Category Archives: Italian indigenous Grape Varieties

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Lambrusco Oliva from Reggio Emilia

emilia romagna

While it seems to be one of the lesser known regions of Italy, Emilia Romagna has everything: valleys, hills, coastline, the plains and the Apennine Mountain range. It also is home to wonderful art cities and thermal spas, as well as great food and wine. Among it’s most famous wines and grape varieties are the host of Lambrusco varieties.

Lambrusco is one of the topics that seems to get people quite heated under the collar. I am working my way through posts on indigenous Italian varieties that start with the letter “L” and am amazed at how many there actually are. Today’s variety is Lambrusco Oliva from the area near Reggio Emilia or Reggiano. This grape variety is often also called Lambrusco Mazzone.

This particular variety of Lambrusco is said to be best blended with other Lambrusco varieties such as Lambrusco Marani. It brings structure and color to the blend. A vigorous variety, if left macerating on the skins too long, it will present a bitter note. It works best in certain versions of Lambrusco such as the frizzante and amabile styles.

This variety can be part of the Lambrusco Emilia IGT classification. Producers can use this classification for a wine made from Lambrusco Oliva either on its own or together with any of these varieties of Lambrusco: Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Marani, Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Montericco, Lambrusco viadanese, Lambrusco oliva if they make up 85% of the wine.

Lambrusco is a wine that was long misunderstood but has definitely seen a resurgence in the last years. I like many others remember the Riunite days in the USA but I also lived in Bologna where I went to graduate school and got to drink the better stuff at my local hang outs. We visited Reggio Emilia when I lived in Bologna and I remember it being a beautiful town. Emilia Romagna is a great region with lovely food and wines as well as joyous people.

When drinking Lambrusco, one often eats prosciutto or other charcuterie. I also love Lambrusco with traditional pasta dishes from the region such as this one for Cappelletti. Reggio Emilia is also very famous for its innovative approach to child education. They have some of the most widely praised school philosophies around.

It’s been a long time and writing about Reggio I think I am due for a visit to that region on my next trip to Italy. The last time I was there I stayed in this marvelous hotel, Hotel Posta with it’s 500 years of hotel hospitality 1515 – 2015 in the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo.

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Filed under emilia romagna, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, italy, Memorable Events

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Lambrusca di Alessandria and Lambrusco a Foglia Frastagliata

italy 600

Lambrusco is one of the most widely discussed and maligned grape varieties grown in Italy, together with Albana and Pinot Grigio. There are many different grapes with Lambrusco as part of their name, mostly grown in Emilia Romagna but not all. It is likely that they are related to a wild grapevine that was already known to both Pliny and Virgil in antiquity. The first one mentioned today in fact does not grow in Emilia but in Piedmont and Lombardy. It was much more amply planted before phylloxera hit but after was less widely seen. Today it is often blended with Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa and Bonarda.

The latter grape, Lambrusco a Foglia Frastagliata is grown in Trentino and is more widely known by the name Enantio. I actually tried this wine a few years ago but only recently learned of its connection to Lambrusco. This one is often used for making rose wines.

A fellow blogger who often writes on Italian wines, Jennifer Martin on Vino Travels published this article on Lambrusco ahead of Lambrusco day which was apparently June 20. It’s a good read and a good primer on Lambrusco.

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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian indigenous varieties, Lombardy, Piedmont, trentino, wines

Wine Wednesday: Armecolo from Castel del Salve from Puglia


I discovered Castel del Salve one year at Vinitaly. I was tasting Aleatico that year in Puglia and I was very attracted to their modernist labels. I then discovered that they are from a small town in the Salento, Depressa, which oddly enough was home to a woman I had been working with. Of course, they were friends. It’s a small world at the end of the day.

Earlier this year, I had the occasion to taste a number of their wines at the Slow Wine event in February. They didn’t disappoint. What I liked about their wines turns out to be one of their credos, the wines were fresh and not overly fruity. Francesco Winspeare, one of the owners of Castel di Salve stated “the most important thing for us is to preserve freshness and fruitiness because too often in our area the wines are oxidised or over-matured”. I think he and his co-founder Francesco Marra are right on in the direction they have chosen for their wines. I particularly liked Armecolo, made from 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera di Lecce. It was elegant and beautiful as well as approachable. It was not oaked but instead was in stainless steel and bottles before coming to market. It was nice to taste a wine from Puglia that wasn’t overly oaked or a fruit bomb. While many are shying away from those styles, I think you still see them more than I would like.


The Salento is one of the most beautiful places in Italy, which is certainly saying something. I took a marvelous trip there some years ago and spent a glorious week soaking in the beauty, light, sea and hospitality of the people. There are also great towns such as Gallipoli, Otranto and Lecce of course. So much to see and do while drinking all of this great wine.

