The grapevines of Italy extend from Piedmont to Sicily. You'll find wine everywhere.
Many Americans were introduced to Italian wine with Chianti, in straw-covered, plump bottles; and with Valpolicella and Soave.
Modestly priced Chianti remains a big seller and Soave is making a comeback. But these choices have about as much to do with what's available now as the red-checkered tablecloth does with molecular gastronomy.
And they're all meant to be poured at the table.
Region by region, Italian wines complement the local cuisine. Here's a short guide to what's made where.
Italy's noblest red wines come from Piedmont and Tuscany. The nebbiolo grape in Piedmont yields the long-lived Barolo and Barbaresco. The more accessible barbera grape gives its name to the very satisfying everyday red, as does the dolcetto, which is an easygoing Italian red. The sangiovese grape of Tuscany produces Chianti and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and a sangiovese clone led to the 19th century arrival of the Brunello di Montalcino. Rosso di Montalcino is its fresh, youthful sibling.
Piedmont also contributes the tasty white wines, Arneis and Gavi, plus the sparkling Asti. Tuscany adds Vernaccia di San Gimignano to the table.
From the Tre Venezie regions, you'll find prosecco, the popular bubbly; Valpolicella, Bardolino and Soave. Recioto della Valpolicella Amarone is an intense red from the Veneto. Lombardy presents bubbly Franciacorta and red Valtellina. Emilia-Romagna is home to lambrusco, the fizzy red wine.
Abruzzo, of course, provides the red Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and the white Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. In Campania, the region where Naples is situated, you'll sip Taurasi, a red from the aglianico grape; and whites fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo.
Umbria offers Orvieto and sagrantino, the former white, the latter red. Lazio brings in Frascati, a light white from south of Rome.
Sicily's wines range from fortified Marsala to the sweet moscato, Passito di Pantelleria, and reds such as nero d'Avola and nerello mascalese.
Leading producers in Piedmont include Gaja, Roberto Voerzio, Aldo Conterno, Giacomo Conterno, Luciano Sandrone, Elio Altare, Paolo Scavino, Bruno Giacosa, Fontanafredda, Einaudi, Prunotto, Vietti, Renato Ratti, Ceretto and Moccagatta.
Among the notable Tuscan producers are Castello Banfi, Altesino, Marchesi Antinori, Avignonesi, Biondi-Santi, Il Poggione, Castello dei Rampolla, Felsina, Monsanto, Fontodi, Lisini, Badia a Coltibuono, Caparzo and Ruffino.