Vino 2009: Aging Potential Of Various Italian Indigenous Grapes

Absence makes the heart grow fonder? I hope so…I have been quite ill for most of the beginning of this year and thus, not blogging but I’m back….Thanks for continuing to read my posts. Andiamo avanti…

During a seminar on Italian indigenous varieties, part of Vino 2009, David Lynch asked the participants on a panel entitled “Raising The Wine Bar: Indigenous Italian Varietals, a Priceless Asset In Successful On-Premise Management” to name any Italian indigenous varietals which they thought would be age worthy, in addition to the classic Nebbiolo and Sangiovese grapes. I thought this was a thought provoking question. Some participants felt that Aglianico and Fiano showed the most potential while others thought Soave made from the Garganega grape and Friulano also showed promise. Lynch himself mentioned three grapes which he thought would age gracefully: Sagrantino, Ribolla Gialla and Malvasia Istriana. I agree wholeheartedly with Lynch about Sagrantino and especially Ribolla Gialla, a fabulous grape variety from Friuli. Malvasia Istriana, also from Friuli, I am less certain of but that may also be because I have tasted much less of it than the other two. I was lucky enough to try Malvasia Istriana at Tenuta di Blasig in Friuli two years ago. My first post on Avvinare was about my visit to the winery. I’d be interested in hearing other people’s thoughts on this subject.

Lynch, who moderated the panel, also raised the issue of indigenous vs. international grape varieties in Italy. Therein ensued a long discussion about grape varieties and whether Cabernet for example which has been growing in Italy for decades can be considered indigenous. Many people I know reject Cabernet out of hand if it comes from Italy while others will only drink wines made from Cabernet or Merlot, even from Italy. What came out of the discussion was of course the importance of Terroir. Lamberto Frescobaldi
spoke about great Merlot and the clay soils in Bolgheri which have given us the lion’s share of the recently much maligned “Super Tuscans.”

After the Brunello scandals of 2008, I was cheered by the discussion to see that people are thinking about different varietals, regions and areas without rejecting what is currently in favor. Sometimes I am surprised to see people debating the merits of a single varietal Coda di Volpe or a Petit Verdot from Tuscany. It doesn’t seem to me to be that many years ago that no one had ever heard of a Ciro or even knew where Calabria was….

I think there is room for many new products and certainly that interest in Italian wines will only continue to flourish. Nothing makes me happier than to be able to find one of my favorite grape varieties on the shelves in the USA. I am excited that many new white varieties will be on our shore for the Summer.


  1. wow, Susannah, your blog is really blossoming with great information and insightful posts. This is one of the best. Last year at Vini Veri, I asked Gianpiero Bea if he thought his Sagrantino would age well and he told me he really didn’t have any older vintages and that didn’t know if they would or not. I can’t imagine Marco Caprai has any old wine in his library! Has anyone ever tasted an old Sagrantino? Excellent post…

  2. I definitely agree that Aglianico, Sagrantino and Ribolla Gialla can and do age very well.

    Surprisingly, I’ve found that Barbera ages extremely well, if well made. I am hording a 1990 Barbera from Gozzelino, Mauro (lo Sciorio) because the last bottle I had was exceptional.

  3. Thanks everyone. Paula, interesting about Barbera. I will have to go back and try some older vintages. Thanks for stopping by. Susannah

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