When discussing Italy, it may be tempting to debate whether food or wine is more important to an Italian. The answer is of course a resounding “yes” simply because in Italy food and wine are inseparable. And since Italian food and Italian wine hold exalted status around the globe, isn’t the question moot? Shouldn’t we simply enjoy them together as we are meant to do? And since Italian vintners traditionally create wines that are intended to be consumed with food, we can revel in the twofold pleasure of selecting great bottles of wine and marrying them to fabulous, succulent meals. For example, consider an elegant, flavorful Soave such as La Frosca to pair with delicate white fish from nearby Lake Garda. Or how about an earthy, powerful Barolo or Barbaresco from the Piedmont paired with a juicy pot roast, flavorful risotto, or satisfying polenta? What about a Brunello di Montalcino, a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, or a Chianti Classico from Tuscany served with bistecca al firoentina? See, isn’t this fun!
In Italy, the possible food and wine combinations boggle the mind. In fact, it would take a multi-volume encyclopedia to catalogue the scope of Italian wine production. As the country that produces more wine than any other country on earth, it’s safe to say that such an accounting would be lengthy. Throw in a thousand or more grape varietals (the most of any country), slightly fewer than a million vineyards, and a landscape that moves from the slopes of the Alps across inland hills to the Mediterranean shores of Sicily, and the myriad possibilities presented in a full accounting of Italian wine production sends tremors through the limbs of even the most ardent chronicler. And we’re not even mentioning the centuries of tradition that led the ancient Greeks to call Italy Oenotria, the land of wine.
Happily, the variety and abundance of Italian wine we know today still deserves a special place in our cellar because Italy continues to produce striking deals on high quality wine. In addition, the next generation of wine makers in Italy brings a new level of excitement to the market. Willing to experiment with non-traditional varietals, blends, and the latest innovations in technique, a number of producers continue to stretch our understanding of Italian wine. So, combine this new wave with centuries of established tradition, mix in a dash of the magic that is Italy, and you will find that each bottle – and its story – takes you one step closer to understanding the soul of a great country.