An ancient variety grown in the Roero area west of Alba in Piemonte in northwest Italy. Difficult to grow, in the regional dialect "Arneis" means whimsical or little rascal. It was often blended into red wine to soften tannins, much as the French use Viognier in the Northern Rhône. Arneis was often planted in between Nebbiolo, sometimes as a field blend that was co-fermented, but also to distract the birds and bees from the red grapes.
Recently Piemontese wineries started making significant amounts of wine from the grape, producing fine, floral, citrusy wines. Arneis wines are charming, with aromas and flavors of peaches and hints of almonds.
Muscat Canelli (also known as Moscato Bianco in Italy and Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains in France) is the oldest and perhaps best variety of Muscat, a grape that is grown across Europe - from Portugal to Greece, and throughout the world - in South Africa, Australia and the USA. In Piemonte (around the town of Canelli), it produces the sparkling Asti Spumante and semi-sparkling Moscato d'Asti. The grape is also used to make an exotically perfumed sweet wine in Valle d'Aosta to the north.
Amazingly fragrant (rose petals and lichee fruit come to mind), Moscato Canelli's fresh grapey character is easy to recognize, even when distilled as grappa! The best examples combine creaminess, a bright, refreshing fruitiness and a crisp, lingering finish.
Related to Pinot Noir, this varietal has a pink, or grey, skin, but is used to produce white wines. It is grown thoughout Italy and all too often, over-production and early picking results in watery, insipid wines, but when grown and vinifed with care, Pinot Grigio produces full-bodied, complex wines.
Pinot Grigio wines can have a hint of pink color, with slightly spicy aromas combining with flavors of peach and apricot.
As the name suggests, this varietal is native to Friuli-Venezia Giulia in northeastern Italy. Despite the similarities in the name, the grape is not related to the Tokay of Alsace or the Takaji of Hungary.
The grape is used to make the signature Friulian white wine: fleshy with hints of peaches, pears and almonds, yet with a palate-cleansing zing of minerals and acid.
Barbera is the most adaptable and vigorous of the three main red grape varietals in Piemonte, which has led to a vast range of styles in wine there. The constants are a high level of natural acidity and a relatively low level of tannin. When planted on choice sites, the resulting wines are denser, with a concentration of red cherry flavors.
It is used to produce the famed wines from the DOCs of Barbera d'Asti, Barbera d'Alba and Barbera del Monferrato, where the wines range from vino fresca (that emphasize fresh red fruit flavors in a simpler, leaner, more acidic style) to denser, more extracted styles (in which the weight of the fruit is balanced by rich, toasty notes from time spent in oak barrels).
A native to Piemonte, Dolcetto ripens early and produces deeply colored wines with low acids and soft , even sweet, tannins with push, black fruit flavors. Dolcetto wines can be fruit forward, and are usually drunk young. But recent wines produced in Dogliani have shown that oak barrel aging, or blending with a more tannic varietal such as Nebbiolo, can produce wines that are still immensely enjoyable when young, but that will also benefit from being aged.
A native to Alto Adige, where it grows well in sandy alluvial soil and receives the intense heat it needs to ripen. Lagrein produces wines that are very distinctive - savory, herbal flavors with hints of tobacco; red fruit is contrasted with an earthiness that is the characteristic of the grape.
In Alto Adige, Lagrein is made into both a spicy, fragrant, spicy rosé and a dark, dry red.
One of Italy's most noble red grapes, used in the often ethereal wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. Late-ripening and sensitive to adverse vintage conditions, it produces Italy's most uniquely perfumed and powerful reds.
Nebbiolo is known for being fiercely tannic, which lead to its wines reputations for being very long-lived. After several years in barrel and a couple of decades in bottle, the wines balance sweet, savory and spicy elements in penetrating, perfumy aromas; dried red fruit flavors combine with a complexity of wild roses, truffles and cinnamon.
Sangiovese is Italy's "other" noble grape. It is grown throughout Italy, but is the base of classic DOC wines such as Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano. It is also the base of "super-Tuscan" wines, where it is blended with international varietals such as Merlot.
Its telltale character is an aroma of black cherries buttressed by scents of wood, smoke, tar and herbs. Careful winemaking captures not only the perfume of Sangiovese but also its power; often they have a sheen of new oak and are supported by a touch of Cabernet or Merlot to produce dense, dark, ageworthy reds.
Although not a native, Merlot has been grown in Italy since the 18th Century and is now the third most planted varietal behind Sangiovese and Barbera. In Friuli, Merlot produces powerful, barrique-aged reds; in Tuscany, Merlot wines, alone or in combination with Sangiovese, help define the region.
Merlot ripens easily in cooler climates and produces plump and plummy wines in warmer ones.