There are over 2,000 Italian indigenous grapes, and about 400 of them are in commercial production. We carry approximately 100 of these, including well-known favorites like Sangiovese, and little-known blending grapes like Corvinone.
Italian wine grapes are famously very attached to the regions where they were born. As one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world, these grapes have come to flourish under very specific conditions, such as Piedmont’s (Northern Italy) Nebbiolo grape, which thrives in its cool, foggy climate. Try to transplant a Nebbiolo vine 980 miles south to bright and sunny Sicily (about the distance from NYC to Missouri), and even though you’re still in the same country, Nebbiolo could never grow here with such extreme sun and heat. Less extreme examples are certainly true as well, which illustrates why you very rarely see Italian indigenous grape varieties planted outside of Italy, and outside of their respective regions.
This is in large contrast to some of France’s native varieties, for example, like Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, which all grow so well under a wide variety of conditions, that they have become known as “International Varieties.” These are grown in Italy as well, but the vast majority of winemakers here focus on indigenous varieties.
Aglianico is one of the world’s greatest red grapes that can create anything from fragrant, juicy, light-bodied wines, to deep, rich, and very age-worthy ones. There are many biotypes of Aglianico, but they all tend to have small pyramidal bunches with small, thick-skinned berries. The wines are typically firm and savory with a mineral quality and plenty of underlying fruit to go along with their big structure and depth of flavor. Usually from Campania or Basilicata, Aglianico has been nicknamed the “Barolo of the South.”
Arneis, in the local dialect means “little rascal,” because of its difficult cultivation, and used to be called Nebbiolo Bianco due to the prized nature of the grape (they share no relation). It used to be planted near precious Nebbiolo vines to attract birds to its sweet scent, and away from the Nebbiolo. Arneis wines are delicately straw green with aromas of white flowers, chamomile tea, white peach, and apricot, with flavors of citrus, ripe pear, and sweet almond. Typically light, cresh, and crisp.
One of the most widely planted native grapes in Italy, classic characteristics of Barbera include low tannins, high acidity and very concentrated color, which makes it good for blending. Generally Barberas have grape-forward aromas with red fruit, underbush and delicate spice on the palate, with a very dry finish.
Brachetto is an aromatic red grape that can generate both still and sparkling wines. Aromatic and light-bodied with lovely tart aromas and flavors of sour red cherry, red berry, and cherry pie.. Perfect with desserts.
This red grape varietal takes its name from the Latin “dies caniculares,” meaning “the dog days of August,” when this grape changes its color. Until the 1800s (pre-phylloxera), Canaiolo was the main grape of the Chianti blend. It was then switched to predominantly Sangiovese with Canaiolo added for fruitiness and the ability to soften the tannins of powerful Sangiovese. The two blend well together, and it is still commonly added to Chianti blends today. On its own, Canaiolo wines are soft and mellow, with elegant aromatics, herbaceous flavors, and gentle tannins.
In Sardinia, the Grenache grape is called Cannonau, a red grape variety with thin skin, low to medium acidity, and gentle tannins. Cannonau wines have recently become associated with longevity, because the skins contain high levels of polyphenols and are rich in anthocyanins, both of which have antioxidant properties linked to hearth health. The typical flavor profile of Sardinian Cannonau includes notes of peppery spice and tangy raspberry with a medium body.
Carricante is an ancient white grape variety indigenous to Sicily. This late-ripening white variety is commonly blended with Catarratto, but as a varietal wine, it produces a fresh, lightly fragrant wine with marked acidity. Like Chardonnay, Carricante is often subject to malolactic fermentation. The word Carricante comes from the Italian “caricare” meaning to “load up,” referring to the grape’s heavy yields and to when grapes were carried on a cart pulled by donkeys down the steep slopes of Mt. Etna.
Cataratto is a semi-aromatic white grape variety mainly planted in Sicily. Catarratto wines are generally fresh whites with a medium to full structure, mild acidity and a moderate alcohol level. The aromatic profile tends toward citrus fruit such as lemon, flowers, and tropical fruit with a touch of fine herbs and sweet spices. It typically has excellent salinity and a mineral feeling on the finish. It is commonly blended with Carricante.
Cesanese is one of the most important red grapes in the Lazio region and was very popular during papal Rome with high society. The profile of this wine is moderate in acidity with well-balanced tannins on the palate, red fruit aromas, and vanilla with a bitter finish. Herbaceous and savory wines like Cesanese will taste more fruit forward when paired with a rich, meaty dish.
