Category: Wine 101

Wine Region Overview: Northern Italy

For those of you following along on my WSET wine tour around the world, we recently did a brief stop in Northern Italy for a pop quiz about some of the wines produced. Indeed, that did cover a lot of ground, but not nearly the whole region. So I want to take time to look at Northern Italy in its entirety and explore the different regions and wine styles produced.

[Information based on WSET Level 3 material]

OVERVIEW

When we look at Northern Italy, we are looking at the area closest to the foothills of the Alps as well as the plains of the River Po. In general, Northern Italy has a moderate climate with dry, short summers. The Alps, which you may be able to tell from the map above, span the length of the Northern Italian border, thus shielding the area from rain. Like the River Po, other bodies of water that provide climatic moderation to the more inland areas include lakes such as Lake Garda. As you can see, there are also portions that are close to the sea—these areas can have higher levels of rainfall, so the major vineyard concern there will be fungal diseases.

Traditionally, vineyards were trained on the pergola system, as this provides air flow as well as keeps the grapevines off of the moist vineyard floor. Furthermore, with the vine canopy drooping over the fruit clusters, the training system also helps minimize excessive sun exposure. This system is still utilized today for grapes that require a high amount of acidity and low sugar (such as for sparkling wine) and for those wines that require grapes to be sun-dried (as in the passito method, which requires grapes to be fully developed and free of fungal disease so they can dry-out off the vine, post-harvest—we covered last time, but will touch on it again here). However, it’s noted that higher density plantings utilizing a VSP training system is now more widely used overall.

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Pop Port Quiz

In my last regional overview, we went to Portugal. So, I figured the next natural progression would be to talk about Port, a fortified wine made by adding grape spirit to a fermenting juice to create an alcoholic sweet wine. As I mentioned in my Portugal post, the key Port-making region is the Douro Valley. To learn more about the other grape growing regions of Portugal, please see the original post.

Have your Port hat on?

[Answer(s) based on WSET Level 3 material]

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Wine Region Overview: Portugal

Welcome to Portugal! Due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the majority of the country’s grape growing regions have a moderate maritime climate. However, there are inland areas that experience hot, dry weather patterns, thus are categorized as continental. With the various climatic conditions, it comes as no surprise that the range of grapes grown and wines produced vary from region to region.

[Information based on WSET Level 3 material]

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Wine Region Overview: Spain

I recently posted a Spanish wine Q&A, which did, indeed, cover a lot of information about the country’s wine region. Alas, when writing such posts, there are always a few details that get left behind, and it is those few details that one must be ready for when studying for the WSET Level 3 exam. So, I’m going to do a full wine region overview here.

[Information based on WSET Level 3 material]

INTRODUCTION TO SPAIN:

If you look at the map above, Spain can be divided into three climactic zones: 1) In the North (look at Rias Baixas and even Toro), the country is influenced by the Atlantic weather system—i.e., it has a moderate maritime climate. So vineyard risks here are all about the rainfall and associated issues. 2) To the East (move your eyes toward Priorat), the weather is a warm Mediterranean climate. Thus, there are less seasonal severities. Most vineyards are located where they can receive cooling influences from either the ocean or altitude. 3) In the very center, the Meseta Central is a large plateau that defines the center of Spain (take a look at La Mancha above). This plateau is cut off from any maritime influence by mountains. Thus, the climate here is hot continental and the largest issue is drought. Grape growers within the hot, arid center of Spain tend to utilize low-density bush-trained systems to capitalize on the water available and shading grapes from the heat-o-the-sun.

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