Italy, like France, offers a world of wine styles within a single country: dry Italian white wines ranging from lively and minerally to powerful and full-bodied; cheap and cheerful Italian red wines in both a cooler, northern style and a richer, warmer southern style; structured, powerful reds capable of long aging in bottle; sparkling wines; sweet wines and dessert wines.
Most of Italy enjoys a relatively warm climate, and the southern portion of the country can be particularly hot in the summer months. However, Italy's Apennine mountain chain, which traverses the country from north to south, provides an almost infinite number of soil types and exposures, as well as favored hillside sites in virtually every region, where vines can be cultivated at higher, cooler altitudes. Mountainous terrain has also resulted in the segregation of many small wine regions, enabling dozens of indigenous grape varieties to survive in near isolation. Here, Italy markedly differs from most of the wine world, which is becoming increasingly international in nature.
With that being said, many Italian grape varieties have displayed unique qualities. One of the most popular being Pinot Meunier, a variety of black wine grape that's one of the three main varieties used in Champagne. The other two are White Chardonnay and black Pinot Noir. Italy also produces the Pinot Gris, a white wine grape variety of the species Vitis Vinifera. There is also the Moscato Rosa, the most popular Moscato Rosa wine grape variety.
Another variety are Nebbiolo grapes which are used to produce wines in the Italian wine regions of Barolo and Barbaresco. We can't overlook the Nero d'Avola, "the most important red grape in Sicily". Next is the Ribolla Gialla a white Italian grape located mostly in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeast Italy. Another popular white Italian wine grape is the Pinot Bianco. Among Italian wine grapes, the Ugni Blanc, AKA Trebbiano, is one of the most planted. In fact, it's one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world. There is also the white wine grape Petite Arvine, though it is planted in the Valais region of Switzerland. We then have Nerello Mascalese, grown mostly on the northeastern side of Sicily. This grape is often made into varietal wine. Magliocco Canino is a red wine variety that is mostly grown in the Calabria region of southern Italy. Another red variety is Uva di Troia, grown in the Italian region of Apulia.
Italian wine, as most North Americans know it, is a fairly recent phenomenon. Prior to the 1950s, only a tiny proportion of Italy's wines were even bottled by the farmer who grew the grapes. Most Italian wine was consumed by the local market. The Italian government's DOC system (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), created in the 1960s, imposed more explicit standards and thereby improved Italian wine quality while at the same clarifying the labeling of wines and thus making it far easier for Italian producers to ship their wines abroad. (Today DOCG -- Controllata e Garantita -- is theoretically the highest level in the quality pyramid of Italian wine, with this special status more recently granted to such historically important Italian wine areas as Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino and others: areas that had previously enjoyed DOC status for at least five years.)
Of course, some of the most innovative Italian wine makers quickly began to look for ways to escape the restrictions of this system. They believed that DOC laws actually prevented them from making the best possible wines -- for example, by proscribing the use of certain grape varieties or by requiring them to age their wines in wood barrels longer than they believed was beneficial in some years. Those with a more independent bent essentially opted out of the system, instead producing wines that were simply classified as Vini da Tavola (table wines) but that in a number of cases surpassed the "official" best Italian wines in quality and price. (A new law passed in 1992 created the IGT category, or Indicazione Geografica Tipica, for the innovative Vini da Tavola for which DOCs were not yet created.) These trailblazers have revolutionized Italian wine over a period in which French wines have merely "evolutionized."
The more notable wines from Italy are Dolcetto d'Alba, one of the seven Dolcetto-focused DOC wines that hail from Italy's north-western Piedmont region, Moscato d'Asti, a sparkling white wine from the province of Asti located in northwest Italy, Barbera d'Asti, an Italian red varietal, Malvasia Nera, a red wine variety (used primarily as a blending grape) that hails from the Piedmont region, as well as a variety of Tuscan wines such as Maremma Toscana.