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Popular Italian wines

June 5, 2019 Tags: 0 comments
What are the most popular Italian wines? There isn’t a single and straight forward answer, it all depends, but before even attempting to answer the question, popular in which way, the most famous Italian wines, the most sold Italian wines?

The most popular Italian wines, intended as the most famous and known, abroad and in Italy, are possibly Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, Amarone, recently joined by the Prosecco which are some of the most expensive wines and with the longer history and traditions, but popularity changes, popularity is seasonal, there are new trends and wines joining them every season, and for most of them, the popularity lasts slightly more than a vintage and Italy produces thousands of wines, so there is constant replacement.

For Italian wines, and when I say wines, I mean appellations, it is not the individual wine made by a specific producer that becomes popular, but the whole appellation or grape/wine, eg Primitivo, that includes hundreds or thousands of producers, check our DOC and DOCG Italian wine maps to understand the size of the Italian wine industry. Very rarely a specific wine becomes popular, there have been cases in the past, when wine was still very much an Italian and French affair, simply because of the vast resources needed to stand out in a crowded market made of wines from all over the world.

For the more educated and knowledgeable palate, there are differences between producers, and every appellation has a list of producers considered to be the best in their wine region, a list that changes regularly because of new wineries entering the market or new winemaking process or awards. Wine evolves, winemakers learn and trends change.

As per individual wines admired and popular, perhaps the most famous is the Sassicaia, a red wine from Tuscany, wine that has started the Supertuscans movement and is widely considered amongst the best wines in the world, not just Italian.

Sassicaia was the first Italian wine trying to pursue quality independently of the appellation, on its first vintages the wine was bottled as a table wine, it has since become a DOC wine. The winemakers behind the wine were visionary and instead of making an easy to sell wine, they wanted to create something that would stand up in a crowded market where wines were being sold only because of their seal, when everyone else was only after the DOC or DOCG seal they devoted their resources in making a great wine and their long term strategy paid off. The Italian winemaking industry has since changed, and now the majority of producers are trying to replicate the success obtained by these wines but it is not as easy it was then.

Popular is a very floating adjective and at the moment, the most popular Italian wines together with the four mentioned above, are Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Primitivo, Pinot Grigio e Nero d’Avola mainly because of their production. In the early ’80, the most popular Italian wines were Frascati, Soave, Chianti and Lambrusco, all DOC and DOCG wines. In the 80’ there was a belief that DOCs and DOCGs were better wines, however, due to the too many poor quality wines sold, their sales have plummeted despite the seal. Chianti and Soave are two that despite having made the mistake, have been working hard to improve their reputation, but the results are yet to come.

There are also grapes extensively planted in Italy and used in many wines, a classic example is Sangiovese, planted almost everywhere in Central Italy and used in numerous wines, a very popular grape and for many also a popular wine. Other grapes include the Barbera, widely grown in the North West of Italy and also considered a popular Italian wine or Primitivo, an Apulian grape and wine currently widely appreciated, all Apulian wines are currently trending.

For Italians, popularity changes significantly based on where we are. In Italy, due to the thousands of grapes, hundreds of appellations and thousand of winemakers, the tendency is to drink locally made wines that perfectly pair local food, so popular wines coincide with local wines. For example, in Abruzzo, locals drink plenty of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the other local grape varieties and very little Pinot Grigio or Prosecco, only visitors will ask for them, and shops and restaurants will be offering Montepulciano wine from dozens of wineries and maybe only one Pinot Grigio or Prosecco for tourists.

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