Italy has had a great influence on the California wine industry for over 120 years. Just look at the names of some of the major winemaking families over the past century, names like Mondavi, Martini, Sebastiani and Seghesio and you can really see the connection. There is no doubt that the California wine industry would not be where it is today without the contribution of Italian-Americans.
Italy is the largest grower of wine grapes in the world, with more varietals than any other country. Many of these varietals grow well in California because the growing conditions here are very similar to that of the different regions of Italy.
Major white Italian varietals planted in California include Malvasia Bianca, Moscato Bianco, Pinot Blanco, Pinot Grigio, Tocai Friulano and Trebbiano with a total of over 13,000 acres under vine.
Major red Italian varietals include Barbera, Charbono, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Primitivo and Teroldego with over 9,200 acres planted.
Most of these varietals were brought here by Europeans immigrating to the United States between 1850 and 1910. Today, these grapes are planted in all the major wine growing regions of California.
In terms of volume, Barbera and Sangiovese account for 80% of the red Italian varietals crushed in 2007 and Pinot Grigio accounts for 80% of the white Italian varietals crushed in California.
Italian varietals tend to go great with food and especially Italian food. The Italians have coined the phrase “La Dolce Vita” which means “the Sweet Life” which indicates their love of family, food and friendship. Partake of this sweet life by enjoying a bottle of fine wine made from Italian varietals planted here in California.
The next two articles will describe some California wines produced from Italian varietals.