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Michelin Green Guide Wine Trails of Italy

By: Michelin
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Take a fascinating thematic journey of Italy with the brand-new Michelin Green Guide Wine Trails of Italy. Explore Italy’s regional vineyards and wineries. Learn all about Italian wine: making it, tasting it, serving it. And visit the scenic towns and villages along the way. Suggested Michelin Driving Tours for wine routes include special points of interest. Through its star-rating system, well-researched places to stay and eat, colorful maps and suggested activities, the Green Guide helps you discover the best of Italy and its wines

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THE WORLD OF WINE

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Discovering Wine

THE WORLD OF WINE

Wine is a marvellous creature, born of expert alchemy in which nature and culture, terroir and savoir-faire concur. The best wines hail from designated terrain, but the vignaiolo’s – or winegrower’s – ability to understand it and achieve the best product from each vintage is the wine producer’s signature, the individual touch that gives each wine its typical quality and uniqueness. Thus begins our adventure to discover this rich and complex world: at the end of our journey we shall be able to appreciate the nectar of Bacchus, celebrated over the centuries at tables, in culture and in art.

Davide Bretti/SHUTTERSTOCK

Notions of viticulture

From plant to fruit via the terrain and its composition. In order to understand wine we must go from the ground up, as the morphological, chemical and climactic characteristics of the soil the fruit is grown in are the first elements that distinguish it. The typical characteristics of the different vine species then join these to develop the product.

 

THE ITALY OF WINE

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THE ITALY OF WINE

Italy boasts front stage positioning in today’s wine production worldwide, amongst the main wine producers. 36% of Italy’s territory is mountainous, 42% hilly, 22% planes; viticulture is widespread throughout much of the country, and is particularly concentrated in hilly areas where, moreover, the best wine is produced.

Valeria/SHUTTERSTOCK

On a historic note

The land of Italy, of Miocene origin, is very well adapted to viticulture. Grapevines were already known in prehistoric times and the fact that grape juices fermented naturally was an acquired fact. We only know of viticulture and winemaking techniques from the 2nd millennium BC when first Creto-Mycenaean civilisations and then, Phoenician and Greek ones spread their know-how to many Italian coastal areas, where they introduced sapling cultivation, which is still used in many regions.

ETRUSCANS AND ROMANS

The Etruscans made a decisive contribution to the development of vine cultivation. When Rome was founded in 753 BC Lazio was one of the areas on the peninsula with the fewest vineyards, whereas Greek dominion in the south of Italy and Etruscan in central Italy had been influential even from this point of view. With Rome’s gradual rise in power, the Romans learned the uses and customs of the populations it controlled and embarked upon viticulture, and even perfected techniques and became great amateurs and promoters. A protagonist of bacchanal pleasures and more cultivated symposia (a term derived from the Greek expression meaning “drink together”), wine became a symbol of social aggregation. For the most part these wines were diluted with water and flavoured with honey and spices. Many Roman scholars wrote about wine, including the poet Horace and Pliny the Elder who mentioned oenology in Naturalis Historia, listing over one hundred wines in the Roman Empire.

 

ACROSS THE BORDER: THE CANTON OF TICINO AND ISTRIA

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ACROSS THE BORDER: THE CANTON OF TICINO AND ISTRIA

A small excursion outside Italy to two areas that, in their character, display a certain cultural and artistic continuity with the Bel Paese. As far as the enological panorama is concerned, they show steady growth and are characterized by increased attention to quality production and involve wine tourists in activities to discover the territories.

Lario Tus/SHUTTERSTOCK

The Canton of Ticino

VITICULTURE IN THE CANTON

The Canton of Ticino is divided into two principal areas, Sopraceneri and Sottoceneri – respectively north and south of Monte Ceneri pass – covering eight districts: Bellinzona, Blenio, Riviera, Leventina, Locarno, Vallemaggia, in Sopraceneri; Lugano and Mendrisio in Sottoceneri. All of these areas have vineyards to some extent.

The climate, which is mostly sunny, is marked by abundant precipitation at certain times of the year. The terrain is mostly granite and gneiss and is fairly acidic. Because of pedoclimatic conditions, the best-adapted system for cultivation has proved to be the Guyot system. Because of the frequency of hail, particularly in Mendrisiotto and Malcantone, the vines are protected by anti-hail nets.

