Diversity, Italian wine is all about diversity
September 08, 2018
Do you only drink Italian wines? What is your favourite Italian wine? These are some of the questions I get asked when I tell what I do for living and my response is “I love all good wines, not just Italian” and, no, I don’t have a favourite wine, or better, I have plenty of favourites, one for every occasion, for every hour of the day, one that suit the weather, whether it is sunny or raining, one for when I am exhausted and one for when I am full of energy. And after the ice is broken, the next question is why I chose Italian wines. My response is “I am Italian and because of their diversity”. There is no other country in the world offering the diversity of Italian wines. Italian wine is the most diverse in the world, the uniqueness and variety of Italian terroir is reflected on its wines.
We could look at some of the numbers of the Italian wine industry from grapes grown to wines made, still, it will not give a real snapshot of the Italian wine diversity and yes, Italy has still a long way to fully realise its potential and become a wine powerful nation, beyond the numbers, still too much poor quality wine is made and sold, damaging the whole Italian wine brand, but if you know where to go, if you know how to source your wines, there is no other country like Italy.
About 20 year ago things were looking up for the Italian wine industry, after a long and dark period, Italian wines were sought and desired again, then the financial crisis came in 2008 and did some serious damage, not just for the Italians, but also created opportunity and the fairy tale of Prosecco is one, now, in the last couple of years a new, undefined and unnamed crisis, are hitting the wine industry again and particularly Italian, the other countries are trying to react, Italians are not, are still too much concerned about quantity over quality, and by the time the Italian wine industry will realise the seriousness of the crisis, it will probably be too late.
However, if you have been to Italy and ventured beyond the touristic spots, found your way around the Italian labels with plenty of meaningless, for non experts, words, or if you have a trusted wine merchant that does not just stock cheap prosecco and pinot grigio, Italy represents the most undiscovered, exciting, fascinating wine region in the world. Italian wine is made of the thousands of small, independent winemakers, that are making fantastic wines, wines they like making, wines that the market doesn’t always understand, whether because of their price or the idea behind them, wines that require the drinker full attention, but if you like wine, make Italian wines your next choice and you will not be disappointed.
Finding these wines and producers is not easy, there isn’t a sign outside the winery saying “great wines are made here” or maybe each winery has a massive sign that says so, discovering Italian wine is about trial and error, is about talking to the winemakers, tasting their wines, not once, twice, three times, is not a vintage that makes a great wine, great wines are made vintage after vintage, yes, vintages are not always great, but it is the ability of the winemaker that makes the difference. And if the vintage is bad, hopefully, next year will be better. Great wines are made in the vineyards, great grapes make outstanding wines.
In 20 years of tasting and discovering Italian wines and producers, I still get the excitement when I taste a great wine, like a child in a sweet shop, this is me.
The main problem with Italian wines is that there is still plenty of misinformation about them. Too many wine drinkers believe that a DOC wine is better than a IGT or table wine of that DOCG wines are the best. DOC and DOCG consortiums have all interest in keeping things this way since they get paid when a wine put their sticker on, or that if the word Classico is on the label, the wine is better than one without, a classic example is the Chianti Classico often thought to be better than a Chianti: unfortunately it is not that simple, otherwise we would not have good and bad DOCG or DOC wines.
Italian wines, like Italy, have a lot of problems, however, even now Italian wine is as exciting as a wine can be, as long as you know where to get it from.
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