Grape Variety Archive

This page combines alphabetically, in one centralized spot the information about the grape varieties of the wines that I have reviewed in this blog, so that it may be easily referred to by readers.

Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012

All of the grape variety information below has been taken from the wonderfully educational, gorgeously illustrated and scientifically researched volume “Wine Grapesauthored by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and Jose Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012. Wine Grapes is an impressive 1,242 page long collection of detailed and up to date information about 1,368 vine varieties from all over the world. Quoting directly from the Web site dedicated to the book:

Where do wine grapes come from and how are vine varieties related to each other? What is the historical background of each grape variety? Where are they grown? What sort of wines do they make? Using the most cutting-edge DNA analysis and detailing almost 1,400 distinct grape varieties, as well as myriad correct (and incorrect) synonyms, this particularly beautiful book examines viticulture, grapes and wine as never before. Here is a complete, alphabetically presented profile of all grape varieties relevant to today’s wine lover.

I don’t think I need to say much about the authors, as if you are into wine they are all very well known, but just in case: Jancis Robinson has been a wine writer since 1975 and the Financial Times’s wine correspondent since 1989. Her principal occupation now is taking care of her own Web site, JancisRobinson.com, which gets updated daily. Julia Harding is a linguist, an editor and a qualified Master of Wine. She is Jancis Robinson’s full-time assistant and “associate palate”. Dr José Vouillamoz is a Swiss botanist and grape geneticist of international repute. He was trained in grape DNA profiling and parentage analyses in the world-famous laboratory of Professor Carole Meredith at the University of California at Davis.

I also wish to take the opportunity to sincerely thank the authors for being so kind and generous as to grant me permission to pull together and publish this page which I think can become over time a great resource for gaining a quick snapshot of the various varieties that make up the wines that I review on this blog.

If you read this and are seriously into wine, I think you should definitely consider acquiring Wine Grapes as it will provide a ton of invaluable information about everything that you may want to know about grape varieties. Besides, let me tell you: Dr Vouillamoz’s DNA profiling work about all the grape varieties in the book is nothing short of unbelievable and well worth the price in and of itself!

The information below about Italian wine appellations is the result of my own research.

1. Aglianico

Aglianico is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to Southern Italy. The earliest written evidence of this variety dates back to 1520 referring to the grapes as “Aglianiche”.

Although it is widely believed that the name “Aglianico” comes from a variant of the word “hellenic”, hinting at a Greek origin of the variety, this theory is confuted by others (including the Wine Grapes’ authors) who contend that the word actually comes from the Spanish word “llano” (meaning “plain”), thus referring to Aglianico as the “grapes of the plain”.

DNA analysis supports the authors’ theory as Aglianico’s DNA profile does not resemble that of any of the modern Greek grape varieties, while it is similar to Aglianicone’s, a Campanian variety which could be an offspring of Aglianico.

Aglianico wines tend to be structured and tannic, with good acidity which gives them great aging potential. Aglianico is almost exclusively grown in Southern Italy, where it achieves its best results in the regions of Campania and Basilicata (where it is present with its separate clone Aglianico del Vulture), particularly in the following appellations:

  • Taurasi DOCG (in the Campania region, encompassing a territory near the town of Avellino and requiring the use of a minimum of 85% Aglianico grapes as well as 36 months of aging for base Taurasi wines and 48 months for Taurasi Riserva wines)
  • Aglianico del Taburno DOCG (in the Campania region, encompassing a territory near the town of Benevento and requiring the use of a minimum of 85% Aglianico grapes as well as 24 months of aging for the base wine and 36 months for the Riserva)
  • Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG (in the Basilicata region, encompassing the volcanic territory near the town of Atella and requiring the use of 100% Aglianico del Vulture grapes as well as 24 months of aging for the base wine and 36 months for the Riserva)
  • Aglianico del Vulture DOC (in the Basilicata region, encompassing a slightly larger territory than the “Superiore” appellation and requiring the use of 100% Aglianico del Vulture grapes)

Outside Italy, limited plantings of Aglianico may be found in Australia and in California.

2. Asprinio

See, Greco.

3. Auxerrois (or “Pinot Auxerrois”)

Auxerrois is a white-berried grape variety from France’s Alsace-Lorraine region. The earliest documented reference to this variety occurred in 1816 in France’s Moselle region.

DNA analysis showed that Auxerrois is one of the several natural crosses between Pinot and Gouais Blanc, which therefore makes it a sister variety of Chardonnay and explains why it is known as “Pinot Auxerrois” in Alsace.

Auxerrois wines tend to be fairly neutral and low in acidity. In Alsace it is generally blended with Pinot Blanc: it is interesting to note that, somewhat surprisingly, Alsace AOC rules permit that a wine labeled “Pinot Blanc” be actually prevalently made out of Auxerrois grapes or even exclusively (as in, 100% Auxerrois)!

In France there were 2,330 HA of total Auxerrois plantings in 2008, mostly in Alsace and the French Moselle, while Germany had 285 HA, mostly in the Baden and Pfalz regions.

4. Barbera

Barbera is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to the Monferrato district in the north Italian region of Piemonte. The first written references to Barbera date back to the end of the XVIII century. Nowadays it is the most widespread grape variety in Piemonte, from which wines are made that display lively acidity and a deep ruby color.

In Piemonte, Barbera is the main grape of four different appellations:

  • Barbera d’Asti DOCG (encompassing an area surrounding the towns of Asti and Alessandria, and requiring the use of 90% or more of Barbera grapes and a minimum aging of 4 months for the base version or 14 months, of which at least 6 months in wood barrels for the “Superiore” version);
  • Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCG (encompassing the Monferrato district near Alessandria and an area near the town of Asti, requiring the use of 85% or more of Barbera grapes and a minimum aging of 14 months, of which at least 6 months in wood barrels)
  • Barbera d’Alba DOC (encompassing an area in the vicinities of the town of Cuneo and requiring the use of 85% or more of Barbera grapes)
  • Barbera del Monferrato DOC (encompassing the Monferrato district near Alessandria and an area near the town of Asti, requiring the use of 85% or more of Barbera grapes)

Given its wide distribution, Barbera is produced in a variety of styles, ranging from simpler, “younger” versions that are only aged in steel vats to more structured and evolved versions that are aged in oak barrels, including sometimes barrique casks.

5. Brunello

See, Sangiovese.

6. Caberlot

Caberlot is a very rare, almost extinct black-berried variety that is exclusively cultivated at Podere Il Carnasciale (a small estate in Tuscany’s Valdarno area) and that was first identified in the late 1960’s in an abandoned vineyard near the town of Padua, in northeastern Italy’s Veneto region. Caberlot is believed to be a natural crossing between Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

In the mid 1980’s, Wolf Rogosky, the late owner of Podere Il Carnasciale, planted the first 0.3 HA of Caberlot at the “Carnasciale” vineyard at the very high density of 11,000 vines/HA. Given the excellent results of that experiment (1988 was the first vintage of Podere Il Carnasciale’s grand vin, “Il Caberlot“), more plantings followed in 1999, 2004, 2011 and 2013 at four more vineyards (“Selva”, “Vincaie”, “Tamara” and “Soldani”), only two of which (beside the original “Carnasciale” vineyard) are currently in production. As a whole, in 2015 Podere Il Carnasciale has a total 4.5 HA of Caberlot vineyards, only 2.4 HA of which are in production.

The annual production of Podere Il Carnasciale (all made under the Toscana IGT appellation) is about 3,000 bottles of Il Caberlot (their grand vin, that is made in magnum format only) and 6,000 bottles of Il Carnasciale (their second vin). Beside Italy, small allocations of sought-after Il Caberlot are available in 27 countries around the world.

7. Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc is one the oldest black-berried varieties in the Bordeaux area, although DNA profiling indicates that it actually originated from the Basque Country in Spain, as its parents were two old local cultivars named Morenoa and Hondarribi Beltza.

The oldest documented reference to Cabernet Franc appears to date back to 1534 and to have been recorded in the Loire Valley under the name “Breton”. The name Cabernet supposedly derives from the latin word “carbon” or black, due to the dark color of the berries. Cabernet Franc has been established to be the parent of such well known varieties as Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Merlot.

Wines made from Cabernet Franc grapes are generally paler, lighter, softer and more aromatic than those made from its offspring Cabernet Sauvignon. Beside the Loire Valley and the Bordeaux region of France, Cabernet Franc is widely planted throughout the world.

8. Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a black-berried variety that originates from the Gironde region in south-west France. The oldest documented reference to it (under the name “Petit Cabernet“) dates back to the second half of the XVIII century.

DNA profiling showed that Cabernet Sauvignon originated as a (probably spontaneous) cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. In the XX century, there happened two genetic mutations of Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia that produced in one case pinky bronzed berries (now known as Malian) and in the other case white berries (now known as Shalistin).

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes make deep colored, concentrated and tannic wines, apt for long-term aging. Beside its native Bordeaux region, where Cabernet Sauvignon plays a key role in Bordeaux blends, it is a variety that has been planted extensively around the world and that (along with Merlot and Chardonnay) has become the epitome of the international varieties.

9. Cannonau

See, Garnacha.

10. Casavecchia

Casavecchia (pronounced “Casaveckey-ah“) is an ancient black-berried grape variety indigenous to the Caserta area in the Campania region, in Italy. Tradition has it that the last known vines of Casavecchia were found in XIX century near an old house (which in Italian translates into “casa vecchia“, which gave the name to the variety) in a village north of the town of Caserta, and were used to replant the variety in other areas north of Caserta.

Recent DNA analysis shows that Casavecchia is unlike any other known grape variety, making its origins pretty mysterious.

11. Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a white-berried variety that is indigenous to the French area between Lyon and Dijon, encompassing Burgundy and Champagne. The earliest documented mention of Chardonnay dates back to the late XVII century in the village of Saint Sorlin (today known as La Roche Vineuse) under the name “Chardonnet“, although the variety takes its name from the village of Chardonnay near the town of Uchizy in southern Burgundy.

