly look at the Italian wine classifications. These classifications will also come in handy if you’re an armchair tourist and want to enjoy Italian wine at home or in your favorite restaurant.
Wine and Food Classification.
In 1963 Italy legally defined four wine classifications that presumably help consumers choose their wine. While most wine producing countries have instituted official wine classifications, arguably the Italian system is the most controversial, possibly the most abused, and probably the most ignored by the wine producers themselves. Should you learn a bit about them anyway? We think so.
VdT stands for Vino da Tavola, translated as table wine. Table wines may be made from any grape, or mixture of grapes, anywhere within Italy. Usually they are quite ordinary, and in Italy are often served directly from the barrel. And yet on occasion VdT wines are excellent and priced accordingly.
IGT stands for Indicazione Geografica Tipica, which may be translated as Typical Geographic Indication, in other words a wine that typifies its specific location. This classification defines the wine’s geography but not its composition or production method. As for the previous category, sometimes IGT wines are excellent.
DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin. Each and every region has at least one DOC wine, but some have dozens. A given DOC defines the permissible grape or grape varieties as well as numerous details about the grape growing and wine making process. About one fifth of Italian wine is classified DOC or better. Perhaps you can guess from this statistic that a DOC on the label is no guarantee of quality.
DOCG stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Guarantita, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin. Please realize that this letter G on the label is no guarantee of quality. But you will usually pay more for a DOCG wine than for its less prestigious DOC cousin.
Unlike most countries, Italy has a well-defined classification system for food, all kinds of food including olive oil, cheese, and even fruit. Look for the term Denominazione d'Origine Protetta, abbreviated as DOP, which may be translated as Denomination of Protected Origin. You’ll find from experience whether it’s worth paying a bit more to buy a certified orange.
Have you had enough of the generalities? It is time to move on to the specific Italian regions.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.
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