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Italy is the biggest wine producing country on the planet, producing more wine than France, largely due to a tradition of making wine that runs for the entire length of the country.
Up in the far north, wine areas like Trentino and Alto-Adige share borders with Austria and Germany, way up amongst the Italian Alps. Grapes like Riesling and Gewurztraminer grow here, making similar wines too.
In the very far south, in Puglia in the 'heel' of Italy and on the island of Sicily, the climate is baking hot and Mediterranean, so big, full-bodied reds are produced.
In between, almost every style of wine is possible in Italy, including famous names like Chianti, Barolo and Amarone. The result is a varied range of high quality wines that are highly sought after. Here are Tom Cannavan’s top picks of Italian wines.
1. Cusumano, Nero d’avola, Italy, priced at £5.99 from Oddbins (or £4.79 when bought by the case)
Italy's Mediterranean island of Sicily is increasingly offering great value wines, many of them made from indigenous southern grapes like this Nero d'Avola.
The emphasis here is on the fruit, not oak, with dark blackberry and black plum flavours and some cinnamon in the finish.
This wine has delicious flavours of red apples, blackberries and black plums, and goes nicely with foods that aren’t too fancy such as pizzas or tomato-based pastas.
2. Piccini, Chianti Superiore 2006, Italy, priced at £7.99 from Sainsbury's (but £5.99 until February 9th 2010)
Chianti is arguably Italy's most famous wine, from the rolling hills of Tuscany around the cities of Florence and Siena. Made from the Sangiovese grape and given a short time ageing in barrels, this comes from the very large but still family-owned Piccini, in existence for more than 120 years.
With spicy hints and flavours of cherry jam, this pick goes well with lamb, but also roast pork, or meatballs in a tomato sauce.
3. Bricco Garelli, Barbera d’Asto Superiore, Italy, priced at £6.59 from Morrison's
From near the town of Asti in Piedmont in northwest Italy, this is a wine made from the local Barbera grape and aged in older oak barrels to give a full, juicy red with plum and red cherry fruit flavours. It has a very typical tinge of bitter cherry that gives it food-friendly appeal.
With flavours of cherries, plums and vanilla, this wine goes nicely with Sunday roasts or dishes like Spaghetti Bolognese.