Monday, January 4, 2010

What Italian Wines Do the Italians Drink?

I was recently charged by a major wine magazine to find out what wine young Italian wine enthusiasts drink in the course of everyday life. It was a fun assignment and confirmed a lot of suspicions I already had. Unfortunately, by the time I turned in the article, the magazine had taken a hit in advertising and no longer had the pages necessary to run the piece. It seemed a shame to scrap the story after having invested roughly 167 international e-mails towards it's completion. So I'm running it here.

When in Rome...

By Robert Simonson

Perhaps no youth culture in Europe likes their wine more than do the Italians. Roam through the centro storico of any major city after dusk and you'll see countless young Romans, Milanese and Bariese, vino in hand. Knowing that what the next generation of Italian wine lovers are drinking this year may be what the world's Italophiles will be drinking next year, we polled a small cross-section of locals on their current quaffing preferences. While individual tastes inevitable vary, some trends did emerge. Southern grape varietals, such as Falanghina, Primitivo, Aglianico and Nero d'Avola, are enjoying their moment, and Franciacorta, the Chardonnay-based, sparkling wine from Lombardy, has its advocates among the Champagne-loving Italians.

GEORGIA BASSANO, 32, Actor, Restaurant Worker, Rome

Bassano, a Roman who works in her father's restaurant and acts in her spare time, is a fan of Franz Haas A. A. Gewürztraminer, a white wine from the northern growing region of Alto Adige, on the Austrian and Swiss borders. But her friends typically go for a glass of Falanghina, from the southern Italian region of Campania. "I don't know why Falanghina is most popular in my generation. In Italy when we go out for a drink, one takes whatever is poured by the glass, and merchants prefer to serve falanghina because it's cheap, but also suitable for all. It is a wine that everyone can drink and that is wrong for no one."

ALEX DEO, 30, Opera Singer, Rome

Deo, an opera singer who lives in Rome, drinks wine "every time I can do it! About one or two times in a day. I prefer the red wines, especially Primitivo, Negroamaro and Nero d'Avola. I think that among my friends Nero d'Avola is the most popular." Deo sees a bright future for Primitivo. "First of all I think that Italians like to drink these kind of wines for their body and flavour. But I can't hide that there's a good marketing job behind the wines. You can find them everywhere (winebar, supermarket, restaurant) with every kind of price you want. And finally, in Rome there are many trends; now it's the 'wines from the south' moment!"

MATTEO VERONESE, 31, Mergers and Acquisitions Consultant, Udine

Veronese, a mergers and acquisitions consultant in the northeast city of Udine, counts pinot nero, merlot and Barbaresco among his favorite reds, while his preferred whites are Friulano, Pinot Grigio and Malvasia. While he, like many Italians, loves French Champagne, "Some of my friends think that Franciacorta is better than Champagne, but generally I do not agree." In the future, he sees Italians "increasingly oriented towards simple, I think woodless, wine that can be drunk every day."

BARBARA CIUFFATELLI, 36, Restaurant Owner, Rome

Ciuffatelli, a restaurant owner in Rome, has found that "Nowadays Italians prefer local wines which best represent the territory where the wines are produced, such as Nero d'Avola, Barbera, Fiano, etc. Very specific wines. Moreover, they are discovering grapes that are not trendy at all, but linked to the region, such as Pecorino" She has also noticed a lot of interest in "sparkling Italian wine, mostly Franciacorta."

GUIDO SETTEPASSI, 35, Lawyer, Milan

Settepassi, a Milan-based lawyer, calls wine his "hobby" and drinks it almost every day. He is a fan of French wines, including Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Merlot from Pomerol and Syrah from the Rhone valley, but also respects Barolo and Barbaresco from the nearby Piemonte, and adores "Aglianico and also Negroamaro from Salento." His friends, meanwhile, typically order Nero d'Avola, Blauburgunder and Dolcetto.

DAVIDE AREZZO, 28, Building Surveyor, Bari

Arezzo, a building surveyor in the Puglia coastal city of Bari, likes Greco di Tufo from Campania when he's drinking white and Aglianico, another varietal heavily grown in Campania, when drinking red. He's also a fan of chilled red wines, such as Fichimori, an Negroamaro produced by the Antinori-owned Puglia winery Tomaresca, which is meant to be served cold. Davide says simply, "Italian wines are the best."

FRANCESO MASCI, 35, Artist, Rome

Masci, an artist who divides his time between New York and Rome, says that "a very common summer white wine is Falanghina, which is kind of simple, but very fruity and dry. Greco di Tufo is another white, more articulate and intense, more alcoholic and it matches wonderfully with fish." Vermentino from Sardinia, made by Argiolas Costamolino, is another white that sells well with Italians, he said, while the Firrato wines Chiaramonte and Harmonium of Sicily are popular red wines.

DAVID WALDEN, 34, Tour Guide, Rome

David Walden is from Toronto, but he and his Italian wife have made Rome their home for many years. He drinks a half a bottle of wine every night at dinner. His tastes run the gamut from Cabernet to Sangiovese. His "big spender" friends opt for Amarone, Brunello di Montalcino and Barolo, while his pals of more modest means reach for Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Morellino di Scansano and Barbera d'Alba. He agrees that wines from the south are popular at present "since southern wines are decisively cheaper and not as refined." He says that in the future, we should "watch for reserves and aged barrique wines from Sicily and Puglia, such as Rosso Salentino, Negroamaro, Nero d'Avola and Primitivo."

MARCO LUNELLI, 28, Lawyer, Udine

As the sun sets, lawyer Lunelli pours a sparkling wine from Trentino. With dinner, it's a Sauvignon Blanc from his native Friuli or a Traminer from Trentino. And with dessert, he likes a Moscato from Piemonte. While the southern favorite Aglianico has a place with his friends, other southern grape varieties such as Fiano and Falanghina are "not so popular in the north of Italy in my experience." For the future, he think maybe "quality wines will be more popular. But maybe that is a hope, not an impression." 

ANDREA D'OSVALDO, 23, worker in family's ham manufacturing concern, Cormòns near Trieste

d'Osvaldo, who hopes to be a winemaker in the future, drinks Friulano and Sauvignon Blanc when she is at home, but prefers sparkling wine when she goes out, especially Champagne or Fanciacorta. "Other wines that I drink very gladly when I have a dinner are Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay (from Collio or Colli Orientali del Friuli), Pinot Nero (from Trentino Alto Adige or Bourgogne), Merlot (from Colli Orientali del Friuli), Napa Valley red wine, and Barbaresco and Barolo. My friends love Friuli's white wine, sparkling wine from Franciacorta,  the red wine from Tuscany (Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino) and Piemonte (Barolo, Barbareco, Barbera)." Other wines most popular in Italy, she said, are Greco di Tufo and Taurasi, Nero d'Avola, and Amarone. Finally, she notes, "I think that the sparkling wines, especially the Champagne, will be always fashionable." He particular favorite? Billecart Salmon Blanc de Blancs.

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