Category Archives: Italian indigenous Grape Varieties

Vermentino, the perfect coastal white wine from three Italian regions: Liguria, Tuscany and Sardinia

Ligurian Hill Towns

Vermentino is one of Italy’s great grape varieties. It is the perfect white wine to sip on a beach, have as an aperitivo or pair  with wonderful seafood. To me it spells summer, sailing and relaxation. Vermentino can be found in a number of different regions in Italy including all over Liguria, pictured above.
It grows from North to South in Liguria, both along the coast and inland. Some of the most famous wines made in Liguria from Vermentino are from the Colli di Luni, pictured in the distant hills.
Vermentino is also widely grown in Tuscany, in Maremma, along the coast and a bit inland. I have had a number of wonderful Vermentinos from Maremma including some from Suvereto, right in front of the Archipelago of Elba. This particular wine is made by a friend, Barbara Tamburini at Gualdo del Re. They can’t produce enough of it according to Nico Rossi, the owner. It flies off the shelves. I certainly can understand that. Vermentino has enough fruit and floral aromas, acidity and minerality that it goes down quite quickly and one glass leads to another pretty seamlessly. I was told recently that a big Tuscan producer who shall remain nameless believes so highly in the grape that he was planning to plant an extra 50 hectares rather.
When speaking about  Vermentino however we must always remember to mention Sardinia where it holds a distinctive DOCG denomination in Gallura.  Vermentino also grows on Corsica but that doesn’t come into our discussion. It does however make the cut for Benvenuto Vermentino, a festival now in its third year celebrating Vermentino from around the Mediterranean.
Vermentino is a great grape variety that should be on your radar and there are as you can see many places to choose from. It is quite versatile and easy to pronounce as well so I think it can have a great future both on American wine lists and as a by the glass pour in many a wine bar. Vermentino from Sardinia tends to have more salinity and to be a bit more full bodied. I have had sparkling, still and late harvest versions of this great grape. I look forward to having many more.
Join us today, Saturday January 7th for a live Twitter chat at #ItalianFWT 11am ET about Coastal White and Red Wines, Foods and Travel along Italy’s long coastline.
Avvinare – Vermentino the perfect coastal white wine from three Italian regions: Liguria, Tuscany and Sardinia
Vino Travels -Negroamaro of Salice Salentino with Leone de Castris
Food Wine Click – Swordfish Pasta with a Not So Crazy Sicilian Red

The Wine Predator – Sicily: Global and Coastal Influences Flavor Four Dishes Paired with Wine
L’Occasion – The Terraced Vineyards of Liguria
Enofylz Wine Blog – A Ligurian Red Blend: 2015 Liguria di Levante Rosso


Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, italy, Liguria, Memorable Events, Sardinia, Travel, Tuscany, wines

Italian Indigenous Grape Varieties: Magliocco Canino Nero from Calabria

Tropea 2

I haven’t visited Calabria in many years and the last time I was in Calabria was 2003. I went to see two beautiful men, the Bronzi di Riace, in Reggio Calabria, took a local train to Tropea, a lovely town on the coast, and went swimming in the cleanest water I have ever seen at Scilla. What I remember from that trip was the beauty of land and the spiciness of the food. Calabria is home to some of the world’s most famous peperoncino. What I didn’t remember at all were the wines and not because I didn’t drink them but because they left me without any lasting memories.


The only winery I had heard of at the time was Librandi, a leader and a great winery. In 2011 I was invited to an amazing vertical tasting of their wine “Magno Megonio,” another post that ought to be written.

Since that time, things have changed and I have discovered many wines from Calabria often based on a blend of Gaglioppo and Magliocco. This week’s variety is Magliocco Canino Nero which is found in Calabria, mostly along the coast in the provinces of Cosenza and Catanzaro however it can also be found in Le Marche and in parts of Sicily.

Tropea 3

Some years ago at Vinitaly I attended a long tasting of wines based on Magliocco under the denomination Terre di Cosenza. There are a variety of wines that are governed by this new DOC including a red, a white, a rose’, a sparkling white and a sparkling rose’and a wine called “Terre di Cosenza DOC Magliocco”. There is also the possibility to make novello, red and white passiti, and red and white late harvest wines in the new legislation as well as a riserva version of the red wine and the Magliocco. There is also an additional “sottozona” or area that can be indicated on the wine – “Colline di Crati” to indicate a specific part of the viticultural area where the grapes can be grown.

