Federico Vincenzi, Italian sommelier and wine writer, sends this report.
Autoctono (autochthonous) is a new term which is getting more and more popular among wine lovers in Italy, even if it is sometimes abused. From the Greek autòchton, it means something "from its own land". In our specific case, we're talking about grapes originating from determined areas or regions. Italy has more than 350 autochthonous grape varieties, and this represents one of our unique characteristics.
We all know and love the "international" grapes and we are all aware that the "terroir" is one of the most important factors that contributes to make a great wine. The aim of this article is not to create a sort of competition between autochthonous and international grape varieties, but to underline that every single wine-producing country should proceed in its efforts and research in finding out about its origins and traditions.
I was recently invited to attend the Vitigno Italia 2006 fair in Naples, the most important exhibition of Italian autochthonous varieties. I was of course able to taste some "national" autochthonous varieties such as Sangiovese, Barbera and Nebbiolo which are grown in several regions; but in particular I wanted to taste and to share with you my feelings on tasting some autoctoni which are grown on a more specific and limited scale.
These are the varieties I found particularly interesting, with details of the particular example I tasted.
Piedirosso from Campania, on Vesuvio's volcano slopes. The name means "red feet".
Red ruby; mature red fruit (raspberry, plum); round and persistent. Alcohol: 13%. 2005. Producer: Azienda Vinicola Setaro.
Coda di Volpe from Campania, on Vesuvio's volcano slopes. The name means "fox tail".
Yellow straw; fresh fruit with white pulp (as pineapple and peach); full and persistent. Alcohol: 13%. 2005. Producer: Azienda Vinicola Setaro.
Aleatico from Lazio, from the Bolsena lake area.
Dessert wine; light red ruby; red stewed fruit; very delicate and fresh; persistent and balanced. Alcohol 11.5%. 2005. Producer: Falesco.
Aglianico from Campania, Avellino province. From "ellenico/ellanico", meaning Greek origins [although this has yet to be proved – JR].
Denomination "Taurasi" Riserva 2001 DOCG. Red ruby with garnet nuances; Intense, plum, withered black cherry; flowery (violet); black pepper; nice tannins, persistent, balanced. Alcohol: 14,5%. 2001. Producer: Cantine Lonardo.
Ruche' from Piedmont, Cocconato d'Asti area.
Denomination "Ruche' di Castagnole Monferrato" DOC. Light ruby red; strawberry and raspberry; tannic; Alcohol: 14%. 2004. Producer: Dezzani.
Inzolia from Sicily, Pachino area. Extreme south of Sicily. Or "Insolia": also used in the production of Marsala.
Yellow straw with green nuances; fresh fruit, cucumber melon, peach, apricot; mineral and delicate; slightly persistent. Alcohol: 12,5%. 2005. Producer: Rudini'.
Nero d'Avola from Sicily, Siracusa. Pachino area. Extreme south of Sicily. One of the best and more popular Sicilian wine.
Denomination "Eloro Pachino" DOC. Ruby red with purple reflections. Notes of red berries, cherry, vanilla and fruit jam. On the taste it's rich of ripe fruit; great structure, smooth tannins. Refined in oak barrels. Alcohol: 14%. 2001. Producer: Rudini'.
Ribolla Gialla from Friuli, approx.12 km south-east of Udine, 100 km from Venice.
Denomination Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC. Intense yellow straw; fresh fruit, especially green apple; saffron flavors; correct and pleasantly acid; delicate; slightly persistent. Alcohol: 13%. 2004. Producer: Conte d'Attimis-Maniago.
Tazzelenghe from Friuli, approx.12 km south-east of Udine, 100 km from Venice.
Name origin: "taglia lingua", meaning tongue cutter, because this wine, when very young, is very acid and tannic.
Denomination Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC. Impenetrable and dark red, with brick-colored nuances; on the nose: bilberry, raspberry, tar and liquorices; soft and alive tannins; persistent and balanced. Alcohol: 14%. 2002. Producer: Conte d'Attimis-Maniago.
Greco di Tufo from Campania, Caserta area. Thought to have Greek origins.
Intense yellow straw; fresh fruit, especially peach and green apple; back-taste of bitter almond. Pretty well persistent; Alcohol: 12,5%. 2002. Producer: Fattoria Prattico.
Lagrein from Alto Adige (South-Tirol), municipalities of Montagna and Egna.
Bright red; on the nose: hints of red berries, fresh grass and violets; on the palate: good concentration and soft tannins. Alcohol: 13%. 2003. Producer: Franz Haas.
Moscato Rosa from Alto Adige (South-Tirol), municipalities of Montagna and Egna.
Produced with skin contact maceration. Light red; on the nose: roses, cloves and orange peel; on the palate: very complex, delicate sweet and rounded; very soft tannins. Alcohol: 12,5%. 2003. Producer: Franz Haas.
Tintilia from Molise. Spanish origins.
Intense ruby red, much colored; on the nose it's fruity (egriot and stewed prunes); Tannic . Alcohol: 12,5%. 2003. Producer: Catabbo.