A study was carried out to investigate fungi present on grapes grown in Italy. Aspergillus and Penicillium spp. isolates were identified and studied in vitro, and their ability to produce ochratoxin A (OA) was investigated. The survey involved nine vineyards, three located in northern Italy and six located in southern Italy. In 1999 and 2000, bunches of grapes at different growth stages were collected from all nine vineyards, and berry samples were placed in moist chambers and incubated. The resultant fungal colonies were then transferred to petri dishes containing Czapek yeast agar and incubated at 25 micro C for 7 days; the fungal isolates were identified and then cultivated in liquid Czapek yeast medium and evaluated for their ability to produce OA. During the survey, 508 isolates were collected, with 477 belonging to Aspergillus spp. and 31 belonging to Penicillium spp. Among the aspergilli, species of the Fumigati, Circumdati, and Nigri sections were identified, with species of the Nigri section (464 isolates) largely predominating; for species of the Nigri section, 108 isolates were uniseriate, 270 were biseriate, and 86 were identified as Aspergillus carbonarius. Black aspergilli isolated over the 2 years of the study showed a very similar pattern. On average, the biseriates represented about 60% of the isolates collected in both years and were followed by uniseriates (21%) and A. carbonarius (19%). The most toxigenic strains proved to be those of A. carbonarius; about 60% of these isolates were OA producers and produced the highest levels of OA. A. carbonarius was more frequent in the south, but in both areas the percentages of OA-producing isolates remained the same.