The availability of Southern Italian wines has never been incredible. Massive co-ops producing generic Pinot Grigio with little taste and even less texture had been the norm for years. Why? Well wine production in those states just doesn’t pay the bills. Or at least it didn’t for a long while.
So no one was producing it and the reputation was falling so fast that no one was buying it. With the influx of New World alternatives, that lower price bracket was becoming the most competitive battle ground in the world of wine. So you’ve got to ask is there a point in checking out Southern Italian wines?
Of course the answer is yes, and it’s back with bang. So what changed? Well, as with anything else it was investment. Investment in the land, investment in the wine making, and investment in the marketing.
Land in the South of Italy is comparatively monkey nuts compared to the North. It’s also got a warmer, more steady climate. So you’ve got cheap land, with little vintage variation, and an almost guarantee that your crop will ripen. Hmmm, sounds a bit too good to be true. Investment in the land has flooded in from the North, and from further afield such as the US and Australia. They know how to make it work in the hotter climbs.
Given the relatively untouched nature of wine production in the years preceding this resurgence, PDO regulations have largely based the South by. Remember that if you produce wine in one of the areas with a bit of fame for their wines, then chances are there’s some kind of appellation control set on what you can do in terms of which grape, what land, and the rest. Sometimes even down to what bottle you can put the finished article in!
If there isn’t much in the way of regulation, then you’ve got a double-edged sword. On the negative side, you may struggle to gain a decent price for what you produce, so maybe you can’t be arsed putting in that extra mile. Produce something average and make it pay. As a consumer you may end up properly having to sort the wheat from the chaff. On the positive side though, if you want to have an experiment as a wine maker, you can mess around with different grapes, different blends, and different production techniques. Just go nuts. This has been a big draw for external investors.
And finally the marketing. In my view, the best thing about the South of Italy is the grape varieties. Sure you’ve got the international varieties creeping in, but the Aglianico’s of this world, the Gaglioppo’s, and the blessed Primitivo itself. These are just 3 of hundreds of local varieties, put here thousands of years ago as the first vineyards in what’s now mainland Italy.
In a world where your white wine choices might be whether you want oaked or unoaked chardonnay, wouldn’t you love to have a go at a spicy, herby Greco? Sicily has already done a great job at marketing co-ops promoting the local grapes, and the rest of the southern states are beginning to follow suit.
I’m not going balls out and saying “you’ll not have tried anything like this in your lives before!” but they’re definitely something different. Just keep an eye out.