It sounds fancy right?
If you’ve spent a lot of time reading about Italian wine, this is a term that you may have come across before. It’s a term that’s rarely used today, though it has existed for centuries.
And it’s a term that we’re going to dig into in this article.
By the time you’ve finished reading, you will know exactly what vitis vinifera is. And you’ll have more than a few facts about it that you can share with others whenever the mood takes you.
Let’s start off with the most obvious question…
What is Vitis Vinifera
Vitis Vinifera is a plant, with Gardener’s World describing it as follows:
“Vitis vinifera is a vigorous, high-powered tendril climber, which can easily cover a house wall if left unchecked, covering it in large, lobed, bright green summer leaves up to 15cm long. The tiny green summer flowers are followed by late summer bunches of small grapes.”
A vigorous tendril climber?
That sounds odd.
But after reading that description, we’re betting that all of you know exactly what vitis vinifera is…
It’s a grapevine.
Specifically, vitis vinifera is the Latin name applied to grapevines. It covers the entire family of vines, which means that vitis vinifera is a term that we can apply to any of the vines that the world’s winemakers use to grow the grapes they need to create their products.
The plant can thrive in almost any month of the year, though this is dependent on the specific type of vine you plant. Some examples of vitis vinifera thrive in the heat, whereas others are much hardier, which means they can withstand colder temperatures.
But the simple answer to this question is that vitis vinifera is a fancy name for a grapevine.
It’s not uncommon at all.
In fact, there are millions of this plant spread all over the world. And that fact is what leads us to the next portion of our article.
Which Country Has the Most Vitis Vinifera?
There are two ways that we can approach this question:
- Which country has the most varieties of grapevine?
- Which country has the most grapevines in total?
Let’s start with the varieties.
As vitis vinifera is a blanket term that refers to all grapevines, there are literally hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of varieties of this remarkable plant. Almost every country has native vines, with most also having many varieties that have been introduced over the centuries.
So, which country has the largest variety of vitis vinifera.
You may already know the answer to this one…
With over 350 grape varieties to its name, Italy is the place to go if you’re looking for variety in grape production. And if you think about it, that makes sense. Italy’s central location means that it has been home to a wide variety of cultures and civilisations over the centuries. The ancient Etruscans once called parts of Italy home, as did the Ancient Greeks. Of course, the Romans did too. All were responsible for bringing a host of grape varieties into the country.
Once those vines had taken root, it was a simple matter of cultivation to keep them alive. And given Italy’s longstanding love of wine, it should come as no surprise that so many varieties that were introduced centuries ago have managed to survive to the modern day.
So, Italy leads the pack when it comes to sheer variety of vitis vinifera.
But what about volume?
The Country With the Most Grapevines Is…
Not Italy, surprisingly enough!
Despite the sheer variety of vines in the country, Italy actually ranks third on the list in terms of sheer landmass covered by grapevines. Still, an impressive 8300 square kilometres are dedicated to vitis vinifera in the country. And that only takes into account the vineyards that are tended by professional winemakers. There may be many more wild grapevines that are unaccounted for in those figures.
Coming in at a close second is France, which has 8600 square kilometres of land dedicated to vineyards. Again, that should come as no surprise, given France’s reputation as one of the world’s leading wine nations.
But the leader of the pack is…
And it leads by a pretty large margin.
At the time of writing, Spain has 11800 square kilometres of land dedicated to vineyards. That’s over 3000 square kilometres more than its nearest competitor. To give that number some context, the fourth-placed country is the United States, which has 4200 square kilometres of land dedicated to vines. Spain almost has the United States entire vine landmass on top of the amount of vines there are in Italy or France.
But here’s an added and interesting wrinkle.
You might naturally assume that Spain sells more wine than any other country.
It makes logical sense.
The country with the most vines must also sell the most wine.
But that isn’t the case.
Despite coming in third in terms of sheer volume, Italy leads the way when it comes to global wine sales.
Why Does Italy Lead the Way?
We come back to our initial conversation.
Italy sells more vine than any other country because of the sheer variety of grape varieties grown in the country. This variety is what allows people to have so many choices available to them when they choose Italian wine. And of course, the many combinations that producers use means there are not just 350 wines to go alongside 350 varieties of vitis vinifera.
Those 350 types of grapevine are used to produce thousands of varieties of Italian wine.
And so, we conclude our journey through the world of vitis vinifera.
We have learned that the term is just a fancy way of saying grapevine. We’ve also learned that vitis vinifera encompasses every variety of grapevine known to man and that Spain has the most land dedicated to the growing grapes.
But most importantly, we’ve learned that Italy leads the way when it comes to sheer variety of vitis vinifera.
And if you take a look at the Xtrawine catalogue, you will find thousands of examples of the gorgeous Italian wines that this remarkable plant allows producers to create.
I’m a passionate about good wine and good cooking.
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