Italy vies with France for the title of the largest wine producing country, but no place else can match ‘il bel paese’ for diversity and individuality. The vine was first brought to Italy by the Greeks and Etruscans about 3,000 years ago, since when many of the grape varieties planted on the peninsula’s slopes (Italy is comprised of about 80% hills and mountains) have thrived.
They have been joined over the centuries by imported varieties to give a country that mixes the old and the new, the native and the imported, in a way that no other country in the world does. Combine this with the fact that Italian viticulture has improved markedly over the past two decades and you now have a country that is marching confidently into the future.
True, it is held back to a certain extent by dated laws and a stifling bureaucracy, but in wine – as in the rest of Italian life – the energy of the individual triumphs over the lassitude of the State.