Italy: Almost A Thousand Grape Varieties

Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry grants “authorized” status to some 350 grape varieties, but more than 500 other documented varieties exist. The most popular reds are Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Aglianico. Widely-used whites include Trebbiano, Pinot Grigio, Verdicchio, and Vernaccia.

Italy produces a staggering 6 billion+ liters of wine annually. For the first time in 2010, wine drinkers outside of Italy spent more on Italian wine than the Italians did. Italy exports to almost every country across five continents. The largest importers of Italian wine are the United States, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, and Canada, in that order — together these five countries account for 70% of Italy’s wine exports. There are 20 wine regions within Italy (which correspond to the country’s 20 political/administrative regions) and over 2,000 different commercial wine labels. Among the larger countries, Italians led the world in per capita wine consumption, at about 54 liters annually.

The top three producing regions by volume are Piedmont, Tuscany, and Veneto. The most sought-after wines primarily come from Tuscany and Piedmont. Since Italy is a peninsula, its extensive shoreline has a moderating effect on climate in coastal regions. Widespread mountains and foothills contribute to what can seem like an endless variety of altitudes, climates, and soil conditions for grape-growing.

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