Italian Indigenous Varieties: Canaiolo Nero

Avvinare has had a bit of a vacation as well as an enforced period of sick leave because of the flu but it’s back and hopefully on track for December and 2013. This has been our worst month of traffic in about two years, proof that if you write, people will read it, providing you produce something either interesting, educational, funny or thought-provoking.

Avvinare aims to be educational above all else which is why this series on indigenous Italian varieties began. It has gone through ups and downs but will now be a constant series on Mondays thanks to renewed efforts, books and drive.

Canaiolo Nero, a widely planted grape throughout Tuscany, was part of the original Chianti recipe created by Barone Ricasoli. Its’ origins suggest that it was already a wine producing grape in ancient Etruria. While hard pressed to find it vinified “in purezza” or as a monovarietal, I have tried one or two but not of any particular note.

The grape is used through Tuscany as a blending grape in Chianti Classico DOCG and in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG wines. It is also used in a host of DOC wines both in Tuscany and in Umbria.

It brings softness and fruity notes to the wine and in earlier times was part of the “governo” method of adding dried grapes to Chianti for fermentation. Canaiolo, while hard to pronounce for most foreigners, does not work well with American rootstocks and thereby is harder to newly plant. In fact, quantities of Canaiolo have diminished in the course of the last decades.

During a recent trip to wine producers near the city of Arezzo, everyone still used Canaiolo in their blends. While it is never the first grape listed in the wine, it is a sure bet for most producers.

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