"Le Uve" - The Grapes

"Le Uve" The Grapes


“The Barolo of the South” Certainly its versatility makes it one of the most important Southern red grape varieties in terms of fine wine production.  It lends body and character to lively roses, to fruity wines, and to well structured and velvety textured, long lived reds.  It is cultivated primarily in Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Molise.  The wine is generally full bodied with soft tannins.  It is high in acidity.  On the palate, there is a seductive blend of black cherry and blackberry fruit, with hints of violets and wild strawberries.  Red licorice, bitter chocolate and black pepper tones can be found as well.


A refreshing straw yellow wine with delicate apricot and green apple notes on the nose and palate.  This variety is grown in Piedmont’s Cuneo Province and nick-named Nebbiolo Bianco. Pair this wine with flavorful antipasti, seafood, and stuffed peppers.


Barbera is found throughout Itlay and is the secondmost planted red grape after Sangiovese.  In its native Piedmont, it is usually vinified as a single variety wine, while in other regions it is more often part of a blend.  It is a vigorous variety that thrives on sand or clay based soils.  However, many producers feel that it gives it’s most elegant results on limestone rich soils in relatively cool sites.  Barbera based wines are usually ruby red in color with purple highlights when it is young.  Their nose is fresh with soft scents of ripe plum that are carried onto the palate.  Well made barriques versions will be lush, dark, rich and creamy with warm, spicy fruit which gracefully unfolds on the nose and palate.  Well paired with pasta and rice dishes while the barriqued versions go well with red meat and mature cheeses.


Bonarda originated in Piedmont and its cultivation is pretty much restricted to that region.  It is the main component in varietal wines, but it usually serves to add color and zest to DOC wines like Sizzano, Gattinara, and Lesona.  The wines are ruby with a purple sheen.  Lightly aromatic and on the palate the wine is soft with subtle cherry and berry fruit flavors.  Paired with meat ravioli and hot antipasti. – Guy


This is one of the most important varieties in Liguria; it is a component blend of practically all the regions’ white wines.  It’s name (bosco means “a wood”) may be derived from the dense forests of it’s zone of origin, Cinque terre.  From here, the variety spread to the area around Genoa.  It is rarely vinified on its own but rather blended with other local varieties like Vermentino.  Straw yellow to pale gold, one finds scents of wild herbs and chamomile flowers.  The wine is soft and savory.  The dry version goes with fish dishes and the passito version can be drunk alone or with pastries. – Guy


Brachetto is thought to have originated in the hills of Asti and Monferrato.  Brachetto received the coveted DOCG in 1996 under the name Brachetto d’Acqui.  It is usually a bright pink tinged with red.  On the nose are scents of strawberries and roses.  This is a supple and refreshing wine.  It pairs well with non-acidic fruits and nuts.  –Guy


Cultivated mainly in Tuscany, Canaiolo (along with sangiovese, malvasia, and trebbiano) were part of the original recipe for Chianti and is still an accepted part of the blend for DOCG Chianti and Chianti Classico.  It can also be found in other DOC/DOCGs; Vino Nobile, Carmignano, Pomino Rosso and more.  The wine/grape is a dark ruby red with hints of black cherry fruit and develops herbal tones with age.  This wine varietal pairs well with vegetable and bean dishes.


Cannonau was likely brought to Sardinia by the Spanish in the 1400’s.  Today it is widely known as Grenache in France and Ganache in Spain.  The dry, windy climate of Sardnia is ideal for this grape and also what makes it the most popular vine on the island.  It is used in the production of reds, roses, and fortified wines. 


Small amounts are planted in Tuscany, Marche, and Lazio where the variety adds color to some blended reds and roses.  But it is in Sardinia that it has made its’ strongest showing.  It is a deep garnet red that is round and full bodied.


Derived from the word “carmine” as a reference to it’s deep color it is a low yielding variety due to it’s susceptibility to coulue (inability to flower).  It is widely planted in Veneto, Trentio, and Friuli and in the past was mistaken for Cabernet Franc.  It is a part of many DOC’s but because the correct name is not listed in official DOC regulations, it cannot appear on the label of the wines.  It has good body and is a ruby color.  Round and mouth-filling it is slightly herbaceous when young.  There are often hints of green pepper, ripe black currant, cranberry, and black pepper that become more seductive over time.  Pairs well with red meat and mature cheeses.


There are two main biotypes of Cesanese: Comune and d’Affile.  As the names imply, Cesanese Comune is found at various sites around Lazio while Cesanese d’Affile is limited mainly to the province of Roma.  These wines can be dry, sweet, sparkling, or still.  They are ruby in color with an orange sheen.  Notes of sage and rosemary on the nose, silky texture and flavors of plum skin.  Pairs with light antipasti and rice dishes.