Before DNA typing existed, Ciliegiolo used to be commonly confused with Sangiovese and other grapes growing in Tuscany and Umbria. Its name comes from the Italian for “cherries,” which is the dominant aroma that characterizes the wine. Often used to blend, Ciliegiolo yields fruit forward, crisp, slightly sweet wine with a graceful, refined mouthfeel, red cherry-berry notes and smooth tannins. It does not need much in the way of bottle aging, but even though drinkable young, it has strength of character and real interest.
Coda di Volpe is a white grape whose name translates to “fox tail,” because of its long, dangling bunches of grapes that resemble a fox’s tail. Typically grown in Campania near Naples, Coda di Volpe grapes are golden yellow in color and low in acidity, which is why they grow particularly well in the volcanic soil of the area. The soil imparts acidity into finished wines, which have fruity, citrusy aromatic profiles, with tropical, sweet, and spicy underlying notes.
Cortese is a white grape variety that is most famous for its role in the crisp, lime-scented wines of Gavi. The variety is known for its high acidity and freshness. Apple, peach, and honeydew flavors are commonly associated with Cortese wine, with lime, almond, and light herbal or grassy aromas.
This grape varietal is unique to the Veneto region of Italy. A well-made Corvina will call violet, blackberry, and red cherry to mind, with a delicate aromatic touch of fresh herbs on the nose. It is very high in tannins and also tends to have a bitter finish, though typically, you won’t see this grape as a monovarietal wine. It’s typically blended with Molinara, Corvinone, and others for Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG.
There are no monovarietal Corvinone wines, as this grape lends itself to Amarone blends. Its name means “Big Corvina.” Corvinone’s typical berry size and bunch size is larger than its counterpart, Corvina. Both Corvina and Corvinone are thick-skinned and so suitable for drying to make Amarone and Recioto wines.
In Piedmont, Dolcetto’s home, the name means “little sweet one.” There are eleven DOC wines made from this grape throughout Piedmont that all have different characteristics. Generally though, Dolcetto presents soft tannins and low acidity. A typical Dolcetto wine is intensely and brightly colored and offers dark, gently spicy aromas with earthy undertones of nutty notes in more tannic examples.
Falanghina is Campania’s signature white grape, and was introduced to Italy by settlers from ancient Greece. The name likely derives from the Latin “falangae,” meaning phalanx, or the method used to support vines in the vineyard that resembles the military formation of ancient Roman troops (also reminiscient of the word phalanges, or finger bones). The wines tend to be high in acidity with floral, herbal, and tropical fruit notes on the palate.
Fiano is a white grape variety that is grown primarily in the Campania region of southern Italy. It has a long history in the region and is thought to have existed in the area as far back as ancient Roman times. Fiano has small, thick-skinned berries that famously produce very little juice, though with strong flavors and intense aromatics. Young Fiano often has intense honey and floral notes that develop into more spicy and nutty notes over time.
Frappato is one of Sicily’s oldest grape varieties. The bunches are compact, in a pyramidal shape, with medium size round-oval berries. This variety is characterized by low acidity, low tannins and low sugar concentration, which means shorter fermentation and low alcohol levels. Frappato comes from the Latin word “fresia” which means strawberry – the main aroma that characterizes the wine and suggests its light red color.
Tocai Friulano is a historical grape, now more commonly called Friulano, because the term “Tokay” may only legally refer to Hungarian wines. A good Friulano is pale straw green in color with delicate aromas of white flowers, sweet almond, and green apple. Oak is also sometimes used carefully with this wine.
Gaglioppo’s name is derived from a Greek word meaning “beautiful foot,” because the bunches are pink, plump and very appealing. Gaglioppo is an ancient red grape varietal that produces wines that are full bodied, high in alcohol and tannins, and quite ageworthy.
This white grape mainly grows in Veneto, most famously in Conegliano and Valdobbiadene zones. Glera is the famous Prosecco grape, which is semi-aromatic, complex and refined in fragrance, with light floral and fruity flavors.
Grechetto is a white grape with thick skins that makes light-bodied, lemony, and easygoing wines with an hint of white flowers, chamomile, lime and apple, generally with high acidity.
The Greco grape is very recognizable due to its extremely opulent appearance and bright yellow berries. The wine’s typical aromas and flavors include yellow flowers, honey, peach, pear and ripe tropical fruit; enjoyable when young.
Grignolino is a red grape from Piedmont which exudes a lovely aroma of fresh flowers, small berries, and spices such as white pepper. Grignolinos also have high acidity and crisp tannins that make them great pairings for fatty food.
