Wine and Fun From Italy

If the wines of France are serious, the wines of Italy are fun.

Italy produces more wine, and makes it in greater variety, than any other nation.

From top to toe of the Italian boot - and from Sicily, too - wine pours out as exuberantly as an Italian tenor's aria.

Every Italian province produces its local wines, and every one has its fiercely loyal partisans who argue - often with good reason - that their wine can compete with the best around.

But perhaps because there are so many choices, a lot of people in this country simply throw up their hands and stick with the old standards.

Ask a friend to name an Italian wine and chances are he'll come back with Lambrusco, the light, slightly sweet and fizzy red wine from the region around Bologna. It is the largest-selling imported wine in the United States.

Another Italian wine stereotype is Chianti in wicker-wrapped bottles. frequently recycled as candlesticks.

Local wine fanciers get plenty of exposure to Soave, Bardolino and Valpolicella from Bolla, a winery not far from Venice, because Bolla's simple, decent but mildly overpriced products are brought to the U.S. by a subsidiary of Louisville's Brown-Forman Corp.

These are all good wines, but Italy offers so much more.

The Greeks brought wine to Italy long before Caesar's time, and Italians have been making, consuming and exporting the stuff ever since. Italian vino ranks among the world's best wines. And here is the happiest secret of all about Italian wine: It is still a bargain.

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