DNA analysis showed that Chardonnay is a natural cross between Pinot and Gouais Blanc.

Chardonnay Rose is a color mutation of Chardonnay, while Chardonnay Musque’ is a mutation with Muscat-like aromas.

Chardonnay is one of the most versatile and adaptable white grape varieties, which explains in part why it has been so extensively grown all over the world. Chardonnay grapes are generally high in sugar levels and do not have a dominant flavor of their own, so the wines made out of them tend to take on a variety of aromas depending on where the grapes are grown and how the wines are made. Thus Chardonnays run the gamut from subtle and savory to rich and spicy still wines as well as being one of the base wines for Champagne and other Classic Method sparkling wines.

Chardonnay is a typical international variety given how widely it is cultivated on a worldwide basis, from native France, to Italy, North and South America and Australia.

12. Chiavennasca

See, Nebbiolo.

13. Ciliegiolo

Ciliegiolo is a black-berried grape variety that was first mentioned in a grape variety treatise dating back to 1600 under the name “Ciriegiuolo Dolce“. The current name of the variety derives from the Italian word “ciliegia” meaning cherry because of the cherry aroma of its berries.

Tradition has it that Ciliegiolo was supposedly imported into Italy from Spain around 1870, but there is not sufficient evidence to support such theory.

DNA analysis proved that Ciliegiolo is one of the parents of Sangiovese, while Ciliegiolo’s parentage is still being researched.

Ciliegiolo is mostly cultivated in Tuscany (Italy) where it is often blended with Sangiovese to soften its muscular tannins in Chianti wines. Wines made from Ciliegiolo grapes tend to have an intense red color and aromas of cherries.

14. Cinsaut (or “Ottavianello”)

Cinsaut is a black-berried grape variety originating from southern France, probably from the Languedoc-Roussillon area. Its earliest documented mention dates back to 1600 under its old synonym “Marroquin“; later on (1829) it was referred to as “Sinsâou” and finally by 1888 it took its current name of Cinsaut.

Cinsaut has also been known and cultivated in Italy since the XVII century (both in Sicily under the name “Grecaù” and in Puglia under the name “Ottavianello“) and in Spain under the name “Sinsó“.

Notably, Cinsaut was also used in South Africa to breed the Pinotage variety (a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, the latter erroneously referred to as “Hermitage” in South Africa).

Cinsaut finds optimal conditions in southern Frances’s warm and dry soils, where it produces red wines that are generally smooth, fruity and aromatic and it often serves as a blending partner. Cinsaut also makes pleasantly fresh and perfumed rosé wines.

In 2009, total plantings of Cinsaut in France were 20,800 HA, mainly in the Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence-Côte d’Azur districts, as well as in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where it may serve as a minority blending partner in the local red.

The country with the second largest Cinsaut plantings after France is South Africa, with 2,241 HA in 2008.

In Italy, total plantings in 2000 were a mere 288 HA, mostly in the Puglia region (particularly in the Ostuni DOC territory) under the synonym Ottavianello.

Cinsaut is also cultivated in Morocco and Lebanon, as well as in California that in 2008 had just 47 HA.

15. Cortese

Cortese is an indigenous Italian white-berried grape variety whose first documented mention dates back to 1614 in Italy’s Piemonte region.

Nowadays, it is mostly grown in the area surrounding the towns of Asti and Alessandria (in south-eastern Piemonte), where it especially is the only grape variety allowed by the Gavi (or Cortese di Gavi) DOCG appellation. Cortese generally makes wines with rather neutral aromas and good acidity.

16. Corvina Veronese (or “Corvina”)

Corvina Veronese (or simply “Corvina”) is a black-berried grape variety indigenous to the Verona area in Italy’s north-eastern Veneto region. The etymology of the word “Corvina” is uncertain as it could derive from the Italian word “corvo” (meaning “crow”, due to the deep black color of its berries) or from the Verona dialect word “cruina” (meaning “unripe”, due to its being a late ripening variety).

The first documented uses of the name of this variety occurred in 1627 (under the name “Corvini“) and in 1755 under the current name “Corvina“. The first reference to its full name “Corvina Veronese” took place in 1818 in a document by Italian botanist Ciro Pollini.

DNA analysis has shown that Corvina and Corvinone are distinct grape varieties (although they might be genetically related) and therefore Corvinone is not a clonal mutation of Corvina as was once thought. DNA profiling also proved that Corvina has parent-offspring relationships with two other Italian indigenous varieties, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso and Rondinella. Specifically, Corvina  is a progeny of Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso and a parent of Rondinella.

Corvina Veronese wines tend to have tart cherry flavors, fresh acidity and moderate tannins.

Italy had 4,867 HA of Corvina Veronese plantings in 2000, mostly in the area surrounding the city of Verona in Italy’s north-eastern region of Veneto, where Corvina is the key player (along with Rondinella) in the blends of three well-known local wines: Amarone della Valpolicella, Bardolino and Recioto della Valpolicella. A few producers also make varietal wines out of Corvina Veronese.

Outside Italy, the only Corvina Veronese plantings that are worth mentioning are just 4 HA in the New South Wales region of Australia.

17. Corvinone

Corvinone is a black-berried grape variety that for a long time has been mistakenly considered to be a clonal mutation of Corvina Veronese. However, DNA analysis has shown that Corvina and Corvinone are distinct grape varieties, although they might be genetically related.

In Italy there were just 95 HA of Corvinone plantings in 2000, mostly in the Valpolicella area near the city of Verona, in Italy’s north-eastern region of Veneto. Corinne may be used in partial substitution for Corvina Veronese in the blends of Amarone della Valpolicella, Recioto della Valpolicella and Bardolino wines.

18. Crljenak Kaštelanski

See, Tribidrag.

19. Dolcetto (or “Ormeasco”)

Dolcetto is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to Italy’s Piemonte region. The first documented reference to Dolcetto took place in 1593 in the town of Dogliani, near Cuneo (in Piemonte). DNA analysis proved that Dolcetto is different from both Savoie’s Douce Noir variety and Tribidrag/Zinfandel.

Dolcetto wines tend to be fruity, low in acidity and high in tannins.

Italy had 7,450 HA of total Dolcetto plantings in 2000, most of which in Piemonte, especially in the areas adjacent to the towns of Cuneo, Alessandria and Asti. Piemonte has three DOCG appellations that are reserved to varietal Dolcetto wines:

(a) Dogliani DOCG (encompassing a territory near the town of Cuneo)
(b) Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba DOCG (encompassing a territory near the town of Cuneo)
(c) Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore DOCG (encompassing a territory near the town of Ovada)

Liguria also has Dolcetto plantings, particularly of a Dolcetto clone that is known as “Ormeasco” and is grown in a territory near the town of Imperia in the Ormeasco di Pornassio DOC appellation.

In the USA, there are a few Dolcetto vineyards in California, Washington State and Oregon.

20. Fenile

Fenile is a white-berried grape variety that is indigenous to and highly localized in the Amalfi Coast area in the Italian region of Campania. It is said to derive its name from the Italian word “fieno” (hay) due to its straw yellow color. Fenile’s DNA profile is unique. It is an early ripening variety with high sugar levels.

21. Friulano (or “Tocai” or “Tai”)

Friulano is the relatively new name for the grape variety that used to be known as Tocai. The change in name was due to the outcome of a dispute before the European Court of Justice that in 2005 prohibited Italian winemakers, starting March 2007, from using the word Tocai to identify their wines or grape varieties, on the grounds that the use of the word “Tocai” by the Italians could be confusing with the very famous (and delicious!) Hungarian sweet botrytized wine “Tokaji“, which is a word that started being used to identify such wine before anyone else used any similar term, including Tocai in the Friuli and Veneto regions of Italy. Incidentally, note that in Hungary “Tokaji” is only the name of the wine, not that of the prevalent grape variety it is made of, which instead is called Furmint.

As a result of the aforesaid European Court of Justice decision (and despite, let me note, Italian Tocai being a dry white wine and therefore completely different from Hungaian Tokaji, which is a sweet wine), Italian authorities and Tocai producers from the two affected regions (Friuli and Veneto) needed to come up with a different name to call their own grapes and the wine made out of them.

In one of the best examples of Italian bureaucracy at its finest, a decision was made to call the same grape variety in two different ways: “Friulano” in the region of Friuli and “Tai” in the region of Veneto. As if being required to drop the Tocai designation altogether had not brought enough confusion in the market… :-(

Regarding Friulano (or Tocai) as a grape variety, DNA profiling has shown that it is identical to Sauvignonasse, an old white-berried grape variety that originated in the Gironde region of France and that (despite what the name would make you think) is not related to Sauvignon. Sauvignonasse vines were brought to the North-Eastern Italian region of Friuli in the XIX century where it was given the name Tokai, which later on muted into Tocai, in the first quarter of the XX century.

22. Garnacha (or “Grenache” or “Cannonau”)

Garnacha is an old variety that has undergone several color mutations (there are a black-berried variety, a grey-berried one and a white-berried one) and whose origins are uncertain: it may be Spanish (most probably from the Aragón region) or it may be Italian (from the island of Sardinia, where it is locally known as “Cannonau“).

The earliest documented mention of Garnacha in Spain dates back to 1513, when it was referred to as “Aragones“, while its first mention under the name “Garnacha” occurred in 1678.

On the other hand, in Italy’s Sardinia island, the earliest mention of Garnacha, under the old local name “Canonat“, was in 1549.

If historical data make both hypotheses plausible in terms of where the variety originated, DNA data seem to indicate a Spanish origin.

Garnacha is also known in France under the local name “Grenache“.

