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The best Italian co-ops plus 12 top wines tasted

The force behind more than half of Italy’s wine, cooperatives were once considered a byword for mediocrity. But as many embrace precision winemaking and become more specialised, their top wines can rank alongside the finest the country has to offer, as Michael Garner reports.

Their heartening success story comes tinged with relief: nearly 500 cooperatives produce six out of every 10 bottles of Italian wine, and so they shoulder huge responsibility for the country’s overall image.

Traditionally, northern regions have been the stronghold of quality, but standards are improving significantly both in the centre (Lazio, Marche, Tuscany and Umbria) and the south and islands, where many still rely on bulk production (wine sold in tank rather than bottle) for most of their income.

Nonetheless, it pays to be selective. Many larger Italian co-ops focus on affordable, soundly made, commercial wines; smaller ones that cannot compete on price have little option but to become more specialised and aim for ever-higher quality in order to survive, in the area between niche and mass market.

Scroll down for Michael Garner’s scores and tasting notes for the 12 wines from leading Italian co-ops

Italian co-op highlights: Garner’s dozen

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