Category Archives: Italian indigenous Grape Varieties

July is Lugana Month At Eataly


Last night the Consorzio di Lugana hosted an event at Eataly which I helped to organize. If you didn’t make it to the event, don’t fear, you have a whole month ahead to try wines from this region – Lugana, bordering both Lombardy and the Veneto and this grape variety – Turbiana at Eataly. Don’t miss out. These are great whites for the summer months and are wonderful food friendly wines with all types of cuisine. Most of the wine is made in a dry, refreshing style but about 5% is also made into either sparkling or late harvest wines.

Soils - Lugana

The soils are clay over the remains of a glacier or moraine with marine fossils which brings a lot of minerality to the wines. The climate is Mediterranean and the location is fantastic. Lucky enough to have gone on a press trip last year, I saw first hand just how lovely it can be. You too can easily get to Lake Garda when visiting Italy for the Expo or Vinitaly, for example.

Vines in Lugana

But don’t take my word for it, I’m biased of course, go try them for yourselves and let me know what you think. I think you’ll be just as excited as I was when I had my first Lugana.


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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Greco Nero from Calabria

Tropea 3Greco Nero hails from Calabria and is often blended with Gaglioppo, a more well known variety from the region. Apparently it also produces great rose’ together with Greco Bianco. I don’t know if I have ever had a rose from Calabria but the idea of sitting on the above beach in Tropea with a nice glass of rose does appeal.


The grape is often cultivated in the alberello style and prefers not very fertile soil such as those found in this hot Mediterranean climate. it is used in a variety of D.O.C. denominated wines from the provinces of Catanzaro and Crotone such as Donnici, Savuto, Pollino, and Melissa, among others.

Statti, a Calabrian winery in the U.S. makes Lamezia Rosso, using 40% Greco Nero as does Odoardi from Jan d’Amore Wines.

Odardi 2

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Greco Bianco from Catanzaro and Reggio Calabria


This week’s indigenous variety from Italy is Greco Bianco, not to be confused with Greco di Tufo which I wrote about in my last post in this series. This grape which hails from Calabria, from the provinces of Catanzaro and Reggio Calabria. The thinking about this variety is that it arrived on the Italian peninsula from Greece.

It is usually used in a dried version to make what are known as “vini liquorosi” or fortified wines. As it is a white grape, the wines are golden in color thanks to the “appassimento” or drying of the grapes. It is usually used on its own or blended with other white grapes such as Montonico and Gardavalle for sweet or semi-sweet wines and is sometimes added to a blend with Gaglioppo to make rose wines. It is part of various DOC denominations in Calabria such as Bivongi, Donnici, Greco di Bianco, Melissa, San Vito di Luzzi, Scavigna and Verbicaro.

I have written about a few wineries in Calabria over the past years. I also was lucky enough to do one very long tasting at Vinitaly some years ago with wines from a certain area in Calabria, Terre di Cosenza DOC.

I visited Calabria a couple of times only when I lived in Italy. Once I went all the way to Reggio to see some of the most beautiful men I have ever seen, the Bronze di Riace that are in the picture above. What incredible statues and quite worth the trip. Calabria has much to recommend it and is largely undiscovered for me. I look forward to future trips to this most Southern region of Italy where everything seems quite intense and spicy.

Check out this wonderful post by my friend Alfonso Cevola about his Calabrian roots.

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Women in Wine Fridays: Caterina Gargari from Pieve De’ Pitti

Chianti Tasting

Last month I had the good fortune to attend a tasting of Chianti Wines, there were two big Chianti tasting and I chose to go the first one not to the Gran Selezione which I thought would be more crowded. I don’t love walk around tastings but I do like smaller intimate ones where you have the opportunity to say hello to producer friends and to meet new ones and to taste their wines.

Chianti Lands

At this tasting I met Caterina Gargari, a producer from the area around Pisa, specifically from Terricciola. I had never heard of the winery, Pieve De’ Pitti.
I do know a bit about the area however. Pieve De’ Pitti. Like many producers from her region, she does not put Chianti Colline Pisane on her labels but uses the Chianti Superiore DOCG nomenclature instead. I asked why this was the case and like other producers I know from her area, she said it was a marketing issue.

In fact, there are seven Chianti sub-zones other than Chianti Classico but few put the specific sub-zone on their labels. Chianti Colline Pisane just like Chianti Colli Aretini is seldom seen on the labels of producers from these areas.

This particular winery began in 2000. It’s soils are sand and clay, rich in fossils and shells. The vineyard is subject to maritime breezes. It is located at 160 meters above sea level. These are among the wines I might call “Tuscan” coastal wines. The vines were first planted in the 1970s but have been replanted within the last 10 years. They grow mostly Sangiovese, Tuscany’s signature grape, as well as Canaiolo, white and black Malvasia, Trebbiano,and Vermentino and international varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot.

