Why Italy Is Important in the Wine World

The Tricolore—the Italian flag

Why is Italy important in the wine world? For starters, it is the world’s largest producer of wine. In 2018, Italy produced more than 4.8 billion liters of wine, the equivalent of 539 million cases. Over one sixth of all the world’s wine is made in Italy.

Italy can’t drink all of that wine itself, of course, so it is also perennially the world’s largest exporter of bottled wine by volume (second largest exporter by value after France, thanks to the goldmine known as Champagne). It is the largest source of imported wine in the United States—the wine world’s largest consumer market. Roughly 30% of wine imports into the U.S. are from Italy. In 2017, Italian wines were also the most imported category in the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Furthermore, Italy has the third largest vineyard acreage in the world (after Spain and France). What’s more important than its statistical rank, however, is the incredible biodiversity of Italy’s vineyards. In Spain and France, at most a dozen grape varieties make up three quarters of their total acreage; in Italy, it takes 80 grape varieties to reach the same percentage of vineyard area. No other country comes close to this diversity, which translates into a huge smorgasbord of different wines to explore.

Beyond the numbers, Italy has a key historical position in the establishment of vineyards throughout Europe, and it is the producer of many distinctive wines with no real equivalent outside Italy. And given the prominence of Italian cuisine in restaurants and kitchens around the world, the wines of Italy that developed alongside this food are constantly in demand.

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