In the first part of the Italian wine journey we identified the main grapes and their usage in the following part we investigate the lesser known varieties.
This red grape is known nationally as the little sweet one is without question a wine to savour. It has a capacity to please when sipping or dare I say ‘gulping’!
The vine produces a very deep purple grape with thickish skin and a must which is quite high in sugars and relatively low in tannins.
With overtones of mulberries and almonds this grape is a little star and it is what the locals (Piedmontese) drink. The vine suffers a little from fungus diseases and curiously can drop its fruit well before they are fully ripe. It will only produce on suitable sites and as a consequence produces on it seven DOC’s in the Piedmont region.
Found growing in profusion but only in the sparkling wine areas of Asti and Alessandria, a red grape which produces a lively, frothy wine with aromas of Alpine herbs and flowers. The wine from the Grignolino produces a light bodied affair best drunk when still young.
Turin and it`s surrounding hills is where you find this grape growing, a dark grape producing a light ,fruity wine that can be chilled and always is by the locals. Again here if you visit YOU must seek out the variations that the Families produce for their own consumption, not in great quantity but tasty,fuller flavoured delicious examples of what can be produced.
Of French origin this grape grows well in the Piedmont region producing a lively fizzing (frizzante) wine with strawberry aroma and colour.
Very important in the production of the well known red wine Valpolicella, with it`s crimson colour and medium body. This is another Italian wine with Almond overtone and character, it ripens late and has variable yields.
This is well known in the Trento-Alto Adige region in northern Italy. The Germans over the border call it Trollinger and the Italian word Schiava suggests a Slavonic origin and has been grown in the Northern area since the 15th century.
The grape produces a wine of fruity and medium character for a hillside red ( this area is known as the South Tyrol) and needs careful attention during the pruning stage to determine final yields.
The wine it produces is really non distinct and requires drinking almost immediately. Nevertheless it is grown in Austria, Great Britain ( Black Hamburg) France (Raisin bleu).
This grape gives Cabernet Sauvignon a run for its money , as it`s above average tannin level and deep rich colour really makes it stand out to a point.
The problem this grape has it returns low alcohol levels which makes it less attractive or easy to drink so it is used for blending with older and softer wines. It yields good weights and ripens late and is resistant to fungus diseases and rot.
Only grown in Trentino and requires a little more care and attention than others. A notable area within Trento where this grape is grown is the Campo Retaliano plain and virtually nothing else is planted there. Low in Tannin but high in everything else is has often been compared to the Gamay grape but is somewhat more sturdy and is more than equal in quality.
Grown strictly in and around Peruglia, ( Monte-falco Zone) it produces a wine of great concentration with a deep ruby colour and a slight bitterness. Originally produced as a sweet wine it has become the norm for dryer wines to be produced today but again when in the area seek out the unusual because there are one or two variations to be had!
Grown in Abruzzi, Campania,Umbria and Marche with its origins of Greek descent, it is a wine that thrives on or in lower rainfall/drier areas on clayey soils. The wines are naturally high in alcohol, full bodied and if left in the bottle to mature deliver a high quality taste.
As with most grapes it is blended with whites and can deliver high bottle ABV% (13.5%)
Early budding vine which performs at its best in sunny, dry conditions. It produces high quality red wine and is grown in the upper reaches of the Taurasi in Campania region. The wine is tannic, concentrated in its youthful form, but as it ages the notable “Tarry” yet fruity nature is revealed.
Lets not forget Sicily! Here the main grape is the Nerello which is in fact TWO grapes that has its origins on the island. The Nerello Mascalese which adds colour and increased alcohol to basic table wines is accompanied by the Nerello Cappucio which contributes its share when blended to produce fine wines such as Corvo Rosso.
On this island the grape is the Monica. Its origins are Spanish and is one of only a very few Sardinian grapes allowed to be used on a wine label. The wine can be both sweet and dry and is at its best consumed early. You would however call this a basic wine .