Cortese is grown in Piedmont and has a high concentration of sugar, substantial acidity, and subdues alcohol.  The best examples of Cortese are supple and have tenuous scents.  Cortese di Gavi is the best example of this variety.  It became Italy’s second white DOCG.  The wines are straw colored with delicate perfumes of apples and apricot.  On the palate they have an attractive salinity.  Pairs with oysters, grilled vegetables, seafood and especially swordfish.


This variety seems to show at it’s best in the Veneto region.  Here, a few producers make Corvina with varying degrees of success.   The most impressive thus far is the full bodied, yet supple La Poja from Allegrini.  A 100% Corvina wine is fairly intense ruby.  It is full bodied and has a rich flavor and fresh delicate perfumes.  There are hints of bitter cherries and it’s often aged in oak giving it a spicy tone.  Pairs with grilled trout and vegetables, meat and mushroom sauces, and salamis.


Grown in Piedmont, this grape’s name is usually said to derive from the particular sweetness of its’ berries.  Most dolcettos are fresh and intended to be drunk in two to four years after bottling.  The wine is a deep dark ruby color and is noted for it’s supple body and elegant perfumes.  Which can include scents of over ripe cherries, blackberries, and chocolate tones. 


Falanghina is found principally in Campania, and may well have been a component in the Roman era, Falerno.  Although it suffered greatly from phylloxera epidemic, it was resuscitated by Francesco Avallone who founded his Villa Matilde estate knowing that this wine that was once praised by poets and connoisseurs could be lost.  Falanghina is a pale, straw colored wine that is supple and has a vanilla tone by nature, not oak.  It has a fresh, fruity flavor.


This ancient Southern Italian variety originated around Lapia, a hamlet in the hills east of Avellino in Campania.  Its structure makes it suitable for a certain amount of ageing as well as for drying.  There are two varietal Fianos in Campania.  The most well known is Fiano di Avellino.  Small amounts of Greco, Coda di Volpe and Trebbiano may be added to the blend of this dry wine.  Sannino Fiano is made in a dry still style as well as sparkling which can be semi- or fully sweet.  It is straw yellow in color and one can finds scents of toasted hazlenuts on the nose.  There is usually a mineral salty note on the palate of this supple wine.


Garganega is believed to be of Greek origin.  When grown in optimum sites, when yields are kept low and when grapes are allowed to ripen fully, this variety is capable of producing whites with delicate flavors of pear, pineapple, and apricot which become fuller and more luscious as the wine matures.  This grape is the major component in Italy’s most maligned wine: Soave.  This is a fresh, citrusy wine with notes of acacia blossoms and a creamy undertone.  Pairs well with seafood or freshwater fish.


Grechetto is an off-shoot of the “Greco” family.  Within this sub-group one finds a great deal of variations in characterstics.  The wine is usually straw colored, with hints of elderflower and pears on the nose.  On the palate, it is fresh and undemanding.  Pairs well with seafood antipasti and freshwater fish dishes.


In the 8thcentury B.C. a serious agricultural crisis forced poorer Greeks to search for new territory across the sea.  Some landed on what is now Calabria.  Among their precious possessions were seeds and vine cuttings.  These were the antecendents of some of Italy’s most important grape varieties.  Greco can be found in many southern regions of Italy.  The sub variety, Greco B is found in Campania on the slopes of Vesuvias and spreading through the rest of the region.  The best known wine made here is Greco di Tufo which is north of Avellino.  It distinguishes itself with it’s fruity character and is best drunk young, within two-four years of harvest.  The wine is a pale gold with amber highlights, hints of toasted almonds, and fresh figs.  Pairs well with vegetable dishes, seafood, and most cheses.


Indigenous of Sicily, producers have begun to appreciate the variety’s potential to make attractive dry whites.  Inzolia is very sensitive to climate and those grown at high elevations tend to be distinctively grassy and herbaceous.  Grapes for this wine are semi-dried for at least w week before being crushed.  The wine is a straw to pale gold color that is fresh and lightly floral.  There is a slight saline note on the savory palate.  Pairs well with fresh pasta, vegetable based dishes, salt baked fish, and grilled shrimp.


Lagrein flourishes in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, where it is the primary grape for a well structured, deeply colored red with ageing potential.  The wine is a deep ruby with crisp acidity and blackberry flavor on the palate.  Pairs well with meat lasagna, duck, and roast pork.


There are three main types of Lambrusco with Lambrusco di Sorbara, di Salamino, and Grasparossa.  Sorbarar based wines are a luscious pink, Grasparossa is darker cherry color, and the Salamino is very dark purple with a lively violet froth.  All Lambrusco is low in alcohol and has a fresh zippy acidity. 


