Writing about Italian indigenous grape varieties is somewhat like counting pebbles on a beach. Some are bright and shiny and stand out for all to see, pick up, and polish while others are smaller, hidden, and often overlooked.
This is the fate of biancone, a minor grape variety that doesn’t even get a mention in the books that I have from the Associazione Italiana Sommelier (AIS). Why am I writing about it then? Well, for completeness and because it is often used as an alias for the very popular Trebbiano grape which grows throughout Italy. Others suggest that is is a synonym for Mostosa, another variety. In short, it seems the views are not uniform.
This grape gets a better rap in Australia where it makes white wines which are considered fresh and fruity. It is also used to make dessert wines. In Italy, it doesn’t get a lot of respect but it’s name, Biancone, means “big white grape” so at least it has some dignity from its consideration as a “weighty grape.”
How many varieties are there in Italy? I’ve heard many numbers but in a recent interview with distinguished enology professor from La Cattolica in Milan, Attilio Scienza, I was told that there are around 3,500 but only 700 are truly used to make wines of stature. In any case, the numbers are outstanding and only by drinking and studying often can one get a grasp on this variety or at least have a great time trying.