Category Archives: Italian indigenous Grape Varieties

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Fortana Nera (Emilia) & Francavidda Bianca (Puglia)

emilia romagna

One of this week’s varieties hails from Emilia Romagna. It’s called Fortana Nera and is originally from France, specifically from the Cote d’Or. In fact it is also sometimes referred to as Uva d’Oro, even though is a red grape. It is only used in conjunction with other red varieties and can be part of the denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.) of Emilia.

Here a post I wrote about Emilia Romagna. I’m quite partial to this region and its people as well as is food. I lived in Bologna for a year when I was in graduate school and have great memories of that time. I also have many friends from the region and they all tend to be open and warm with a great sense of humor.

A second variety for this week is called Francavidda Bianca. It comes from Puglia, specifically the province of Brindisi. Apparently the grape is not that hardy and can be susceptible to vine maladies. Here’s a post I wrote about Brindisi some years back. I love Puglia and have visited a few times through the years. An endlessly interesting region with beautiful beaches and great water, a perfect jaunt for the summer.

In other news, here’s a recent article I wrote for the Organic Wine Journal on a winery from Arezzo called Paterna. Tuscany perhaps more than any region in Italy feels like home to me thanks to the years I lived there and the people I met then and all those I now know in the wine world. One gorgeous country ovunque…

Leave a comment

Filed under emilia romagna, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Memorable Events, Puglia, Travel, Tuscany

Chianti Colli Fiorentini D.O.C.G.: Always The Bridesmaid Never The Bride


The denomination Chianti Colli Fiorentini Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita (D.O.C.G.) is just like someone who is always a bridesmaid and never a bride. While not the least mentioned of the seven sub-zones of Chianti D.O.C.G., it is rarely talked about and I think that’s a shame. This production zone is located in and around Florence and the Arno river valleys. Like its other six cousins, Chianti Rufina, Chianti Colli Aretini, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Colline Pisane, Chianti Montalbano and Chianti Montespertoli, producers can chose to use the denomination or not. The area was defined in 1932. With DPR 290 of July 2, 1984, the Chianti Colli Fiorentini area was officially granted DOCG recognition; The Chianti Colli Fiorentini Consortium was founded on September 20, 1994.

The wines must be at least 70% Sangiovese. They can also contain Canaiolo and Colorino, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah in small quantities. I was introduced to the Chianti Colli Fiorentini in 2010 by their wonderful PR manager, Stefano. Despite living in Florence for many years, I didn’t know there was a specific denomination for the wines.

Some 18 communes can used this denomination including the following: Montelupo Fiorentino, Fiesole, Lastra a Signa, Scandicci, Impruneta, Bagno a Ripoli, Rignano sull’Arno and Pontassieve as well as Montespertoli, San Casciano Val di Pesa, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Certaldo, Barberino Val d’Elsa, Incisa, Figlini; Pelago, Reggello and Florence. Some 27 wineries are members of the Consortium.

The terroir in this area is mostly alluvial soils with good drainage. They also tend to have a high percentage of clay. Most of the vineyards are located on hills ranging from 150 to 400 meters above sea level. The exposition is quite varied. Some vineyards face southeast and southeast while others face north.

Generally, the wines from this region are well structured. While they have good tannins and acidity, they can be more approachable than some other Chianti wines. Some are more modern than you find in other areas, fruitier and easy to drink even when young.


One producer who I have met numerous times throughout the years is Malenchini. I liked both the wines and the winery owners. Another producer from the area that I know well is the Conte Ferdinando Guicciardini family who own Castello di Poppiano. I met the Count years ago at a tasting in Milan and have since come to known the family a bit better as well as the wines. I’ve tried to get them to adopt me but he chose his nephew Bernardo. What can you do….

I’m hard press to explain why these wines aren’t better known in the United States with their specific denomination. I think the theory is that Americans know Chianti Classico and Chianti only and that the rest confuses them. I disagree. I wonder if the new Gran Selezione will make any difference in getting these sub-zones their day in the sun or if they will continue to be a minor player, at least in terms of their denomination…

Leave a comment

Filed under Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Travel, Tuscany, wines

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Forgiarin and Forsellina From Friuli and the Veneto, Respectively

Me and Dad Fishing

I’ve been away on Cape Cod fishing with Dad and enjoying the beach. It shows on this blog where readership last week was at a low for the year. I guess it matters how often you post but every once in a while, it’s nice to kick back and not do any work or writing. Here we are though, back in the swing in this lovely month of July.

This week’s grape varieties hail from two regions in Italy – Friuli Venezia Giulia and the Veneto. Forgiarin is a red grape that produces wines with good acidity for a red grape and red fruit aromas and flavors. One producer is particularly noted for his wine from this variety, Emilio Bulfon. Bulfon has helped to rediscover ancient grapes from Friuli. His winery is located near the city of Pordenone.

The second variety for this week is Forsellina from the Veneto. Also a red grape variety, this one can be found in a variety of DOC wines such as Bardolino and Valpolicella. It is usually used as a blending grape with other red varieties such as Molinara, Rossignola, Rondinella, and Corvina.