Terre di Cosenza

For the red version of Terre di Cosenza DOC, wineries must use:
Magliocco (a minimum of 60%) while the Rose’ must be a created from the following grapes either individually or blended for a minimum of 60%:
Greco nero, Magliocco, Gaglioppo, Aglianico, Calabrese.

White Terre di Cosenza DOC is made from Greco bianco, Guarnaccia bianca, Pecorello, Montonico (locally Mantonico), alone or together they must be 60% of the blend.

Both the white and rose versions of the sparkling wine must be made from 60% Mantonico and “Terre di Cosenza” Magliocco must be made from 85% Magliocco.

There are a variety of wines that are governed by this new DOC including a red, a white, a rose’, a sparkling white and a sparkling rose’and a wine called “Terre di Cosenza DOC Magliocco”. There is also the possibility to make novello, red and white passiti, and red and white late harvest wines in the new legislation as well as a riserva version of the red wine and the Magliocco. There is also an additional “sottozona” or area that can be indicated on the wine – “Colline di Crati” to indicate a specific part of the viticultural area where the grapes can be grown.

In terms of climate and exposition, the entire Calabrian peninsula is surrounded by the sea, both the Ionian and Tyrrhenian sides of the Mediterranean. The area near Cosenza, however, does have higher elevations than some of the other DOCs in Calabria. The climate is Mediterranean near the coast and becomes more Continental as you move inland, I was told.  Calabria suffers from drought but the grape varieties grown in this area are well suited to the particular micro-climate and are able to ripen thanks to good thermal excursion between day and night temperatures.

Terre di Cosenza DOC wines

Wines made from Magliocco tend to be quite dark in color because of an elevated amount of polyphenols in the grape and tannic with good acidity and structure. This enables them to potentially age well. It produces a full-bodied wine and tends to work best in blends.

While Calabria is still not on the beaten path, the attention that they are now devoting to their wines deserves to be recognized. If you can see the Bronzi di Riace and also swim in that beautiful sea at the same time, I think you will feel very satisfied with a trip to Calabria, a feast for the stomach, the heart and the soul. Salute!



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Filed under Adventures in Winemaking: Super Teaneck 1st Vintage, Calabria, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian indigenous varieties, Italian regions, wines

Wine Wednesday: Coimbra De Mattos 1858 Port Valriz


Coimbra De Mattos was one of the older estates I visited during my trip to the Douro Valley in September. The family has 55 hectares and produces port wines and still wines from a host of indigenous grape varieties. The sell their port wines under the brand Valriz while their still wines are sold under the brand names Quinta dos Mattos, Quinta de Laceira and Quinta das Condessas.  They have seven quintas as part of the group.


The family which has lived in Calafura for over seven generations is a descendant of Francisco Ayres de Carvalho and Maria de Mattos who lived on the property in the 17th century and were focused on viticulture.


We tried a number of their wines and ports and I enjoyed many but the stand-out was the 1858 tawny. It was fantastic and had hints of dried fig, nuts, carmel, fresh fruit and even great acidity with a rich long finish. Apparently over the years as evaporation takes place, the acidity becomes even more explosive. It was fantastic and such a treat. In the past I had tasted one older port, Scion, an 1855 port from Taylor Fladgate.


What a memorable experience both of these amazing ports were. The family was very generous to share this wine with us, they only have 600 bottles of it.


We met this father and son team who share this gem with us. Apparently the older gentleman’s father only opened one bottle of the wine throughout his life, at his wedding.

I also liked their white port which was salty with racy acidity made from Malvasia Fina, Gouveio, Rabigato and Siría.


The 20 year old tawny was another standout with dried fruit, vanilla, oak, bramble and nuts on the palate as well as a rich and layered finish. It was made from Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. Apparently Tinta Amarela is a thinner skinned grape than the others. It was the first time during the trip that someone spoke about this particular variety. Tinta Roriz is of course Tempranillo by another name.


The 40 year old Port Valriz was also exceptional with great concentration and aromas of coffee, chocolate and dried fruit and nuts. Again, the acidity was surprising and exciting.


It was a truly gorgeous location and they showed us photos of how the pipes were brought down the mountain on oxen to the river. It had a lot of history and I was impressed with the owners and their humble approach. I found that at many of the wineries but not all.


I  am enjoying looking through  my notes and the photos from this magical trip which was a real gift and a surprise. Feliz Ano Novo!


