10 Italian grapes you need to know

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Piemonte: Timorasso

This nativ grape fiends its roots in Piedmonte near Tortona in the province of Alessandria.  In “Colli Tortonesi DOC” you can find some amasing Timorasso’s. Don’t drink these wines too cold, you might ruin all the aroma’s of your wine. Some wineries are experimenting to produce this grape juice into amphora’s which can bring even more complexity to the grape.
These wines are medium-powerfull with great complexity. Aroma’s of ripe Jonagold apple with a slightly oxidative finish. Very interesting in foodpairings.

My favourite wine: “Ruggiada del Mattino” from Paolo Ghislandi – Cascina I Carpini



Piemonte: Ruché

As far as we know you can only find the Ruché grape in one the longest appellation names: Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG. Ruché has no known family and is a semi-aromatic red wine that can be made as a dry wine or with appassimento (drying grapes). You can find aroma’s of Potpourri, dry muscat and rose petals together with ripe red fruit and bay. It is not easy to fine pure and genuine Ruché’s.

My favourite wine: “Teresa” – Cascina Tavijn from Nadia Verrua

Trentino: Teroldego

Some people in US think that the Teroldego is the same grape as the Zinfandel (Primitivo), because of the aromatic spicy red fruit aroma’s, violets and almond. The name has two signification, the one meaning The Golden Grape of Tirol in an ancient German dialect. But apparently the name is because of it’s cultivating way “tirelle” which is a wiring system. This grape has also his own appellation Teroldego Rotaliano DOC where they use the variety as a mono varietal, but you can also find it in Casteller DOC and Trentino Sorni DOC.  The grape is a sibling of Dureza which you can find in Ardeche, they are the parents of the Syrah grape.

My favourite wine: “Grill” from the brothers Cobelli in honour of their lost father.
(if you’re in the region you should try the Nosiola as well)

Valle D’Aosta: Prié Blanc

Prié Blanc is a native grape that we find mainly in Vallé d’Aosta, particularly in the Morgex area. It’s known as one of the oldest varieties of North-West Italy, the Prié Blanc is early ripe and can survive winter and freezing temperatures. The vines are one of the only that can survive up to 1200m of altitude in extreme weather conditions, vineyards are known to be the highest of Europe. Those conditions prevent phylloxera to spread, let alone survive in this area. Most of the vines are therefor ungrafted. Although it seems like a tough bastard,  those wines are not that cheap. Not only because there is a lot of labour involving the making of these wines, but the Prié Blanc is very fragile for diseases.   Although we do not yet know the origin of the grape, it seems that it has DNA from almost every autochtone grape from the region.

My favourite wine: Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle –  from Ermes Pavese


Veneto: Durello

Like the Garganega grape you can find a lot of acidity and minerality in Durello. It adapts pretty good on Volcanic soil. The acidity of Durello is one of the highest of Italy. Which makes the wine perfect to make sparkling wines. You can find the wines near Soave on the Monti Lessini volcano. The appellation is Monti Lessini Durello DOC.

My favourite winemaker: Sandro Tasoniero – Sandro de Bruno – Monti Lessini Durello Superiore DOC



Friuli: Schioppettino

A lot of winelovers know Ribolla Gialla , some may know Schioppettino as well, but it’s the less known grape of Friuli. Another synonym of this grape used to be Ribolla Nera but don’t be fooled, they are not the same! Schiopettino can be a bit fizzy, it has also a very thick skin that crackles in the mouth. Scioppiettio means crackle. Coincidence?
It has a bit the same kind of history as the Prosecco and Glera. Schioppettino used to be the name of the wine made from Ribolla Nera, but now it has it’s own name. You can find this grape mainly in the Collio Orientali DOC.
Schioppettino is a very old grape (from the 1200’s) but is planted the most in only two cru’s; Cialla and Albana. It’s unknown why this old grape isn’t a rockstar for other producers in the region. It’s also a perfect grape to make blends with international grapes. You should know that Friuli is very famous for the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, not in a commercial style, because in one of their own. This is maybe why Schioppettino has missed the boat.