 

AOSTA VALLEY

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AOSTA VALLEY

The mighty presence of Monte Bianco looms over this region, where grapes are grown in extreme conditions. The vines tenaciously climb the steep slopes in some of the highest vineyards in Europe, challenging the often adverse conditions. The fact that viticulture in the Aosta Valley has managed to achieve such high levels of quality is greatly due to the regional administration. The decision to focus on excellence resulted in the replanting of vineyards, the protection of native species of vine, investment in wine cooperatives, and use of sustainable, integrated agricultural methods. This commitment has been repaid: though modest in terms of quantity, today the local wine production is of superior quality.

Issogne Castle

Metrò Studio Associato/ UFFICIO REGIONALE INFORMAZIONI TURISTICHE

The terroir

There is a single designation of origin, Valle d’Aosta DOC, which breaks down into further specifications that identify the production zones (Donnas, Enfer d’Arvier, Arnad Montjovet, Nus, Chambave, Torrette, Blanc de Morgex and de La Salle), the types of wine (Rosso, Rosato, Bianco, Passito, Superiore and Spumante) and the varieties of grape used (Chardonnay, Cornalin, Fumin, Gamay, Mayolet, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Premetta, Petite Arvine, Petite Rouge, Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Syrah, Müller Thurgau). This system of designations covers a wide range of wines, many of which are excellent value for money.

 

PIEDMONT

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PIEDMONT

Piedmont means “at the foot of the mountains”, which is an exact description of the geography of the region. But the mountains are just one aspect of Piedmont. The rest of the region has a great deal to offer: hills planted with vineyards, rivers, lakes, modern cities, medieval hamlets, ancient castles and ultramodern buildings. It is home to some of the world’s most highly prized wines. They are at times difficult, austere and a little rugged, but gradually they reveal their secret nature in the glass, rewarding the patient wine-lover.

The sunny slopes of the Langhe in autumn

Per gentile concessione Vincenzo Lonati/GRIBAUDO

The terroir

Grapes are grown in much of the region and produce numerous types of wine, many of which are very well known, such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Asti Spumante, Barbera and Nebbiolo, to mention only a few.

Piedmont is one of Italy’s most productive regions and has the greatest number of DOC appellations. It is also the area with the highest percentage of VQPRD wines (Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions), a definition that groups the DOC and DOCG zones. Regardless of numbers and statistics, what must be underlined is that wine is an integral part of the culture of the Piedmonts. The preferred varieties are Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera, Freisa, Arneis, Cortese, Brachetto, Favorita and Moscato. The principal wine production areas are Monferrato, the Langhe, Roero and Alto Piemonte.

 

LIGURIA

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LIGURIA

The sea, with which the history of Liguria is inextricably tied, enabled its people to have dealings with different civilisations for centuries, which in turn influenced their wine production. Ligurian viticulture is varied and original, with cultivars like Bosco, Pigato, Albarola, Bianchetta and many more. Sometimes vineyards exist in places it is difficult to believe possible. In the Cinque Terre area, for example, they perch on terraces hewn with difficulty out of plunging slopes, proving that determination can overcome adverse conditions. Exploring Liguria is a fascinating activity due to the beauty of the region’s landscape, above all the scenic combination of its sea and mountains. The presence everywhere of vineyards and olive groves confirms that the production of wine and olive oil is an integral part of the local culture.

Vines in a dramatic setting over the coastline of the Cinque Terre

Maria Veras/SHUTTERSTOCK

The terroir

Liguria runs for 250 km between the Alps and the Ligurian Apennines. Genoa, the capital and an ancient sea-faring city with a glorious past, sits between the two Rivieras: the Levante (east), which stretches down to the Tuscan border and is characterised by calcareous clayey soil mixed with sand, and the Ponente (west), which ranges along the coast to France, formed by red, calcareous and marly soil.

 

LOMBARDY

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LOMBARDY

Wine is only one of the many things this region has to be proud of. Grapes have been cultivated in Lombardy since earliest times: archaeological finds of Vitis vinifera silvestris near Lakes Iseo and Garda dating to the Bronze Age demonstrate that the vine has been present in Lombardy since prehistory. Viticulture here has also benefited from the contributions of ancient peoples, like the Reti from the north, and the Etruscans and Liguri to the south. It was probably the latter who introduced terracing to Valtellina, which is in fact very similar to the type seen in Cinque Terre. In the 19th-c. the land under vine cultivation was much greater than today as many zones in the provinces of Varese, Como, Lecco and Milan, where today the vineyards are limited, used to produce wine in abundance.

Orderly rows of vines in autumn

Kuelcue/SHUTTERSTOCK

The terroir

An important wine-producing area in Lombardy is the Valtellina in the province of Sondrio, a zone where viticulture is considered “heroic” due to the difficulties posed by working on its steep, rugged terrain. Nebbiolo is the main variety grown, from which the great red wines Valtellina, Valtellina Superiore and Sforzato di Valtellina are produced.

