Among the largest wine producers in Europe is Italy; here are vines from the Alpine country down to Sicily, on only sporadically interrupted vineyards. The vine was probably brought to Italy by the Greeks in 1000 BC.
From Rome, with the conquests of the Romans, the vine migrated to most parts of Europe and as far west as England. A changeful history over 2 millennia followed, and includes the names of Antinori, Frescobaldi and Mazzei amongst the oldest wine-growing families in Europe.
From north to south, Italy not only has the most diverse climatic zones, but also an enormously varied terroir. Due to the Alps in the north, the Apennine mountain range that runs through large parts of Italy, and the volcanic soils, for example in Calabria, Basilicata or Sicily, in conjunction with the accompanying topography, Italy has produced an extremely diverse range of grape varieties.
Ampelographers have identified up to 800 different varieties spread over an area of more than 700,000 hectares. And they produce an average of 60 million hectoliters of wine, some of which are quite impressive. Many Barolos, Chianti, or Brunellos, and even more so the Bordeaux blends from Tuscany, which have made wine history as "Super Tuscans," are among the most sought-after wines in the world today.
With Tuscany, Italy has one of the most beautiful and spectacular wine cultural landscapes in the world, along with the Moselle, the Wachau or Provence. The white and red wines from the far north, from Alto Adige and Trentino, have perhaps not quite received the attention they deserve for their quality, but the Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays or Pinot Noirs produced here need not fear international comparison.
Soave and Valpolicella from Veneto, on the other hand, have enjoyed great popularity for decades, especially in German-speaking countries, and with Amarone the region now even has a wine with cult status in its portfolio. Many Barolos and Barbarescos from Piedmont have long since achieved this status, above all those of the great Italian wine icon Angelo Gaja. With the Gavi and the Arneis, there are also popular white wines here. Friuli in the east can score with Pinot Gigio, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, while Lombardy has sparkling wines that can compete with the best Champagnes.
Italy's popular white wines also include Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Tuscany, as well as Orvieto and Frascati from central Italy. In the south grows Primitivo, one of the hottest wines of the moment, but also Nero d'Avola and Aglianico. White wines like Fiano or Falanghina can be also be found.
Currently experiencing a lot of hype are the wines borne of the volcanic soils and high altitudes of Etna in Sicily.
Italy's cuisine is as diverse as its wines, some of whose origins date back to the Renaissance. Pasta plays a major role from north to south, of course, but the dishes are interpreted very differently from region to region. Classics in the kitchen are the extra virgin olive oil, the air-dried ham from Parma or San-Daniele, and among the cheeses Parmesan, Pecorino, Mozzarella or Burrata. The delicious vinegar speciality Aceto Balsamico is also an indispensable part of the sophisticated cuisine and has long since become an international classic among professional chefs and amateurs alike.
From the Alps to Sicily, numerous Michelin-starred restaurants, including 11 3-star restaurants alone, provide highlights of Italian gastronomic art.