Category Archives: Italian indigenous Grape Varieties

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia Nera di Basilicata

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While this latest variety, Malvasia Nera di Basilicata, has some of the same origins as the other Malvasias that I have written about, it is said to be less ancient than the white grape versions of Malvasia. This one probably came to Basilicata from nearby Puglia and has a lot in common with Malvasia di Brindisi which I will write about next week and Malvasia di Lecce. This red grape variety tends to be used as a blending grape rather than as a monovarietal. It brings aromatics, alcohol and acidity to the blend. It grow around the cities of Matera and Potenza. It is part of the Grottino di Roccanova DOC, which was given that designation in 2009. It is blended with Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Cabernet Sauvignon in the DOC. This winery, Cervino Vini has a few different versions of wines made with this grape variety as do a couple of other wineries I found. Sadly, none seem available yet in the States.

I’ve always had a thing about Basilicata. Many people know the region because it is home to the city of Matera, a beautiful city and absolutely worth a visit. I used to say I would never leave Italy unless I got to see Basilicata, a way of course of staying for many years. I finally visited in 2002 and remember fondly my trip there. Having just returned from Vinitaly, I am reminded of all the wines that I have tasted over the years with producers from Basilicata, specifically from Lucania.

Sadly none of my pictures of this region are digital so, here I suggest looking up a movie that came out in the last few years about Basilicata – Basilicata Coast To Coast. It will give you a flavor of the rugged landscape. Some 47% of Basilicata is covered by mountains and it has two coastlines, one on the Ionian Sea and the other on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia Istriana Bianca (Friuli)

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The first time I tried Malvasia Istriana Bianca was with the owner of Tenuta di Blasig in Friuli. My visit to that winery was also one of my first winery visits for my women in wine blog posts and thus remains close to my heart.

Malvasia as we know can be a white, red or rose grape and is grown throughout Italy. It can also be an aromatic variety or not. This one hails from Friuli Venezia Giulia. It also grows in nearby Croatia.same variety that grows in Friuli under the name Malvasia Istriana Bianca or Malvasia d’Istria. It can be found in the Carso, Collio, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Friuli Aquileia and Friuli Latisana.

Wines made from this variety are not so easy to find in the USA although you can find some. In fact it is easier to find the ones from Croatia.

In terms of the aroma and flavor profile of wines made with this variety, they tend to have good fruit, acidity and lovely mineral notes which I really enjoy. They also always seem to have the bitter note on the finish that is typical of so many Italian white wines. This version of Malvasia works as an aperitif but it would pair very well with pasta, fish or chicken or any seafood dish.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia di Schierano Nero from Piedmont

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This week’s indigenous grape variety is called Malvasia di Schierano Nero. This aromatic grape comes from Piedmont and produces either frizzante or spumante red or rose style sweet wines. The grapes are occasionally dried and made into a passito style wine as well. The wines are said to be of low alcohol and to pair well with regional desserts. I have never had a wine from this particular denomination but it seems to be relatively popular in the Torino area. I found the names of a few producers and I think I may look them up at Vinitaly in two weeks. One is called Carlin de Paolo while another is Terre dei Santi. The grapes tend to grow near Castelnuovo Don Bosco and some other villages in the Astigiano area such as Albugnano, Passerano Marmorito, Pino d’Asti, Berzano and Moncucco. Another producer is Casa Vinicola Franco Francesco. Cascina Gilli also makes this sweet wine. I have had many of their other wines so I think this may be my first stop. The must be cooled down and then refermented with yeasts in an auto-clave. The cold temperature enables the grapes to keep their fresh, lively, primary aromas of fruit and flowers.

To have the Malvasia di Castelnuovo don Bosco DOC designation which includes sweet, sparkling, red and rose wines, the wines must be made from 85% Malvasia di Schierano grapes. This area of Piedmont is farther inland and has higher elevations. The climate is more Continental than Mediterranean and the grapes retain their freshness. I always feel that Piedmont is one area of Italy that I haven’t spent enough time in. Turin, like Milan, is a city that has undergone many changes throughout the areas. It is a city that surprises you and offers unexpected beauties. I think maybe I am due for a visit. I have some friends who live there so it could be the right time. Perhaps later this Spring. Five more Malvasia varieties to describe. This is my 169th post in this series….

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia di Sardegna Bianco

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Today’s indigenous variety is Malvasia di Sardegna Bianca. This Malvasia can be found in two DOCs, Malvasia di Bosa and Malvasia di Cagliari. Both of these areas are in the province of Cagliari in Western Sardinia. They were each awarded their DOC designation in 1972. There are various versions of Malvasia di Bosa, some sparkling, some dry, some sweet, others oxidized and still others fortified.