Leave a comment

Filed under Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Veneto

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Forastera Bianco from Ischia (Campania)

italy 600

I have some gorgeous photos of a sailing trip to Ischia that I took years ago but they aren’t digital and thus, here I am left with my trusty map of Italy. This week’s grape variety hails from Ischia in the Campania region of Italy. Ischia is the largest of the Isole Flegree or the Phlegraean islands. The others are Capri, Procida, Vivara, and Nisida. Forastera is a white grape variety that produces dry white wines generally with other white varieties such as Biancolella. However, it can also be made into a mono-varietal wine.

The soils on the island are quite fertile and tend to be volcanic. Sea breezes cool the vines and they grow at a considerable height. When looking up this variety I discovered that it was recognized in 1966 and that Ischia became Italy’s second DOC wine.

Forastera is also sometimes called Uva dell’Isola. It is used to make both still and sparkling wines. I have never tried this particular wine from the Casa D’Ambra but the description of how and when the winery began made me want to run out and buy a bottle. Check it out.

Leave a comment

Filed under Campania, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Travel

Wine Wednesday: Torcolato Hits The Sweet Spot


Recently I went to a celebration of Italy’s National Day, La Festa della Repubblica, celebrated on June 2 every year. The day commemorates the referendum of 1946 when the Italians voted for a republic rather than a monarchy. This year’s celebration at the Trade Commission in New York showcased Italian delicacies. In addition to cheeses, charcuterie, chocolate, fashion and design, wine was part of the offering.

The wine they selected and paired with cheese was Torcolato from Veneto producer Cantina Maculan. I first tried this wine in 2000 during my first Associazione Italiana Sommeliers class in Milan. I will never forget the experience of this rich and luscious example of an Italian sweet wine. Again this month, I marveled at its beauty and power.

Torcolato is made from indigenous variety Vespaiola that has been affected by noble rot or botrytis. The grapes are dried for four months before they are fermented. In the Veneto, making this wine, means winding twine around the bunches and hanging them from the ceiling. This is where the name comes from as well, because in local dialect, torcolato means “twisted.” After fermentation, the wine spends one year aging in barriques and then six months in the bottle before it is released.

It is a perfect wine for dessert or cheese, not overdone or unctuous, but smooth and delightful with honey, apricot and dried nut aromas and flavors. Maculan makes a series of incredible sweet wines that all merit a taste. This one has particular significance for me however because of fond memories. If you haven’t tried it yet, definitely put it on your bucket list. It is available from Winebow.

Leave a comment

Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Memorable Events, Sweet Wine, Veneto

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Foglia Tonda


This week’s grape variety hails from Tuscany. It was originally mentioned in conjunction with the vineyards of the Castello di Brolio of Barone Ricasoli. It is said to grow only in Chianti where it adds color and body to Sangiovese based wines. A number of Tuscan producers work with this grape variety. I have had the pleasure of also tasting this wine as a mono-varietal or “in purezza” as they say in Italian, near the city of Arezzo at Mannucci Droandi, a winery in the Valdarno area of Tuscany near the town of Montevarchi in the past few years.

Ceppeto - vigneto-vineyard Ischio - estate-summer 2006

The Mannucci Droandi family has been farming their land for many years, but used to sell their grapes until the 1990s, when they began making their own wines. The owner Roberto Giulio Droandi and his wife Maria Grazia Mammuccini run the estate They have two properties: the first is the Campolucci that has 6.5 hectares and is located on the eastern slopes of the Chianti Mountains at about 250 meters above sea level. The family has owned this property since 1929 and its alluvial, sandy and silt soils are organically certified. The second property is called Ceppeto, and is surrounded by dense woodland. This property is on the western side of the Chianti Mountains at 450 meters above sea level. The soils are a mix of clay and stones and are also organically certified.

The winery has been a hub for a project with the Consiglio per la Ricerca e la Sperimentazione in Agricoltura; they are working to bring back extinct and nearly extinct Tuscan varieties. Because of legislation and market forces, Tuscany, and the rest of Italy, now have many fewer varietals. Roberto said he used to have field blends throughout his lands and, at one point, grubbed them up. He is now quite sorry he did that. He also found numerous grapes growing on his land that are unique. The study with the university is to see how some of these older varieties can grow today. According to the University, the change in viticulture is a negative consequence of specialization, and is harmful for the genetic patrimony of the vine. Some of the grape varieties that were growing did well on the property while others did not. Foglia tonda was one of those that did well.

In the cellar, the Foglia Tonda grapes are de-stemmed and gently crushed and then fermented in small vats (10–15 hectoliters), with prolonged maceration (20 days) and pumping-over alternated with delestage; a two-step “rack-and-return” process in which fermenting red wine juice is separated from the grape solids by racking and then returned to the fermenting vat to re-soak the solids. This step is then repeated daily. The wine is aged for eight months in French oak barrels used for the 2nd and 3rd time and then in the bottle for three months. I enjoyed the wine and particularly the novelty of it all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Memorable Events, Travel, Tuscany, wines

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Flavis Bianco

This week’s grape variety is another obscure one called Flavis Bianco. This variety was created by Professor Italo Cosmo, the same person who created last week’s variety Fertilia nera. This week’s grape is a white one grown in the Veneto in the province of Treviso. It is a cross between Verdiso, a grape permitted in certain quantities in Prosecco, and Riesling Italico. It is sometimes used to substitute for Verdiso and is more resistant to rot.