My favourite wine: Schioppettino – Ronchi di Cialla  from father and son Ivan and Paolo Rapuzzi



Emilia Romagna – Marche: Bianchello

Some people tend to confuse Bianchello with Passerina, ok in a blind tasting they can be seen as the same. Because both grapes are very aromatic and greasy. You can find Bianchello in Marche under the Bianchello del Metauro DOC or in Emilia Romagna under the Colli di Rimini DOC. The wines have a lot of ripe exotic fruit and a very floral charachter.

Our favourite wine: Luca Guerrieri – Celso – Bianchello del Metauro DOC

luca guerrieri


Lazio: Cesanese

Lazio is not well known for their autochtone grape. You will find a lot of grapes from their neighbours. Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Passerina, Trebbioano and also a bunch of International grapes. If you look for some smaller producers you can find other unknown grapes like “Aleatico” and “Nero buono di Cori”. But one of the nicest discoveries you can make are with the Cesanese grape. There are a lot of light easy drinking Cesanese, but sometimes you might find a nice discovery. You should know that Cesanese was used to make sweet or sparkling wines, yes it’s a red grape. Every town has it’s “own” Cesanese, just to make it easier for everyone, not. The government tried to make people believe more in this grape by protecting the name of the grape. If you make a Cesanese wine, it should be at least 90% and you cannot blend it with every grape you’d like, so no Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our favourite wine: Deanike – from Piana Dei Castelli – Matteo Ceracchi made this wine for Nicoletta De Angelis with her own grapes she took over from her father.


Sardegna: Nasco

Nasco is a very ancient grape that almost disappeared after the phylloxera breakout. But you can find some wineries around Cagliari. It has also his own appalletion Nasco di Cagliari DOC.  Nasco is derived from the latin word Muscus. The wines are very fruity with musky aroma’s. They are mostly sweet and fortified.

Our favourite wine: Efisio Meloni – Nasco di Cagliari DOC



Puglia – Verdeca

It’s hard when you’re in Puglia to see anything else except the famous reds made from Negroamaro and Primitivo. There are some other autochtone grapes, but here as well, they are not being put on the radar. Is it the customers fault? Sometimes I wish that producer would put some more effort into it. You can find some great Susumanielo, Malvasia Nera, Bombino Bianco, Aleatico,…. But for the whites it’s nearly a catastrophy. It just seems that everyone wants to plant Chardonnay and some other known Southern varieties like Greco and Fiano. Some producers are proud to make Bombino Bianco and we have tasted some interesting Verdeca. I’d like to focus on that last one. Verdeca in a blind tasting always make me feel like a “Greek Style” of wine. Not surprising if you know that Puglia was long time under Greek rule. There was some confusion about the grape, because Verdeca is a parent of the Croatian grape Plavina. But DNA showed that the grape is in fact the same as the almost extinct Greek grape Lagorthi.

Our favourite wine: Striale – Tenuta Patruno Perniola – From Paolo Patruno


And while we’re at it. Let’s give you an 11th grape. I know you’re craving for more.

Calabria – Gaglioppo

It’s sometimes frustrating when you see a region using a lot of Sangiovese grapes while they have their own local hero. In the case of Calabria it is the Gaglioppo. Not only a funny name to pronounce 10 times when you’re drunk, but also fun to drink. The grape is very susceptible to diseases and needs a lot of wind. Unfortunately a lot of the wines made with Gaglioppo are giving a too high alcoholic sensation. It’s because the grape produces a lot of sugar, especially in this sunny region. So the winemakers can chose: make it sweet and soft or alcoholic and powerful.
Mastering the Gaglioppo needs some severe Jedi-skills to find the balance of everything. Fortunately “The Force” is strong with some producers. The grape has Sangiovese and Mantonico Bianco as parents and guess what? Nerello Mascalese has the same parents, but it’s not seen as the same grape. Both grapes are born from a natural crossing and have other DNA strings, you can see them more as siblings.

Our favourite wine: Ciro Classico Superiore from Cataldo Calabretta

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