“In wine there is truth,” said Pliny, the Elder in the first century of Rome. And things haven’t changed all that much since then, especially in Italy, the heart of the wine industry. People drink wine to find their truth, and there is an awful lot of truth in this country of wine connoisseurs. The future of Italy’s wine industry is beautifully balanced between a deep history of family names and vineyards, alongside a future of technology, where new methods and mixtures play alongside the old standbys. Add to that a worldwide pandemic, and the future of Italy’s wine industry seems a bit ragged at the moment. But if anyone can weather the storm and create something beautiful from tragedy, it is Italy.
History of Wine in Italy
To understand the future of Italy’s wine industry, you need to study the past. Wine has been part of Italy’s tradition for over 4,000 years. The Romans created a vibrant wine trade that has stood the test of time. The vintage vineyards, wineries, and flavor blendings are known the world over. The wine industry has not always been smooth sailing, however. During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church kept the wine industry alive while hiding their faith and their wine in the catacombs. Then later in the 19th century, a louse destroyed the entire grape harvest, another setback. Despite the setbacks, Italy became known as the wine capital of the world. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that laws were passed to assess the wine quality, and the modern world of wine was born.
History, Technology, and Tomorrow
Maurizio Forte, a trade commissioner with the Italian Trade Agency, said, “Today’s wineries benefit both from inherited and learned experience that span the ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and industrial-era periods. Combine ancestral knowledge with the most cutting-edge technologies, in which Italy is a leader, and you have quality of the highest level.” Italy does this flawlessly, as they have the background and history and the will to make the most of their countryside and climate.
Lately, millennials have been pushing the future and past together, encouraging experimentation of different styles, grapes, and regions. Italy continues to broaden their wine trade even as they look back to the past, trying to share their native grapes with more people, even reviving nearly forgotten grape varieties. “Today, 590 native grape varieties have been identified and documented—more than anywhere else in the world.”
Forbes Magazine reports on a few up and coming important improvements in Italy’s wine industry. First, 25 historic vineyards will be now on the Soave list, starting with the 2020 vintage. Soave, a dry white Italian wine from the Veneto region, has melon and orange zest flavors. After 20 years of discussion, vineyards like Albare, Cassette, San Pietro, Calvarino, and La Rocca are joining the mix. The last two vineyards are sourced by Pieropan, one of Soave’s (and the country’s) biggest producers.
The second significant change involves Masseto, a Tuscan producer known for its 100% Merlot, who is finally releasing a second wine. Massetino, or “little Masseto,” is released from the 2017 vintage, a challenging year because it was so warm. As an iconic Italian red wine, look for more growth in this Tuscan producer.
Wine and Corona
Unfortunately, like the rest of the world, coronavirus has had a massive impact on the wine industry. Italy was hit so hard during the lockdown, and the whole world watched the grim story unfold. For whom much of their business comes from bars and restaurants, the wine industry was all but decimated. And unfortunately, the winery industry in Italy in 2019 had already taken a hit due to floods, heatwaves, and storms. With the 2020 pandemic right on its heels, the future looked bleak. “All-in-all, the near future for Italian winemakers isn’t looking too bright at the moment,” said Daniel Mettyear, a research director at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.
However, Italian winemakers have rallied, proposing emergency fixes to the oversupply of wine. They aim to compensate growers to reduce their yields since the market has dried up. They are also considering buying more tanks for wineries because there is likely to be more unbottled wine taking up space.
Though the challenges are real, riding on history’s coattails will result in new winery coalitions, innovative fixes in these challenging pandemic times, and some delicious new vintages with a nod to the past. Millennials will push the envelope, looking for experimentation of vineyards and flavors. After all this time, Pliny the Elder is still echoing through the countryside. In wine, there is truth, and it is always a matter of perspective and experimentation to help the wine flow as it should.
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