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Beyond Nebbiolo: Unveiling Italy’s Best Minor Grape Varieties

alessandra

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The importance of minor Italian grape varieties

Italy, the land of vineyards and wine regions, boasts one of the largest numbers of native wine grape varieties in the world – over 500! While you are probably familiar with superstars like Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, a whole world of minor Italian grape varieties awaits exploration in the form of lesser-known grapes such as Teroldego, Passerina, Susumaniello, Raboso, Carricante, and Nuragus. Adventuring beyond the familiar offers a thrilling journey for wine enthusiasts, with each discovery unlocking a new facet of Italian terroir.

 

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1. A Tapestry of Terroir: Italy’s wine landscape is a rich tapestry woven from the unique characteristics of each region’s microclimate and grape selection. Lesser-known grapes often thrive in specific pockets, expressing the local terroir in a way that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Imagine a crisp white wine bursting with vibrant acidity and saline character, a signature characteristic of wines produced in volcanic soils where the grape variety finds its home.

2. Wallet-Friendly Gems: These hidden gems tend to be more budget-friendly. The popularity of big-name grapes often drives up prices. Stepping outside the mainstream allows you to discover exceptional wines at a more approachable cost. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised by the quality and complexity a lesser-known grape can offer.

3. The Thrill of Discovery: There’s the thrill of discovery! Imagine being among the first in your circle to introduce a new and exciting grape variety. Sharing a bottle of something unique and flavourful fosters conversation and deepens your appreciation for Italian wine’s vastness.

 

So, why haven’t these grapes reached the same level of fame as their celebrated counterparts?

• Limited Production: Many lesser-known grapes hail from specific regions with smaller growing areas. This limits the overall quantity of wine produced, making them harder to find outside their local pockets. Imagine a grape that thrives only on the slopes of a specific volcano – the resulting wine will be exceptional, but production will naturally be limited.

• Historical Near-Extinction: Some grapes, like Timorasso, nearly vanished due to factors like disease or changing agricultural trends. Timorasso’s story is particularly interesting. Once widely planted in Piedmont, it was devastated by powdery mildew in the late 19th century. Thankfully, a handful of dedicated producers have revived the grape, bringing its unique character back to the world.

• Focus on International Varieties: In the past, some Italian wine regions opted to plant grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to cater to international markets. Planting international varieties for export purposes led to a decline in native grape cultivation. Thankfully, there’s a growing movement to rediscover and celebrate these indigenous grapes.

• The Allure of Trends: Wine, like fashion and lifestyle, follows trends.  Consider the most readily available Italian wines in bars and restaurants – Prosecco (By the way, have you ever wondered which grape it’s made from? Spoiler, there’s no grape called Prosecco), Pinot Grigio (not always the best quality!), Chianti… and then what?  There isn’t a vast selection. This focus on popular varieties can leave these fascinating lesser-known grapes in the shadows.

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The Power of Rarity

Humans have always been attracted by rarities.  Shouldn’t be the same for these grapes?

In the next articles, we’ll delve deeper into specific grape varieties, highlighting curiosities, regions, producers and food pairings. Comment the article or message me with any requests on specific grapes or regions.

Meanwhile, quench your thirst for adventure! My comprehensive guide explores the 20 Italian regions and many grape varieties to help you discover your new favorite Italian wine. Supporting my work allows me to continue creating in-depth content like this.  Learn more and get your copy here.

 


 

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