Garnacha Tinta (Garnacha’s black-berried color mutation) is one of the world’s most planted varieties. It is prevalently used in the context of blends, notably in the one typical of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, which is generally referred to as “GSM“, standing for Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.

In France, where it is known under the name “Grenache Noir“, it is the second most planted variety after Merlot, with a total of 94,240 HA of vineyards in 2009, almost exclusively in southern France and particularly in the southern Rhône district, where it is the prevailing blending partner in Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. These tend to be deep-colored, high in ABV and often tannic, with herby and spicy notes.

Spain had a total of 75,399 HA of Garnacha Tinta plantings in 2008, mostly in the northeastern district of Aragón and in the central district of Castilla-La Mancha. It is the third most planted black-berried variety in Spain, after Tempranillo and Bobal. In Spain, Garnacha Tinta is particularly relevant for the production of rosé wines in the Navarra district.

In Italy, Garnacha Tinta is mostly cultivated in the island of Sardinia (Sardegna) under the local name “Cannonau“. In 2000 there were 6,288 HA Cannonau vineyards. The grapes are used to make both varietal wines and blends. Garnacha also occurs in Italy’s northeastern region of Veneto under the name “Tocai Rosso“, particularly in the Colli Berici DOC appellation: in 2000 there were 384 HA of plantings.

Beside occurring in several other Mediterranean countries, Garnacha Tinta is also cultivated in the USA, mostly in California (2,497 HA in 2010) and Washington State (106 HA in 2011). Australia also has its Garnacha Tinta plantings, with 2,011 HA in 2008.

23. Gewürztraminer (or “Traminer Aromatico”)

Gewürztraminer is a white-berried aromatic clonal mutation of Savagnin (see, the Savagnin entry for more detailed information).

The first documented reference to Gewürztraminer appeared in Germany in 1827, which strongly suggests that the clonal mutation occurred in Germany’s Rheingau region from where it soon spread to nearby France’s Alsace region (where the earliest written mention dates back to 1886).

Gewürztraminer has pink-colored berries and produces wines that generally have higher alcohol levels than most whites (often reaching or even surpassing the 14% ABV mark) and low acidity which tend to result in full-bodied wines with a very concentrated aromatic profile, often reminiscent of lychees or other exotic fruit and rose petals.

France had 3,083 HA of Gewürztraminer in 2009, the vast majority of which in the Alsace region.

In Italy there were 560 HA of Gewürztraminer (also known as Traminer Aromatico) in 2000, almost exclusively in the Alto Adige region.

Germany had about 835 HA of Gewürztraminer plantings in 2008, mostly in the Pfalz, Baden and Rheinessen regions.

In the USA, there were 702 HA of Gewürztraminer vineyards in 2010 in California, mainly in Monterey and Mendocino, and 88 HA in Oregon in 2008, as well as 58 HA in 2006 in the Finger Lakes region in the State of New York. Canada also had 261 HA of plantings in British Columbia in 2008.

24. Ginestra

Ginestra is a white-berried grape variety that is indigenous to and highly localized in the Amalfi Coast area in the Italian region of Campania. It draws its name from the homonymous Italian word which means broom, because of its dominant aroma. It is a late ripening variety with high acidity levels and with aging the wines made from these grapes may develop kerosene-like aromas similar to those that may be found in certain Riesling.

25. Glera (or “Prosecco”)

Up until recently, Prosecco was the name for three things: the wine, its main grape variety and the homonymous village near the town of Trieste (in the Italian region of Friuli) that probably gave the wine and the grape their name. Relatively easy so far.

Then in 2009, with Prosecco’s popularity and sales soaring (in 2011 the overall production of Prosecco was about 265 million bottles, 55% of which were exported), the consortium of Prosecco producers obtained an official change in the name of the grape variety, from Prosecco to Glera, so that Prosecco would only be the name of the wine (and not of the grape variety too) and could therefore be reserved for its designation of origin, thus preventing other producers from other Italian regions or other countries from calling their sparkling wines Prosecco.

At any rate, the main grape variety that is used in the production of the wine Prosecco was called Prosecco Tondo (now Glera) which DNA profiling has shown to be identical to a rare variety that is indigenous to the Istria region of Croatia named Teran Bijeli. This evidence supports the theory of an Istrian origin for the Prosecco/Glera grape variety. Glera is a partly-aromatic white-berried grape variety.

Other grapes that may be used in the production of the wine Prosecco and that used to be considered clonal variations of Prosecco Tondo, but DNA analysis has proved to be distinct varieties, are Prosecco Lungo and Prosecco Nostrano (the latter, by the way, has been proven to be identical to Malvasia Bianca Lunga).

Prosecco wine is made in two Italian DOCG appellations and in one more loosely regulated inter-regional DOC appellation, as follows:

  • Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene (or simply Prosecco di ValdobbiadeneDOCG in the Veneto region, near the town of Treviso;
  • Prosecco dei Colli Asolani DOCG in the Veneto region, near and including the town of Asolo;
  • Prosecco Spumante DOC, an appellation which covers a vast territory stretching between the regions of Veneto and Friuli.

The regulations of the two DOCG appellations require that their Prosecco wines be made for 85% or more from Glera grapes, to which up to 15% of Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera or Glera Lunga white-berried grapes may be blended. The regulations of the DOC appellation are similar but permit that a few additional grape varieties be blended to the Glera base grapes, as follows: Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir.

Prosecco is one of the main examples of a sparkling wine made according to the so-called Charmat-Martinotti Method production process, although there are a few producers who also make some very good Classic Method Prosecco’s. Compared to the Classic Method, the Charmat-Martinotti Method is a quicker and cheaper production process for sparkling wine, which is known to maximize primary (or varietal) aromas although it generally sacrifices the wine structure and the finest perlage. For more detailed information, please refer to our post on the Charmat-Martinotti Method.

26. Grechetto (or “Grechetto di Orvieto”)

Grechetto di Orvieto is a white-berried grape variety that is distinct from the similar sounding “Greco” variety. DNA analysis also showed that Grechetto di Orvieto is a different variety from Grechetto di Todi (which, in turn, is a synonym of Pignoletto) and that a parent-offspring relationship exists between the two.

Grechetto is mostly grown in Central Italy, particularly in Umbria, and is often used as a blending partner of other varieties.

27. Greco (or “Asprinio”)

Greco is a white-berried grape variety that is mostly cultivated in Southern Italy, particularly in the Campania region. DNA profiling recently showed that Greco is the same variety that is otherwise known as Asprinio and is close to Aleatico.

Probably, the best known appellation for Greco-based wines is Greco di Tufo DOCG in the Campania region, which encompasses a territory near the town of Avellino and requires the use of a minimum of 85% of Greco grapes, which may be blended to a local variety known as Coda di Volpe (“fox tail”) up to a maximum of 15%.

Another notable appellation for the Greco variety is Aversa DOC (also known as Asprinio di Aversa DOC) which encompasses an area, always in the Campania region, near the town of Aversa and the city of Naples and requires the use of a minimum of 85% of Greco (locally known as Asprinio) grapes. The word Asprinio is a variant of the Italian word “aspro” which means “sour” due to the high acidity that is typical of the wines made in this appellation. Another distinctive feature of the Asprinio di Aversa DOC appellation is the traditional way to grow the local ungrafted grapevines, where tall birch trees serve as natural trellis, resulting in vines that climb up to 75 ft (25 mt) high and require the use of very tall ladders to harvest the top grapes – here is a photograph to illustrate this singular grapevine growing method which is also known as “vite maritata” (i.e., “married grapevine”).

28. Grenache

See, Garnacha.

29. Lagrein

The earliest mention of Lagrein is contained in a 1318 document found in Gries, near Bolzano, and surprisingly it refers to a white wine, that researchers have not been able to identify yet. Instead, the first reference to the red Lagrein that we know dates back to 1526.

Recent DNA analysis proved that Lagrein is a variety that is indigenous to the Alto Adige region of Italy, that it originated as a natural cross between Teroldego and an unknown variety and that, among other cool facts, it is a sibling of Marzemino and a cousin of Syrah!

In Italy, Lagrein is mostly grown in the northern regions of Alto Adige and Trentino. Outside of Italy, Lagrein can be found in California (Paso Robles) and Australia.

30. Malvasia Nera di Lecce

See, Malvasia Nera di Brindisi.

31. Malvasia Nera di Brindisi

Malvasia Nera di Brindisi (or simply, Malvasia Nera) is a black-berried variety that most likely originated from Italy’s southern region of Puglia as a natural cross between Malvasia Bianca Lunga and Negroamaro.

DNA profiling has shown that Malvasia Nera di Brindisi and Malvasia Nera di Lecce are one and the same variety.

Malvasia Nera is essentially cultivated in Italy, mostly in the Puglia region, but it also occurs in Tuscany and Calabria. Overall plantings in Italy in 2000 amounted to 2,907 HA.

32. Mataro

See, Monastrell.

33. Merlot

Merlot is a black-berried variety whose earliest documented mention dates back to 1783/1784 in the Gironde region of France under the name “Merlau“.

DNA profiling proved that one of Merlot’s parents was Cabernet Franc, while the other parent was a virtually unknown cultivar the last traces of which were found in Brittany and in the Charente region of France, where the few remaining vines went under the name of Raisin de la Madeleina but were later renamed “Magdeleine Noire des Charentes“.

Merlot Gris is a color mutation of Merlot, while Merlot Blanc is a distinct grape variety (a cross between Merlot and Folle Blanche).

Interestingly, in a small, isolated vineyard near Arezzo (Tuscany, Italy) Merlot crossed with an unidentified parent to give birth to the rare grape variety known as Caberlot, from which the homonymous, equally rare and sought after wine is made.

Merlot is the quintessential international variety, as it is cultivated even more widely than Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines made out of it are generally fresh and sweet, which make Merlot the ideal grape to blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet Franc to counterbalance their muscular tannic structure.

