With the closing of this year’s Oktoberfest, I have had some time to think about the other beer and wine producing areas throughout Europe. Many people plan vacations themed around visiting the many breweries and wineries peppered all over the continent. I for one am in support of this idea, as these locations not only produce world class spirits, but are rich in culture and historical value.
There’s nothing quite like a trip to an Italian winery. The hills call you to explore as grapevines grow in unison with olive trees. Buildings that have stood for centuries are still in use today. Grapes grow in nearly every region of Italy, so finding delicious local wines is never a problem. Even in ancient times, the Italians were efficient and organized in their wine making, and these traditions still carry on, even now. Italy generally produces more wine per year than any other country on the planet, except sometimes France. The country of Italy, though relatively small, has 20 different wine producing regions, each with sub regions producing their own distinct brands. Let’s take a look at a few.
Tuscany produces some of the finest red wine the world has ever tasted, including the well known Chianti. One of the oldest and most renowned wineries is the Castello di Fonterutoli, and is located just south of Castellina in Chianti. Having been in the Mazzei family since 1435, the Castello di Fonterutoli has kept its original form for hundreds of years. It is considered one of the most important companies in all of Italy, and is always striving for perfection and quality in its grapes, production methods, and wines alike. There are many different wineries producing Chianti, so tours of the region are popular. Chianti goes great with spiced pork, or a sweet Asiago cheese, but can be eaten with many other foods as well. You can find fine Tuscan wines in all the cities of the region, including Florence, Pisa, and Siena.
The Aosta Valley in northwest Italy produces mostly red wines, such as pinot noir. The elevated vineyards are nearly four thousand feet above sea level. This region has many kinds of grapes that grow, so it can produce up to 25 different kinds of wines! If you see Valle d’Aosta on the label, it could be many things, all delicious. There are many wineries in this area and most offer tours and tastings, all are worth seeing.
Fans of Marsala will want to head south to Sicily, to sample the local vineyards. Well known for this sweet wine, Sicily is home to acres of grapes and olives to boot! Grab a bottle and some spicy cheese, like a parmesan or gorgonzola and set up a mid afternoon picnic on the hillside for a truly unique Italian experience. With so much great food and wine all over the island, head over to our comprehensive Sicily road trip planner to help you narrow down the best places to visit.
The Provence of Bolzano, or South Tyrol, produces only 7% of Italy’s wine; however it is often award winning and of a very high quality. Many local chefs are eager to prepare meals that harmonize with the delicious wines of the region. The famous Gewürtraminer grape comes mainly from this region, and delicious wines stem from it. Winery tours are available and many of the local wine producers will invite you in for a real hands on experience in wine production. The tastings are very well organized, and there are experts available to help you gain a better understanding of wine. If you are there in November, you will want to check out the Merano International Wine Festival which is held from the 8th to the 10th. There you can sample over 400 wines from all over Italy!
I’ll be the first to admit that there are far too many different wineries and styles of wine for me to cover in a single blog post. If you search on the internet, you will find many websites dedicated to Italian Wine. You can also call your local travel agent, who can set you up with a personalized itenary for your own wine tour. Think about driving your car rental in Italy over to some vineyards; just make sure to have a designated driver!