Indigenous grapes and territory: a historical connection

Nowadays wine lovers and wine experts speak more and more often (positively) about autoctonous grapes. What exactly the term ” autoctonous” means and why the interest in this argument is rising?

Etimology and interpretations

The term autoctonous comes from the word in Ancient Greek “autòs” meaning same and “chthòn” meaning land. The term autochthonous should be then translated as “originating from the same territory where it is found”. As long as it refers to grapes (botanically speaking vitis vinifera) the sitatuation is not as simple as it may seem. Often varieties considered as autochthonous for a certain area are in fact originating from other areas and have been imported. For example the Cabernet Franc, famous variety from the central and southern part of France, seems to be native from Spain and successfully brought in France by the pilgrims returning from Saint James from Compostella Path (El Camino de Santiago). Also many Italian grape varieties considered as indigenous have actually Greek origins.

All this means that the term autoctonous should be refered not so much to the area where origates a certain grape, but to the specific area where it is colivated and developed as a characteristic variety for this territory. Autoctonous grapes are though the opposite of the so-called “international grapes” (as Merlot, Pinot, Sauvignon) which can be found from France to Italy, from California to Australia.

Autoctonous wine and culture

As already explained above, the meaning of “autochthonous” is strongly connected to the history and the cultural identity of a place. The indigenous grape becomes a testimonial of the activities of men in a certain context , and in this sense it can be seen as a unique expression of the territory. This concept is also reflected in terms of taste: the autochthonous grape is an expression of the diversity in sense of richness. This is the reason for which more and more winelovers are now looking for indigenous grapes with unique taste. This trend is also a sign of the evolution of taste, after years of homologagion and wines ” enologically perfect, but all the same” now the focus is on the originality of a wine. Furthermore, it is increasing the interest not only towards the wine itself, but towards everything around the wine- history, culture, environment.
This trend is supported by many wineries who have made the choice to focus on the preservation of the typicity and the uniqueness of the local culture, not only in Italy but also in countries like Bulgaria, the land of the Thracians, where the Mavrud for example is a variety testimonial of an ancient history waiting to be rediscovered.
Every European country has its indigenous grapes ( at first place in Europe we find Italy with more then 350 varieties). The discovery of these wines ( even better if matched with local gastronomy products) is a sort of journey in a certain territory and its history. And you, what have you discovered recently?

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