 

VENETO

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VENETO

Viticulture in Veneto is closely linked to the region’s history: the wine “de Venegia” was known since the Middle Ages not only in the Italian peninsula, but also beyond its borders, thanks to the far-reaching trade practised by the Serenissima Republic of Venice. It is not surprising, therefore, that wine is an integral part of the culture and daily life of the Veneto. As the goal of local vintners is to make wines of the highest quality, it is not surprising that Venetan production is remarkable not only for its volume (the region is one of the largest producers in Italy) but also for its excellence. The number of designated areas that Veneto boasts also puts the region in the high end of the table, attesting the importance viticulture has in the life of the population and in the regional economy.

Vineyards in the Verona countryside

Fauxware/SHUTTERSTOCK

The terroir

Archaeological finds in the Lessini mountains confirm the close bond the Veneto has with the vine. It is perhaps due to this millenary tradition that the region has such a diverse and rich range of varieties of both white and black grapes.

 

TRENTINO ALTO ADIGE

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TRENTINO ALTO ADIGE

Trentino is a region of immense appeal to all lovers of nature and the mountains. Viticulture has been practised with excellent results along the course of the river Adige for centuries. International varieties such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon, Pinot, Cabernet, Merlot, Gewürztraminer, Müller Thurgau and Sylvaner are cultivated with great success, but it is the native varieties, such as Schiava, Nosiola, Lagrein and Marzemino, that are more interesting as they are more representative of the territory and part of its culture and tradition. Sparkling wines known around the world are produced under the appellation Trento DOC. Another of the region’s enological treasures is Vino Santo, a sweet wine of great charm produced in very limited quantity. Proud and strongly rooted in its traditions and culture, Alto Adige has two faces, Italian and Mitteleuropean. Grapes are the zone’s principal crop and its magnificent landscape is spread with rows of vines. Here the wines develop intense, complex aromas as a result of the large and sudden swings in temperature, daily and seasonally. In Alto Adige sharing a bottle of wine in company is a long established and deeply appreciated pleasure, and in autumn it is wine that provides the theme for a traditional series of convivial meetings: the Törggelen – a name derived from the Latin word torculum, meaning wine press – is the custom of touring the local cellars to taste the new wine and enjoy roast chestnuts, homemade bread, charcuterie, cheeses and other local foods.

 

FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA

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FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA

Situated in the extreme north-east of Italy, Friuli has a wide range of geographical attractions, including mountains, glaciers, beaches, hills, plains and the sea. Its grapes are mainly grown in the central-southern section of the region, where the clayey soil with excellent drainage is particularly suited to winegrowing. Friuli is especially known for white and sweet wines, but its reds are equally enjoyable. The DOCG appellations have been given to Ramandolo and Picolit, voluptuous and velvety dessert wines produced in modest quantities from local grapes. The region’s most representative varieties – ten in all – are Tocai Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Verduzzo Friulano, Picolit, Vitovska and Malvasia Istriana among the whites; Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, Schioppettino, Pignolo, Tazzelenghe and Terrano for the reds.

Vineyards in the countryside of Friuli

Ente del Turismo Friuli Venezia Giulia

The terroir

The three DOCGs Picolit, Rosazzo and Ramandolo are in the province of Udine. This same province is also home to Friuli Colli Orientali (with the renowned subzones Cialla, Pignolo di Rosazzo, Ribolla Gialla di Rosazzo, Refosco di Faedis and Schioppettino di Prepotto), Annia, Aquileia, and Latisana, while it shares the appellation Grave with the province of Pordenone. Collio, Isonzo and part of Carso lie in the province of Gorizia, whereas the rest of Carso is in Trieste. Lison is an interregional DOCG that straddles the border between Friuli and the Veneto. What makes Friuli’s wines unique is the composition of the soil. Once the flattish area of the region was covered entirely by water. Over the centuries the detritus, sand and clay settled and telluric movements raised the land to create hills of marl, clay and sand. Today these are the zones of the Ramandolo, Colli Orientali and Collio Goriziano appellations. At the same time the alpine glaciers generated gravel, sand, pebbles and detritus that make the soil composition of the Grave and Isonzo zones so unique. Elsewhere, in the Aquileia, Latisana and Annia designated areas, water was pushed up to the surface. A unique soil composition is also found in Carso Triestino, where the land is described as being “red” owing to the extensive presence of iron-rich clayey rocks.