In other wine news this week, rose is all the rage and this weekend brings the Rose Festival, La Nuit En Rose. It looks to be an interesting event with over 85 roses to taste.

Later tonight instead, there is a Snooth virtual tasting. So much to taste, so little time…

Leave a comment

Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Memorable Events, Travel

Indigenous Italian Varieties: Fertilia from the Veneto


I am going a little out of order this week with my grape varieties. The first entry for “F” should be Falanghina but that requires a much longer post…so I am going to write about Fertilia.

This variety was created by Professor Italo Cosmo and is a cross between Merlot and Raboso Veronese. It grows in the Veneto, near Conegliano and Pieve di Soligo where it is sometimes used as a substitute for Raboso.

It produces a wine that is intense and persistent and has good acidity. It is a tannic, hardy grape that is resistant to mold and creates a wine that is easier to drink than the often rustic Raboso.

I first tasted Raboso Veronese at the beginning of my Italian wine travels in 1998 near the city of Oderzo. I haven’t seen much of it over the years but did meet a very interesting producer of Raboso at VinoVipCortina last summer. I will be writing up all of my VinoVip experiences in the coming weeks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, wines

Winery of the Week: Cantine Odoardi from Calabria


This week’s winery of the week is Cantine Odoardi from Calabria. I first discovered these wines upon my return from Italy to New York. I remember it was the only Calabrian wine I saw in retail stores and restaurants other than Librandi for the first few years. I imagine that is thanks to their enigmatic importer, Jan d’Amore. A lovely guy and apparently a great salesman.

I recently tasted the wine again at Opera Wine during Vinitaly. Opera Wine is an event that takes place on the Saturday before Vinitaly starts where the top 100 wines chosen by the Wine Spectator are offered to a selected public. This year Odoardi, along with Agricola Punica, Gianfranco Fino,as well as three additional wineries, joined rankings.

In 2013, the Odoardi family celebrated 500 years of grape growing. The family owns land in Calabria’s Cosenza and Catanzaro provinces. Two brothers, Gregorio and Giovan Battista decided to start making wine in the early nineties, using the denominations of Savuto DOC and Scavigna DOC and indigenous varieties.

Odardi 2

The Odoardi family originally hailed from Germany and settled in Calabria in 1480 in the province of Catanzaro. Their property spans from the Savuto river to Falerna. The vineyards are located at different altitudes, ranging from sea level to over 2000 feet above sea level. They own 270 hectares of which 70 hectares is under vine and produce some 300,000 bottles. The hot Calabrian climate is mitigated on the diverse Odoardi vineyards by the Savuto river and the Tyrrhenian sea. The vineyards are planted with the Calabrian grape varieties of Magliocco Canino, Greco Nero, Gaglioppo and Nerello Cappuccio.

At Opera Wine, I was lucky enough to meet Gregorio Odoardi and his wife Barbara Spalletta. They were lovely and quite passionate. They are committed to furthering the family’s wine making legacy. They made a wine dedicated to a central figure in the family, Giovan Battista (GB).

The soils on their properties are also varied, much like the altitude of their vineyards. Some have gravel, others clay and limestone and still others dissolved limestone. GB is made using a host of indigenous grapes in differing percentages. Gaglioppo, Magliocco, Nerello Cappuccio and Greco Nero are all part of the blend ranging from 10% to 30% each. The blend may vary based on weather conditions and maturation curves during different harvest periods.

The vines are very densely planted with 10,000 vines per hectare. The GB 2011 ferments in stainless steel vats and ages in barriques for 12 months after which time, it spends six more months in the bottle. They only make 8.000 bottles a year of this wine. I highly recommend trying this wine or others from the winery when you see them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Calabria, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Memorable Events, Travel

Italian Indigenous Grapes: Ervi Nero from Emilia Romagna


This week’s grape variety is from Emilia Romagna, a lovely region with great food and interesting wines. The variety was created in 1970 as a cross between indigenous grape varieties Barbera and Croatina, locally called Bonarda as well. It was created at the Universita’ Cattolica di Piacenza by Professor Mario Fregoni, Professor of Viticulture, as part of a larger study of indigenous varieties of the region. Fregoni was recently nominated President of the Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV), an organization with fifty members in countries around the world.

Ervi is a red grape variety that is full bodied and brings sugar and color to blends. It is usually blended with Barbera. The name is a recognition of the role of one wine producer who was a significant help in the first stages of research, Ernesto Vigevani. It also means wine in Aramaic.

Here’s a link to blog post I wrote a couple of months ago about wines from the area near Piacenza or the Colli Piacentini.

Leave a comment

Filed under emilia romagna, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Travel