More Interesting Grapes and Wines from Italy

Italy has a mind-boggling number of indigenous and international grape varieties and wine appellations. In this article, we review some of the more interesting ones recently sent to us for review.  They include well-known indigenous varieties like Grillo and Nero d’Avola in Sicily, Aglianico in Campania, and  Sangiovese in Chianti Classico; less well known varieties like Ruché from the Piedmont, Piedirosso from Campania, and Pignolo from Friuli; and international varieties like Tempranillo from Tuscany and Bordeaux varieties from the Maremma. The reviews below complement our earlier article on wines made from Nerello Mascalese, Carricante, Nerello Cappuccio, and Catarratto in Sicily.

Since these wines came direct from producers in Italy, their U.S. prices and their importers are not always known.  We’ve listed prices in Euros [€] in Italy where the US price is unknown.

For an in-depth look at Italy’s indigenous wine grapes, consult Ian D’Agata’s outstanding book  Italy’s Native Wine Grape Terroirs (University of California Press, 2019).


The Piedirosso Grape

Fontanavecchia 2020 Piedirosso Sannio (Campania) ($25) 90  The Piedirosso grape grows only in Campania and typically produces an easy drinking, light red wine of which the Fontanavecchia Piedirosso is a good example. It offers a fruity, floral nose and a light, Beaujolais-like, very fresh, juicy palate of red berries. A backbone of acidity runs through the wine along with some mineral notes. A wine for immediate consumption best served on the cool side. Made from grapes grown in marl-clay soils at 250m elevation at the foot of Monte Taburno and fermented and aged in stainless steel. 12.5% alc. Libero Rillo is the winemaker. The single varietal wines of Sannio are 100% Piedirosso.

Villa Matilde 2015 Fusonero Taurasi 92  This Aglianico wine comes from the cellar of Tenuta Pietrafusa in Campania established by Francesco Paolo Avallone in the 1960s. It shows dark berries, cherries and plum with nuances of fig, violets and cracked pepper on the nose that carry over to the firmly structured and concentrated palate. Sourced from vines planted 1968-85 in Montemarano and Paternopoli and matured in 35 hl botti and barriques for 18 months. 14% alc. Today, the winery is managed by Francesco’s sons, Ida and Salvatore Avallone, and the winemakers are Ricardo Cotarella and Fabio Gennarelli. [€39]

Le Marche

Il Conte Villa Prandone 2017 Marinus Piceno Superiore ($24) 92 Dark red. The 2017 Marinus is a serious wine, ripe and rich with spicy plum, cassis, and dark berries complemented by hints of chocolate, espresso, and cedar spice. It’s a complex, flavorful wine that could be mistaken for an old vine Zinfandel. Finishes with lingering rich flavors. A blend of 70% Montepulciano and 30% Sangiovese grown in the Monteprandone hills of Ascoli Piceno in Marche just 7 km from the Adriatic. Softly pressed, fermented for 12-18 days, and aged in oak barrels for one year. 14.5% alc Rosso Piceno is renown for its Montepulciano blends, but few are as high quality and good value as the Marinus. Founded by Amilcare De Angelis, the vineyard and winery are now managed by the 3rd generation of the family.

The Maremma

Michele Satta 2018 Piastraia Bolgheri Superiore ($80) 93   Dark red crimson. This Sangiovese blend is an outstanding rendition of the Super Tuscan category. A red-fruited nose is followed by darker cherry and cassis flavors on the palate with herbal/earthy and toasted oak and cocoa notes. It is layered and well-integrated with a silky texture, round tannins and long finish. A beautifully made wine.A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese all planted in 1991. Fermented separately with ambient yeast in cone truncated 30 hl oak barrels and matured 18-24 months in 20% new French oak barriques. 14% alc. Michele Satta is a pioneer of Bolgheri, establishing his winery in 1982. In 2015 his son Giacomo assumed the winemaking responsibilities after graduating from the University of Milano; he quickly began converting to biodynamic viticulture.
Importer: Monsieur Touton Selection