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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Memorable Events, Puglia, Wine Wednesday

Podere La Marronaia – A Nice Expression of Vernaccia


This morning I walked a 10k to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. The race was all women in Central Park. There were so many of us.over 8,000 and so many people cheering on Team In Training runners/walkers, etc that it felt really celebratory. Lots of people donated to my fundraising page and I very touched. I had a few people to see today so after playground and sprinkler time, I was really ready for a nice glass of wine. I have found a new place to hang out on the Upper West Side, Acqua. It’s been there for a long time but I had never gone until recently. I had a glass of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, something I never do. Oddly enough, it was the first Italian DOC wine in 1966. The wine received its DOCG designation in 1993.

Vernaccia is not an easy grape. The wine is generally pretty bitter and acidic. It has to be made from 90% Vernaccia and 10% of other grapes but non-aromatic ones.

I have had many Vernaccia over the years but it has never been my favorite, until one summer when I brought a bottle of wine from Podere la Marronaia called Visla to Cape Cod. I had met the owners years ago,  Luigi Dei and Silvia Morrocchi, and their sons Pietro and Corrado. I remember Luigi was doing the New York Marathon. I enjoyed reconnecting with their wine today. Their grapes are organic certified and they pay a lot of attention to their practices. A friend used to make their wine but I think she is no longer involved. I can’t wait for this year’s Lobster evenings on the Cape.Lobster

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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Tuscany, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, wines

Wine Wednesday: Ronco del Gelso Vigna Permuta Permuta



My wine of the week is Ronco del Gelso’s Vigna della Permuta. This wine is made from Malvasia, a grape that I am not usually partial to except when it comes from this particular part of Friuli, Isonzo. Here I find it shows great fruit, minerality, salinity and spice. A powerful combination that makes it a great food wine. I would love to have this wine with Indian food or Sushi. The aromas and flavors are due to the great micro-climate, soils and fresh breezes in this area as well as its proximity to the sea. The winery made it’s first official wine in 1988 when they were producing 3,000 bottles. They now make 150,000 some 28 years later. Most of their wines are whites but they also make a Cabernet and a red blend using Pignolo and Merlot. I tried a number of their wines at a tasting earlier this year and found them all to be beautifully made and elegant wines.


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Filed under Friuli, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Isonzo, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, wines

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Livornese Bianco and Lumassina Bianco

Tuscan Views from Poppiano

I am back to my indigenous grape varieties series and this week I am writing about Livornese Bianco and Lumassina. The former grape hails from Tuscany which is the site of the picture above. The latter from Liguria which is shown in the picture below.

Ligurian Hill Towns

Neither grape is seen that often but both are only used to make wine rather than existing separately as table grapes. Livornese bianco does not come from the area around Livorno but rather from the one around Massa Carrara, not so far from Liguria in fact. This grape is usually blended with other local white varieties.

Lumassina is instead from the province of Savona in Liguria. It is often blended with another white variety called Bosco. It is a vigorous variety. One winery that is available in the United States that makes Lumassina is Punta Crena. I first met them many years ago at a tasting in New York. They are now brought in by Kermit Lynch so in very good hands indeed.


Lumassina is a great wine to drink with summer fare. It has nice acidity and mineral notes as well as the bitter almond finish typical of many Italian white wines. I have never tried one but it is also supposed to make lovely sparkling wine. Next week I will tackle the Lambrusco family of varieties and then move on to the letter “M” which should take me the rest of the year to complete as there are so many varieties that begin with that letter. I have thus far written 140 posts on Italian indigenous varieties on this blog over the last seven (7) years since I started this project for AltaCucina in 2009. I just found this video where I interviewed Paolo Vannini from Alta Cucina and Luca Maroni. It’s interesting to hear what people thought in 2010.

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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Liguria, Memorable Events, Toscana, Tuscany

Wine Wednesday: 2013 Kolbenhof Gewurztraminer Vigna from J. Hoffstatter


Let me begin by saying that I have never been a huge fan of this grape variety and that this week’s wine is one I thought I would not be keen on. However, I have learned to be both humble and have an open mind about the wines I taste and so I tried this Gewürztraminer from Hoffstatter at and I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

This Gewürztraminer is made from grapes grown in their Kolbenhof estate which overlooks Tramin. Thanks to the microclimate, soils of clay, gravel and lime, the southeastern exposure of the vineyard and the age of the vines, they produce a beautiful example of what this variety can do.

The wine is somewhat more textured than many I have had and that is thanks to the skin contact that it undergoes for a few hours and the 8 months it spends on the lees with battonage once a week. It had the opulent aromas and fruit flavors that are typical of this variety but it also had great acidity. It would be great with Indian food which I am currently craving. I wish I had a bottle on hand this evening.

Josef Hofstätter founded the winery in the year 1907 and it is now run by the fourth generation. They have 50 hectares of vines at between
800 and 2.600 feet above sea level.

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Filed under Alto Adige, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian indigenous varieties, Wine of the Week, wine wednesday, Wine Wednesday, wines