Wine Talk

Snooth User: JenniferT

Italian grape varieties

Posted by JenniferT, Nov 10, 2013.

I'm continuing to try to broaden my wine horizons and try a broad spectrum of new wines.

I was lucky enough to find a neat store that only sells Italian wines. And holy cow, did this ever open my eyes to a slew of new-to-me grape varieties! I bought a case of wine - most bottles made from grapes I've never heard of. 

I figure such complex diversity warrants a section for related discussion. Depending on feedback, that's what I might try to do here.

The last wine I picked up was made from Grillo (most often used for Marsala, but also used in dry whites). I looked up this grape in snooth's database of grapes, but I got nothing. So it is up to us snoothers to develop such content? If that's the case, I'll try to make some contributions as time goes on and I learn more.

I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on this. 


Reply by SecretSanta, Nov 10, 2013.

From the Wiki:

Grape (Vitis)
Color of berry skin: Blanc
Species: Vitis vinifera
Also called: Riddu
Origin: Italy
Grillo, also known as Riddu and Rossese bianco, is a white Italian wine grape variety which withstands high temperatures and is widely used in Sicilian wine-making and, in particular, for Marsala. Its origins are uncertain, but it may have been introduced into the island of Sicily from Puglia. It was already widely planted in the Province of Trapani by 1897; today it may be grown throughout Sicily and also in the Aeolian Islands.
It is also found growing around the commune of Riomaggiore in the province of La Spezia in Liguria where the grape is known as Rossese bianco.
Wine regions[edit]
Although this grape has had a long association with Marsala, in recent years it has become widely used in such DOC wines as:
Monreale (province of Palermo)
Alcamo (provinces of Palermo and Trapani)
Contea di Sclafani (provinces of Agrigento and Palermo)
Delia Nivolelli (province of Trapani)
100% Grillo IGT wines are also produced, although blending with for example Chardonnay is also common.
Reply by GregT, Nov 10, 2013.

Jennifer - when the Greeks landed in Italy, they thought it was just the perfect place for grapes. The Phonecians had been there before and thought the same thing. They started showing up somewhere around 2000 BC, so Italy has been noted for grapes for a long, long time. Probably has more varieties than any other country in the world. Grapes came to France a bit later. And unlike France, which was united as a continental power early-on, Italy wasn't united until the 1800s and in fact, some think it still isn't united. So there wasn't a decree that came out regarding wine production nationwied, nor was their a dominant grape for the "country" because each little city-state held on to its own traditions and grapes. w

So if you poke around for Italian grapes, you'll find many of interest. It's a great place to broaden your horizons.

The irony is that the wine industry in California was basically started by the Italians, who dragged grapes along when they went out for the gold. There were Spaniards before to be sure, but they tended to be landowners whereas the Italians tended to be small farmers who wanted wine for themselves, just like back home. And nearly 200 years later, where are all those Italian grapes? CA is dominated almost completely by a half-dozen French grapes except for Zinfandel, which was probably brought along by the Italians coming from New York. It's really their only legacy grape. Ironic in a way.

Reply by JonDerry, Nov 11, 2013.

The one Grillo I've had was from Fruili...the most acidic wine I've ever had.

Nebbiolo (Barolo, Barbaresco, etc.) tends to hold the most intrigue for me, though it's a wild wine. Similar to Burgundy, Baroli and Barbaresco can be hard to know when to drink. Was lucky enough to have a '97 Aldo Conterno Colonnello that was in a great place the other night. Affordable Nebbiolo can also be had though...I have Vietti's 2010 Nebbiolo Perbacco next on my list.

Have fun exploring this region...there's tons to discover. 

Reply by duncan 906, Nov 11, 2013.

There are literally hundreds of grape varieties in this world but only a few,like merlot,syrah or cabernet are widespread although the minor varieties still make good wines in their localle

Reply by JenniferT, Nov 11, 2013.

Thanks all! As always, you guys never disappoint! 

What do you think about snooth listings for some of these grapes? I'm fairly sure that there isn't any info on snooth regarding grillo. I did do some research on da internets (albeit less than usual), and I didn't really find out much about it at all.

Grillo is but one of many of these new-to-me grapes I've come across lately. Exciting! Maybe I'll post about them here as I drink through the wines as fodder for further discussion.

Of course I still need to spend time covering my italian basics - so far all I've done is poured a few chiantis, chianti classicos, and chianti classico riservas next to each other to see what we think of the differences. Barbera, Barbaresco, Brunello, etc....all stuff I have at home but have yet to really explore. So it's all still pretty new to me.

I'm guessing this is not the case for most of you guys, but I will probably return to this post as I explore some of the lesser known varieties and do pairing experiments.

