With so many countries having their own wine industries in the modern age, you could say that the Italian wine industry is engaged in a little bit of friendly competition with pretty much everybody today.
But there are a couple of classic rivals that have competed with Italy for centuries – France and Spain
All three countries have long traditions in wine and very varied histories. And in this article, we’re going to look at some of the key differences between the wines from three of the countries that lead the way for the global industry.
…And before anybody else says it, let’s get the obvious difference out of the way. The wines from these countries all come from different countries.
With that shocking revelation out of the way, let’s dig into some differences that are a little more substantial.
Difference #1 – The Target Markets
Now, we’re going to preface this by saying that all three countries are more than capable of producing prestigious wines that command high prices in return for amazing quality.
But on a very general level, there are differences in the target markets that each country’s wines appeal to.
On a very general level, French wines tend to appeal to the more affluent buyers. There’s a certain level of prestige attached to French wines that seem to make them more desirable among a certain segment of buyers. And as a result, you’ll often find that French wines are the costlier of the three.
Spanish wines tend to go in the opposite direction. While certainly not lacking in quality, Spanish wines are often easier to afford and make for easy drinking for less affluent buyers. This is the reason why Spain has such a strong exporting industry. Many international territories offer Spanish wines because they tend to be on the cheaper side.
You could say that Italy falls in the middle of these two extremes. Italian wines carry a certain level of prestige, though they probably cost less than French wines on average.
However, we need to reiterate that this is all very general. There are plenty of expensive Spanish wines, just as there are many affordable French wines. It’s just that this is how the target markets tend to divide up amongst the three countries.
Difference #2 – Vineyard Acreage
It’s tempting to assume that either France or Italy would have the most amount of land dedicated to wine production of the three.
After all, it’s these two countries that jostle for first position in terms of which country sells the most wine.
However, it’s actually Spain that comes out on top when it comes to pure acreage of land dedicated to wine production. In fact, Spain devotes more land to wine than any other country in the world.
Italy does follow behind in a fairly close second place. And of the three, France has the least amount of land dedicated to wine.
Perhaps this goes some way to explaining the first difference that we noted in this list. If Spain can produce more wine, it stands to reason that this wine would cost less. It’s simple supply and demand economics. France having less land means that it produces fewer wines, which creates prestige.
Again, Italy falls in the middle of the two, which is perfect for a country that achieves such a great balance of prestige and accessibility.
Difference #3 – Variety
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that each country has certain grapes that it tends to favour. Typically, these go along the lines of the grapes that are native to the countries.
However, Italy stands out amongst the three when it comes to the sheer variety that it has on offer.
There are literally hundreds of wine regions in the country, each of which cultivates different grapes and produces its own types of wine.
You simply do not get this amount of variety anywhere else. And that’s not to say that there isn’t variety to be found in the French or Spanish industries. In fact, there’s plenty of it. But the fact is that Italy stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to the many types of wine that come from the country.
Difference #4 – The Effects of the Climate
Of the three countries, France is the most northerly. As a result, many of the wines produced in the country tend to be made using hardier grapes that can withstand colder winter conditions.
The same holds true for some producers in Northern Italy. But by and large, both Italy and Spain have warmer climates. This, in turn, affects many of the wines that the country produces.
You can almost taste this climactic difference in Spanish wines. For some reason, these wines tend to have a warmer feel to them than French wines.
And again, Italy finds itself being able to offer the best of both worlds. The variance in climate between the north and south of the country plays into the variety of wines that come from the country.
But simply put, producers in each country have to deal with varying climates. This affects how they work on their land and what grapes they’re able to grow.
Difference #5 – Controls
All three countries have organisations in place that take responsibility for controlling the quality of the wines produced in the countries.
But what may surprise you is that it’s probably Spain that has the tightest laws in place.
Spanish wines are tested multiple times during production. A failure of a single test at any stage usually leads to the wine being rejected for sale.
Of course, both France and Italy have detailed checks of their own, as any producer who’s ever tried to create a DOC or DOCG wine will tell you. But when it comes to the sheer volume of regulations that producers have to follow, it’s Spain that comes out on top.
The Final Word
And so we can see some of the major differences that separate the Spanish, French, and Italian wine industries.
But they all have one key thing in common.
All three countries produce some absolutely amazing wines. And you can find plenty from all three if you explore the Xtrawine catalogue.