Italy Vine Varieties Heritage
ITALY VINE VARIETIES
As we have already seen, Italy has been a land of vineyards since ancient times (Enotria Tellus); centuries of history have left it a varietal heritage that is still very vast today and which can offer wines strongly characterized also by the link with landscape’s identity.
This range of grape varieties is worth analysing carefully to understand the dimensions, the distinctive features and the prospects of our viticulture and wine production. Proper knowledge and perception of such parameters are undoubtedly useful for understanding and developing ideas and business choices (of the variety) that go beyond ordinary “gossip” involving this or that variety.
The numerous seminars dedicated to rediscovering or relaunching the genetic resources present in a specific vine-growing environment that have fallen into oblivion, often create a distorted image of the real potential of a particular vine variety. Likewise, the emphasis that has given to the introduction of varieties from other countries (allochthonous), and thus, the possible danger of their overpowering the local (autochthonous) varieties must reduce.
It can assert that in origin the location and distribution of the various varieties, in a given territory was linked to their better adaptability to specific soil, climate, and technics of cultivation (pedoclimate). The invasion of phylloxera (preceded by oidium and followed by downy mildew) cast doubt on these thousand-year-old balances, with the consequent abandonment of many autochthonous varieties. This phenomenon was accelerated by the introduction of direct-producer hybrid vines and foreign experimental varieties from the Regia Stazione Sperimentale per la Viticoltura e l’Enologia (Royal Experimental Station for Viticulture and Oenology) in Conegliano (1924), as documented in various volumes from the period and excellently presented in Salvatore Mondini’s book “Foreign wine-grape varieties cultivated in Italy” (1903).
The study of vine variety homonyms and synonyms carried out during the last 150 years, started with a masterpiece by the Ampelographical Commission of the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, and Trade with the publication of Ampelographical Bulletins on each region and was then carried on by numerous researchers. Also, solved many uncertainties, for example, Chardonnay (wh.), wrongly classified as Pinot Blanc (wh.) until 1975, and Carmenère (bl.) was confused with Cabernet Franc (bl.). In the National Register of vine varieties, Biancame (wh.) is still classed as a variety though it is part of Trebbiano Toscano (wh.). Also, Prugnolo (bl.) turns out to be registered as such and therefore distinct from Sangiovese (bl.) and numerous other ampelographical errors.
Translation: JANE UPCHURCH & MATTEO MARENGHI