Italy’s most important grapes

With France dominating the grape pantheon of the wine world, it is always reassuring to know that there are a few countries able to offer something a little different.

italyItaly is just such a place, with a viticultural heritage older than that of France, some of the most eclectic grapes on the planet and a bewildering array of vineyard classifications which sticks two fingers up to organisational good sense.

It is no wonder that some people find Italy a daunting prospect, but, demands Berry Bros & Rudd’s Italian buyer David Berry Green: “Why does the standard have to be Cabernet Sauvignon and co? Italian grapes aren’t ‘quirky’, they just have a different name.”

On the subject of tackling Italian wines and their regions he reasons: “We simply need to be very clear about which are the key varieties in each region just as we’ve been brought up knowing which varieties are key to each French region. In Burgundy they don’t talk about Aligoté or Pinot Blanc, they talk about Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.”

There’s no reason to be scared of Italy’s selection, agrees Gemma Adams, product manager at Grossi Wines. “I don’t think it’s the native grapes that are a hindrance. The Italians haven’t been very organised when it comes to talking about them. People are excited by new grapes.”

It hardly needs mentioning that Italy, for better or worse, spawned the craze for Pinot Grigio (a matter to be discussed later) and Prosecco is currently enjoying a booming rise in popularity. Indeed, Italian wine is the second most imported in the UK (WSTA figures to July 2012) with volumes of 19.5 million, showing a 10% year-on-year increase and a 69% increase in the last 10 years.

“Italian wine is a leader in the range of value-for-money wines it can offer, both to the on- and the off-trade,” says chairman of Masi Agricola, Sandro Boscani. “Wines made from native Italian grapes offer a vast range of possibilities for food and wine matching with every type of cuisine. In this sense they are a breath of fresh air, unconventional, not copies at all, and they present a real alternative to the standardisation involved in wines made from international grapes.”

Trends aside, Italy already boasts long-established fine wine credentials with, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, Amarone and Vin Santo. Today, there are some who cite potential for more southerly regions to join these flagships, thanks to the rising quality shown by varieties such as Aglianico and Nerello Mascalese. So which grapes will be key to Italy’s future?

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