Italian Wine: Land of Plenty

Stefano Girelli is one of Italian wine’s commercial visionaries. He created and developed the widely available Canaletto brand. Now managing director of The Wine People, he tells DI: “Italy competes well on the world stage in terms of variety of styles, originality and price points. In Italy’s traditional export markets eg the UK and US the market share continues to grow. In new and emerging markets such as China and India, French wines have opened the door and now Italian wines - as well as wines from many other countries, of course, are starting to make good progress.”

Italy is of course very much one of the triumvirate of so-called ‘Old World’ countries, along with France and Spain. Is Old World a euphemism for old fashioned, dyed-in-the-wool?

Gleave says: “I don’t see any problems with Italy’s image as an ‘Old World’ producer. Italy, like all countries, has its fair share of old fashioned producers, but it has, thanks to the legacy of the ‘vini da tavola’ that started in the early 1970s, a wide array of innovative wines that have stepped outside of the restrictive DOC and DOCG regulations. Italy today uses IGT as a channel for these wines, and it ensures that Italy’s image is one of innovation allied to heritage and history.”

Guerrieri Rizzardi director Agostino Rizzardi, replies: “Being an ‘Old World’ producer we see as an advantage. This is due to the level of experience and knowledge we have gained through working with unique grapes and unique terroirs which has allowed us to develop special wine production techniques.

“Old World doesn’t have to mean ‘old fashioned’ as the laws in Italy are flexible enough to allow personal expression within legal parameters. The wines produced are therefore the result of our respect for the vines, careful execution of the grapes and corporate decisions. I don’t believe it is high volume wines of low quality that reflect global consumer demand.”

Dr. Giuseppe Liberatore general director of Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico says: “I don’t agree that Old World should be interpreted as “old fashioned”. Our products have been reworked over time and stayed in step with the market. The quality of Italian wine has increased over the years: in Italy, and as in other winemaking countries, wine “culture” is on the rise, linked to quality of life. The denominations of origin were, and are, growth opportunities: low quality and high production volumes are no longer in our DNA.”

Giovanni Manzo, who has a winery in Sicily with his brother Giacomo and consults for other wineries says: “The controlled production of Italian wines as IGT, DOC, DOCG are designed to ensure the high quality of the wine, which is closely linked to the territory of production, with serious controls by the bodies in charge. In other countries where wine drinkers disregard these regulations, they often have to settle for low quality.”

That puts any doubters in their place.

Massimo and Marco Barbero of Cascina Fonda, who make Moscato, Brachetto, Dolcetto and Barbaresco, make the point: “The Italian state doesn’t know how to promote products of high quality, plus it doesn’t know how to protect the mark ‘Made in Italy’.” But they conclude: “Italian Wine has a big future in the global wine industry as the flavour of the different wines are relative and typical to the different areas of Italy, differing to wines of France etc.”