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Related Links: Viniculture Need To Know

Decanted on the dinner table, essential as a cooking enhancer, ever so thoughtful as a gift, and a source of endless education, wine's increasing popularity - and profitability - have risen dramatically over the last two decades with no end in sight.

Italy, which surpassed France as Europe's top wine exporter in the mid 1980s, now enjoys a 32.4 percent share of the U.S. import market by sales. In 2006, Italian wine sales to the U.S. topped $1 billion, or about 22 million cases, making the business of Italian wine in particular, a worthy subject of investigation.

On March 19th, the industry gathered for a major annual event showcasing some of the finest wines Italy has to offer. Gambero Rosso and Slow Food presented the 20th Anniversary Edition of Italian Wines, a annual guide to the Italian wine marketplace, at New York City's Puck building. Italian Wines 2007 continues the tradition of impartial, independent and reliable evaluations based on blind tasting of over 70,000 bottles by more than 100 experts. More than 10,000 are rejected outright, while the remaining wines are awarded One or Two Bicchieri ("Glasses"). Following the scoring process, nearly 1,500 of the top-ranking wines move on to the Tre Bicchieri taste-offs, with the three final tastings held in Rome, Pollenzo and Colloredo di Monte Albano.

At the New York event, presentation of Tre Bicchieri chosen wines, 156 premium Italian wine producers in all, was offered for tasting to industry insiders and enthusiasts alike for swirling, sniffing, and, if so inclined, tasting.

(Click below to view a slideshow from the event.)

Like to become an oenophile? Here are some links to get you started:

Glossary of Wine Terms: 2basnob.com

Wine Auctions:Sotheby's | Christie's

Wine Investment Essentials: Wine Searcher

History of Wine: The University of Pennylvania Museum of Archaeology

Celebrity Winemakers:Francis Ford Coppolla | Greg Norman

Wine In Famous Phrases: Non Stop English

Industry Tastemakers:Wine Spectator | Gambero Rosso

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