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Filed under Douro Valley, Memorable Events, Portugal, wine wednesday, wines

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Maceratino Bianco

italy 600

This week’s grape variety is Maceratino bianco from Le Marche, an incredible region that has been hard hit by the recent earthquakes in Central Italy. This variety grows in the provinces of Macerata, Ancona and Ascoli Piceno and can be used in Bianco Piceno and Bianco dei Colli Maceratesi. The grape variety is thought to be related to Greco. It produces wines that are straw yellow in color that are dry and often sapid. These wines work well with pasta, light fare, as an aperitif and of course with seafood. Le Marche is an amazing and underrated region in my view for its wines, food, beaches and art. Maybe it’s better that way so that it still retains its traditions. In any event, it is an incredible place to visit and one that needs our attention following the devastating earthquakes so consider a wine from Le Marche when thinking about your holiday table.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce

italy 600

This is the last of the Lambrusco varieties I am going to write about in this indigenous varieties series, Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce. There are over 60 varieties of Lambrusco that are known, perhaps even more, but only six or seven of them are considered the more prestigious ones. Salamino, is named for its shape which resembles a small salami. This variety grows around the wonderful city of Modena and specifically the area around the town of Carpi. It is has a lot of color and brings fruity, floral aromas and flavors to the blend. It is also brings moderate alcohol and tannins. There is a consortium for the producers who make Lambrusco around the city of Modena, and also a cooperative, with 250-300 members, that specializes in wines made from Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce.


It has been a fun journey to travel through Emilia and its Lambrusco varieties these past months. I loved going to graduate school in Bologna and I love remembering the time when I lived in that glorious city and was able to drink Lambrusco as often as I wanted to. Luckily, Lambrusco is becoming ever more popular. I am hoping to have a glass today to celebrate the holidays. For natural wine lovers out there, here’s a Lambrusco made from 100% Salamino di Santa Croce from Luciano Saetti which available in the US from Louis Dressner. Next week I will move on to the letter “M”.

I have written about 150 posts in this series. There are almost 50 grape varieties that start with the letter “M” so I think that may take all of 2017. No matter. Every excursion brings me to think about how wonderful and varied Italian varieties are and how each small town has its own traditions and delicacies, not to mention art and all of the other marvels of il Bel Paese.

emilia romagna

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Lambrusco Marani

italy 600

I have been writing about different clones of Lambrusco all fall. There are many of them in fact, about 60. Among the main ones though, is this week’s variety, Lambrusco Marani. Like many of the others, it produces wines that are ruby red in color with a fruity, vinous aromas and flavors, good acidity and moderate alcohol. This variety can be made into the many varied styles of Lambrusco including dry (secco), amabile (demi-sec) and sweet (dolce) Lambrusco.

It grows around the cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia, two small jewels that I highly recommend visiting. I had the pleasure of living in Bologna for graduate school and was able not only to drink large quantities of Lambrusco but also to savor day trips throughout this glorious region.

Lambrusco Marani is part of wines that can have an indication as Reggiano Lambrusco DOC. There is is usually blended with a combination of wine made from other clones such as Lambrusco Salamino, Sorbara, Maestri, Montericco and Ancellotta.

Medici Ermete is a producer, imported by Kobrand, that uses this clone in its wines. I have had this wine many years during the Gambero Rosso tasting. I look forward to trying it again this year.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties:Lambrusco di Sorbara

emilia romagna

I like to use this photo that I took of the pavilion at Vinitaly for Emilia Romagna because it say it is “un mondo fantastico.” This is the way I feel about Emilia, a region I love and lived in when I went to graduate school in Bologna.


This week’s variety is Lambrusco di Sorbara. I have been writing about different Lambrusco varieties in the last month or so and this is most definitely one of the most famous and sought after. This past weekend I was out with friends who know how much I love Lambrusco and wanted to order one but one of our party was from Bologna and he insisted that he would only drink it if it was made from Lambrusco di Sorbara. Emotions run deep in Lambrusco land apparently. Sorbara is one of the oldest of the Lambrusco varieties and grows well in loose soils of sand and alluvial fans. When grown on clay soils it tends to lose it’s aromas yet be higher in color. Lambrusco di Sorbara was given the DOC classification in 1970. It is considered the most prestigious of the various Lamrbusco varieties. It comes from the area around Bomporto, near Modena.  To be a Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC wine, you need at least 60% of the wine to come from Lambrusco di Sorbara. The one in the picture from Francesco Vezzelli is lovely, relatively inexpensive at around $16 and available in the USA. Check out wine-searcher here.

I love Lambrusco with many foods or by itself. I laughed when my friend reserved the right to only drink ones from Sorbara but that’s one of the things I love about wine, it raises people’s passions to new heights. Cin Cin!










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