It was the year...snippets of modern history of wine in Italy

May 13 2021, 16:28 | by Lorenzo Ruggeri
The dates that have marked the history of modern Italian oenology.

This week we take a step back in time to retrace together some fundamental stages of Italian oenology, moments well engraved in the minds of many lovers of the subject. We are talking about vintages that have baptised historic labels into important steps for the recognition of quality wine. If it's true that vines in the Italian peninsula have millenary roots, we must look to the influence of the Phoenicians or the Greeks, not to mention the central role of wine in ancient Roman times. Quality wine as we know it today has a relatively recent history. The great leap in quality took place with the establishment of designations of origin, which strengthened the link between wine and territory, establishing very strict regulations.

The first four Doc wines

The system of denominations in Italy dates back to 1963 and came into force in 1966. The first wines to obtain the Doc were 4: Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Frascati, Est! Est! Est! from Montefiascone, the Doc Ischia and the Frascati. The first DOCGs (the denomination designed for wines of particular value are Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino: it was 1980. But the great qualitative change of the entire country took place after 1986, when the system was capable of recovering from a decline in confidence and really shifting gears. The first wine guides came out at that same time, including ours, in collaboration with Slow Food, the first edition was released in 1987. The geography of Italian wine changed, true quality was spread in all regions of Italy and we arrive at the present day. For sure, for many Italian districts, the best is yet to come and we are here to tell you about this evolution. And here are some wines that have made history in and of themselves.

Italian wine timeline


It is the first vintage of Barolo to be bottled of which we have certain news from written sources and from which we can start the modern history of Barolo and its vintages.


After years of research and experimentation, Baron Ricasoli finds the right formula for Chianti. It included 70% Sangiovese and the remaining 30% between Canaiolo and white grape varieties such as Malvasia and Trebbiano


The first vintage Brunello di Montalcino Biondi Santi is bottled, produced by Ferruccio Biondi who created the brand by combining the surnames of his father, Jacopo Biondi, and his mother, Clemente Santi


Giacomo Conterno bottled a wine that today excites only with his wine: Barolo Monfortino is born


The first vintage of Ruffino's Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale is baptised


Leone de Castris bottles the first Italian rosé: Five Roses


Bertani launches its first Amarone


First bottled vintage of Giuseppe Quintarelli's Amarone, on the label it appeared as Recioto Amaro


Franco Ziliani launches the first 3,000 bottles of Pinot di Franciacorta


Giorgio Lungarotti launches Rubesco Riserva, adding a few years after the mention of the vineyard (Monticchio)


Debut of Bruno Giacosa's Barbaresco Riserva Asili

First time in bottle for Sorì San Lorenzo by Gaja


A year of revolutions and rebellions. Sassicaia was born by the will of the Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta.

The first vintage of Vigorello comes to light, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot


Mauro Mascarello makes the first vintage of his Barolo Monprivato


Marchesi Antinori launches the first vintage of Tignanello (in 1970 it was released as Chianti Classico Tenuta Tignanello) 


Mauro Lunelli launches the first vintage of Italy's most famous sparkling wine: Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore


First vintage on the market for Jermann's Vintage Tunina, a blend of sauvignon, chardonnay, ribolla gialla and malvasia


Sergio Manetti gives Italy the first vintage of Pergole Torte from the Montevertine winery


The Guerrieri Gonzaga family baptises the first vintage of San Leonardo


First vintage Cervaro della Sala by Antinori

Debut for Ornellaia


Masseto is born


To be continued...

by Lorenzo Ruggeri

 You can find out more about the Villa Sandi Contemporary Wine List Award here

Read previous installments of the series:

How To build a contemporary wine list

Everything you need to know about the Italian Method

Bubbles as a lifestyle

How to cook with wine

The real enemies of wine at the table

The contemporary sommelier

Five native grape varieties we are ready to bet on

Find out more about the Italian method

The Villa Sandi Contemporary Wine List Award

The Villa Sandi Contemporary Wine List Award is the prize we reserve for the most current, brilliant and user-friendly wine lists in our Top Italian Restaurants guide, dedicated to the best of Italian dining in the world. While waiting to resume awarding venues around the world, we’re offering an educational journey through the multi-colour ‘Jurassic Park’ that is Italian viticulture. We’re proposing a series of themes, with practical advice and suggestions, published every week on our international website


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