The Piedmont & Friuli 

Cantine Sant’Agata 2019 ‘Na Vota Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato 90  Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato is one of Italy’s smallest appellations with just 126 ha of Ruché vines and 20 producers. This medium dark red wine begins with a bouquet of subtle dark fruit with herbal accents. It’s softly textured but with a good backbone of acid and tannin. The grape is sometimes compared to Nebbiolo, and we find the palate has hints of tar and violets accompanying a good foundation of dark fruit. A bit rustic but interesting. The winery is located near the Piedmont village of Castagnole Monferrato in Scurzolengo. In 1990 the Cavallero family was the first to make a dry Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato, which until then had been vinified sweet. This bottle was sourced from four vineyards, destemmed and fermented in stainless steel. 13.5% alc. Claudio Cavallero is the winemaker. US Importer: Montcalm Wine Importers

Traditional Slovenian Botte at Valentino Butussi

Valentino Butussi 2015 Pignolo Friuli Colli Orientali (Corno di Rosazzo)  91  Grown in Corno di Rosazzo since at least the 1600s, the Pignolo grape almost disappeared during the phylloxera epidemic, but there’s been a slow resurgence of plantings since the 1970s. The dark red Pignolo shows a tangy nose of dark plum, berries and herbs. Soft yet juicy on a medium weight palate with meaty, cracked pepper complementing the dark fruit. 100% Pignolo (organically certified) from a 1/4 ha parcel planted in 2004 in Corno di Rosazzo, gently destemmed, fermented and aged 2 years in oak casks. In Friuli the wine is often paired with a beef stew called ciàr in padiele. The third generation of the Butussi family now manages the 30 ha estate. Alc 13.5% [€29]


Barone Sergio 2019 Moscà Sicilia DOC 90 Shows an effusive nose that evokes blood orange, pit fruit, and rose petals. Dry on the attack with good freshness and a bone dry, silky textured palate. Good concentration and balance. Its floral, sweet aromas suggest pairing with Asian cuisine. Hand-harvested Moscato Bianco sourced from the Noto area of Sicily, gently pressed and fermented in steel at 16° then aged in stainless steel tanks on the lees for 6 months. 13.9% alc. Famous for its Moscato di Noto, Barone Sergio is located in the Valley of Noto in Eastern Sicily in the Eloro DOC. Giovanni Rizzo is the winemaker who works with agronomist professor Lucio Brancadoro of the University of Milan. [€12]   Barone Sergio 2020 Alégre Grillo Sicilia DOC  90  Floral and fruity on the nose with scents that evoke white melon and pear. The palate is typical for Grillo–clean and crisp with prominent minerality and flavors that mimic the bouquet. An easy to drink white wine that should be well chilled when served. 13.5% alc. [€9.50] Barone Sergio 2018 Sergio Nero D’Avola Eloro (Sicilia) 90 Earthy dark red fruited nose. Scents of plum, blackberries and licorice. The palate is straightforward, round and soft with spice, herbs and a hint of forest floor complementing the dark fruit. An easy drinking Nero d’Avola from the Eloro DOC; hand harvested, fermented and aged 15 months in stainless steel. 13% alc. [€12]


Beconcini 2017 Ixe Tempranillo Toscana IGT ($25) 91  An unusual grape for Tuscany, but this Tempranillo made from vines brought centuries ago from Spain is varietally correct and reminiscent of Ribera del Duero. It offers a reticent nose of dark cherry with nuances of herbs and toasted oak. It’s round in the mouth with with earthy herbal notes and even a hint of menthol complementing dark red fruit. Interesting and well made. Sourced from certified organic Tempranillo planted massal selection from the pre-phylloxera vines Leonardo Beconcini discovered growing on his estate. The Beconcini estate is located in San Miniato near Pisa. Leonardo, and his wife Eva Bellagamba are the current owners and winemakers. 13.5% alc. Excellent value!

