Over their long and distinguished histories, both France and Italy have cultivated world-famous wine making traditions. Recently, the leaders of both countries reignited a debate that has raged among the international wine enthusiast community for years; is French wine better than Italian?
The Italian city of Verona recently held its world famous wine festival. Attendees included the Italian Prime Minister himself, Matteo Renzi, as well Jack Ma, the founder of mega Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba. Speaking at a press conference with Ma, Renzi was quoted by City A.M. saying that Italian wine “is better than French wine.”
According to City A.M., Renzi admitted in the press conference that he made similar comments to French President Francois Hollande in a recent meeting. So how did Hollande respond? Reportedly the French President rebuffed Renzi’s provocative claim, jokingly suggesting that “perhaps, but ours [wine] is more expensive.” We need to look at both countries’ wine making traditions in a little more depth to determine which leader made the better point.
French wine vs Italian
France is often regarded as the wine making capital of the world. Regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy are known for making standout reds and the country is the source of many grape varietals e.g. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, which are now planted around the world. Data from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), a global industry body, suggests that France led the world in terms of wine exports by value in 2015.
With wine making traditions dating back to the 2nd Century B.C., Italy boasts some of the oldest wine producing regions on earth. Known for its broad range of products, Italy possesses every possible micro-climate required for fine wine production. Wines produced in noted Italian wine making regions such as Piedmont and Tuscany rank among some of the best on earth. OIV figures for 2015 indicate that Italy was the second biggest wine exporter by volume last year, ranking only behind Spain.
As wine resource Bottlenotes writes, “Italy produces countless superb wines and truly is France’s closest rival in terms of quantity and quality.” In other words, it is hard to determine whether French wine is better than Italian. Speaking to French news site The Local, British wine expert Rosemary George summed up the difficulty in answering this question.
Commenting on the debate, George said: “France has set the international standards – if you make sparkling wine in the New World, you look to Champagne; if you grow Pinot Noir, Burgundy is your benchmark, and so on… In contrast, Italy has a wealth of unknown and obscure grape varieties, and very few with any international recognition, though that is slowly changing.”
Conduct a taste test
Truthfully, we can’t answer the question is French wine better than Italian. Every wine enthusiast has their own unique taste preferences, so the only way you can answer this question is by conducting a little experiment. We suggest that you buy the Clos Saint Dennis 1996, a robust French Burgundy red and purchase the Vega Sicilla 1999, hearty Italian red, from Ideal Wine Company and do a taste test to determine whether you think French wine is better than Italian!