Grillo is another word in Sicilian for “pips,” referring to the seeds in grapes. It is an ancient white grape variety, most famous for its role in the island’s fortified Marsala wines. The berries are small, with thick skins covered with bloom. The color of their peel is a greenish yellow that takes on reddish hues in the final stage of maturation. The wines obtained from Grillo are of a pale and bright straw yellow color. The fruity and citrus scents integrate with the floral notes of wild flowers and orange blossom. On the palate the wine is fresh and well structured with a pleasant, slightly sapid and mineral finish.
Lacrima means teardrop in Italian, because the berries have the tendency to leak juice down the bunches, resembling tears. Lacrima wines are aromatic and richly flavored, showing intense floral and spice character on the nose with a fresh, berry-dominant palate.
The word Lagrein has a Greek origin, “lagarinthos,” which means “hanging.” Lagrein wine has a very dark garnet color with subtle violet reflections, with aromas of black woodland berries like blackberry or bilberry, violets, hints of dark chocolate, and a mouth full of spiciness; completed by a long finish and velvety tannins. It is usually full bodied and tannic, but not heavy. Lagrein is a descendant of Teroldego, another Trentino variety, and is also related to Syrah and Pinot Noir.
Lambrusco Grasparossa is one of several Lambrusco grapes, and one that tends to produce the best and most consistent Lambrusco wines. Grapsarossa grapes create creamy and full bodied wines, with ripe black cherry and dark plum aromas and flavors.
Malvasia del Lazio is a white grape that is also called Malvasia Puntinata, which means speckled, due to the appearance of the grapes which have rust colored spots on ripe berries. Malvasia wines presents spicy aromas of musk and apricot with rather high residual sugar levels that is particularly suitable for the production of sparkling wines and sweet wines.
Malvasia delle Lipari is a white grape variety from Sicily that offers great depth and complexity. The berry is white, with tender and thin skin, golden-yellow flesh and a sweet and aromatic flavor. Malvasia di Lipari is generally vinified after drying, making its condensed flavors ideal for dessert wines. It has a sweet and delicate scent, with notes of honey, ripe apricot and tamarind.
Malvasia Nera is a dark, thin-skinned grape from the Malvasia family, mainly grown in Puglia where there are two different kinds of Malvasia – Nera di Brindisi and Nera di Lecce. This varietal is aromatic and can be used for dry, sparkling or sweet wines.
Mantonico is a naturally tannic white grape variety that is very versatile, making either dry wines or sweet wines. This varietal is both highly acidity and tannic, and not viewed as aromatic.
Molinara is mainly used in blends such as Amarone and Valpolicella to add balanced acidity. It is known for its bright red fruit flavors and a certain floral character, but rarely seen outside of these wines.
The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grape is often confused with the Tuscan wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is actually Sangiovese. The Montepulciano grape is one of the most widely planted grapes in Italy, and creates easy drinking wines, that can either be made without oak for soft and approachable wines or with oak, making rich, tannic, powerful, and dark wines.
This grape is used to produce Piedmont’s Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti. Moscato is recognizable for its unmistakable bouquet that almost always includes musk, peach, and sage, with secondary aromas of lime, wisteria, honey and white flowers. In sparkling wines, you can also find creamy notes due to the yeast. Typically low in alcohol with elegant structure, but always compact, with medium freshness and low minerality.
From this grape, two of the most world-renowned wines are made: Barolo and Barbaresco, with many more DOCs and DOCGs throughout northern Italy. The name Nebbiolo comes from the word “nebbia,” which means “fog,” a very common occurence in Piedmont where it mostly grows. Nebbiolo produces very different wines depending on where it is grown. In general, Nebbiolo expresses as bold, tannic, and elegant red wines. The color of these wines is light and bright, turning more brick in color with age. Nebbiolo’s typical nose includes delicate red fruit and roses, with cherry, leather, coffee, tar, anise, and earthy notes on the palate, with grippy tannins.
Negroamaro’s name is derived from the Greek and Latin words “mavros” and “niger” both meaning black, and refers to the dark color of the berries. Wines are medium bodied, with typical aromas of black fruit, tobacco and dried berries.
Nerello Cappuccio is a dark-skinned grape variety that takes the name “cappuccio” from the appearance of the vine having a thick crown or cap that hides the grapes from view. Nerello Cappuccio produces a soft wine with intense color, with cherry flavors on the palate that can reach high acidity levels and boisterous tannins.
Nerello Mascalese is a dark, thick skinned grape varietal that mostly grows on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna. The characteristics are medium to small oval grapes of light blue color. The varietal is actually part of the extended Sangiovese family.