Castello La Leccia 2019 Chianti Classico (Castellina in Chianti) 90  Starbright ruby red. Showing a fruit forward cherry nose, this is a medium weight, fruit rich wine. It offers a clean palate with excellent freshness and purity of red fruit complemented by light earthy notes. Delicious, straightforward drinking! Destemmed, cold soaked 24 hours, then fermented in stainless steel and matured 12 months in 20-25hl botti. 14% alc. Owned by the Swiss Sonderegger family since 2018. This boutique wine resort offers beautiful accommodations.

Fattoria Fibbiano 2015 Ceppatella Sangiovese Terre di Pisa ($60) 89  Medium-light red. This Sangiovese from the Pisa hills of Tuscany offers a pleasing red cherry like nose with herbal-earthy notes that carry over to the medium weight, nicely flavored palate. It shows astringent tannins even though the wine is 7 years old vintage. Sourced from one of Tuscany’s oldest vineyards and fermented in stainless steel followed by 4 months aging concrete tank and another 30 months in Slavonian oak. Other reviewers have given this wine higher ratings, so perhaps this bottle was flawed. Fattoria Fibbiano is owned by the Cantoni familly, and Nicola Cantoni is the winemaker.

La Regola 2017 Lauro Toscana Bianco IGT ($) 89  The Lauro wine opens with scents of summer melon, pear and hints of oak barrel. The palate is full yet crisp with good acidity and depth of fruit flavors married to toasty oak. Made from hand harvested grapes and fermented and aged 6+ months in French oak. A blend of Viognier and Chardonnay produced by the Soc. Age. Podere La Regola. 13.5% alc.

Le Palaie 2016 Bulizio Rosso di Toscana ($24) 91 Semi opaque. This Bordeaux blend offers a fresh, dark fruited nose accented by wood spice. Smooth and fresh on entry with dark cherry and berry flavors, this is an especially well knit wine showing excellent balance and fine firm tannins. It’s a complete wine. A blend of 40% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Petit Verdot matured in French oak barriques for 12 months followed by 3 months in stainless steel and 24 months in bottle before release. 14.5% alc. Located in Peccioli in the Val d’Era, Le Palaie was founded by Angelo Nino Caponi in 1996; Andrea Secco is the winemaker. US Importer: Panebianco

Querceto di Castellina 2019 L’Aura Chianti Classico (Castellina in Chianti) 92  Named after Querceto’s owner, Laura Di Battista, this is a fruit forward Chianti Classico showing pomegranate and red cherry fruit with subtle herbal and forest floor notes. It shows pure, intense fruit flavors with racy acidity on a pretty and elegantly textured palate. [€16] All certified organic, handpicked Sangiovese grown in sandy clay with limestone marl soils at 420-500m elevation. Aged 12 months in 500L French oak. Guido Masini purchased this estate in 1945; his daughter Laura established her cooking school on the estate, and in 1998 his grandson Jacopo founded the winery. Gioia Cresti is the winemaker.

Vittorio Rossi

Quercia al Poggio 2019 Chianti Classico (Barberino Val d’Elsa) ($29) 91 Located in Barberina Val d’Elsa in the middle of Chianti country, the Quercia al Poggio’s organically cultivated vineyards produce the fruit that goes into this easy to drink Chianti Classico. Savory notes of herbs, underbrush and leather show on the nose, but fresh dark cherry appears on the well-balanced palate. They all come together to make for a wine that’s complex and interesting, especially for the price. A blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Ciegolo, Canaiolo, Malvasia Nero and Colorino aged 18 months in oak. Vittorio Rossi is the owner and winemaker. 13.5% alc. Importer: The Source Imports

Tenuta Montauto 2018 Pinot Nero Toscana IGT ($28) 91 Light red. This is an unusual variety to come out of the Maremma, but this rendition of Pinot Noir is quite successful and varietally correct. It offers subtle earthy, pomegranate and red cherry aromas mirrored on the palate with a hint of herbs. Lovely, long rich finish. Sourced from 15 year old, organically cultivated vines 10 km from the coast in the Tuscan Maremma. Hand picked, cold macerated for 48 hours, fermented in steel vats and matured 14 months in 1/3 new oak barrels. 13% alc. The vineyard has been in the family for 60 years; currently Riccardo Montauto is manager and winemaker. US Importer: Misa Imports



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