Photography by Tom Arena
Fiano, Grecco, Verdicchio…Chardonnay? One of these may appear out of place when listing iconic Italian grape varieties, but—surprise—Chardonnay, the world’s fifth most planted grape, has a strong historic foothold all along the Italian peninsula. The diversity of Italy’s terroir and climate highlights this neutral white grape’s ability to adapt to its location and produce wines of place—whether the cool-climate slopes of Alto Adige or the sun-soaked hills of Sicily.
Chardonnay’s history in Italy, like many grapes, is a bit fuzzy, but most attribute the grape’s first plantings to Napoleon Bonaparte. Just as the Roman legions brought their most prized vines across Europe, Napoleon’s armies did the same, bringing Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and others to what we now know as Friuli-Venezia Giulia in the late 1700s or early 1800s.