Cerretello Riserva

At the tasting I tried their Cerretello DOCG wines, both a 2011 and a 2008. A blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Malvasia Nera, I found the wines lovely with bright red fruits and floral notes. They were among the most elegant and balanced of the wines I tried that day, memorable for the subtle, soft finish, unexpected in a Chianti with 90% Sangiovese and no Merlot. Rather than use wooden aging vessels, the wines ferment and age in concrete vats. I often think these neutral vessels while allowing to show the typicity of the wine and the terroir, also provide a stabilizing impact on the wine. Chemically I can’t exactly tell you why, although I should know for my exam next week, but that is my observation. Perhaps the reductive winemaking used here does just that, provides a harmony to the wines.


Caterina was quite an interesting character and seemed to really know her stuff. I know the wines were imported before and I believe she was looking for distribution again. I hope she finds it soon as I would love to have these wines in our market.

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Expo 2015 Day 2, Streets of Milan, Milan’s Only DOC Wine

Mountains in Milan

Expo2015 has opened and while this is a wine blog, I would be hard pressed not to mention the damage done to the city by those protesting the Expo. Many police were injured, protestors arrested, cars sent up in flames and store windows broken. Unfortunately, this is not that uncommon in Italy around large global events. I’m disheartened but not surprised.

While I’m on the subject of politics and all that is going wrong, it is certainly necessary to link to articles about the migrants, 700+ who died on a ship trying to reach Italy’s shores within the last few weeks. Again, not a new occurrence but horrific and hopefully European attention will now be focused on this ongoing tragedy.

This however is a wine blog and while I would love to be a pundit and expound on my views on everything, I don’t believe that this is the place to do it.


While I’m on the subject of fantasizing – in this case to be a pundit – I’m having a crazy craving to be in Milan now and good to the Expo and walk around those streets I know so well.

Casa di ringhiera

The first street I want to write about is Via Vigevano where I first lived when I moved to Milan in 1995. I was living on a friend’s couch at number 9, a beautiful yellow stucco building with an interior courtyard, right behind the Naviglio, a casa di ringhiera – typical of Milan. I loved the church bells I heard from the windows and the views of the city’s red roofs.

If you are in the city for the Expo, this is a great neighborhood for food and an evening walk around the Naviglio. It’s the scene of the many locals serving the typical Milanese aperitivo as well.

My own favorite bar in the area is called Luca & Andrea at Alzaia Naviglio Grande 34 and my favorite restaurant is Osteria del Pre on Via Casale, 4.

Church Bells Nav

When one thinks of Milan, they so seldom think of wine but Milan does have a wine to call its very own, San Colombano d.o.c. wine. This is the only DOC wine produced in the province of Milan. It was designated a DOC in 1984.

Wines from San Colombano are generally made from Croatina, Barbera and Uva Rara for the reds in order to be part of the DOC. Some international varieties have been planted in recent years as well. For the whites, a number of grapes have been used in addition to the indigenous variety Verdea.

The soils in this area are a mix of calcareous soil and sand. The wines they produce are easy drinking wines that complement the local food perfectly.

The grapes for production of San Colombano DOC wines must be cultivated exclusively in the Comune of Miradolo Terme and Monteleone in the province of Pavia, Graffignana and Sant’Angelo in the province of Lodi and San Colombano al Lambro in the province of Milano.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Grecanico Dorato Bianco from Sicily


Back with our latest Italian indigenous variety, this week’s grape is Grecanico from Sicily. The grape is often blended with Grillo and/or Catarratto. It is part of a host of D.O.C. wines from Contea di Sclafani, Contesa Entellina, Menfi and others.

I recently had a lovely one at Vinitaly from Tasca d’Almerita. The one I tasted was a wine made without the addition of sulfites, an experiment that Tasca had undertaken. Tasca is very conscious of its carbon footprint and is heavily involved in sustainability initiatives in Sicily. I will write about them tomorrow though. Today is about this grape variety. Grecanico has aromas and flavors of lemon and citrus.

A wine without the addition of sulfites still has some sulfites in it because they are produced during fermentation. This wine spends four months on its lees which is a natural level of protection for the wine. As we know, sulfur is added to wines as an anti-oxidant and to stabilize the wines.


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Day 1: Vinitaly – The World We Love

DVerona 3

Day 1 at Vinitaly is off to a great start. Thrilled to be here and to see old friends and taste great wines. Despite the cold and rainy weather, typical at least one day of Vinitaly a year, the weather is turning out to be even better than expected. I started with a tasting of Susanna Crociani’s entire lineup of wines, always a pleasure. I found them all to be showing really well. I then moved on to taste Lugana with Carlo Veronese, the Director of the Consortium and then on to Sardegna and Vigne Surrau, Vermentino di Galllara. Lunch with Prosecco DOC in their new lounge area that they share with Prosciutto di San Daniele was a welcome respite from the frenetic pace I always feel at this fair. It’s only the first day at 345 pm and I have already done my yearly tasting at one of my favorite Sicilian Wineries, Tasca d’Almerita. I love tasting at Tasca and can’t wait to write about all the great wines I have had this morning. I actually love this fair and am very excited to be in Italy and to be here. I also can’t wait to write about the wines I tasted last night at OperaWine.

Pre-event at Vinitaly

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