34. Molinara

Molinara is a black-berried grape variety originating from the Verona area in Italy’s north-eastern Veneto region. The first references to Molinara date back to the early XIX century.

Molinara wines tend to be pale in color and have high acidity. Molinara is generally a minority blending partner in the Amarone della Valpolicella and Recioto della Valpolicella local wines.

In Italy there were 1,348 HA of Molinara plantings in 2000, mostly in the area adjacent to the city of Verona.

35. Monastrell (or “Mourvèdre”)

Monastrell is a black-berried grape variety that originates from the Valencia region, in eastern Spain. The name derives from Latin and is a diminutive of the word “monastery”, suggesting that the variety was first cultivated by monks. The earliest documented use of the name Monastrell dates back to 1381 in the Catalunya region of Spain.

Monastrell later made it into France (probably in the XVI century) from the Spanish port-town of Sagunto near Valencia, which in Catalan was known as Morvedre, so in France the grape took the name of Mourvèdre.

Monastrell wines are typically high in alcohol and tannins and may have intense aromas of blackberry. Monastrell/Mourvèdre is widely grown in Spain and in France, and it is also cultivated in the USA (especially in California), Australia and South Africa, where it is sometimes known under the name of “Mataro“, which was the name of a Spanish town on the Mediterranean.

36. Montepulciano

A few facts about the Montepulciano grape variety. First off, let’s dispel a possible source of confusion: although the name refers to the Montepulciano area near Siena (Tuscany), the Montepulciano grape variety is an Italian indigenous variety that originates from the Abruzzo region.  Consequently, it is important NOT to confuse Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG (which is a Tuscan appellation whose wines must be made of 70% or more Sangiovese grapes) with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG (which are two appellations from Abruzzo whose wines are required to be made out of at least, respectively, 85% or 90% Montepulciano grapes).

Montepulciano is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to Italy (most likely the Abruzzo region) and is widely planted across central Italy (about 30,000 HA), especially in the regions of Abruzzo, Marche and Molise. Beside Italy, it is also grown in California, Australia and New Zealand. It is a grape variety that results in deeply colored wines with robust tannins, that are often used in blends. On account of the wide diffusion of Montepulciano grapes, the quality levels of the wines made out of them varies considerably – hence, caveat emptor: you need to know which producers to trust and buy from.

37. Moscato Bianco (or “Muscat Blanc A Petits Grains”)

Moscato Bianco (also known as Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains) is a very ancient white-berried grape variety that may originate from either Italy or Greece. The oldest mention on record dates back to 1304 in an Italian agricultural treatise under the Latin name “Muscatellus”, referring to a table grape grown near the Italian town of Bologna. Supposedly, the variety was indigenous to Greece and from there it was brought to Italy.

DNA profiling has shown that Moscato Bianco is the same variety as a number of Greek grapes, including Moschato AsproMoschato, Kerkyras and Moschato Mazas. Also, DNA parentage analysis demonstrated that Moscato Bianco has parent-offspring relationships with six other varieties: (i) Aleatico; (ii) Moscato Giallo; (iii) Moscato Rosa del Trentino; (iv) Moscato di Scanzo; (v) Muscat of Alexandria or Zibibbo; and (vi) Muscat Rouge de Madere. Five out of such six varieties originate from Italy, which could point to an Italian (instead of Greek) origin of Moscato Bianco. Without additional evidence, however, it is impossible to prove from which of such two countries it actually originated.

Moscato Bianco is an aromatic grape variety. It is widely grown in France and in Italy, where it is the only variety allowed by Piemonte’s “Asti DOCG” appellation, which comprises both Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti and encompasses a territory near the towns of Alessandria and Asti. Limited Moscato Bianco plantings also occur in the USA (California and Washington) and in Australia, where a mutation known as Brown Muscat (or Muscat a Petits Grains Rouges) is used to make Liqueur Muscat, a sweet, dark, fortified wine.

38. Moscato Giallo

Moscato Giallo is a white-berried variety probably originating from northern Italy. DNA analysis has shown a parent-offspring relationship between Moscato Giallo and Moscato Bianco.

Moscato Giallo grapes are well suited to calcareous slopes and their wines are generally golden in color, sweet and aromatic, moderately acidic. Moscato Giallo is an aromatic grape variety.

Moscato Giallo is mainly cultivated in Italy, particularly in the northeastern regions of Trentino-Alto Adige (e.g., in the appellations “Trentino Moscato Giallo DOC” and “Alto Adige Moscato Giallo DOC“, which both require the use of 85% or more Moscato Giallo grapes), Friuli (e.g., in the “Friuli-Isonzo Moscato Giallo DOC” appellation, which requires the use of 100% Moscato Giallo grapes) and Veneto (e.g., in the “Colli Euganei Fior d’Arancio DOCG” appellation, which requires the use of 95% or more Moscato Giallo grapes). Total Moscato Giallo plantings in Italy in 2000 were 360 HA.

Outside Italy, there are limited Moscato Giallo plantings in Switzerland, under the name Muscat du Pays.

39. Mourvèdre

See, Monastrell.

40. Muscat Blanc A Petits Grains

See, Moscato Bianco.

41. Nebbiolo (or “Chiavennasca” or “Spanna”)

Nebbiolo is without a doubt Piemonte’s most world-famous black-berried grape variety. Researchers have recently been able to trace back the origins of (or at least the first documented reference to) Nebbiolo to 1266, at which time the grape was called Nibiol. This makes Nebbiolo one of the oldest grape varieties in Piemonte. While Nebbiolo is definitely an Italian indigenous variety, doubts still remain as to whether it originated from Piemonte or Valtellina (a mountainous district in the neighboring region of Lombardia, where Nebbiolo is still grown nowadays and locally known as Chiavennasca – pronounced “key-a-vennasca“).

The name Nebbiolo comes from the Italian word “nebbia” (fog) – some say because of the fog that in late Fall generally enshrines Piemonte’s hills where Nebbiolo is grown. Nowadays, three main different Nebbiolo clones have been identified: (i) Nebbiolo Lampia; (ii) Nebbiolo Michet; and (iii) Nebbiolo Rosé. Interestingly enough, however, DNA profiling has shown that, while Lampia and Michet have identical DNA profiles, Rosé does not share the same profile, which has recently led to consider Nebbiolo Rosé a different grape variety altogether rather than a clone of Nebbiolo.

Nebbiolo is a late-ripening, very finicky variety in terms of the terroir it requires to produce quality wine, which means that Nebbiolo successfully grows only in very few places on the entire earth – Piemonte and Valtellina sure being two of them, along with certain of California’s AVA’s.

Nebbiolo grapes generally have robust tannins and high acidity, which make it a variety that is very suitable for long-term aging.

In Italy, in 2000 there were 4,886 HA of Nebbiolo plantings. Nebbiolo’s best expressions occur in the northern regions of Piemonte (accounting for three quarters of total plantings) and Lombardia.

More specifically, in Piemonte these include outstanding varietal wines such as those produced in the well-known Barolo DOCG and Barbaresco DOCG appellations (which encompass different territories adjacent to the town of Cuneo) as well as non-varietal wines in the lesser known but also solid appellations Gattinara DOCG, (which requires for its wines 90% or more Nebbiolo grapes), Ghemme DOCG (which requires for its wines 85% or more Nebbiolo grapes) and Boca DOC (which requires for its wines 70% to 90% Nebbiolo grapes), which all encompass different areas adjacent to the town of Novara, where Nebbiolo is locally known as “Spanna“.

In Lombardia, outstanding varietal Nebbiolo wines can be found in the Valtellina Superiore DOCG and Sforzato della Valtellina DOCG appellations in Lombardia’s mountainous Valtellina district (where Nebbiolo is locally known as “Chiavennasca“).

Outside Italy, in the USA there are currently about 61 HA of Nebbiolo plantings in California, mostly in the Paso Robles, Santa Cruz Mountains and Sierra Foothills AVA’s, and limited plantings in Washington State.

In Argentina in 2008 there were 176 HA of Nebbiolo vineyards, mostly in San Juan and in Mendoza, while plantings in Australia were 106 HA in 2008, mainly in the King Valley (Victoria).

42. Nebbiolo Rosé

Nebbiolo Rosé is a black-berried variety that, until recently, was considered a clone of Nebbiolo in the area of Alba in Italy’s Piemonte region. However, DNA profiling has showed that, while Nebbiolo Lampia and Nebbiolo Michet have identical DNA profiles and are in fact two different Nebbiolo clones, Nebbiolo Rosé does not share the same DNA profile and therefore must be considered a different grape variety altogether rather than a clone of Nebbiolo.

DNA analysis has also revealed a parent-offspring relationship between Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo Rosé and it appears likely that Nebbiolo was a parent of Nebbiolo Rosé, while the other parent remains at this time unknown.

Currently, Nebbiolo Rosé occurs pretty much in the same areas as Nebbiolo (see, the Nebbiolo entry for more detailed information), with a particular concentration in Valtellina’s Sassella area. Elvio Cogno is one of the very producers who make a varietal Nebbiolo Rosé wine – his Barolo “Vigna Elena” Riserva.

43. Nerello Mascalese

Nerello Mascalese is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to the Etna volcano region in Sicily. The name of the variety loosely translates into “black of Mascali”, which is a town near mount Etna.

DNA analysis recently showed that Nerello Mascalese is an offspring (possibly a natural cross) of Sangiovese and Mantonico Bianco, as well as a sibling of the Gaglioppo variety from the Calabria region.

Nerello Mascalese is almost exclusively grown in the Etna area in Sicily, and notably in the Etna Rosso DOC appellation which encompasses a territory near the town of Catania and requires the use of a minimum of 80% Nerello Mascalese grapes, which may be blended with up to 20% of Nerello Cappuccio.

