Italy and France are two of the world’s finest wine producing countries, for both quality and quantity. Italy has made wines longer and is a larger producer of wine, but France is more renowned for its creation of premium wines. So does one rein superior to the other? I really don’t believe so but here are some of the facts to help you to decide for yourself.
Traditional Sparkling Wine
To begin the France Italy showdown are sparkling wines that are produced using the traditional method – Champagne versus Franciacorta. Both wines utilize a second fermentation that occurs in the bottle. It is the most labour intensive process that creates the most complex textured wines.
Champagne is considered the home of traditionally prepared sparkling wine and has the most stringent regulations for production. These rules dictate both blending practices and aging requirements.
Franciacorta, though less famous than Champagne, uses the same type of grapes and may even have a longer aging process. Given the warmer climate, the grapes are riper but do not have the same vibrancy as the French wine. However, it is worth considering that a Franciacorta sparkler will have a more favourable price point than a similar one from Champagne.
Great-Value Sparkling Wine
Both France’s Crémant and Italy’s Prosecco share the versatility provided by the more expensive traditional sparkling wines but at a much gentler price.
Crémant wines are produced using the traditional method but with less restrictions than Champagne.
Prosecco is produced using the Charmat method which conducts the second fermentation in a tank rather than in the bottle. Some of the finer Proseccos are aged several years to create a more complex flavorful wine.
The price of both the French and Italian versions is comparable.
France’s Châteauneuf-Du-Pape and Italy’s Amarone are premium wines from their respective regions and are considered to be among the finest wines in the world. They are both full-bodied and smooth.
The wines from Châteauneuf-Du-Pape are a blend which has the Grenache grape as the principal grape. The balance of the wine often consists of a combination of Mourvèdre, Counoise, Vaccarèse, and Muscardine.
The region produces intense, powerful wines with great body. Many of these offerings may be drunk when released or retained for quite a few years.
Italy’s Amarone wines are made from grapes from the most mature vines which are harvested late to ensure ripeness. The grapes are then dried on racks or hooks for about 120 days in order to obtain a higher concentration of sugar and flavour. During this process 30% to 40% of the grapes’ weight is lost which is part of the reason for this wine selling at a higher price.
Though the cost of both of these wines can run over $100, the average price is in the $50 range. Whether one wine is preferred over the other will depend on your personal taste.
France’s gentle flavoured Pinot Noir and Italy’s bold Nebbiolo grape share two things in common; they are both very difficult grapes to grow; and they are among the most sought after grapes in the world.
The majority of France’s Pinot Noir grapes are grown in Burgundy.
The Italian Nebbiolo grape is grown exclusively in Piedmont and is used in the creation of Barolo wine.
The two types of wine, apart from both being red, are vastly different in intensity, richness, and flavour. It would not be fair to try and compare or rate one against the other. They each stand on their own merits.
The most recognized wine region within each country is France’s Bordeaux and Italy’s Tuscany. These regions are home to some of the world’s most expensive sought after wines. However, they also offer an enticing array of wines at a wide range of price points.
The wines of Bordeaux consist of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The region is divided into 2 sectors – the left bank and the right bank – by the Dordogne, Garonne and Gironde rivers. The left bank wines will contain a higher concentration of Cabernet Sauvignon while the right bank wines contain a greater proportion of Merlot.
The wines of Bordeaux have extraordinary consistency of balance and structure, irrelevant of the price point.
The signature grape of Tuscany is the Sangiovese, which is the basis of 3 of Italy’s most famous wines, Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello. There are also other wines consisting of a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
There are a great variety of styles , flavours, techniques and price points, all containing the definitive Tuscan identity.
There is no winner or loser in this comparison. It comes down to a matter of personal taste.
The White Pinot
France’s Pinot Gris and Italy’s Pinot Grigio are the same grape but are produced in different styles. The Pinot Gris is produced in the Alsace region of France whereas Pinot Grigio is associated with northern Italy.
Pinot Gris is produced in a range of styles ranging from dry to sweet. They contain a distinct richness, weight, spiciness, and complexity that is said not to exist in the Italian version. The French version of the grape has more potential for aging as well.
The Italian Pinot Grigio is light and zesty and makes a great sipping wine. It is said to have subtle floral and fruit aromas and flavours.
Aromatic whites are typically those wines producing the aroma of flowers and herbs. Such wines are normally not aged in oak barrels.
France’s Sauvignon Blanc is the noted white wine grape of Bordeaux and the Loire. It is renowned for the hint of lime, green apple, peach and tropical fruit, as well as its herb and grassy notes.
Italy’s Vermentino wine is light and refreshing. It is also complex and layered displaying fruit tones, mineral and herbal notes.
As I stated earlier, I don’t believe there is a winner or a loser. Both countries provide their own uniqueness and distinct flavours through their wine offerings. There are no comparisons for a French Bordeaux or Châteauneuf-Du-Pape but the same can be said for an Italian Borolo or Chianti. Whether a French wine is preferred over an Italian wine or vice versa is a matter of personal taste.
To simply say that one country is superior to the other and ignore the offerings of the other would be a travesty. Such a person would be denying her/himself the opportunity to indulge in some great tasting wines.
One thought on “French Versus Italian Wine”
Today, Italian wines, like Italian cuisine, has outpaced and surpassed their French counterparts by a mile. In the 1950’s and 60’s, it always was French food “haute-cuisine”that reigned supreme and was the mark of fine dining. This went along with her large varieties of wines. By the late 1970’s this began to change. French foods and wines were seen as too pretentious, overpriced, hard to pronounce and seemingly very complicated and too arduous to prepare at home. That is when America and the world discovered the beauty, quality and attractiveness of Italian cuisines form all 20 of her varied regions. Previously,it was only know as pesant food from the South,with simple things like pasta and pizza. Today,we appreciate the superior quality and affordability of Italy’s wines and her varied cuisines from the Alps to Sicily. It is very difficult to find a fine French restaurant today for a special dinner or occasion,.most have disappeared. However, Italian ones of high quality that offer both Northern and Italian dishes and regional wines are literally everywhere in the U.S. The Italians get it and the world we live in today. Simple, freah ingredients that are always in season. Using the fewest ingredients and seasonings to yield the ultimate in flavor and the easiest processes to create the dishes that are never overly intimidating like in French cooking.