Category Archives: Italian indigenous Grape Varieties

Wine of the Week: Macchia Sacra IGT from Cantina Castello di Torre in Pietra

Macchia Sacra

Today’s wine of the week is Macchia Sacra IGT from Cantina Castello di Torre in Pietra from Lazio. I tried this wine while searching the halls of Vinitaly for a client that I couldn’t locate and I stayed a while to chat with the owners. I’m a fan of wines from Lazio, albeit they aren’t very well known or available in the US market. This wine is made from a blend of two indigenous varieties – Malvasia Puntinata and Fiano. It had a lot of sapidity, minerality and lovely floral aromas from the Malvasia – a perfect summer wine.

This winery has 50 hectares of vines on a very large property of 150 hectares. The winery follows organic principals for growing their grapes and doesn’t use pesticides of any kind. The vines are located on sloping hills facing South and West. The soil is a mix of fossils and sandy where the white grapes are grown. There is more clay in the soil where the red varieties are placed. The planting density is about 5000 plants per hectare. The area is favored as well by breezes which keep the grapes healthy and clean.

The winery can also count on antique cellars for aging of its wines, carved out of the Tufa stone and used in the 1500s as well. They ferment their whites in stainless steel and concrete and wood for aging some of the reds.

Reading the literature they gave me, I discovered that the winery was bought by Luigi Albertini, the owner of the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera in 1926 and that in the past it belonged to the family of Pope Sisto V. Currently Filippo Antonelli and Lorenzo Majnoni own the winery and are responsible for its wine production. Now I understand why Antonelli’s fantastic passito was also being offered at the same stand…

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Groppello di Mocasina Nero e Groppello Gentile Nero from Veneto and Lombardia

Lake Garda

This week’s indigenous grape variety hails mostly from Lombardy and the Veneto but is also found in a few areas in Trentino. It’s principal area however is around Lake Garda where it is a major component in Garda Classico DOC wines. It is often made into a rosato as well, locally called Chiaretto.

As a grape variety, Groppello, is hearty without being too vigorous and grows best on low hills. It is challenged in soils that have a deficiency in potassium and can at times present a sensibility to grey rot and oidium or powdery mildew.

There is also a Groppello that comes from the Trentino but that is a different grape variety. A well known producer of Groppello in this area is De Zinis

There is a Consorzio of these wines called Consorzio Valtenesi. Numerous DOC wines are produced with Groppello as the star variety including Valtenesi DOC (Groppello min 50% of the blend), Valtenesi Chiaretto DOC ( Groppello min 50% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Rosso (Groppello min 30% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Rosso Superiore (Groppello min 30% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Chiaretto (Groppello min 30% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Groppello and Groppello Riserva (Groppello 100%), Garda Classico DOC Novello (Groppello min 30% of the blend). Many of these wines do not arrive in the United States which is a shame. They are easy to drink and lovely with food. Just like their friends nearby on Lake Garda, much of this wine is consumed in situ…

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Lo Triolet’s Pinot Gris From Valle d’Aosta

Pinot Gris from Triolet

Lo Triolet is a winery from the Valle d’Aosta that I discovered on my last trip to Vinitaly thanks to some friends from the Italian Sommelier Association. I like tasting with others from this group because their approach is very different from the one used in either the US or the UK. Often, they also know many smaller producers from various regions that I wouldn’t have access to from my home in New York City.

Lo Triolet is a perfect example of this. A winery from a town in the Valle d’Aosta called Introd, it is owned by Marco Martin. Martin decided to plant Pinot Gris at an altitude of 900 meters above sea level. From the first vines he planted additional ones and now has 5 hectares planted from 600 to 900 meters above sea level. The soil is sandy, interestingly enough and is what is known as a moraine or the remains of an ancient glacier. Thanks to this past the soil has many minerals. The wines that he produces show this particular terroir and have significant sapidity and minerality. Martin believes in integrated pest management and uses organic materials for fertilizer.

The Pinot Gris was the stand out for me of the wines that I tried although his Muscat was also interesting. He also produces a host of wines made from indigenous varietals such as Fumin and Nus.

Muscat Petit Grain

I am a fan of the Valle d’Aosta and the wines they produce. A beautiful place to go skiing, I am sure it is also a lovely place to visit in the summer although I have never had the pleasure. Maybe someday…

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Winery of the Week: Montori from Abruzzo


I was lucky enough to taste the wines from this winery during Vinitaly in March of this year. I have a dear friend from Montepulciano in Tuscany and she is always angered that people confuse Montepulciano d’Abruzzo with the town and the wine from that town in Tuscany so I always avoid going into that pavilion. This year though, it was in a different area and I was able to taste without rocking the boat. All kidding aside, I have not spent as much time as I should trying this wines.


Montori was an interesting and traditional winery to discover by chance. I tried a number of their Fonte Cupa wines both the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC and the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC. I also tried their Passerina 2014 from the Colli Aprutini IGT 2013 which had great acidity. This group of wines are created only in selected years when the harvest is as one would hope and the quality of the grapes such that the wines they create are the top of the line.


I also tried the Riserva of the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG from 2007. I was impressed with the wines and the potential of these low key grapes – Montepulciano, Trebbiano and Passerina to make not just friendly wines but also ones with more depth.


The tasting made me think I need to reconsider these grape varieties and spend more time in Abruzzo, perhaps dragging my friend along for the ride.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Two Varieties from Calabria – Guardavalle Bianco and Guarnaccia Bianco


The temperatures have been very high throughout the US over the past week but Europe and Italy in particular are experiencing even higher temperatures. One place where I am sure they are melting or what passes for melting is Calabria I have visited the region in the summer and can confirm that it can be hotter than Hades. I remember eating their very spicy cuisine as a way to cool off in the heat. I wondered how these two indigenous grape varieties are faring: Guardavalle Bianco in Calabria, specifically Reggio Calabria and Guarnaccia Bianco, often used in the DOC from Verbicaro. This wine from Santa Venere Vescovado Guardavalle Bianco is the only wine made from this variety that I have found.

Terre di Cosenza

I found this interesting website which mentions the Verbicaro DOC. The area apparently has a mild microclimate thanks to the tempering influences of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Appenines, the Pollino Massif. The whole area is cooled by the breezes from the sea. Verbicaro is a sub-region of the relatively newly formed Terre di Cosenza DOC. I did a long interview with the officials of the area at Vinitaly in 2012. I loved these two statues and will forever remember that visit as well as the beach at Scilla.


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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Grignolino from Piedmont

italy 600

This week’s grape variety is from Piedmont originally, Grignolino. The grape is used to make both red and rose wines. It is part of two D.O.C. denominations, Grignolino d’Asti and Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese. It produces wines that are light ruby in color but that can be quite tannic. They have good acidity and fresh floral and fruity notes. At times, the grape is blended with Barbera and/or Freisa.

Grignolino is a word from the local dialect version of the word for seeds, grignole. Grignolino grapes are filled with pips and therefore pressing is complicated because one must be very careful to avoid bitter notes in the wine.

Some Californian wineries have experimented with success with this grape variety.

Apparently, this is an event in Italy dedicated to the promotion of Grignolino d’Asti. A red grape from Piedmont that is neither Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera, or Freisa has a hard time getting any attention. This event seems to be a start in that direction.

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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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