Italyʼs Growing Passion for Autochthonous Wines

03 Settembre 2019 -
DI Redazione

This autumn from October 14th -15th Autochtona, a forum for indigenous wines, will be opening its doors, or bottles should we say, giving visitors an opportunity to experience some of the countryʼs rarest and most special vini, including some which have risked extinction. All of the wineries participating in the two-day event exclusively produce autochthonous wines from specific varietals associated with a unique area. This exhibition, held in Bolzano, is like taking a tour around the peninsula without ever leaving one space.

Autochthonous wines have been slowly gaining a place in the spotlight for a while, but why is that? Well, they are something like finding secret treasures. They are singular because they are made from varieties which are native to a distinct area. The name itself derives from the word autochthon meaning ‘one sprung from the ground which it inhabits.ʼ These grapes have been adapting to their local soil, water and climate for hundreds of years. Some of them are or have been at risk of dying out. Usually created using traditional techniques, with little manipulation, they can be very clean even unusual. Yet, often they became lost in a marketplace where more widely known grapes such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Zinfandel dominate. However, in recent years more and more people around the world outside of the wine industry have begun taking note of these lesser-known varietals.

Italians themselves have picked up a growing interest in becoming familiar with some of their countryʼs most indigenous wines, a fact supported by information gathered by Google regarding word searches throughout Italy for autochthonous wines in the last twelve months. So, which of these wines have been the most searched and what regions do they originate from? First of all, itʼs not easy to narrow it down to just a few names considering that the Belpaese is home to a vast variety of wine grapes, many little known, which often find it difficult to gain recognition outside of their local regions. Indeed, Italy has more than 1,500 different grape varieties. Some of these autochthonous wines can be found under the names that are the same as the vines themselves or the areas they originate from. Sometimes they can be found bottled under these names, while many end up in blends, their presence barely visible on labels. Nonetheless, interest in them is continually on the rise.

So, are there any new wines we can discover for ourselves from those names Italians are looking for? Setting aside some famous autochthonous wines such as Nebbiolo (Barolo and Barbaresco), Sangiovese (Chianti, Brunello, etc.) or Glera (Prosecco), there are regionally localized varieties getting more and more attention in internet searches according to Google Trends® and Ubersuggest®. One of these is Ribolla Gialla, a vine historically connected to the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia which has gained over 10,000 searches per month during the last year. Another is Aglianico with 5,400 searches per month, a grape which comes from the southern regions of Italy used in wines requiring a longer finishing process like Taurasi in Campania or Aglianico del Vulture in Basilicata. Lagrein, an autochthonous variety from Trentino Alto Adige, has also peaked curiosity with 4,500 monthly searches, with yet other names such as Verdicchio from Marche, Cesanese from Lazio, Primitivo di Manduria from Puglia and Cannonau from Sardegna also gaining interest amongst Italians.

Clicks and searches aside, this burgeoning curiosity for these indigenous varieties represents a desire to discover more of Italy besides its better-known vines and famous cities. Autochthonous wines are a way of uncovering varietiels from areas and towns which are often out of the spotlight- their nose and flavors synonymous with the history and traditions of the land they are native to - and this is exactly the objective of the Autochtona forum. This two-day event becomes a journey of discovery through the regions and territories of Italyʼs hidden wines.

Liana Bicchieri