Italy's prime minister Matteo Renzi has caused a stir in French media after claiming that his country's fine wines were better than those from France...

  • Matteo Renzi wine comments cause stir in French media

Matteo Renzi said during the Vinitaly trade show in Verona last week that Italian wine is now ‘better than’ French wine, according to Italy’s ANSA newswire.

Renzi said he also made similar comments to France’s president, Francois Hollande, during a recent meeting.

In the light-hearted exchange, Hollande is reported to have retorted that Italy might be outselling France in terms of volume, but French wine was more expensive. French media jumped on the reported comments last week.

There is an ongoing wine rivalry between the two nations, and both are seeking to increase exports of their finest wines to key markets such as the US and China.

Italy overtook France to become the world’s biggest wine producer in 2015, following a larger harvest, according to the International Organisation for Vine and Wine (OIV).

‘Impossible to compare’

‘It’s really apples and oranges,’ said Ian D’Agata, Decanter contributing editor and expert on Italy and also for Sauternes in Bordeaux, when asked to comment on the Renzi and Hollande quips.

‘There are things that both countries do extremely well relative to wine, and others each could do much better; but the wines from these two countries are some of the world’s greatest, made from very different grapes and terroirs, so it’s almost impossible to compare the two.’

Renzi looks to China at Vinitaly

As part of Renzi’s visit to Vinitaly, he held a public meeting with Chinese businessman Jack Ma, the founder of China’s multi-billion dollar Alibaba retailer.

Renzi was keen to show his support for Italian wine exports and Ma announced at Vinitaly that he would like Alibaba to be ‘the gateway’ for Italy’s wines among China’s emerging middle class of fine wine lovers.

However, Ma has shown that he enjoys fine wines from a range of countries, including France.

Earlier this year, he bought Château de Sours in Bordeaux for an undisclosed fee, and Decanter understands that he is grouping together several other Chinese château owners in the area to form a supply business.