The name Malvasia covers a large collection of vines, some white, others red.  They usually have a musky apricot fragrance as well as high residual sugar levels.  These qualities make Malvasia particularly suitable for production of both sparkling and passito wines. 


This variety is believed to have been brought to Sardinia by Spanish monks and was introduced through convent vineyards.  Monica di Sargedna tends to be round, full, easy drinking while Monica di Cagliari produces wines of heftier alcohol content intended for an aperitif.  It is a dark ruby color with notes of plum and black pepper with a medium to full body.  Pairs well with grilled lamb and less fatty cheeses.


The grape,  Montepulciano has nothing to do with the town, Montepulciano.  The grape originated in Abruzzo and then spread to Puglia, Molise, Marche, and Lazio.  This variety produces wines which have a full, lush fruitness and naturally soft tannins which give it an even bigger potential for making palate pleasing wines than Sangiovese.  It is certainly capable of producing some of Italy’s finest reds.  Pairs well with sausage, roasted eggplant, lamb, and spicy cheeses.


The venerable and varied Moscato family includes both white and red varieties, all of which share an attractive, grapey fragrance.  The name seems to be derived from musk.  Generally speaking, wines made from Moscato grapes have lively acidity.  There is often a touch of orange blossom on the nose with dried apricots on the palate.  Pairs well with gorgonzola cheese.  Red moscato has distinct scents of tea roses on the nose and good body. 


Nebbiolo is Piedmont’s premium grape variety and is the primary component in four of the regions DOCG wines (Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, and Ghemme).  It is believed to have originated in the hilly zones around the town of Alba and has an affinity for hillside and mountainous sites.  It was a Frenchman who, in the late 1800’s suggested that the Italians should consider making wines from Nebbiolo “in the style of Bordeaux”.  This meant dry and with well-defined structures instead of sweet and unfocused versions.  The result was full bodied and long lived reds we now call Barolo.  Barbaresco brought international attention after the late 1970’s when Angelo Gaja put out exceptionally crafted wines with dynamic personalities.    Both styles pair nicely with braised meats, game, and aged cheese.


The most important grape in Puglia and major component in the region’s DOC wines.  It is often blended with Malvasia, Sangiovese, and Montepulciano making appealing reds and roses.  It is a deep, dark ruby with black highlights.  Fresh with scents of apples, pears, plumbs, and prunes and a soft, mouth filling flavor.  Pairs with roast pork or duck.


 A sub-variety that is believed to have originated on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna in northeastern Sicily.  It is now Sicily’s second most widely planted grape after Nero D’Avola.  It is seldom bottled on its own but often blended for DOC’s like Etna Rosso and Faro.  It has a ruby color and lively freshness with hints of strawberry jam, anise, and darjeerling tea.  Pairs well with spicy casseroles.


There is a seductive wildness about certain red varieties that renders them infinitely more exciting than their classic counterparts.  Sicily’s Nero D’Avola is one of those for it’s fragrance is always refreshing with blueberry hints melding into brighter tones of wild berries.  It has soft tannins and supple body and can be manipulated by the winemaker to embody either a satisfying, youthful style or a more graceful wine with ageing potential.  The wine is a dark ruby color and has red licorice, clove, and berry scents on the nose.  On the palate, it is supple and offers smokier, fresh fruit with a bitter chocolate tone.  Pairs well with roast pork and pesto sauces.


The style of Picolit made from fresh grapes is fast disappearing.  Most is now made from semi-dried grapes and vinified in barriques.  When made this way, it can evolve for more than ten years.  It is bright gold in color with zesty acidity and balanced sweetness.  Very delicate floral notes on the nose with a touch of white chocolate on the palate and a honey finish.  Pairs well with foie gras.


An ancient variety from Campania, widely planted on the foothills of Vesuvius in the province of Naples.  While it is most often blended with other DOC’s of the region, Lacryma Christi Rosso is the most well known single vinification of the grape.  It is ruby colored with herbal notes and a touch of black pepper.  It is a supple wine with fresh acidity.


Styles of this popular wine can range from supple and straw colored to barriqued.  The differences in color depends on the time the juice spends in contact with the skins.  They always have medium to high alcohol, refreshing acidity, and good body.  It’s popularity can be attributed to the Santa Marherita company who in 1961, put it in a clear bottle to convey the characteristics of the wine.  Pairs well with pasta dishes, rice, and chicken. 


 Studies carried out by UC Davis have determined that Primitivo and Zinfandel share the same DNA.  It is up to the winemaker to label it with one name or the other but they are recognized as the same wine. The Italian version thrives in Puglia and previously only suited for blending, Primitivo is a rising star in the international wine scene.  The wine is dark ruby with a luscious raspberry sheen when young.  It has plum jam and blackberry on the palate with hints of violets and oriental spice.  Pairs well with stews and game meats.


