This is a BIG wine producing country, arguably the largest wine producing nation in the World, and probably one of the largest consumers to boot! Grapes are grown in every region of Italy, and the vast bulk of the wines made are done using native grape vareties, many of which have now become famous in their own right, and are planted widely across the rest of the wine making countries of the World.
Geographically, Italy stands out for its sheer size and wealth of climates and microclimates. Stretching from the foothills of the Dolomites in the North, snowbound year-round, all the way through Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria, Campania, to the very toe-top if its 'boot' in darkest, most-rural Calabria, whilst also encompassing the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, it can look almost bewildering when you consider the climates each region possesses. Factor in the spine of the Appennine Mountains that runs centrally through almost every region, producing MORE microclimates and you begin to realise how hard it is to narrow Italian wine down to a few well-known examples such as Prosecco, Chianti, Soave, Barolo etc. I would also argue that the human factor, that of the winemaker and grapegrower, also needs to be factored in. Is it possible that Italians, with their individualistic approach to anything creative, could also add to a particular wine style. Surely not.... ?! The top wines command very high prices, made in tiny quantities and always on tight allocations. These would include Sassicaia, Masseto, the top Barolo, Barbaresco, Amarones, Chianti, Super Tuscans, etc etc. At the other end, Italy makes an awful lot of mediocre, industrial wine, from high yielding grapes grown on flat, industrially farmed plains with the onus on filling shelves in supermarkets around the Globe. In between is where the interest can lie - with individual growers making superlative, classic wines from the better sighted 'Classico' regions, often the historical heart of a particular region. It is here that knowing the grower, like Burgundy in France, helps the wine drinker find a great wine. Grapes such as Pinot Grigio, Trebbiano and Glera produce huge quantities of soft, fairly neutral white in industrial hands, whilst in the right hands these grapes can sing! Other main white grapes are Falanghina, Greco, Fiano and Garganega, although the list could stretch to another 200 white grapes! For red wines, the main grapes are Sangiovese, Primitivo, Nebbiolo, Corvina (especially for the Veneto region), Barbera, Dolcetto and Montepulciano, but, like the white grapes, you could easily add 2-300 hundred lesser known but important red grapes to the list.