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One of the producers of Malvasia di Bosa makes his wine aging it under yeast with flor. This oxidative style is what they are known for Cantina Giovanni Battista Columbu. Another well-known winery from Bosa is Azienda Agricola Silattari. They have a historic property from the 1700s. Although the winery has a long history, they are not resting on their laurels. The two people running it now have a project to create a community of people who become “owners’ of some of the vines on the property. They come, work on the vineyard and eventually leave with their bottles of wines, the project Ofelia as it is known is very interesting. Apparently so many tourists visit the property that they came up with this idea. I have never tried this Malvasia but look forward to trying it at Vinitaly. As I write these posts on all the different types of Malvasia in Italy, I am struck at how important this variety is in so many regions of Italy. All of the information in this post is new to me. I had never heard of Malvasia di Bosa.Western Sardegna though as always been on my radar mostly because it is very beautiful and is also home to Vernaccia di Orestano and a series of mines that have lunar like landscapes.  Just like Malvasia, Vernaccia can be oxidatively aged in barrels under flor. The barrels, just like with some versions of Malvasia are not filled to the brim. The aromas are almond, nutty and yeasty.

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The Sardegna tourist board also posted the above picture of the area. It looks amazing and I would love to visit. I was in a different part of Sardegna in 2015 and it is just incredibly beautiful. I can’t wait until my next trip.

 

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia di Casorzo Nero (Piedmont)

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This week’s variety hails from the province of Asti in Piedmont and is known as Malvasia di Casorzo Nero. This Malvasia belongs to the same family of grapes that we have been visiting each week but this one is a red grape.

This Malvasia can be made into sweet wines, either frizzante or spumante versions or more infrequently into a passito.

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I found a couple of producers who describe the wines made from this grape as being fruity and floral but who swear it is not unctuous and cloying. There is a historic Cantina Sociale Sometimes the wine is made with a percentage of Barbera which gives it a more sapid note but often it is made from 100% Malvasia di Casorzo.

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On wine-searcher.com, I was able to find this wine and the price which was about $15.

Malvasia di Casorzo Nera seems to lack a presence in the U.S. for the moment but that may change as more people turn to sweet red wines. When I think about the popularity of Bracchetto d’Acqui, I smile and think Casorzo has a future too.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia di Candia Aromatica Bianca (Emilia)

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This Malvasia di Candia Aromatica Bianca hails mainly from Emilia Romagna and can be found in the DOCs Colli Piacentini, Colli di Scandiano e Canossa, Monterosso Val d’Arda, Trebbiano Val Trebbia. It also grows in Lazio and can be used in the DOCs Cerveteri, Circeo, Cori, Genazzano, Montecoprati Colonna and my favorite, Zagarolo. A

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I recently had the pleasure of tasting wines from the Colli Piacentini at Slow Wine’s New York event last month. The winery is called La Tosa They make a wine called “Terrafiabe” COLLI PIACENTINI D.O.C. VALNURES. It’s a sparkling white which uses 40% Malvasia di Candia aromatic, 40% Otrugo, and 20% Trebbiano. They think of the Malvasia as bringing significant aromatics to the blend.

Emilia-Romagna has a number of DOC wines, although few that are very well known. I spent a considerable amount of time tasting wines from the Colli Piacentini while staying with friends in Bobbio, a wonderful town in the northern part of the region.

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Parma is another city that I love and I have tasted numerous wines from the Colli di Parma DOC, as noted in yesterday’s repost of an article I wrote two years ago about these wines. Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa DOC are wines I know less well while the Colli Bolognesi are favorites from my graduate school year in Bologna. Reno DOC, Bosco Eliseo DOC, Colli d’Imola DOC, Colli di Rimini DOC, Colli di Romagna Centrale DOC are all wines that are seldom seen in the States. I’ve tried some of them during the years I frequented the Lidi Ferraresi with my exes. Yes plural. Both of my long term Italian partners had families in different parts of Romagna. Thus, it is an area that was and remains close to my heart.

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Winery of the Week: Cos From Sicily

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I had the opportunity to taste through the Cos wines last month at the Domaine Select tasting. One was better then the next. I loved all of them but today will just mention the ones in the picture. My favorite was their Pithos Rosso DOC. Made from a blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola, it purred at me with waves of flavor and depth. I loved its unique cherry flavors and its enveloping floral aromas and nuances. It was pure and perfectly clean. Reading through the website, I learned why. They pay enormous attention to every detail in their wine making and are biodynamic and organic. They also vinify and age their wines in amphora. I love this 30 year history of making wines in this way, very unique for Sicily and at the time, the only one doing so. That takes guts and drive.

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The winery was founded by three friends in 1980: Giambattista Cilia, Cirino Strano and Giusto Occhipinti. The acronym of their last names is where the name for the winery – COS – comes from.
Giambattista Cilia’s father Giuseppe Cilia gave them an old winery and the nearby vineyard of bush trained vines, a total of less than 4 hectares in the town of Bastonaca. The winery follows the principles of biodynamic faming in order to help the vines find and maintain a balance with nature in order to be able to express their true character and that of their terroir. For vinification, they decided to use terracotta vases that left no traces or aromas on the wine but were completely neutral vessels. In 2000, Pithos was created, a Cerasuolo di Vittoria that ferments and ages in amphora. Cerasuolo di Vittoria is the only Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita (D.O.C.G.) wine in Sicily thus far.

I also loved the shape of their bottles. I wondered how it works on the shelves in wineshops but was told it isn’t a problem. I have never visited this part of Sicily but have a dear friend from Ragusa. Growing up, my neighbor who used to make wine with my father in our basement was also from Ragusa. I often credit them for getting me started in the wine industry. I sense a pattern here. Perhaps it is time for a trip to this part of Sicily.

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