Italy is famous for its fashion, food and wine. And while fashion and food trends may be fleeting, wine endures. Italy's artful cultivation of grapevines is deeply rooted in the country's culture and history. Italians have been producing wine for thousands of years.
Home to more distinctive local and regional native grapes than anywhere else in the world, Italy's wine industry produces one-quarter of the world's wine [source: Stevenson]. Vines abound. France has easily identifiable wine-growing regions, but Italy has so many cultivated vineyards and such massive wine output that it's difficult to define exact categories. The country has an array of topographies, climate variations, fertile soils and longstanding cultural traditions that affect its wine output [source: Stevenson].
The diversity of grapes and the classification of Italian wines can make it quite a challenge for wine drinkers who try to sort the mediocre wines from the truly exceptional. If you're looking for exquisite wines from smaller vineyards, head to the Marches wine region in central Italy.
The Marches wine region is nestled between the eastern slopes of the Apennines -- the spiny mountain range of central Italy -- and the central coast of the Adriatic Sea. The northernmost cities of the area are Pesaro (on the coast) and Carpegna; the southernmost towns are San Benedetto del Tronto and Ascoli Picena.
With the exception of the narrow coast, the landscape is hilly and mountainous, with a number of large, parallel valleys dotted with castles and medieval fortifications. The region's location along the Mediterranean draws vacationers who seek hot, dry summers and cool winters.
Read on to learn about the history and culture of the region, which have influenced wine production for centuries.