 

EMILIA-ROMAGNA

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EMILIA-ROMAGNA

In Emilia-Romagna the pleasure had from food and wine is part of the local culture. There are many delights to be enjoyed: filled handmade pasta following traditional recipes, tasty charcuterie, and cheeses known around the whole world, among others. And of course to accompany these delicacies only wine will do, with those from the region often refreshing, sparkling and easy to drink. The region has fully 20 appellations. Heading towards the sea you come to the vineyards of the Colli Piacentini, followed by the Colli di Parma, then the Colli di Scandiano and the flat lands of Lambrusco (Modena and Reggio). Climbing again you reach the Colli Bolognesi, the Colli di Imola and Faenza, then the Colli di Rimini, and finish your trip in the other areas of Romagna planted to vine.

Hills under vine around Forlì

Fauxware/SHUTTERSTOCK

The terroir

With regard to wine production, there are many differences between Emilia and Romagna. To begin with, in Emilia Barbera, Croatina, Lambrusco and Fortana are some of the black varieties cultivated, while Malvasia di Candia, Montu, Ortrugo, Moscato Giallo, Pignoletto and Sauvignon are among the whites. In Romagna, on the other hand, you find Sangiovese and Montepulciano for the reds, while the whites include Albana, Trebbiano Romagnolo, Chardonnay and Bombino Bianco. In addition, the two areas differ by the fact that in Emilia the wines are predominantly sparkling, whereas they are still in Romagna.

 

TUSCANY

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TUSCANY

The link between Tuscany and viticulture is very ancient and this region has always been extremely protective of its winemaking legacy: as early as 1716 Cosimo de’ Medici heralded the concept of designated areas when he defined some of the highest-quality wine-producing zones. The region makes many wines that are famous around the world, such as the renowned Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti and the noble “Super Tuscans” produced in the area of Bolgheri from the international varieties Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The play of light and shade in the vineyards and “crete” of Siena

Newphotoservice/SHUTTERSTOCK

The terroir

Vines grow happily in all provinces in Tuscany and there are many appellations throughout the region. The most representative variety is unquestionably Sangiovese, a splendid vine whose grapes produce extraordinary wines. But there are other types too: the most common black grape varieties are Canaiolo Nero, Ciliegiolo and Aleatico, and among the whites, are Trebbiano Toscano, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Malvasia Bianca, Ansonica and Vermentino. But over recent decades Tuscany has won itself fame above all for the wines it produces from international varieties, which here have found an ideal environment to grow. In consequence, the region has demonstrated that it can produce great wines from both its native species and Bordeaux vines.

 

UMBRIA

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UMBRIA

Umbria is a marvellously verdant region of mountains, hills, woods, lakes and rivers. Umbrian wines were renowned as early as the Middle Ages, and continue to be today. There is a great variety of native varieties, including Grechetto, Verdello, Drupeggio, Procanico, Verdicchio and Malvasia Bianca, among the white grapes, and Sagrantino, Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo for the blacks. Of these the Sagrantino has garnered the most attention from experts and wine lovers as it produces remarkable wines that age well. To complement the native vines, several varieties have been imported, such as Tocai, Traminer, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Vines growing within sight of Orvieto

Gianni Fantauzzi/SHUTTERSTOCK

The terroir

Although Umbria can boast many interesting wines, the most representative are Torgiano Rosso, Sagrantino and Orvieto. The first, which falls within the appellations Torgiano Rosso DOC and Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG, is made from Sangiovese and Lanaiolo grapes grown on the hills of Torgiano municipality in the province of Perugia. It is a full-bodied wine with intense fragrances of ripe fruit, jam and spices.

 

THE MARCHES

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THE MARCHES

The revival and enhancement in the quality of native grape varieties is the goal that the Marches is working towards and there is no shortage of results. One obvious example is that the region’s wines are no longer represented by Verdicchio alone. Since 2004 the surge in new appellations – Vernaccia di Serrapetrona DOCG, Conero DOCG, Offida DOCG, Terreni di Sanseverino DOC, Pergola DOC and San Ginesio DOC – has demonstrated the dynamic changes the local wine industry is experiencing. The discovery near Ascoli Piceno of fossilised remains of Vitis vinifera, dating from the Iron Age, are a clear indication of the long history viticulture has in the region, which, thanks to its soil composition and the mildness of the climate, offers ideal conditions for winemaking.

