Many Who Invaded Italy Left Their Vines – Milford-Orange Times

By Ray Spaziani
talk about wine

Ray Spaziani

Over the centuries, invaders from Italy have often let their vines thrive in this land of wine. Italian winegrowers and grape growers took advantage of these foreign grape varieties and continued to develop them, making quality wines over the years from them and their own grape varieties.

Foreign vines have become part of the local wine family and their names have become synonymous with Italian wines. Their heritage is interesting and worth exploring, so we are going to share some with you.

Aglianico – This red grape variety is found in Basilicata, Campania and Puglia. It is also known as gnanico, agliatica, ellenico, ellanica and uva nera. The variety was probably introduced to Italy by the Greeks (hence the names ellenico and ellenica, as in “Hellenic”). It produces a DOC wine called Aglianicodel Vulture in Basilicata and is the informant grape variety of Taurasi, DOCG of Campania. We are seeing more and more of this variety in the United States.

Random – This red grape variety belongs to the Muscat family which may have been introduced from Greece in Antiquity. The origins of the vine are uncertain. Some say it originated in Tuscany, while others insist it is a red mutation of Muscat, said to have been brought to Italy by the Greeks. It produces wine in Puglia, Lazio, Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Campania, Sicily and in very limited quantities in some of the other 20 regions of Italy.

Alicante – This red grape variety is of Spanish origin and is found in Le Marche, Sicily and other regions. Other names for this grape variety are granacha, grenache, guarnaccia or gannoneau. It is the Grenache of Europe.

Aligote – It is an ancient grape variety originating in Burgundy and which has spread widely throughout Europe (it is also found in Russia and Switzerland). This white variety produces a good table wine and is also used in the production of sparkling wine.

Brachetto – This red grape is found in Piedmont, and especially in and around the town of Anqui Terme, where it produces a brilliant and delicious sparkling red wine. He may have originated from Bellet near Nice in Provence, France where his name is Braquet.

Cabernet – This red grape variety is widespread throughout the Italian peninsula, known to the ancient Romans as biturcia, named after a tribe in the French Gironde. Some documents have been unearthed by the Italians which seem to indicate that this biturcia was once widely planted in Italy during the time of the early Romans. It is believed that this grape was spread throughout the empire by the legionnaires, then fell out of favor in Italy and was not returned to the Italian peninsula until the late 1800s. In the 18th century, the grape variety known under the name of uva francesca was probably a cabernet.

Cannonau – This red grape variety is found in Sandinia Cannonau and is said to have been imported from Spain to Sardinia in the 14th century. It is probably a relative of the canonazo of Seville and the granaxa of Aragon. This grape is known as Grenache or Alicante in other parts of the world.

Carignan – This red grape variety probably originated in Aragon in Spain, although it is widely planted in France. It is grown in Sardinia, Lazio and Marche.

Chardonnay – This white grape variety may have been first introduced to northern Italy in the 1800s. Now it is widely grown throughout the peninsula. It was probably brought from the Champagne region to be used in making sparkling wines. For many years, producers considered this Pinot like any other. Today there are different clones in production all over Italy. Those from Burgundy tend to produce fuller-bodied wines; many Tuscan growers use these clones.

cinsault – This is another name for ottavianello from Puglia.

Clairette – It is an aromatic white grape variety planted in Sardinia and Tuscany. He is from the south-east of France.

Dolcetto – It is a red grape variety grown in Piedmont, Liguria, Umbria and the Aosta Valley. Dolcetto is sometimes called ormeasco or ormeasca. This variety may have an ancient Piedmontese origin, but it is believed to be the dosset of France. The variety may have first appeared in the Monferrato region around the year 1000, and its systematic cultivation began in the late Middle Ages. This variety was mentioned in a document in the 16th century and later in the 17th century by Count Francesco Nuvolone. The count discussed, in detail, a favorite wine from Piedmont called “dosset” as well as its production area. Dolcetto is well known throughout Piedmont. According to legend, Janus, the Roman god who was lord of the sky and the light of the sun, stopped over in Piedmont and was held back by the excellence of the local wine. Janus then assumed special powers as protector of the beginning and end of all things (hence the reason for naming the beginning month of the year January).

falanghina – It is a white wine probably of Greek origin found mainly in Campania. It may have been the vine of the Falernian wine prized by the Romans.

Franconia – He is probably a native of Croatia. It is a red grape variety from northern Italy, particularly Lombardy and Ftiuli Venezia Giulia. It is also known as blaufrankisch or lemberger (French blue).

Gamay – It is a red grape variety imported from France and found in Valle d’Aosta and Umbria and in very limited production in other areas.

Gewurztraniner or Traminer – It is a white grape variety that produces an intense and ample wine on the palate. A clone is known as gewurztraminer in Alto Adige (“gewurz” means spicy, although this Italian wine does not assume as spicy a character as that of Alsace) and another lighter style sub-varietal is called the traminer aromatico. Some believe that traminer takes its name from Tramin, a village in Alto Adige.

So please try some of these wonderful Italian varietals that you may not have known. Above all, enjoy it.

Ray Spaziani is the director of the New Haven chapter of the American Wine Society. He sits on the tasting panels of Winemaker Magazine and Amate del Vino and is a Certified Wine Educator and award-winning home winemaker. Email Ray with your wine questions or activities at [email protected]

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