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Choosing a great Italian wine doesn't have to be a daunting task.
In choosing a wine, you should first consider the different kinds of vineyards and the many farms that produce wine. Your choice also depends on your own preference for a dry or more fruity wine; if you like the taste of wine to be thick and smooth, or you like to taste the tannin.
So we will not tell you which wine is good or not, but just give you some general information to help you read the label of an Italian bottle of wine. We will also give you some tips on how you can experience the best wine without being an expert.
How good a wine is depends on how it is produced. The land must be appropriate for growing that specific vine and the wine must be produced following the traditional method, so with no chemical additives. Wine is named according to the geographical area where it is produced and, since 1963 the traditional productions are protected by law and can be certified by government inspectors. This means that the "recipe" of a wine can be deposited and patented. In order to deposit a "recipe" it doesn’t need to be original, but only respect the traditional way of production! One of the ingredients of the recipe is always the geographical area.
Look for "DOC" on the label as a sign of high quality production standards conforming with EU and Italian regulations.
An example of a traditional wine is Chianti; a producer that is producing a Chianti in the traditional way can ask the government to check his production before it is bottled and if his production passes the test, the producer will be allowed to add the caption “DOC” on the label of the wine. DOC is "Denominazione di Origine Controllata" which means "Controlled designation of origin". This means not only that the wine is produced in its typical area of production, with the traditional methods, but also that it has been tasted and approved by licensed sommeliers from the government before being bottled. So if you are not an expert, choose a DOC bottle and you will have a good quality wine. A wine can be also signed with the caption IGT that means "Indicazione Geografica Tipica", this is also a certification of quality but less prestigious.
Unfortunately, good wine is rarely cheap. Good quality wine cannot be mass produced: the more space the vines have, the more sustenance they get from the earth - consequently the grapes are more savory as is the wine. Sometimes the difference between two different wines from the same region is only the distance between the plants!
The taste also depends a lot on the weather: there has to be the perfect balance of rain and sun: too much rain makes wine watery, while too much sun makes it too sweet and very alcoholic. That is why the quality depends on the year of production - the same year can be good for one region and one kind of wine, and awful for another. For this sort of knowledge you can just trust your sommelier!
Now a few tips on how to taste Italian wine:
First of all, white wine must be cold, while red wine can be better tasted at room-temperature, this is the reason why when you drink white wine you should never touch the cup but only the stem of your glass, while when you drink red wine you can take the glass as you prefer.
When you order a bottle of wine, the sommelier should always open it in front of you, because if the cork is broken that means the wine is no good, so the sommelier should change your bottle immediately without asking you to pay for it. If the cork is a bit soaked in wine that is normal. A good bottle of wine is usually closed with a cork, but nowadays you may happen to find a bottle closed with a plastic top. That is never a good sign!
The older the bottle, the more the wine needs to breathe. This means that sometimes you will notice that the very first sip of your wine is a bit acidic but then (if it is a good wine) as it oxygenates, the taste becomes more full and pleasant. If you swirl the wine, you will help it oxygenate faster.
You might be interested in Italy’s annual wine competition, it takes place in March and of course all the participants are excellent. Follow this link to learn more: http://www.vinitaly.com/EN