44. Nero d’Avola

Nero d’Avola is a black-berried grape variety that is widely grown in Sicily and that, apparently, was first brought there by Greek migrants during the Greek colonization of Southern Italy (so-called “Magna Graecia”) in the VI century BC. This makes Nero d’Avola essentially an indigenous grape variety to the region of Sicily, where it has been cultivated for centuries (the first official descriptions date back to the end of the XVII century) and where it is also known as “Calabrese” – however, this is not because it came from Calabria (which it did not), but because that name is thought to be a contraction of two words (“Calea” and “Aulisi”) which, in the Sicilian dialect, mean “grape from Avola” (Avola is the name of a Sicilian town).

Nero d’Avola makes wines that are generally deeply colored, full-bodied, distinctly tannic and with good aging potential.

The use of Nero d’Avola grapes is permitted both in the only DOCG appellation in Sicily (Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, a blend in which Nero d’Avola can be used between 50 and 70% in combination with Frappato grapes) and in several of the Sicilian DOC appellations (among which the Noto DOC appellation), where it can be used to make varietal wines or in the context of blends. However, many of the best Nero d’Avola wines around are marketed under the more loosely regulated Sicilia IGT appellation, which affords serious producers more flexibility in experimenting and creating excellent wines out of Nero d’Avola grapes, especially by blending them with international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah to tame certain aggressive traits that varietal Nero d’Avola wines sometimes exhibit.

45. Nielluccio

See, Sangiovese.

46. Ormeasco

See, Dolcetto.

47. Ottavianello

See, Cinsaut.

48. Pallagrello Nero

Pallagrello Nero is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to the Campania region in Italy. Its name probably derives from the Campanian dialect word “pagliarello” which refers to the straw mats on which the grapes were left to dry.

DNA profiling showed that Pallagrello Nero has a close genetic relationship with Casavecchia, a rare and old variety indigenous to the Caserta area, in Campania.

Pallagrello Nero was thought to be extinct until the 1990’s, when a local winegrower discovered a few remaining vines and repopulated the vineyards in the Caserta region. The wines made from this variety are generally cherry-fruited and sometimes peppery, with gentle but noticeable tannins.

49. Pecorino

Pecorino is a white-berried variety probably originating from Italy’s Marche region that was widely cultivated there in the XIX century, but then fell out of favor and almost disappeard in the XX century. It is mostly thanks to Marche producer Guido Cocci Grifoni that Pecorino as a variety was saved from extinction in the early 1980’s. In 1982, he identified a few Pecorino grapevines in a minuscule abandoned vineyard near the town of Arquata del Tronto, which allowed him to reintroduce them in his estate’s vineyards and obtain a first viable harvest in 1990. As a whole, in 2000 in Italy there were just 87 HA cultivated with Pecorino grapes.

Nowadays Pecorino is one of the varieties allowed in Marche’s “Offida Pecorino DOCG” appellation and “Falerio Pecorino DOC” appellation (which both require that wines be made from 85% or more Pecorino grapes). Pecorino grapes are also allowed in three of Abruzzo’s DOC appellations: “Abruzzo DOC” (as a sweet raisin wine or a sparkling wine, in each case with a 60% minimum), “Controguerra Pecorino DOC” (with an 85% minimum) and “Terre Tollesi Pecorino DOC” (with a 90% minimum).

Pecorino grapes have a high sugar content (which translates into total alcohol levels of 13.5% ABV or more), an acidity of 8 gr/lt or more, and a dry extract of 24 gr/lt or more. Pecorino wines tend to be firm, freshly acidic and mineral.

50. Petit Verdot

Petit Verdot is a black-berried grape variety that is considered to originate from the Gironde area of France, where it was first mentioned in a Bordeaux document dating back to 1736.

Petit Verdot is a variety that is well suited to gravel soils such as those in the Graves area near Bordeaux. Wines made from Petit Verdot grapes tend to be powerful, rich, tannic and spicy, definitely ageworthy. Nowadays, Petit Verdot generally plays a minor role in the context of typical Bordeaux blends.

In France, in 2009 there were 862 HA of Petit Verdot plantings, the majority of which was in the Bordeaux region.

In Italy, in 2000 Petit Verdot vineyards accounted for 63 HA, mostly in Tuscany and in particular in the Maremma area (where it is used in the context of several Bolgheri-style Bordeaux blends) and a handful hectares in the Lazio region.

In Spain, in 2008 Petit Verdot plantings were 1,042 HA, while Portugal had 139 HA in 2010.

In the USA, most Petit Verdot plantings are in California (1,779 HA in 2008, where it is usually a part of Meritage blends), Virginia (68 HA in 2010) and Washington State (53 HA in 2006).

Finally, Petit Verdot is also present in Argentina (455 HA in 2008), South Africa (634 HA in 2008) and Australia (where it has gained a certain popularity with 1,354 HA of plantings in 2008).

51. Pigato

See, Vermentino.

52. Pinot

Pinot is an extremely old grape variety which is believed to have existed for about 2,000 years and which over time has developed into several different clones (there are over 1,000 registered clones of Pinot) through genetic mutations, the best known of which include Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc.

Until recently those Pinot clones were believed to be distinct grape varieties, but DNA profiling has proven that they all share the same genetic fingerprint, which confirms that they are all mutations that took place within one single initial grape variety, Pinot.

The true origins of Pinot are still unknown. According to a XX century French ampelographer (Louis Levadoux) the morphology of Pinot is very similar to that of a wild grapevine (a subspecies of Vitis vinifera known as silvestris) from which it is possible that Pinot could have been domesticated.

Whatever its origins, Pinot (and more specifically its Pinot Noir clone) was first mentioned in a document in the Île-de-France region in northern France under the name “Moreillonin 1283.

Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are color mutations of Pinot Noir with which they share the same DNA profile.

DNA analysis showed that a natural cross between Pinot and Gouais Blanc gave birth to several grape varieties, the most famous of which is certainly Chardonnay. Pinot is also likely to be a grandparent of the northern Italian black-berried varieties Teroldego, Marzemino and Lagrein. Finally, a parent-offspring relationship has been proven between Pinot and Savagnin, where the former is believed to be the parent of the latter.

While there is no certainty as to the etymology of the name Pinot, one theory maintains that it derives from the French word “pin (meaning, pine) because Pinot clusters resemble a pine cone.

53. Pinot Auxerrois

See, Auxerrois.

54. Pinot Bianco

See, Pinot Blanc.

55. Pinot Blanc (or “Pinot Bianco”)

Pinot Blanc, AKA Pinot Bianco, is not a separate grape variety: DNA analysis proved that it is a clone of the Pinot grape variety (for more information, see the “Pinot” entry) and specifically a color mutation of Pinot Noir. Pinot Blanc is a white-berried grape. Until the end of the XIX century, Pinot Blanc used to be often confused with Chardonnay, until French ampelographer Victor Pulliat in 1868 distinguished the two different grapes.

Pinot Blanc wines tend to be moderately structured and have moderate acidity. It may be used in the blend of Classic Method sparkling wines (this practice is fairly frequent in Italy, where several producers use Pinot Bianco in lieu of Pinot Meunier in the blend of their Classic Method sparklers).

France had 1,292 HA of Pinot Blanc plantings in 2009, most of which in the Alsace region, where Pinot Blanc can be used for making both still wines (oftentimes blended with other varieties) and Crémant d’Alsace sparkling wines. Some Pinot Blanc is also grown in the French Moselle region.

Italy had a total of 5,126 HA of Pinot Bianco vineyards in 2000, most of which in the north east (e.g., in the Alto Adige and Friuli regions) and in Lombardia (where it is mostly used as a blending partner of Pinot Nero and Chardonnay in certain Franciacorta Classic Method sparkling wines).

Germany’s Pinot Blanc (locally known as Weissburgunder) plantings in 2008 were 3,731 HA, most of which in the Baden region, while Austria had 1,995 HA in 2010.

In the USA, most Pinot Blanc vineyards occur in California (particularly in Santa Barbara, Sonomona and Monterey), although total plantings were a mere 217 HA in 2010.

56. Pinot Grigio

See, Pinot Gris.

57. Pinot Gris (or “Pinot Grigio”)

Pinot Gris, AKA Pinot Grigio, is  not a separate grape variety: DNA analysis proved that it is a clone of the Pinot grape variety (for more information, see the “Pinot” entry) and specifically a color mutation of Pinot Noir whose origins can be traced back to the XVIII century in both Germany, where it was first mentioned in writing in 1711 in the Baden-Württemberg region under the name Rülander, and France, where it was mentioned in a 1712 document in the region of Orléans under the name Auvernat Gris. The first references to the current Pinot Gris name date back to 1783-1784 in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or region.

Pinot Grigio is said to have been cultivated in northern Italy (especially in Piemonte) since the early XIX century.

Pinot Grigio is a grey-berried grape which may be much darker in color than most white-berried grapes and generally has high sugar levels and moderate acidity.

In France total Pinot Gris plantings in 2009 were 2,617 HA, mostly in Alsace.

In Italy, for some reason, Pinot Grigio came into fashion in the late Ninenties/early two thousands, which is confirmed by the staggering size of Pinot Grigio plantings in Italy which, at 6,668 HA in 2000, are almost three times as much as France’s. This trend was fueled by booming exports especially to the UK and the US of mostly inexpensive and lackluster wines made out of an overproduction of this grape variety. This phenomenon somewhat tarnished the reputation of Pinot Grigio, which was often associated with a cheap, mass-production type of wine, until in the last few years it started falling out of favor. Fortunately, quality Italian Pinot Grigio is still made, particularly in the regions of FriuliAlto Adige and Veneto.

In 2008, Germany had 4,481 HA of Pinot Gris (locally known as Grauburgunder), mostly concentrated in the Baden, Rheinhessen and Pfalz regions, while Hungary had 1,522 HA of plantings under the local name Szürkebarát, mostly in the north of the country.

