, vines were already being grown by the Etruscans and Romans. When the Greeks colonised Italy, they named a part of the land, “Oenotria”, which means "land of wine". At the fall of the Roman Empire, the area under vine was already of considerable size, due, above all, to the land given to veteran soldiers and the authorization to plant vines there.
Subsequently, it was the monasteries which maintained vineyard production at a high level. The wine producing area grew rapidly in the 19th century. Phylloxera then wreaked havoc in the Italian vineyards as it did in the rest of Europe. Wars and crises in the 20th century changed the economics of viticulture, the wine was exported in large quantities and quality undoubtedly suffered. For many years this shift was detrimental to those Italian producers striving for quality, who use their know-how to produce wines whose excellence is becoming increasingly recognised today.
Since 1992, quality Italian wines have been protected by an effective designation system (particularly the Denominazioni di Origine Controllata – DOC – and the Denominazioni di Origine Controllata e Garantita – DOCG) - which represent approximately 20% of the total production). These DOCs/DOCGs include Barolo, Monferrato, Chianti and Moscato d'Asti.
Italy is now the world's biggest wine producer, ahead of France. There are vineyards in all regions of the country, from the Veneto to Sicily. The climate is, of course, predominantly Mediterranean - hot and dry. Naturally, given the size and diversity of its vineyards, Italy boasts a very wide array of grape varieties. The wine producers continue to grow the typical Italian varieties, the most notable of which are Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Barbera, Schiava, Dolcetto and Corvina for the red wines, and Moscato, Trebbiano, Malvasia and Vermentino for the white wines.