Italy has many early-age grape varieties flourishing in its soil. Some of those varieties came from vines which were cultivated during the Roman Empire. There is proved evidence that some of grapes were planted and wine was made from when in the early Copper Age. They originally were brought to Italy from Greece and Middle East, they have adapted to Italian soil and now are considered as natives. Experts said that there are around 600 native grape varieties now grown in Italy. Don’t forget that there are hundreds of more undocumented ones and those are known just to local farmers.
There are 100 grape varieties in Tuscany which are recognized, but some of them are planted in very small quantities and are on the line of the extinction. Dominant grape in this region is Sangiovese and it is the oldest one. Name literally means blood of Jupiter, scientists believe that it was planted by Etruscans.
In Sardinia, evidence was found of grapes which dates to the Bronze age, it was in 1300- 1100 BC. These grapes are strains from Vernaccia and Malvasia and they are still growing today. It shows that these varieties were not influenced by foreigners. But ancient Nuragic (ancient civilization which lived in Sardinia) developed cultivation by themselves.
Hikers found a storage jar in a cave on Moount Kronio which had some residue form the wine which goes back 6000 years, but it is not known which variety of grape were used. That proves that it goes way back before the Bronze Age. Because of this, Sicily became an interest of scientists and historians who are doing researches about Copper Age vines. On the surface of mountain Etna, you can find centenarian vines because of the volcanic soil these vineyards were unwelcoming and resilient to the bubonic plague, which caused severe damage to vineyards across Europe in the 19th century.
The Campania region is famous for the white wines which they produce, and they are made from grapes that were popular in the Roman Empire. They are called Fiano, Falanghina and Greco, name of which points its origins to ancient Greece. Red ones like Aglianico is the most mature living vines in Italy and couple others which were planted just hundred fifty years ago and survived an epidemic of Phylloxera insects.
These ancient vines do not grow just in central or south regions, but also in the northern part of the country too. Garganega is one of the varieties which is used to make Soave wine and it is believed that is the parent of couple white grapes that grow all around Italy. They are called Catarratto Bianco, Trebbiano Toscano and Albana.
Piedmont is a stunning region and full of vineyards and their history. Grapes like Nebiolo from this part of Italy goes back to the 14th century. Another one is called Crescenzi which is the base for elegant white wine from the Province of Alessandria, it faded and was on the line of extinction but was brought back by a winemaker in the 1980s.