Understanding an Italian Wine List
Italy has a wonderful heritage in wine making, reaching back millennia. In 2015 it has returned to the number one spot as the largest wine producing country in the world, followed closely by France.
The Greeks, who settled in Italy & Sicily exported the art of wine growing to Italy, they loved the mild climate so suited to wine making. They called Italy Oenotria - or the land of trained vines. The Etruscans who settled in central Italy also produced wines. The Romans loved wine, and so developed the ancient art of viniculture. A long and ancient history. Romans liked fine wines, discovering that wine stored in sealed containers improved with age - but they also blended their grape juice with chalk, salt water, water, herbs & spices!! Due to it's extensive wine production and Italy being placed at the heart of the Mediterranean, wine became the first globally traded product.
Italian Wines were often criticised for poor quality during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries - the government stepped in. They introduced DOCG or wine regulations to improve the quality of Italian wines.
Italy has 20 Wine Regions, and over 350 common wine grape varieties, so understanding a wine list could require extensive knowledge. Most of us recognize Pinot Grigio or Sangiovese but might not be familiar with Catarratto or Primitivo. And - Just what is a Super Tuscan?? All too often a wine list gives just the producer, vintage & price - tasting notes really help, but are not often there.
This article by Wine Folly might not make you an expert, but it certainly helps and is a great start.