Prosecco can be extra dry, brut, and dry.  The sparkling version is made by a refermentation in autoclave, exalting its varietal aromas and freshness; so Prosecco is delightful and very drinkable.  Pale-greenish straw in color, with green apple and floral perfumes.  The slightly sweeter version lends depth and attractive complexity to the wine.   Pairs well with delicately flavored rice or pasta dishes or as an aperitif.


Primarily found in (and originated in) Friuli, Refosco was the most important red variety until the end of the 19thcentury when Merlot and Cabernet were introduced.  Now it can be used to blend with other varieties or on its own.   It has an intense ruby color and hints of plum on the nose and notes of black pepper on the palate.  It is lightly tannic with a bitter chocolate finish.  Pairs well with flavorful rice and pasta dishes, lasagna, and roast pork.


 One of Italy’s greatest red wines, it was said to have been brought to the Umbrian town of Montefalco by Spanish Monks.  This variety does well in south facing vineyards with calcium rich soils.  Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG is limited to well exposed hillsides and must be 13% alcohol and aged 30 months before release.  It is dark in ruby color, full bodies, silky, and spicey.  There is a slight roughness on the palate that adds to the wine’s charm.  Pairs with grilled meats and strong cheeses.


Sangiovese goes through a great deal of clonal variation and as a result, differs greatly in color and structure.  The two clones fall into two main groups: Sangiovese Grosso and Sangiovese Piccolo.  Grosso is lower yielding and has smaller, thicker skinned berries making it’s wine darker and more ageing potential.  Piccolo makes more youthful wines and is more widespread over Italy.  It is a main component of many DOC and DOCG wines in Tuscany, Umbria and Marche.  The most popluar being Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile.  The wines are generally ruby red and garnet colored with age.  The perfumes are rich and full and some tasters find hints of leather, tobacco, vanilla, and figs.  Younger Sangiovese has a ripe cherry flavor with a little bitterness on the finish.  Pairs well with red meats and aged cheeses.


Dating back to the 1300’s, it is primarily cultivated on the foothills of the commune of Prepotto.  It has a dark ruby color with dried flowers on the nose.  On the palate, the wine is full bodied with soft black pepper and wild berry flavors.  Pairs well with red meats and roasted meats in particular.


The Teroldego production zone is essentially limited to the Rotaliano plain in the northern part of the province of Trentino.  Teroldego Rotaliano DOC, which may be called either Rosso or Rubino on the label, and has a minimum alcohol level of 11.5%.  When it reaches 12% it can be called Supieriore and with two years of ageing it is a riserva.  Ruby with purple highlights and a zesty acidity with raspberry and black pepper on the nose.  Pairs well with antipasti, vegetable dishes, and roasts.


Soon, this varietal will be referred to as Friuliano and not Tocai.  A complaint lodged by Hungary whose most famous wine is Tokay which is not made from the same grapes and is quite the opposite style initiated this change.  It is pale gold in color with a subtle saline scent and hints of wildflowers.  Good structure and creamy texture.  Pairs well with sliced ham or barley soups and is suggested with simple asparagus dishes. 


Traminer Aromaticao is the name Gewurztraminer is best known by in Italy.  Itialian Gewurztraminer has a very different style than other countries.  It’s generally softer, and more floral than it’s Alsatian counterpart with elegant perfumes and a high alcohol content balanced by concentrated fruit flavors.  Great as an aperitif or with smoked meats.


As with many Italian varieties, when this vine is treated properly and good wine making processes are employed it results in a very attractive wine.  This is the largest family of white grapes in Italy with many sub-varieties like Trebbiano di Soave and Trebbiano Toscano.  It is extremely prolific and produces pale, light whites.  In the Marche region, Trebbiano di Soave is known as Verdicchio.


DNA testing has proved that Verdicchio, Trebbiano di Soave and Trebbiano di Lugana are one in the same.  It is widespread throughout Veneto and is a component in many wines there.   In Marche, it is known as Verdicchio, a name derived from it’s green (verde) highlights.  It can attain 13% alcohol with ease and has good structure and high extract with a minerally and salty note with zippy acidity.  Great wine for sushi, seafood, risotto, and grilled white fish.


This variety arrived from Spain during the 14thcentury and can be problematic but when grown in coastal areas, it thrives.  Vermentinos are found in Sardinia, Liguria, and Tuscany.  The Sardinian variety produces the most consistent wine for the grapes thrive in the coastal area there and in the granite based soil.  The ideal Vermentino is pale gold with pea green highlights.  A refreshing nose, one can find notes of wild herbs and a saline property on the palate.  Pairs well with grilled fish and vegetables especially things prepared or finished with lemon.      


Vernaccia di San Gimignano is from Tuscany and was one of Italy’s first DOC’s.  It is straw yellow in color with notes of sage and dried flowers.