An Introduction to Italy
Although Italy’s winemaking history goes back over 2500 years, it is only since the second world war that their wines have become known outside the country. Wine was always considered to be part of a meal and for many was a significant portion of their caloric intake. As Italian incomes rose, wine became less of a food staple and more of a social beverage, albeit still enjoyed with a meal. Per capita consumption of wine fell from a high of 120 litres per person annually in the early 70’s to under 40 litres per person today. This meant that Italian winemakers were forced to find export markets for their products. Inexpensive Chianti and Lambrusco were the first to conquer the export markets in the 70’s. Later, Brunello, Barolo, Amarone and the Super-Tuscans showed that Italy could produce high quality wines for which consumers would pay top dollar. One of Italy’s greatest strengths is its huge range of local grapes. There may be over 350 autochthonous varieties, although the top 10 account for about 40% of all vineyard acreage. These include Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Montepulciano, Cattarato, Barbera and Glera.