One can say that since I am Italian and I am the founder of The Organic Wine Store, it’s obvious that I have privileged Italian wines.
While I cannot guarantee 100% that I have no bias, the actual reason why so many wines featured in this store are Italian is based on at least three structural factors:
1. Italy is the largest wine producer in the world.
- Almost 55 million hectoliters are vinified every year in Italy- compare it to:
- France with 49
- Spain with 44
- US with 24
- Argentina, Australia, Chile, Germany and South Africa follow with a production between 10 and 15 million hectoliters.
- Interestingly enough, the fastest growing country in the last five years is China with 9 million hectoliters.
- New Zealand is strong in export but small in production: 3 million hectoliters per year.
2. Europe is leading the path to regenerative agriculture.
Spain, France and Italy are the fastest in bringing back organic practices in viticultural farming with more than 12% of organically farmed vines. These numbers are growing sharply in Europe where now almost 45% of the consumers prefer and are willing to pay a little extra for organic food and wines.
Finally, Italy is by far the country with most varietals planted and farmed in many different wine appellations and regions.
3. Italian wines are among the best for price-quality ratio.
Two necessary premises to understand this statement:
- Every one of us chooses wine according to a personal taste that is per se good and valid; certified sommeliers and wine critics instead are trained to evaluate a wine trough a technical analysis. Now, if in a technical session we have three wines similar in style, receiving from a panel of critics say 92 points, it is very likely that the Italian cost less than the others.
- This is for two historical reasons: The first is that in Italy, France and Spain some wine producers started more than 20 generations ago, therefore cost of land is mostly already amortized - while in more recent wine regions the cost of land is factored into the cost of wine.
The second is that France has historically been better than Italy in marketing and trading their great appellations like Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne starting with the British Empire. On the other hand, in Italy wine has been mainly for family consumption until 50 years ago. It’s only from the 70s that Italy started to upgrade the quality of the production and to reduce the quantity produced.
The perception of the majority of wine buyers is still that French wines are better, therefore there is a premium price you are going to pay for their consolidated image, and for the scarcity of some of their most famous wines.
As a result of all the above, it is likely you will find a greater value in Italian wines at the price point you decide.
Having said that, I really enjoy buying and drinking French wines as well as American wines or Argentinian, Australia, etc. But you need to be ready to pay a premium, for the same quality.
In synthesis, Italy has a varied organic wine production, it has recently grown in quality and the prices are relatively moderate.