The Italian wine culture is tricky to grasp. Italy is old, a very old country with history going far back in time. Wine-making in Italy is also ancient, and thus there are about 350 wine varieties and possibly 2000 different grapes grown in the country.
D.O.C. means "controlled designation of origin" and is a quality assurance label for Italian wine and cheese. D.O.C.G. is the highest level of this assurance label.
I.G.T. means "typical geographic indication" and is another type of quality assurance label for Italian wine. Wines made with non-Italian grapes like Merlot and Chardonnay often fall under this category.
What is the key characteristic that makes Italian wine what it is? Italian wine is not from a single or particular Varietal. There are a great variety of wines in a country the size and age of Italy, not to mention the variable cultures in many regions. The changing geography from north to south results in profusion of different wines and the distinct microclimates found in all of Italy produce a great range of delicious regionally diverse wines. The changing historical fortunes spanning centuries have left a distinctive mark on each region's wines and foods.
Italians, unlike us in America, drink wines primarily in the regions where they are grown and naturally complement that region's rich variety of foods. Wine in Italy means pure enjoyment, daily celebrated as nourishment for the senses in company of friends and family and guests.
This makes me want to try all of it: wine, food, culture.