Following in Italy’s footsteps, even California knew a Pinot Grigio boom, which led to total plantings of 5,223 HA in 2010. Pinot Gris is also considered Oregon‘s signature white wine with 1,107 HA of vineyards in 2008.

58. Pinot Meunier

Pinot Meunier is a black-berried clone of the Pinot grape variety (for more information, see the “Pinot” entry).

The name refers to the layer of white hairs that grow on the underside of the grapevine leaves which look like a dusting of flour (”meunier” means “miller” in French).

Pinot Meunier was first mentioned in a 1690 French document by Merlet under the name “Morillon Meunier”.

Pinot Meunier tends to make fruitier, less complex, earlier maturing wines than Pinot Noir. Few varietal versions are made, while Pinot Meunier is a common blending partner of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for making Champagne (and other Classic Method sparkling wines).

France grew 11,088 HA of Pinot Meunier in 2009, mostly in the Champagne region and particularly in the Vallée de la Marne. Pinot Meunier is also grown in the Loire region.

In Germany, in 2008 there were 2,361 HA of Pinot Meunier (locally known as “Müllerrebe“) plantings, mostly in the Württemberg and Baden regions.

Total Pinot Meunier vineyards in California in 2010 were just 66 HA, mostly in Sonoma.

59. Pinot Nero

See, Pinot Noir.

60. Pinot Noir (or “Pinot Nero”)

Pinot Noir is a black-berried clone of the Pinot grape variety (for more information, see the “Pinot” entry).

Before being given its current name, Pinot Noir was known by three main synonyms: Morillon, Noirien and Auvernat.

The earliest documented mention of Pinot Noir dates back to 1283 in the Île-de-France region in northern France under the name “Moreillon“. The name “Noirien” was used around that same time to indicate Pinot Noir in Burgundy and particularly in the Côte d’Or. The name “Auvernas” was instead used somewhat later, in the XIV century in the Loiret district. The first documented use of the current name Pinot took place in France in 1375.

Pinot Noir vines like temperate climates and do particularly well in calcareous-clay soils. The early ripening characteristics of Pinot Noir make it suitable to cooler climate regions, the only ones to permit a long enough growing season to produce interesting wines. Pinot Noirs tend to have relatively soft tannins and to be fruity and easy to like, with some of the best quality Burgundy examples requiring several years of cellaring to fully assemble and perform at their best.

Some of the world’s best examples of quality Pinot Nors can be found in France’s Burgundy region, where terroir differences can often be noticeable in Burgundy wines. Outside Burgundy, quality Pinot Noirs can also be found in France’s Jura region. In 2009 total Pinot Noir plantings in France were 29,576 HA, most of which (10,691 HA) in the Champagne region where it is one of the key components in the traditional Champagne blend, vis-à-vis just 6,579 HA in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or.

Northern Italy also makes quality Pinot Noirs, especially in the Alto Adige region and in Lombardia’s Oltrepò Pavese. Total plantings in 2000 were 3,314 HA.

In Germany, Pinot Noir (locally known as Spätburgunder) enjoys huge popularity, which reflects in its 11,800 HA of plantings in 2008, most of which in the regions of Baden, Rheinhessen and Württemberg.

With 4,401 HA in 2009, Switzerland also has substantial Pinot Noir plantings (under the name Blauburgunder).

In the USA, Pinot Nor is big in California, thanks also to the notoriety that the “Sideways effect” brought to the grape, which in 2010 had a total of 15,091 HA of vineyards, especially in Sonoma and Monterey. Oregon also had 4.533 HA of plantings in 2008, mainly in the Willamette Valley.

Both Australia and New Zealand have sizable Pinot Noir plantings, with respectively 4,490 HA in 2008 (particularly in the Yarra Valley in the state of Victoria and in Tasmania) and 5,000 HA in 2011 (especially in the Marlborough area).

61. Primitivo

See, Tribidrag.

62. Prosecco

See, Glera.

63. Prugnolo Gentile

See, Sangiovese.

64. Riesling

Riesling is a white-berried grape variety that is indigenous to Germany, probably originating from the Rheingau region, on the northern bank of the Rhein river, where it was first mentioned in writing in a document dating back to 1435 under the name “riesslingen“. The first written use of the current spelling “Riesling” can be found in a 1552 German document.

DNA profiling established that Riesling has a parent-offspring relationship with Gouais Blanc. Riesling has instead no genetic relationship with other independent varieties which however include the word “Riesling” in their names, such as Italy’s Riesling Italico (Graševina), Australia’s Clare Riesling (Crouchen) or California’s Gray Riesling (Trousseau).

Riesling has been used in several crosses, to give birth, among others, to Müller-Thurgau, Kerner and Manzoni Bianco. Riesling also underwent a color mutation that resulted in a black-berried grape known as Roter Riesling.

Riesling is a late budding and mid to late ripening variety which is very dependent on the terroir it is grown in and generally makes wines that are low in alcohol and high in acidity, definitely age-worthy and with very intense aromatic and flavor profiles.

Germany has a whopping 22,434 HA of Riesling plantings, which are spread out pretty much across all of its wine regions and make Riesling Germany’s most planted variety. Germany’s best and most renowned Riesling wines are those made in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer wine region, which tend to be very low in alcohol (around 8% ABV), very high in acidity, very high in extract and fairly sweet and fruity: definitely wines of extremes. Germany (and particularly its southern wine regions) also makes respectable dry (or “trocken“) Rieslings with higher alcohol (around the 13% ABV mark).

In France, Riesling is not an allowed variety except in the Alsace region which in 2009 had 3,382 HA of plantings. Only three out the over 60 Riesling clones are permitted in France’s Alsace region. Alsatian Riesling is generally vinified dry (except only for Vendage Tardive or Sélection de Grains Nobles sweet botrytized wines) and tends to have fuller body than German Rieslings.

Austria has about 1,874 HA of Riesling plantings, mainly in its Weinvirtel region, while Hungary and the Czech Republic have approximately 1,283 HA and 1,270 HA, respectively.

Italy only had 624 HA of Riesling vineyards in 2000, mostly in the northeastern Alto Adige and Friuli regions, and Italian Riesling style is generally dry, much like in Alsace.

In the US, Riesling is grown in California (which had 1,550 HA in 2010), Oregon (with 314 HA), Washington State (with 2,558 HA in 2011) and the Finger Lakes region in the State of New York (with 276 HA in 2008).

Australia had quite significant Riesling plantings, with 4,401 HA in 2008, mostly in its Clare, Eden and Barossa Valley regions, while New Zealand has about 917 HA of Riesling vineyards.

65. Ripoli

Ripoli is a white-berried grape variety that is indigenous to and highly localized in the Amalfi Coast area in the Italian region of Campania. It is a mid-ripening variety which is genetically close to Falanghina Flegrea and presents high sugar levels and moderate acidity.

66. Rondinella

Rondinella is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to the Verona area in Italy’s north-eastern region of Veneto. Its earliest documented mention dates back to 1882.

DNA analysis has proved that Rondinella is an offspring of Corvina Veronese. The etymology of the name Rondinella appears to derive from the Italian word “rondine” meaning “swallow” (the bird).

Rondinella tends to produce fruity, cherry-flavored wines with moderate structure, which makes it almost exclusively used in the context of blends.

In Italy there were 2,874 HA of Rondinella plantings in 2000, mostly in the area surrounding the city of Verona, in the Veneto region, where it serves as a lesser blending partner of Corvina Veronese in the Amarone della Valpolicella, Recioto della Valpolicella and Bardolino local wines.

Outside of Italy, there is just one hectare of Rondinella plantings in Australia’s New South Wales region where it is blended with local Corvina Veronese.

67. Sagrantino

Sagrantino is a black-berried grape variety indigenous to the Montefalco area, near the town of Perugia in central Italy’s region of Umbria.

Sagrantino had almost gone extinct and was rescued by the efforts of enlightened Umbrian producers such as Marco Caprai who believed in the grape’s potential to produce high quality, structured red wines. As a results of such efforts, the Umbrian appellation “Sagrantino di Montefalco DOC” was created in 1979 and was promoted to DOCG status in 1992. Sagrantino wines tend to have plenty of structure and muscular tannins.

Even nowadays, Sagrantino is very much an Umbrian variety, that is mostly grown in the territory encompassed by the “Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG” appellation, which requires that wines be made exclusively from Sagrantino grapes. In the “Montefalco Rosso DOC” appellation, instead, Sagrantino can only play a marginal role (10% to 15%) in a blend with Sangiovese and other black-berried grapes. In 2000, in Italy there were 361 HA of Sagrantino vineyards altogether.

Outside Italy, there are only a handful of hectares of Sagrantino plantings in the USA (California) and in Australia.

68. Sangiovese (or “Brunello” or “Prugnolo Gentile” or “Nielluccio”)

Sangiovese, Chianti’s main grape variety and Brunello di Montalcino’s only permitted variety, is a black-berried variety that is indigenous to Central Italy and was first mentioned in writing in 1600 under the name Sangiogheto (which begs the question: if the first documented use of the word Chianti to identify the wine dates back to 1398, what did they call the wine’s main grape for those 200 and change years???).

In 2004, DNA parentage analysis showed that Sangiovese originated as a cross between Ciliegiolo (a Tuscan grape variety) and Calabrese di Montenuovo (a quite obscure variety from Calabria, which may have a parent-offspring relationship with Calabria’s variety Magliocco Canino).

Traditionally (based on the work of ampelographer G. Molon in 1906), Sangiovese has been divided into two different clonal groups: Sangiovese Grosso (which includes Sangiovese’s clones Brunello, Prugnolo Gentile and Sangiovese di Lamole) and Sangiovese Piccolo. However, recently this distinction has fallen out of favor because of the significant biodiversity within Sangiovese that cannot be reduced to just two clones.

