Updated: Mar 13
Italian winemaking has a rich history dating back centuries, and traditional winemaking methods have played an essential role in shaping the country's wine industry we see today. In this post, we'll take a closer look at some of the traditional methods used in Italy and how they contribute to the unique character of Italian wines that have led to us dedicating our precious time to Italian wine in the name of “research!”
In 2018, Italy produced around 19% of the world’s wines, and the industry has played a pivotal role in Italy’s overall economic development. Today, the country’s wine industry is undoubtedly prosperous, growing its revenues to over €6.5 billion in the past few years.
One of the most traditional winemaking methods in Italy is the use of large, oak barrels known as “botti” These barrels are typically made from Slavonian oak and are used to age wine for anything from several months, to several years. The oak imparts unique flavours and aromas to the wine, such as vanilla, caramel and spices. This method is commonly used for wines such as Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino which we have looked at in the past few weeks together.
Another traditional winemaking method is clay amphorae, known as terracotta. This method is mostly used in the Tuscany region, where wines are aged in large, clay vases for several months, to a year. The porous clay allows the wine to breathe, contributing to its unique character. This method is commonly used for wines such as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
A traditional winemaking method that is gaining popularity again in modern winemaking, is the use of old, large wooden casks. This method is mostly used in the Piedmont and Veneto regions, where wines are aged in wooden casks. These casks are made of different types of wood, such as chestnut, oak or acacia, and they similar evoke specific flavours and aromas to the wine. This method is commonly used for wines such as Barolo and Amarone.
The use of indigenous grape varieties contributes to the diversity of Italian wines, and they are often used to make wines that are specific to certain regions. Some examples of indigenous grape varieties include Nero d'Avola, Montepulciano, Barbera and Aglianico.
In conclusion, these either aged or changing traditional winemaking methods play an important role in shaping the unique character of Italian wines. The above methods help to create wines that are specific to a particular region and are characteristic of outstanding Italian wines and truly reflect their terroir. These methods are not only preserving the country's winemaking heritage but also producing wines of the highest quality and keeping Italy in its position as the winemaking powerhouse we see today.
If you want to learn more about Italian Wine, check out our book The Italian Wine Connoisseur: a 7-Day Guide to Mastering Italian Wine.