The Sommelier Update is an educational blog on wine, beer, spirits and food. It started in conjunction with the Arrowhead Wine Enthusiast club, but has rapidly gained an international following from those interested in learning, enjoying and having fun with food and wine. Weekly articles on advice, service, pairing ideas, recipes, education and consultation, from a Certified Sommelier and wine educator.
"Forgotten" grapes of Italy
Last week, I wrote about the Wine Century Club. Since then,
I have had a number of people contact me about how to get started. It is
actually pretty easy. Download their list of grapes, and start trying wines
that contain those grapes. Okay….maybe it isn’t that easy. You really need some
background, preferably through wine classes, or local wine tasting clubs. While
we are seeing more and more unusual, or forgotten, grapes in the United States,
the Old World still has the lock on the availability.
This week, I am conducting a wine tasting of Italian wines.
As the president and Sommelier for the Arrowhead Wine Enthusiasts, I get to
choose the wines to serve.Italy offers
a never ending supply of forgotten grapes.
Before it was known as Italy, the country was known as Oenotria (due to its’ abundant vineyards). Many of those grapes were brought to
the region by the ancient Greeks, and the mysterious Etruscan people (thought
to be the refuges of the fallen city of Troy).There are literally thousands of grape varieties in Italy, but Italy's
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, has only documented a bit over 350 grapes
and granted them "authorized" status. With DOC and DOCG regulations, only a handful of
grapes are really known by most wine drinkers. Chianti (Sangiovese), Barolo
(Nebbiolo) and Soave (Garganega) are probably the best known.
So, when it comes to Italian wine tastings, the door is open…as
long as I can find the wines (not easy). This week, I was lucky. While I still
have the “standard” Barolo, I was able to find some less common wines.
Italy isn’t really known for its white wines, other than
Pinto Grigio or Soave, but that might be changing. The first wine in my tasting
is Cherchi Pigalva Vermentino di Sardegna
2013. This white wine from the island of Sardegna is 100% Vermentino. The
color is straw yellow and has aromas of apple and white flower. It is dry and
has moderate plus acidity.
The second wine is La
Ginestraia Pigato Riviera Ligure di Ponente 2013. The white wine is from
the Liguria region and is 100% Pigato. This is where things get interesting! If
you check Jancis Robinson’s reference book, “Wine Grapes”, you’ll find that DNA
evidence now shows that Pigato and Vermentino are the same grape. And for those
registering their tastings for membership in the Wine Century Club, they are
listed as separate grapes. Tasting them side by side, they do taste different.
Pigato has more pear, apricot and hazelnut aromas. Is it the terroir or they
just different expressions of the same grape?
There is no argument about two of the red wine choices. For
the first red, I am serving a Rubino
Oltreme Susumaniello Salento IGT Rosso 2012. This wine is produced from
100% Susumaniello, and is grown exclusively in the southern region of Puglia.
Susumaniello has most commonly been used as a blending grape for the better
known grape of Puglia: Negroamaro. The wine is ruby red, and has aromas of red
fruit: cherry,raspberry and red plum. The tannins can sometimes be a bit rough,
but this version has soft tannins, and is fairly elegant.
The second red wine is Corte alla Flora Pugnitello Toscana
2011. This Tuscan wine is 100% Pugnitello. Since Tuscany is home to the famous
Chianti wines, which are made from the Sangiovese grape, it is no surprise that
Pugnitello was long thought to be a clone of Sangiovese or Montepulciano, but
recent DNA analysis has shown that the grape is its’ own variety. This grape
was almost lost, but in the 1980’s, “rescuers” saved the variety, and in 1993,
the first barrels of 100% Pugnitello where produced. Historical evidence suggests that the grapes
name comes from the Italian word for “fist” (pugno), the shape of the grape
clusters. The wine is deeply colored, with aromas of rich fruit: black cherry,
prune, cranberry and hints of clove and tobacco.
To finish the tasting, I do have to bring in one of my
favorite Italian wines, Barolo. The last wine is an Oddero Barolo 2009. I have written about the Nebbiolo grape in the
past, so won’t spend time recapping it here.
With a simple five wine, Italian tasting, we have covered
five (if you count Nebbiolo) “forgotten” grapes. When you add these to your
Wine Century Club list, you will be well on your way to reaching 100 grape
varieties. And, hopefully you will find a new variety that will become a