Italy has a profusion of native grape varieties: one expert has counted over 1,000, and 400 are officially listed in the DOC regulations. Most DOC regulations exclude the internationally-favoured French classic varieties, though these are increasingly grown and used in vini da tavola. One of the reasons for the disenchantment with the DOC system among growers has been the prohibition of non-traditional varieties. Some DOCs do recognize vines such as Merlot, Pinot Blanc (Bianco) and Pinot Gris (Grigio), which have been established in northern Italy since the 19th century. Cabernet Sauvignon was planted in the Chianti zone of Tuscany two centuries ago, almost as soon as it had been recognized under the current name in Bordeaux.
The native Italian varieties are legion, and the list is made longer still by the profusion of clones and subvarieties.
There is constant debate in central Italy about the vices and virtues of various forms of Sangiovese. This is no esoteric debate: the character of Chianti wines considerably in the 1950s and 1960s when there was wide-Spread replanting with an inferior Sangiovese clone. Better producers now recognize the need for careful clonal selection. Among other native grapes is the red Primitivo of the far south, which, it is claimed, is the same as Zinfandel, California's own red variety.
The most important Italian grape varieties include.
Native to Piedmont and now widely planted, making red wines in a variety of styles.
This ancient vine, with -usually- pale-skinned grapes, has a pungent flavour and makes dry and sweet, dark and light wines in the southern half of peninsular Italy.
Makes vigorous red wines in central Italy.
The prime red variety of Piedmont, responsible for Barolo and Barbaresco wines.
The red grape of Chianti and other central wine zones
The dominant white grape of central and northern Italy.