Italian wine is the theme of this year's Vancouver International Wine Festival and one wine expert says it's with good reason.

Italy is home to one of the most diverse range of wines in the world, with over 500 different grapes said Ian D'Agata, scientific director at Italy's Vinitaly International Academy. In comparison, 90 per cent of all French wine is made from only 15 kinds of grapes, he said.

"In Italy, the more complicated the things are, the better and that's true of all walks of Italian life."

D'Agata is speaking at this week's festival, which runs February 20 to 28.

'A treasure trove of riches'

With hundreds of different grapes to work with, Italy was not always as organized as other wine-makers, like France. But that's starting to change now, says D'Agata.

"We started late but we're making up for it and we're coming on strong now," he said. 

"I think what's happening now is they're realizing they were sitting on a treasure trove of riches that had gone and passed them by."

Italy produces some of the most unique wines in the world, he said.

"The single most important thing I find most exciting is the rebirth of all these native grapes … that are totally typical of Italy that nobody has," he said.

"Each one of these grapes give wines aromas and flavour profiles that are completely unique to Italian wines."

The story of wines

This week's festival is an opportunity for casual wine lovers to learn more about the drink's history.

As long as people remember wine is meant to be enjoyed responsibly, it opens many doors, said D'Agata, who is also a doctor.

"With wines, if you can go beyond the red cherries or the peaches in the glass, there's a whole world waiting there for you," he said.

"It allows you to make new friendships. It allows you to learn about a place, it's history, meet new people. That's what wine is all about."


To listen to the full interview, click the link labelled: Italian wine the star of Vancouver International Wine Festival.