Category Archives: Italian indigenous Grape Varieties

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia di Sardegna Bianco

Malvasia

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)

Piedmont

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.

Malvasia di Castorzo

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.

Antichi Giochi

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)

emilia romagna

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

zagarolo

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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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia del Lazio

Fountain in Piazza Navona - Rome

This week’s grape variety is called Malvasia del Lazio. It as you can imagine, grows primarily in the southern Italian region of Lazio, of which Rome is the capital. It is sometimes also referred to as Malvasia puntinata because of the small dots on the grape. Usually this grape is blended with other varieties, Trebbiano and other Malvasia varieties. It brings color, distinct aromatics, and finesse to the blend. It has a lot of sapidity, minerality and lovely floral aromas. It can be seen in the following DOC wines: Bianco Capena, Cerveteri, Colli Albani, Frascati, Marino and Montecompatri-Colonna. I once wrote a post about Malvasia Puntinata which you can read here.

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Lazio is truly a forgotten region in my view in terms of their viticultural offerings. I have written often about their wines because it is a personal passion and I have dear friends in Rome so I get to visit frequently and am introduced to new producers through these friends. It’s hard to find wines from Lazio in the states but it is possible. Here are some that are available stateside.

I have tried a number of wines made with this particular Malvasia and one I really enjoyed was the Pallavicini dessert wine called Stillato, made from 100% Malvasia del Lazio. It is simply a symphony in your mouth with notes of apricot, tropical fruits, honey and vanilla. Approximately 25% of the wine is partially fermented in barriques made from Acacia wood which gives it a honeyed complexity on the palate. The Pallavicini make a very wide range of white and red wines. A fascinating family history goes along with that storied Roman name and great wines.

tenuta-pallavicini-in-lazio

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia Bianca di Basilicata

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This week’s variety is called Malvasia bianca di Basilicata. It is usually blended with other grapes, particularly with Moscato. One can find it in some of the DOC wines in Matera. For example, Matera Bianco. It must be made from a minimum of 70% Malvasia bianca di Basilicata. To make a sparkling Matera DOC, 70% must be Malvasia di Basilicata. Like many of the other Malvasias we have seen, this one also is said to hail from Greece from the city of Monemvasia in the Peloponnese. Malvasia is often used as a term to denote wines that are sweet, aromatic and not too alcoholic. This variety used to be used in Aglianico but now is found mostly in the white blends. Basilicata is a fascinating region and one that I would love to go back to visit. I went to Matera many years ago and was quite taken with it. It is very rugged. 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. In fact, Basilicata for me was something of a jumping off point or better, an arrival. I always said I couldn’t leave Italy until I visited Basilicata. Then I went and still didn’t leave for three more years. I will have to scan my photos of that beautiful region but suffice it to say that it is still very much as it was centuries ago. There is a great movie that takes place in Basilicata that came out some years ago called “Basilicata Coast to Coast.” I loved it although some said it was a bit sentimental. Then again, so I am.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia Bianca B.

sicily

This week’s variety hails from Southern Italy. It is called Malvasia Bianca B and is a biotype that is not related to other Malvasias. This one grows in Sicily, Calabria, Campania and Puglia, specifically in the provinces of Brindisi, Catanzaro, Cosenza, Crotone, Lecce, Siracusa, Vibo V., Avellino, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Reggio Calabria, Salerno, and Trapani. It is used in the DOCs from Donnici, Savuto, Pollino, S. Anna di Isola di Capo Rizzuto, Melissa, Leverano, Biferno, Cilento, Castel San Lorenzo, Scavigna, Lamezia, San Vito di Luzzi, Verbicaro, and Bivongi. It is also usually blended with other grapes and brings a pleasing roundness and freshness to the blend. Low in alcohol, it does however, retain good acidity.

I am having a hard time writing a wine blog in this period I confess when the news is so fast moving and for me, upsetting. Luckily this week’s grape hails from a place that I wanted to write about anyway. Sicily. Why do I want to write about Sicily? Because of the number of refugees that they are rescuing on a daily basis from the sea. While our government has shut it’s doors and officials appear to have handcuffed a five year old girl, the Italian coast guard off the coast of Sicily have been doing their job and trying humanely to rescue people. Certainly this was unexpected for them and surely not what they want to be doing on a daily basis but when confronted with the level of despair they see, they are going above and beyond. Would that our government had a 100th of the humanity these people are showing. There are so many articles that I could post and videos of people being saved from the sea. Men, women and children who are desperate. Many do not end up with better lives in Italy or Europe so you can imagine how bad it is where they are fleeing from. Those who seem unmoved by the refugee crisis I guess think that could never happen to them or their families or people they love. While that is of course not true as anyone who has lived through a war, a hurricane or other natural disaster can tell you, the ability to put yourself into someone’s shoes even for a moment should be enough. There I have said my piece for today. As the grandchild of refugees from Nazis and pogroms in Russia and Poland, I cannot and will not stay silent.

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