As always, I'd love to hear about your experiences with these wines and any pairing experiments! :)  I'll do the same as I work through some of these wines and experiment with the pairings if there is any interest in hearing about that stuff. Maybe we can all be the richer for sharing if there's interest.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Nov 11, 2013.

Italy has a huge number of "native" grape varieties, mostly because they got grapes from the Greeks so long ago and they have had so much time to mutate. The southern part of the country was called Oenotria (or Enotria) by the Greeks--land of the vine.  They thought it would be perfect for wine, but, in another irony, the north has turned out to be better known--the south was and is too hot for many grapes.  It has also been bedeviled by more poverty and worse trade routes with the later dynasties that made modern wine what it is, but there's plenty of interesting wine all over the country. 

Even the varieties that make it over the ocean to us are often represented in only a fraction of their forms.  Nebbiolo from Barbaresco and Barolo are easy enough to find, but from Ghemme and Valtellina, not so much.  (Shame, since Ghemme is less expensive and more approachable--in Italy, anyway.) Chianti and Montalcino are well known over here, but there are many areas producing sangiovese.  Vino Nobile is not impossible to find, but the number of producers to be found in a wine shop in North America is not up there with the better known areas.   

If somebody said I could only have wine from one country, I would probably choose Italy for the diversity.  I constantly find new white varieties to try, and I find myself needing to go back to those other reds, like Aglianico and Nero d'Avola, that I was mad for a couple years ago.  I'm also a big fan of Lagrein from the area ceded by Austria at the end of WW I, Alto Adige (aka Sudtirol).

BTW, two new favorite Italian wines:  2009 Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva, good now and going to get better and only $20 in the US; 2009 Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico, which is a solid, well-made CC with not too much acid as some can have--an hour of being open does it wonders. 

Reply by FelixEbrius, Nov 16, 2013.

It looks like this thread has been dead for a while, but I just got here, so I'll try to resurrect it. I had the pleasure of spending a couple of months in Italy a couple of years back, and I would randomly try the odd varietals they had. One of the best I found--and in a regular grocery store, no less, for 7 or 8 euro--was schioppettino, a dry red. I did not know at the time what a rare wine it was. I've looked for it since in Italy and in various US states, and have come up empty. 

Here's a nice write-up about it, if you're curious:

Jennifert, I cannot recommend this wine highly enough. If you have an Italian wine store (you lucky dog!), you have a fair shot at trying some. :)



Reply by Richard Foxall, Nov 17, 2013.

Felixebrius, really good point and not at all late to the party.  Stumbling across the local grapes is the antidote to the sameness of international varietal wine.  Sure, there's terroir, but if you really want to taste a "place," drink the wines from the grapes that have grown there for centuries.  Of course, the wines they made centuries ago didn't have the benefit of scientific insights about oxidation or proper ripening (or, occasionally, overripening) but different varieties really do have different flavors before winemakers start pulling levers. It's possible to seek out odd varieties, which I do plenty of (you've got me at schioppetino, I admit), but going where that's what they drink is a crash course for any wine lover.

Reply by JenniferT, Nov 19, 2013.

No, you're certainly not late - I'm only seeing the last few posts now. My parties are always open with a standing invite :)

I am SURE that they had a scioppetino at this wine store, and moreover it was one of the wines the guy (owner, I think) recommended! I'm just not sure if it was one of the wines I picked out to put in my case. I can't wait to get home to check! If I don't have it, I'll just buy it when I get back to that Italian wine store.


Reply by FelixEbrius, Nov 22, 2013.

Brava! Let me know what you think! :)

I've discovered that an old favorite liquor store (of mine) in Denver has a schioppetino. I live in the Springs, but the next time I venture that way, I'll fetch a bottle or two. 

The internet is a wonderful thing.... :)

Reply by Tbandcwfjourney, Nov 23, 2013.

Do tell what that store may be.  I live in Bennett, you can even find us on the internet.  I venture into the big city occasionally. :-)

Reply by JenniferT, Nov 23, 2013.

Ignorance and bravery easily go hand in hand. That makes it pretty easy for me ;) 

I will come back and post about my finds at the Italian wine store. (The store I am referring to is called Merlo Vinoteca in Calgary, if anyone is interested)

Reply by JonDerry, Nov 26, 2013.

Let's add Montepulciano d'Abruzzi to the list of inexpensive Italian wines that rock with rich chicken dishes like the Chicken Paprikash I enjoyed this with.

Not to be confused with the Montepulciano region, this is made with Montepulciano grapes.

Available for $12.99 at a few local retailers and well worth it. Found bitter, tobacco notes to add intrigue to this one, differentiating it from Chianti Classico and other neighboring regions.

Reply by JonDerry, Nov 26, 2013.

Speaking of Chianti Classico...

Eric Guido just put up a nice article on one of his favorite producers' 2010 and 2011.

Think I'll have to hunt down a bottle.

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