Sangiovese is a vigorous and late ripening variety. Varietal wines made out of Sangiovese grapes tend to have fairly aggressive tannins when they are still “young” and are generally best enjoyed after a few years of aging, when time takes care of taming them.

Sangiovese is the most widely cultivated variety in Italy, with 69,790 HA of plantings in year 2000. It is especially important in the regions of Toscana, Marche, Umbria and Emilia Romagna. Sangiovese is one of the most renowned Italian grape varieties and is utilized for making several signature Italian wines, including (beside Chianti) Brunello di Montalcino (note that the wine is called such because in the Montalcino area Sangiovese is locally known as “Brunello“), Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (note that in the Montepulciano area Sangiovese is locally known as “Prugnolo Gentile“) and Morellino di Scansano.

Given the massive quantities of Sangiovese that are produced and the significant clonal differences, quality levels of the wines made out of such grape variety tend to be inconsistent and knowledge of the various appellations that allow its use and of the specific wineries is important to avoid unsatisfactory experiences.

In France, Sangiovese is Corse Island‘s most widely planted black-berried variety, under the local name of Nielluccio, with 1,319 HA of plantings in 2008.

In Argentina, there were 2,319 HA of Sangiovese in 2008, mostly in Mendoza, while in the USA, some Sangiovese is grown in California (789 HA in 2010, mostly in Napa Valley and Sonoma) and in Washington State (just 75 HA in 2011). 517 HA of Sangiovese vineyards could also be found in Australia in 2008.

69. Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a white-berried variety French variety in regard to which recent DNA analysis has identified a parent-offspring relationship between Savagnin (an old white-berried variety that is common in the Jura region of France) and Sauvignon Blanc and, there being much earlier documents mentioning Savagnin than Sauvignon Blanc, the former is believed to be the parent of the latter.

DNA results also support the thesis that, contrary to common belief, Sauvignon Blanc did not originate from the Bordeaux area, but rather from the Loire Valley in France, where documental evidence dates back to 1534 (compared to 1710 in Bordeaux).

However, it is interesting to note that, when Sauvignon Blanc was grown in the Bordeaux area, it spontaneously crossed with Cabernet Franc to create Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sauvignon Blanc wines tend to be high in acidity with common aromas of freshly mowed grass, nettle, boxwood, gooseberry and grapefruit.

In France, with 26,839 HA of vineyards in 2009, Sauvignon Blanc was the third most planted white-berried variety (following Ugni Blanc/Trebbiano Toscano and Chardonnay), mostly in the regions of Languedoc-Roussillon, Bordeaux and its original Loire, particularly in the Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé AOC’s.

Italy had 3,393 HA of Sauvignon Blanc plantings in 2000, mostly in the north-east, while Spain had 2,515 HA in 2008, mostly in the regions of Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla-León.

In the USA, California grew 6,235 HA of Sauvignon Blanc in 2010, especially in Sonoma and Napa.

In New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc was first planted in the 1970s and soon became the most widely grown variety in the country (with 18,000 HA in 2011), the vast majority of which is grown in the Marlborough region (15,700 HA).

There are also sizable Sauvignon Blanc plantings in South Africa, Chile and Australia.

70. Savagnin

Savagnin is a very old white-berried grape variety that over the centuries has developed a considerable level of clonal diversity: well known Savagnin clones that have often been mistakenly considered different varieties include Gewürztraminer (or Traminer Aromatico) and Traminer. However, DNA analysis proved that they all have the same genetic fingerprint, except only very minor clonal differences and they therefore all belong to the same variety.

Savagnin’s origins can be traced back to an area between north-east France and south-west Germany where Savagnin was probably the result of a natural cross between Pinot and an unknown variety or, alternatively, of domestication of wild grapevines. DNA profiling has proved that there is a parent-offspring relationship between Savagnin and Pinot, but at this time it is not possible to determine which of the two is parent and which the progeny.

Also, in France Savagnin crossed with an unknown variety to give birth to Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, while in Austria Savagnin crossed with Österreichisch to give birth to Silvaner and with St-Georgener to give birth to Grüner Veltliner. Finally, in Portugal Savagnin has been found to have a parent-offspring relationship with Verdelho.

71. Savagnin Blanc (or “Traminer”)

Savagnin Blanc is a white-berried clonal mutation of Savagnin (see, the Savagnin entry for more detailed information).

The earliest documented reference to Savagnin Blanc occurred in 1732 in Besançon, France, under the name “Sauvagnin“. However, German botanist Krämer contends that Savagnin Blanc actually originated from south-west Germany where it has been known as Traminer since at least 1483, the date of a document from a monastery near Stuttgart that is the first written reference to Traminer.

Another hypothesis would place Savagnin Blanc’s origins in Italy’s northwestern region of Trentino Alto Adige, where a 1242 document referring to “vini de Traminne” (“wines from Tramin”, a local town) has been found. However, it appears that the word Traminer in Trentino Alto Adige was often used in the past to identify different varieties (especially Moscato Bianco) that had nothing to do with Savagnin Blanc/Traminer, which therefore makes this hypothesis unlikely.

Savagnin Blanc/Traminer wines tend to have considerable structure and to be ageworthy.

France had 481 HA of Savagnin Blanc plantings in 2009, mostly in the Jura region where it is used for producing the local “vin jaune“, a non-fortified wine aged under flor.

Austria had 321 HA of Traminer in 2009, and Switzerland also has limited Savagnin Blanc plantings mostly in the mountainous Visperterminen region in the Valais.

72. Semillon

Semillon is a white-berried grape variety that originates from the Bordeaux region of France: it is uncertain if its birthplace was the Sauternes area or Saint Emilion: the latter is mentioned in the first documented use of the variety’s name, which occurred in 1736 when it was cited as “semilion ou Saint Emilion“.

DNA analysis has suggested that Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc are genetically very close, although they do not have any parent-offspring relationship.

Semillon is widely grown in south-western France, especially in the Bordeaux region and in particular in the Sauternes area, where it is a common blending partner of Sauvignon Blanc for making the world-famous local sweet wines. Beside France, Semillon is widely planted in Australia and in South Africa, where it is generally used to make dry white wines either by itself or as a blending partner of Sauvignon Blanc. There are also some limited growings of Semillion in the USA (California and Washington), Chile and Argentina.

73. Shiraz

See, Syrah.

74. Spanna

See, Nebbiolo.

75. Syrah (or “Shiraz”)

Syrah is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to the northern Rhône region of France, where it was first mentioned in a document dating back to 1781 under the name “Sira de l’Hermitage“.

DNA analysis proved that Syrah is a natural cross between Mondeuse Blanche (a Savoie variety) and Dureza (an Ardeche variety) that probably took place in the Rhône-Alps region.

Syrah has historically been mostly grown in the Rhône Valley in France and in Australia under the name Shiraz, although recently its planting has become more widespread as a result of an increasing popularity of its wines.

76. Tai

See, Friulano.

77. Tempranillo

Tempranillo is probably Spain’s most well-known black-berried grape variety. The earliest documented mention of Tempranillo (referred to as “las tempraniellas“) dates back to the XIII century. The name derives from the Spanish word “temprano” which means “early” and alludes to the early-ripening quality of this variety.

Genetic analysis has shown that Tempanillo vineyards have rapidly multiplied in Spain from a small number of original clones, most likely coming from the provinces of La Rioja and Navarra. Tempranillo seems to have a parent-offspring relationship with the Albillo Mayor variety from Ribera del Duero, but so far it has not been possible to determine which is the parent and which is the offspring.

DNA profiling has proved that Tempranillo has traditionally been grown in Italy’s region of Toscana under the name Malvasia Nera. In Portugal, Tempranillo has been cultivated for centuries under the names Tinta Roriz in the Douro region and Aragonez in the Alentejo region.

Nowadays Tempranillo is widely grown in Spain (where it is the country’s most widely planted black-berried variety) and Portugal. Tempranillo can also be found in southern France, Italy, Argentina, the USA (especially, California and Washington) and Australia.

Tempranillo wines generally have less alcohol than for instance Garnacha or Monastrell, marked tannins and lower acidity.

78. Tocai

See, Friulano.

79. Tocai Rosso

See, Garnacha.

80. Traminer

See, Savagnin Blanc.

81. Traminer Aromatico

See, Gewürztraminer.

82. Trebbiano

Throughout Italy, there are several white-berried grape varieties which include the word “Trebbiano” in their names (examples include Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano Giallo, Trebbiano di Soave, Trebbiano Spoletino and Trebbiano Toscano), but interestingly DNA analysis has proved that, despite what their names could lead you to believe, they are mostly unrelated to one another. The first documented mention of Trebbiano dates back to 1303 in an Italian agricultural treatise where it is referred to as “Tribiana“; it is however not possible to tell which among the various Trebbiano varieties the author was referring to.

83. Trebbiano d’Abruzzo

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is a white-berried variety that has long been known in the Abruzzo region, in central Italy. Its origins are still unclear, and many believe that Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is identical to Bombino Bianco, a white-berried variety originating from Puglia. However, DNA analysis has suggested a possible genetic relationship with a different variety known as Trebbiano Spoletino. Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is essentially only grown in the region of Abruzzo and, to a lesser extent, Molise, which altogether amounted to a mere 418 HA of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo vineyards in year 2000.

84. Trebbiano di Lugana

See, Verdicchio.

85. Trebbiano di Soave

See, Verdicchio.

86. Trebbiano Spoletino

Trebbiano Spoletino is a white-berried variety that is indigenous to the central Italian region of Umbria, where it was first documented in the late XIX century, which suggests that it may have been a natural cross between other local varieties. DNA analysis has suggested a possible genetic relationship with Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. Trebbiano Spoletino grapes tend to be rich in sugar while retaining fresh acidity.

