Guide to Italian wines and Italian grapes
According to one of the most recent survey, Italy grows more than 1400 grapes, divided between international and native grapes.
The international grapes are those that are found all over the world thanks to their versatility and adaptability. These grapes produce wines that add to the grape characteristics the ones of the “terroir” where they are grown which in turn these may derive from climatic factors or composition of the soil in which the grapes are grown. Classic examples of international grapes are Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah or Merlot.
The native grapes are, on the other hand, grapes that are only grown in the area, more or less small, examples are the Sangiovese or the Lacrima di Morro d’Alba. Sometime a grape could be native in a certain area but considered international in a different area or country, more and more often, native grapes are being planted outside their native region and it is happening more and more often for Italian grapes..
Italian wines on the other side, are classified according to a national system made of 4 different levels, nothing to do with their quality even though this was the original idea of the law maker, table wine (any grape from anywhere), IGT (wines from a specific area, normally a region), DOC (wines from a specific area smaller than the IGT area and specific grapes) and lastly DOCG (wine from a very small area, made with specific grapes in which the law leaves very little to the winemaker). The higher in the hierarchy, the less freedom is left to the winemaker.
Italian wine often take their name from the area in which the grapes are grown, Chianti and Barolo to mention two, without any reference to the grape or grapes and style, and unless familiar with Italian wines, is impossible to guess the characteristic of the wine, making very complicate if not impossible for someone who is approaching Italian wine for the first time to know what to choose when buying Italian. In our pages we have listed the main wines and grapes hoping to help you to understand a bit more about this wonderful but very messy, Italian wine.