Step right up to witness the fight of your life. Year after year we watch two countries battle it out on the vineyard. Forget Rousey and Holm; this is the Fight Night all winos have been waiting for. France v. Italy.
For centuries there has been an ongoing competition between France and Italy in regards to their wine production. During the past five years the countries have battled it out, but year after year Italy reigns supreme. France always comes in a close second; sad but not fully defeated.
When it comes to grape growing, both Italy and France produce their own unique varietals. Some of France’s more popular grapes include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Syrah and Pinot Noir. Meanwhile, Italy’s fondness lies with Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes.
There is a common misconception that grapes are the only important factor determining the profile of a wine. However, there is a preceding factor that also sets the scene for how a wine will taste: terroir (which is, ironically, a concept from French ancestry).
The soil composition of the land is considered one of the most important growth tools for grapes. With over 350 varietals, the majority of Italy’s grapes are grown in Southern Italy – where the sun shines, the food is divine, and the men are mighty fine. In contrast to this delicious weather, the upper regions of France – where most grape growing occurs – tends to be a bit cooler. Because of this difference in weather, the two terra firmas yield grapes of a different stature.
French winemakers use French oak barrels as their way of aging (go figure), which is considered the most traditional method. Contrastingly, Italians today tend to use more American oak in their aging process. This creates a wine with softer tannins and a smoother mouthfeel.
If you’re looking at French and Italian wines in terms of a mini family reunion, French wines are like your daring Grandma Mary. Her presence can be felt in any room and her opinions can be pretty strong. Even after you’re done talking to Gram, you can still feel her judgement linger like rough tannins on your palate. Italian wines are your hushful cousin, Lizzie, flying under the radar. Though you’ve talked to good ol’ Liz a million times, and you think she’s super nice, you still can’t remember what she does for a living. She’s a pleasure to be around, but her personality is harder to put a finger on. Similar to an Italian wine that’s great while you drink it, but doesn’t leave a heavy aftertaste.
No matter the company, Italian and French wines will continue this rivalry with dedicated advocates on either side. Numerically speaking, Italian wineries produced 50,900 hectoliters in 2016 and France followed behind with a close 43,500 hectoliters. What’s a hectoliter? About 26 gallons. Like the kind of gallon you buy milk in. So the difference in wine production is about 192,400 gallons. Despite this stark difference, these two countries produce the most wine in the entire world. For comparison, Spain rolls in as numero tres in the wine game, producing 39,300 hectoliters in 2016. The good ‘ol U. S. of A. drags behind in an admirable 4th place, with a hectoliter count of 23,900.
Though France and Italy will continue the vintner battle royale another day, I think we can consider the States to be KO’d of the wine production game. Perhaps we’ll have better luck next year? Everyone loves an underdog.