Why we love Italy

Italy has it all.

AmaroneVariety

In wine terms, few countries offer the vast range and sheer variety as Italy.Italy Regions

Its versatility seems boundless. As does the romance, the variety of styles, the integrity and innovation. Others do come close. I mean France is pretty diverse too, perhaps more-so. But French wines come with a caveat that it’s either ruthlessly expensive (some argue overpriced) and that poor value for money overshadows, or threatens to overcome a wine-lovers joy.

Stability

Italy can produce at every price level. It remains a well-priced global force. In recent economic cycles, demand has been stable; mitigating sky-rocketing prices or plummeting quality (as happened from time to time in recent decades past).

Sella& Mosca-Terre-Rare-Carignane-del-SulcisFrom the mountains to the plains, the traditional to the visionary, the many faceted situation that makes up Italy’s wine-making heritage is the result of complex interactions of place and culture over considerable time. And in this time right now we are enjoying stability in both prices and quality.

The evolution of and interaction between the physical and human geography of an ancient land has produced an often divergent, yet mysteriously cohesive experience. Counter-intuitively, a Sicilian red Nero D’Avola is nothing like yet shares many a common theme with the Primitivo of the Veneto, almost 2000 thousand kilometres distant.

Geography

Italy is a long, thin, variously hilly, mountainous and Barolocoastal country. That physical geography provides a cornucopia of micro-climates: a myriad  canvas on which artisans and multinationals alike (and everything in between) strive to create a rich variety of styles of wine. Terrain impacts everything, yet the long spindly, uppy-downy, backbone of the Apennines range topography is but just one major influence.

Sticking with the lay of the land for a moment, there’s also the towering importance of the Italian Alps; creating their own weather, silently directing precipitation outcomes about the hinterland. Then there’s the fact that the whole country is pretty much never far from the influence of the sea. And set amid that sea are warm, breezy islands, the influential northern lakes, volcanoes and soils.

Each element subtly (or not) affords influence, and combining together locally region by region, valley by valley to generate complex, particular, local conditions. That all of these macro or micro climates and soil types induce a plethora of growing conditions, within the range in which the many different cultivars of vinis vinifera can thrive is the crucial point. And as it is with myriad grape varieties available, cultural influences and human creativity mean that multitudinous wine-making styles can and do evolve.

Culture

Zonin Prosecco Black bottleThe Italian dining palette has evolved over millennia to what we know today under a rather simple, if understandable, umbrella called simply Italian food.

Italian wine is known for its food friendliness. This is explained by science but borne out of love. Higher than normal and fully integrated fresh feeling acids imbibe liveliness over spices and rich dark and red fruit flavours (in the case of red wines) to invigorate the palate. The result produces such a wonderful marriage with favourite regional food dishes based on herb infused tomatoes. It is such an Italian classic, you’d be forgiven for thinking the tomato originated in Italy. Its just that the culture embraced it and took it to extraordinary heights.

The whites too (often overlooked for some strange reason in the mainstream mind) can be unlike anything from elsewhere. firriato-branciforti-nero-d'avolaIn the right hands Italian Whites cannot be faulted. Marry them with shellfish and cream based Italian favourites and they can and do shine. Sadly, I taste too many which are bland, overly thin and pointless. More on that another time.

In the examples below, you’ll see that its still the reds that take the accolades and fill out the recommendations from us..

With Italy, the two key components that France and Spain don’t quite gel with consistently are right there:  there’s the quality… and also the values… 

On any one of the above ‘metrics’, Italy has to rank right up there (at least equally, surely) with the best wine producing nations anywhere.

However, when we consider that no other nations seem to match up on more than a couple of those measures; which Italy does in spades and at very attractive prices, our favourite wine country must be regarded as a world leader.

Samples

So many regions, so many grape varieties, so much history, so many flavours, styles. It’s why we love Italy’s true cornucopia of wines: We offer over 150 Italian options, which probably is the biggest range in SH, and it’s still not a dent in term of breadth and depth.

Last winter we undertook the most extensive product testing in our 4 year history. Of the 100 new wines we tested, the 50 we felt confident about were added to our site. Many of those drafted were assimilated into redesigned or new mixed cases options. Of those 50 wines, 20 are Italians. That says a lot about us putting our money where our mouth is.

And that’s why we made Italy our inaugural Wine Country of the year for 2015! You can jump to a representative selection of what represents Italy’s range here.

Here is a gaggle of wines, wonderfully representing the sheer variety, the excellent quality/price ratio and the attractiveness in Italian wines. All are found on this site, yet they are but a small selection of our complete Italian portfolio. For that, view our homepage longlist.

TWM

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