Friday, December 14, 2012

How To Compare Italian Grapes

For us, Italian wines are difficult. We've learned about wine through the lens of New World wine, which shares very few varietals with Italy. But we are picking up bits and pieces, and are learning that while they might not compare directly, there are similarities to grapes we know better.

Barbera: This is a grape we've encountered from a few wineries in Napa, but its still fairly uncommon in the US. The Italian version tends towards deep, dark color with bright cherry flavor, similar to a Grenache.

Nebbiolo: Found in Barolo and Barberesca wines, Nebbiolo is Italy's most prominent grape. With big, bold flavors like mushrooms, oak, and roses, its a unique flavor. Some old-vine Zinfandels start to compare to the depth of flavor.

Sangiovese: This grape is used in Chianti and Tuscan wines, and has strong flavors of cherry and cedar. In New World grapes, it might compare most to light Pinot Noir.

Pinot Grigio: This is the rare Italian grape that can be found almost anywhere in the wine growing world. Most wine drinkers are familiar with Pinot Gris, with light fruit flavors, along with hints of honey.

Trebbiano: The most widely planted white Italian grape, and it's extensive planting has mostly relegated it's use to as a blending wine. The best versions tend towards citrus and mineral flavors, like Chenin Blanc.

Moscato: Used to make the sparkling Moscato d'Asti, Moscato is light and sweetly fruity with strong floral notes, like a Gewurtztraminer.

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