It has always been known that the Italian wine industry is one of the largest and most famous in the world. The sheer quality that is provided by the many men and women who work tirelessly to get the most out of their lands and their grapes has never been in doubt and, in recent years, Italian wine has overtaken its biggest competitor in France to become the largest seller of wine on the planet.
As is to be expected, such an enormous industry has centuries of lore and legend surrounding it, which we have examined on a number of occasions in other posts. This time around we are going to take a slightly more balanced approach and offer a few interesting facts about the industry, the amount of wine that Italy produces for the rest of the world and some other titbits of information that you may not have previously been aware of.
Italy Has Tons Of Grapes
We all know that grapes are the lifeblood of a good wine. If they are not up to snuff then the resulting product is not going to be truly reflective of the land that produced it or those that worked so hard to grow the grapes in the first place.
Variety is often important in this regard, as it offers producers the opportunity to experiment with different types of grape to find combinations that will tantalise the palettes of enthusiasts.
This is an area where the Italian wine industry excels. There are more than 1,200 indigenous species of grape in Italy, around 400 of which are regularly used to create wine. This far exceeds the numbers of indigenous grape varieties in France, which only reaches the hundreds, and is one of the reasons why there are so many different varieties of wine produced in Italy.
The Black Rooster
If you ever have the opportunity to examine a bottle of Chianti Classico in detail you should look for the infamous black rooster design. Legend has it that this design was created in the Middle Ages during a bitter conflict between Florence and Siena over the famed Chianti region, which even then was building a reputation in the fledgling international wine trade.
The black rooster was taken up as a sign by Florence and the city’s eventual victory led to the rooster becoming a fixture on Chianti Classico bottles from then on. Not only does it have an interesting history behind it, but this rooster can often be a useful tip for international enthusiasts that the wine they are buying is a genuine Chianti Classico that has received the DOCG designation.
The Growth of China
In more recent years, China has emerged as the top market for Italian wine. In fact, official figures demonstrate that the country has imported more red wine that any other nation on Earth over the last couple of years, with many theorising that the Chinese infatuation with the colour red, which is believed to denote luck in that culture has played a large part in that success.
France has been the dominating force in China for a number of years, but after a relatively slow start the Italian wine industry has started to make real headway in the country, to the point where it is slowly catching up to France. This trend is likely to continue as the Chinese market becomes more aware of quality over type of wine and it is believed that China will become one of, if not the largest, importers of wine of all types in the coming years.
Italy plays host to such a vast variety of wines that it should come as no surprise that every single region in the country plays host to at least one type of wine.
At this moment in time there are 350 varieties of wine being produced by Italy, all of which are representative of specific regions and the land they play host to. Best of all, the presence of so many grapes in the country means there is always potential for this number to be expanded upon, which is especially impressive being that this is already the largest number in terms of sheer variety of wines produced in the world.
Best of all, with the advent of the Internet, accessing wines from lesser-known regions and producers has become easier than ever, which has led to the growth of the Italian wine industry domestically and internationally over the last few years.
The Wine Industries Origins Are Ancient
While wine is indelibly linked into the culture of Italy, the country can’t lay claim to having invented the drink. Nor too can France or any other European culture.
In fact, the earliest records of cultivated grapes being used to create wine actually date way back to around 7,000 B.C. These documents show that the wine industry may well have originated in Georgia in the Middle East.
The art slowly spread to Egypt and eventually made its way to Greece, which was perhaps the first culture to truly adopt wine, going so far as to have a God for the drink. Shortly after, the Romans began popularising the drink throughout Europe, which is when the Italian wine culture really started to pick up steam. It hasn’t looked back since, even during periods where strict regulations limited production only to monks.
The Growth of Prosecco
For decades wine enthusiasts have looked to Champagne as the sparkling wine of choice, but in recent years the wine has been overtaken by its biggest Italian competitor; Prosecco.
Today, more than 400 million bottles are produced and sold all throughout the world. The wine has eclipsed its nearest competitors and has become one of the top selling varieties throughout Europe and the rest of the world.
This popularity looks like it is going to continue to grow and it also has the interesting side-effect of improving the visibility of other Italian sparkling wines, such as Franciacorta and Trento, which are slowly emerging as alternatives in the sparkling white wine scene.