Trebbiano Spoletino almost went extinct, had it not been for an Italian producer (Cantina Novelli) who in the early 2000’s saved the variety by replanting it in their vineyards near the Umbrian town of Spoleto using cuttings from 600 old vines, some of which were over 100 years old and ungrafted. Nowadays the plantings of Trebbiano Spoletino are still minimal and only occur in Umbria.

87. Tribidrag (or “Crljenak Kaštelanski” or “Primitivo” or “Zinfandel”)

Tribidrag is a black-berried grape variety originating from Croatia’s Dalmatia region that is known as Primitivo in Southern Italy’s Puglia region and as Zinfandel in California.

The earliest documented mention of Primitivo in Italy dates back to 1799 and can be found in a note of an amateur botanist from Puglia who called “Primativo” (from the Latin “primativus“, meaning “first to ripen”) a particularly early ripening grapevine that he found in his own vineyard.

The introduction of Zinfandel to the United States has recently been proven to take place in the 1820’s when Long Island grape grower George Gibbs brought this variety to his nursery from the Schönbrunn imperial collection in Vienna, Austria. At the time of its introduction to the United States, it was an unnamed grape variety, but by 1829 it appeared in the catalog of another Long Island nursery under the name “Zinfardel” and was later referred to under several variations of that original name until 1860, when it was agreed that the variety should be officially called “Zinfandel”.

In 1967 a plant pathologist from the US Department of Agriculture visited Bari, in Italy’s Puglia region, and he was struck by the similarities between Zinfandel and Italy’s Primitivo wines and grapevines, so much so that he brought Primitivo cuttings to the University of California at Davis for them to be analyzed and compared to Zinfandel. In 1975 Wade Wolfe, a PhD candidate at Davis, established that Primitivo and Zinfandel were one and the same variety.

This immediately prompted the “battle over Zinfandel“, with several Primitivo producers from Puglia who started selling their wines in the United States labeling them “Zinfandel”. This practice triggered a reaction by most Californian Zinfandel producers to defend their investment in the variety and resulted in a 1985 ruling by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“BATF”) that Zinfandel could not be used as a synonym of Primitivo.

Nonetheless, the identity between Zinfandel and Primitivo was later confirmed, in 1994, by DNA profiling conducted by Carole Meredith at UC Davis. As a result, in 1999 the European Union granted Italian Primitivo producers the right to use the name Zinfandel. BATF filed a complaint with the European Union against such ruling, but it proved unsuccessful. To date, no agreement between the US and the EU on this matter has been reached despite the scientific evidence.

Soon after proving the identity between Primitivo and Zinfandel, Carole Meredith at UC Davis connected in 1998 with Croatian scholars at the University of Zagreb (Croatia) to start what was referred to as the “Zinquest“, that is the quest to determine the origins of Primitivo/Zinfandel. After much research, the quest finally came to a successful end in 2001 when DNA profiling established that Zinfandel was identical to a Dalmatian grape variety locally known as Crljenak Kaštelanski (meaning “the red from Kaštela”).

Later on (in 2011), DNA analysis proved that Crljenak Kaštelanski was the same variety as a very old Croatian indigenous variety known as Tribidrag, whose first documented mentions date back to the XV century. As an interesting side note, the Croatian word Tribidrag has Greek origins and means “early ripening”, which perfectly matches the etymology of the word “Primitivo” in Puglia.

According to the rule of anteriority (whereby the oldest name used for a same grape variety takes precedence), Tribidrag should be considered as the prime name for the Crljenak Kaštelanski/Primitivo/Zinfandel variety.

In terms of geographical distribution, Primitivo plantings in Italy in 2000 amounted to 7,951 HA, mostly in the Puglia region and particularly in its Salento district. Wines are generally fruity, structured and high in ABV. Notable appellations for Primitivo wines in the Puglia region include:

  • Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG (an appellation reserved to sweet, raisin wines made from 100% Primitivo grapes grown in a territory adjacent to the towns of Taranto and Brindisi)
  • Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC (an appellation reserved to wines made from 100% Primitivo grapes grown in a territory adjacent to the town of Bari)
  • Primitivo di Manduria DOC (an appellation reserved to wines made from 85% or more Primitivo grapes grown in a territory adjacent to the towns of Taranto and Brindisi)

Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag are fairly popular, respectively, in Croatia and Montenegro.

California is by far the place with the most Tribidrag/Zinfandel plantings, with 20,377 HA in 2008 (making it the second most planted red variety in California, after Cabernet Sauvignon). Zinfandel quality in California is uneven, although recently there has been an effort on the part of several producers to make quality wines, which tend to be big, bold and fruity.

Tribidrag/Zinfandel has also gained some popularity in Australia.

88. Verdicchio (or “Trebbiano di Soave” or “Trebbiano di Lugana”)

Verdicchio Bianco, or simply Verdicchio (mind you, it is pronounced “Verdickeeo“) is a very old white-berried variety that probaly originated from Italy’s northeastern region of Veneto or, according to another theory, from central Italy. The oldest documentary evidence of Verdicchio is found in a 1569 document attributed to a naturalist from central Italy’s region of Marche.

According to XIX century Italian naturalist Ciro Pollini, Verdicchio originated from Veneto and was introduced to the Marche region in the XV century where it soon became widespread. This theory gets some further traction from DNA analysis which showed that Verdicchio is the same variety as Trebbiano di Soave and Trebbiano di Lugana, both popular grapes around the Veneto town of Verona.

The variety presents high acidity (which also makes for some good sparkling wines) and good structure, which both make Verdicchio wines age well.

Nowadays, Verdicchio Bianco is widely cultivated in the Marche region, especially in the “Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva DOCG” and “Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva DOCG” appellations as well as in the sister appellations “Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC” and “Verdicchio di Matelica DOC” (which all require that wines be made from 85% or more Verdicchio grapes). It is also grown in other central Italian regions, such as Abruzzo, Umbria and Lazio. Overall plantings of Verdicchio Bianco in Italy in 2000 were 3,561 HA.

Under the name Trebbiano di Soave, it may be added for not more than 30% to the wines made in Veneto’sSoave Superiore DOCG“, “Soave DOC” or sweet “Recioto di Soave DOCG” appellations (along with 70% or more Garganega grapes). Also, wines made in Lombardia’sLugana DOC” appellation must be made from 90% or more Trebbiano di Soave grapes. In 2000, in Italy there were 1,802 HA cultivated with Trebbiano di Soave.

Interestingly, DNA profiling showed that the Brazilian grape variety known as Peverella (20 HA plantings in 2007) is the same as Verdicchio Bianco.

89. Vermentino

Vermentino is an indigenous Italian white-berried grape variety. The earliest documented mention of Vermentino dates back to 1658 in a small town near Alessandria (Piemonte, Italy). According to certain scholars, the name of the variety would derive from the Italian word “fermento” (i.e., ferment) due to the fizzy character of the young wine.

DNA analysis demonstrated that Vermentino and Pigato (a common grape variety in the Italian region of Liguria) are one and the same variety.

Vermentino is a grape that seems to benefit from the proximity to the sea: in Italy, it is mainly cultivated in LiguriaSardinia and Piemonte, with some acreage also in coastal Tuscany. Beside Italy, Vermentino is also widely grown in southern France and Corsica and it can also be found in the US (mostly California) and Australia.

90. Viognier

Viognier is a white-berried variety that originates from France’s northern Rhone area, where it was first mentioned in a document at the end of the XVIII century in which it was spelled as “Vionnier“.

DNA analysis has shown a parent-offspring relationship between Viognier and Mondeuse Blanche, although it is still unclear which one of the two varieties is parent to the other. Depending on whether Viognier is parent to or offspring of Mondeuse Blanche, Viognier is a grandparent or half sibling of Syrah (see the Syrah section for more information). Viognier also has a close genetic relationship with Italian grape variety Freisa.

Viognier grapes are aromatic (with primary aromas that are generally remindful of apricot and white blossoms) and generally they are high in sugar and low in acidity.

Viognier almost went extinct in the XX century, when in the Sixties only a mere 14 HA of vineyards survived in France! Fortunately, in the Eighties certain growers from the French region of Languedoc and from California took an interest in Viognier and started experimenting with it in their respective territories, which led to encouraging results and a renewed desire from many producers around the globe to grow Viognier.

Nowadays, France is the country where Viognier is mostly widely planted (almost 4,400 HA in 2009), where in its native northern Rhone region, beside being used to make white wines especially in Condrieu, it sometimes gets added in very small proportions to the fermentation of Cote Rotie’s Syrahs to stabilize color and contribute a touch of its primary aromas.

Australia rivals France as the leading country for growing Viognier, with 4,400 HA of plantings in 2008. There, more than 500 wineries produce Viognier, both as a white wine and following the norther Rhone’s tradition of adding a small quantity to the fermentation of local Syrahs.

Beside France and Australia, Viognier is sizeably present in the USA, particularly in California’s Central Coast (over 1,200 HA in 2010), Washington State, Oregon and notably Virginia, where despite the limited planting (93 HA in 2010) is considered the State’s signature variety.

91. Vitovska

Vitovska is a rare white-berried grape variety that is indigenous to the Carso/Karst area, which stretches across the north-eastern Italian region of Friuli and Slovenia. DNA parentage analysis proved that Vitovska is a natural cross between Malvasia Bianca Lunga and Glera.

Vitovska is essentially only grown in the Carso/Karst area from which it originated. The variety almost went extinct in the XX century, had it not been saved in the 1980’s by the efforts and investments of a handful of small Italian producers such as Edi Kante and Benjamin Zidarich.

92. Zinfandel

See, Tribidrag.

2 Responses to Grape Variety Archive

  1. Pingback: A New Column: Variety Show | Flora's Table

  2. Pingback: An Exciting Project and Powerful Tool: Italy’s DOCG Appellation Database | Flora's Table

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