When people think about wines, they simply categorize them by two types, which are red and white. Champagne may also be through in there as a type of bubbly white wine. Do not think of this as some kind of insult. I’m just laying out on the simplest terms. More enthusiastic wine drinkers will be able to sort them into specific types of wine grapes. While the Cabernet wines may be ruling the world, do not leave out the delicious wine grapes that come right out of Italy.
Here are the Types of Italian Wines
The White Wines
Let’s start with the simple things. Here is a short list of some of the white wine grape varieties that are grown in Italy.
Arneis: This variety is grown in Piedmont and has been since the 1400s.
Catarratto: You will find this type of white grape grown in Sicily.
Friulano: This type of white wine grape is very similar to Sauvignon. Sometimes it is even referred to as Sauvignon Vert or Sauvignonasse. It is grown in Friuli.
Garganega: This grape is grown around the city of Verona, known of course for the ill-fated tale of Romeo and Juliet. The wine that the grape goes into is called Soave, which is actually produced by more than 3,500 different wine distributors.
Moscato Blanc: Moscatos have really come into fashion recently as the wines that are easier to drink for non-wine drinkers. They are much sweeter than other white grapes. Moscato Blanc is grown in Piedmont and is normally used in the sparkling wine white frizzante, which is similar to champagne, but not dry.
Nuragus: This type of wine grape is one of the oldest varieties in the world. The grape produces a light and tart wine that is used as an aperitif and is grown in Sardinia.
Passerina: The Passerina grapes are usually used in sparkling white wines, similar to the Mascato Blanc, but instead of sweet, they are notoriously tart.
Pinot Grigio: This has to be the most-recognized type of white Italian wine in the world. Pinot Grigio, which is the same as France’s Pinot Gris, is more commercial and easily grown. It is known to be clean and crisp and can be light of full-bodied.
The Red Wines
Now that you have met some of the white wines of Italy, let’s take a look at some of the red wine grapes that are grown there.
Aglianico: This one has been hailed as the “noble varietal of the south” and is usually grown in Basilicata and Campania. It is known to be spicy and has thick skin.
Aglianico del Vulture: This type of red grape is based on the Aglianico grape that is grown Basilicata, but instead it is grown in Vulture. It is an off-shoot of an originally Greek variety of wine grape.
Barbera: You will probably look at this name and have an association with the word “Barbarian.” Side note, but the Berbers are a group of people in Northern Africa so you are not too far off. This is the most-grown wine grape in Piedmont and Southern Lombardy. It was once considered to be cheap wine and only worth drinking when there was not anything finer available. This is not the case anymore though and now it is well-known as being high quality on the international market.
Corvina: This is the primary grape that is used in the Amarone and Valpolicella varieties of wine. It takes like dark cherries, oak, and spices, making it one of the more impressionable red wine grapes you can get from Italy.
Dolcetto: The Dolcetto grape is grown in Piedmont. Its name literally translates to “little sweet one,” but that is not talking about how the grape tastes, but instead that is an easy grape to grow and is good for everyday drinking. Its flavor is more like blackberries with herbs.
Nebbiolo: The name translates to mean “little fog,” talking more about the environment where it is grown rather than the type of hangover it could give you. It is a hard grape to grow and the wine needs to age about 50 years before it is really good to drink.
Italy’s Place in the Global Wine Market
While we may think of California, France, and even Australia as the world leaders when it comes to wine production and distribution, do not count Italy out of the scheme of things. After all, they have been growing wines longer than all of the other countries combined.
Here are all of the facts regarding where Italy fits in the world market involving wine.
- Americans have put Italy back on the map as far as wine goes. In 2015, Italy was the world’s biggest exporter as well as a wine producer in the entire world, with America being the primary country they were selling to.
- Of grape producing countries, Italy is the fourth biggest. Do not let California overshadow the awesomeness of Italy. Spain is actually the biggest grape producer in the world, followed by China. Bet you haven’t had Chinese wine.
- In 2011, the biggest wine producer in the world was France, which is now trailing behind Italy’s production by just a little bit. They have been producing similar quantities for the past couple of years, flip-flopping for which one is producing the most wine.
- Italy also likes to drink their wine. While America is the country who wants to drink all of the world’s wine, Italy isn’t exactly out of the running in this category either. Italians are number three as far as wine consumers go, followed by Americans and the French.
- Italy produces far more white wines than it does red wines. The most popular type of Italian wine that is produced is actually from Veneto. While the area producers both red and white wines, the white wines definitely dominate the Italian market. Really though, Veneto just makes more than everywhere else in Italy.
- Germany also imports a lot of Italian wine. Germany actually used to be the biggest importer of Italian wine before Americans went wine crazy. Beer used to be the American drink, but we have really embraced our love of wine.
- Most of the wine Italy makes is still bottled table wine, but that does not mean you should rule out their sparkling wine. Italy exports about 30 million cases of sparkling wine a year, which is certainly nothing to scoff at. In the still table wine area, Italy exports about 111 million cases of wine every year, which is leaving out all of the wine that they actually drink themselves.
- Italy does import wine as well. I know you would think that due to Italy’s history as well as their ability to make wine that they may not be huge in importing wine, but that is not the case. The majority of their imported wine comes from Spain. Second to Spain, but trailing very far behind is the United States. So while we are busy importing Italian wine, they are also importing our wine the same. It is a trade of sorts, allowing us to each sample what the other side of the ocean has to offer.
- The most planted wine grapes in Italy are:
- Pinot Grigio
- Nero d’Avola
- Prosecco produces more wine than anywhere else in Italy by a great deal. Like a huge amount more than everyone else. The area produces 2.3 million hl of wine every year. Second to Prosecco is Monetpulcianod’Abruzzo, which only produces 800,000 hl of wine every year, meaning that Prosecco is the dominating area of the market of Italy. Chianti is number three and probably the best-known area that makes Italian wine.