Three Must Visit Historic Wine Regions In Italy
On polar opposite ends of Italy lie several regions that produce some of the finest and most exciting wines in all of Europe, and they both share a long and storied history.
In the foggy, rolling hills 2 hours southwest of Milano, amongst rugged, white truffle filled earth, exist some of the worlds most famous grape vines. Piemonte, home to the fickle but elegant nebbiolo grape along with other notable grapes like dolcetta and barbera, produces some of Italy's finest wines. It is the second largest region in Italy and over half of its total acreage is DOC registered vineyard land. Nebbiolo, which is the backbone of the great barolo wines, has sometimes been described by advocates as getting kicked in the face by a ballerina. It is elegant, sometimes delicate, yet strong and brutal in it's presentation. It is also very hard to manage. The grape is finicky and requires very particular conditions in order to thrive. It buds early and ripens late, and yields wine with exceptional aging potential (especially the barolo), but most interestingly, it has a very long and interesting history that dates back to the middle ages.
Neive, province of Cuneo, Piemonte
The region has been successful throughout history in cultivating its own indigenous grape varietals, and references to the nebbiolo grape date back to as early as 1266! Current day Piemonte, which joined Italy during the reunification period of the 19th century, has seen many occupations and hosted many kingdoms throughout history from the Romans to the early French, and it has even been documented that during the 1400s, anyone who cut or damaged nebbiolo grape vines were at risk of having their right hand cut off. So the love and care of this special grape is well documented throughout history and continues to produce stellar, world class wines.
Mt. Vesuvius / Mt. Etna
These two southern volcanoes of the Campania and Sicilian regions are hubs for quality old world wine production.
Along the steep slopes and basin valleys of Mt. Etna, Europe's most active volcano, and Mt. Vesuvius, which looms over Napoli and ancient Pompeii, exist some of the most storied grape vines in history. These volcanic wines hold mysticism and lore, and are even said to hold medicinal qualities as they are made from grapes that cling to the ancient, un grafted vines which thrive in the nutrient rich soil created by years of volcanic eruptions throughout history. In Sicilian they call it "scassari," meaning to break or destroy. These vines were born out of destruction, were born out of fire and brim stone, ash and dust, and learned how to thrive, even without water, using only the minerals in the volcanic soil for sustenance. The Roman's used the vines that rest in the shade of Mt Etna, and just further north, early Christian monks used the mangled vines on the slopes of Mt Vesuvius to produce wine they called "Lacryma Cristi" or the tears of Christ, that spoke into fruition the legend of Christ himself crying over Lucifer's fall from heaven, raining his tears over the lands that grew atop the fiery depths of the volcano, giving the vines their divine inspiration.
Nerello cappuccio, mascalese, carricante, code di volpe, greco, and many more; these wine grapes have legends behind them, stories of empires past, and when you drink these wines from these vines, you are drinking a piece of ancient history.
Vineyard at base of Mt. Vesuvius