The gentle hills around Jesi

Claudio Giovanni Colombo/SHUTTERSTOCK

The terroir

Despite the presence of international grape varieties like Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero, it is the native cultivars that triumph in the Marches. Verdicchio has always been the standard bearer for the region, which acquires unique qualities near Matelica and in the zone of Castelli di Jesi thanks to the very special characteristics of the soil and climate. Here Verdicchio grapes create white wines with a greenish tinge (whence its name), with scents of acacia flowers, hawthorn, peach, apple and citrus fruits. Known and appreciated abroad, Verdicchio is refreshing and zesty in the mouth, with an aftertaste reminiscent of almonds.

 

ABRUZZO AND MOLISE

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ABRUZZO AND MOLISE

Regions where nature is unspoilt and at times spectacular, Abruzzo and Molise have always been rural areas given over to agriculture and stock-raising. It is no surprise then that the origin of their link with viticulture is lost in the mists of time. What captures the wine-lover’s attention, however, is their recent dedication to quality, which has resulted in the establishment of new appellations. Until 1982, Molise did not have a single DOC zone, whereas today it has four; and in Abruzzo it was not until 2003 that the region could boast a DOCG zone. Another development is that over recent years there has been a progressive diminution in the sale of loose table wine, and a substantial increase in the sale of hectolitres of VQPRD wine. The estates are for the most part small to medium-sized and family-run, with the exception of the cooperative wine associations.

Lake Barrea in Abruzzo National Park

ABRUZZO PROMOZIONE TURISMO

Abruzzo

 

LAZIO

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LAZIO

Lazio is one of Italy’s top wine-producing regions. The zones that are most suited to viticulture are the hills of volcanic origin, whose soil, composed of lava and tufa, provides high-quality nourishment to the vines. Back in the times of the Romans the Castelli Romani hill area was already used to grow grapes, and the wines they produced were sought after in the banquets and festivities of Rome’s leading citizens. White wines are more prevalent but there are also interesting reds, like those made from Cesanese grapes.

The countryside between Rieti and Terni

Claudio Giovanni Colombo/SHUTTERSTOCK

The terroir

Historically a white wine producer, most of Lazio’s viticulture is concentrated in the Castelli Romani and the provinces of Viterbo, Frosinone and Latina. The most commonly grown white-skinned grapes are Trebbiano, Malvasia, Bellone, Bombino Bianco, Grechetto and Moscato di Terracina. The most widespread black-skinned grapes, on the other hand, are Cesanese, Ciliegiolo, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Cabernet and Merlot. Today Lazio can boast 27 DOC zones of which one, Moscato di Terracina, was only recently established.

 

CAMPANIA

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CAMPANIA

The beauty of the Campanian countryside is such that it can bewitch the soul. In addition, its cuisine makes it one of the most interesting regions of Italy to explore. The predominant varieties of grape in Campania are native to the area: Aglianico, Greco, Fiano, Coda di Volpe, Piedirosso (or Per’e Palummo), Asprinio, Biancolella and Forastera, which produce a vast range of whites and reds, all of great character.

The village of Ravello with terraced vineyards

Sokolovsky/SHUTTERSTOCK

The terroir

Campania boasts 4 DOCG and 14 DOC zones. The long-standing Taurasi DOCG was joined by Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo and in 2011 by Aglianico del Taburno.

Three DOCGs are situated in the province of Avellino. Taurasi is a great red wine made from Aglianico grapes that ages well. It is full-bodied, warm and pleasingly tannic. Fiano di Avellino is a white wine produced from the grape of the same name, with intense fruity and flowery scents and unique character, just like the Greco di Tufo. In addition to its grapes of the same name, this latter wine requires a certain though reduced percentage of Coda di Volpe. The versions produced are brut and extra brut classical method sparkling wines.

 

BASILICATA

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BASILICATA

The name Basilicata has Byzantine origins: it is derived from the word basilikos, the governor who ruled the area in the 9th and 10th centuries ad. The region is also referred to as Lucania, in honour of the Liky people who lived here in 1300–1200 BC. From an enological standpoint, this is a very exciting period for Basilicata. Terre dell’Alta Val d’Agri, Matera and Grottino di Roccanova recently attained the DOC status, respectively in 2003, 2005 and 2009, and in 2010 celebrated its first DOCG, Aglianico del Vulture Superiore. Vineyards flourish at the foot of Monte Vulture, with its fertile tufaceous soil, but today the area is not the only one under vine, as viticulture has also carved out increasingly important spaces in other parts of Basilicata. Aglianico, the variety emblematic of the region, yields austere, full-bodied reds with intense aromas of blackberries, cherries and raspberries: these wines are eminently cellarable.

Lucania is providing new resources to viticulture

 

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