Art-house sparkling wines, Italian style

A few kilometres from the city of Verona, the home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the winegrowing region of Valpolicella spreads over an area of 30,000 hectares and offers lovers of big, strapping reds the longlasting nectar that is Amarone. Of course, there are other, simpler red wines such as Bardolino and Valpolicella, but even when produced with the Ripasso technique, these are but a pale reflection of the majestic Amarone.

It is no coincidence that the Italians have a passion for sparkling wines. Not only are they a major Champagne-drinking nation – as Champagne’s fifth-largest importer with 7.2 million bottles in 2010 – they are also leading producers of world-famous sparkling wines, spearheaded by Prosecco. The 2011 harvest produced 1.5 million hectolitres or 200 million bottles of Prosecco. So, no, Italy is not only home to red wines but also superlative whites, both still and sparkling.

The foreign markets are usually strongly oriented towards Italian red wines. However, Italian white wines would seem to offer remarkable potential in terms of international market share development, especially in Northern European countries such as Norway, thanks to their general quality enhancement obtained through innovation in the vineyards and cellars.
In a blind tasting of more than 200 Barolo wines from 2008 and 2006 (Riserva) during the Nebbiolo Prima event in Alba, this ‘king’ of red wines from Piedmont did not live up to its usual description as a rich and well-balanced wine, both complex and appealingly drinkable at the same time.