In the Sicilian dialect, Nero d’Avola means “black from Avola.” It is a very dark-skinned grape varietal that is typically high in tannins with medium acidity and a full body. This varietal can express itself in many different ways, from years of aging in oak barrels, to young and fresh wines made for immediate consumption. Since Nero d’Avola is so generous in color, it is also commonly used to produce rosé wines.
Nosiola is a versatile grape variety that, like few others, can deliver both pleasant dry white wine with crisp lemony zip, or complex sweet wines. The word derives from Nocciola, “hazelnut,” due to the color and also the nutty aromas that exude from the wine.
The Passerina grape is a hardy variety that can be quite complex and special, with herbal notes, ripe citrus, and tropical fruit flavors and high acidity. Passerina is used to make sparkling wine as well.
This grape takes its name from the shephards who used to eat its berries while accompanyning their flocks of sheep up and down the valleys serching for food. Pecorino is usually delicately herbal with balsamic nuances to crisp apple and pear aromas and flavors. As the wine ages it develops an almost milky, cheesy aroma. Acidity is high in these typically medium-bodied wines.
Piedorosso means “red foot,” which references the red color of dove’s feet. Piedirosso is the most ancient and also most widely planted grape in Campania. Typical flavors in these wines include plum, cherry and brambly wild berry fruit. More complex characteristics such as espresso, mushroom and earthy notes expressed in high quality versions.
The name Pigato means “spotted” in the local dialect. As a biotype of Vermentino, Pigato has a similar saline nuance but creamier texture. Aromas and flavors recall delicate notes of apricot, peach and ripe apple with musky floral notes.
The name Primitivo refers to this grape’s tendency to ripen early in the season. A dark skinned grape that produces almost black, tannic, and high-alcohol wines, the flavor profile is fruit driven, earthy, and rustic. Primitivo wines express themselves quite differently than their California counterparts, where the grape is called Zinfandel.
Refosco has very dark blue berries with thin, but resistant skin. The wines tend to have intensely vinous notes and touches of wild blackberries and spicy-savory flavors on the palate, with developed tannins and a hint of pleasant bitterness.
In Italy, this variety only grows in Friuli Venezia Giulia and both subregions where it is grown are DOC designated. The wines are reddish-amber tinged, with fresh buttercup, tangerine and lemony-pepper notes. High acidity is very characteristic of these wines.
Rondinella is an Italian red-wine grape variety that most commonly appears in the blend for Recioto and Amarone, to add herbal flavors and to plump up the wine.
For Rossese, soil is crucial, because this grape is a very good translation of its terroir. Wines are always vibrant with high acidity and a dry mouthfeel. Aromas range from violets, red currant, and graphite to roses and strawberries.
Sagrantino is a red grape from Umbria that produces high quality, very ageable wines. The DOCG is called Montefalco Sagrantino, is also one of the most tannic wines produced in Italy. However, they are smooth and polished, and this full body red is a perfect match for rich, umami dishes.
Sangiovese is the crown jewel of Tuscany. It was introduced by the Etruscan population, and its name recalls the Etruscan word “Sanisva,” which refers to a funeral offer. Legend also suggests that since the grapes were very juicy, rich and strong, they were thought to be associated with the glorious blood of Jupiter, as the name suggests. Sangiovese stands on its own as a monovarietal wine, but is also commonly blended with weaker grapes to lend the final wines strength. The soil for this varietal is crucial and can make a big difference in the quality of the wine and how its aromatic profile is expressed.
Schiava makes light-bodied red wines with aromas of cotton candy, strawberry, bubblegum, and lemon candy. The wine is delicate and light in color. On the palate, the flavors are quite subtle and producers in Alto Adige will often make a dry style as to not overwhelm the palate with sweetness, which is already provided by the aromas. It is native to the South Tyrol area and has been cultivated since Roman times.
Teroldego is a historically significant grape from Trentino which means “the gold of Tyrol.” It produces darkly colored wines with ripe red cherry, tar, fresh herb, and slightly vegetal aromas. Its bright acidity makes it a versatile food wine. Teroldego is also related to Syrah.
Timorasso is a Piedmontese white grape that yields crisp, high acid and very mineral-forward wines, with white floral aromas, ripe stone fruit, and bright citrus on the palate. Its high acidity makes it a white wine that is suitable for aging.
Trebbiano Abruzzese is the correct and official name of the variety, often confused with Bombino Bianco. Trebbiano Abruzzese is a real gem, with high quality wines presenting a hint of white flowers and stone fruit on the nose, a creamy mouthfeel, and plenty of acidity with a citrusy minerality. Characterized by large leaves with five lobes and large long pyramidal bunches, the berries’ color is a deep straw-green when fully ripe.
Whie Verdeca has an uncertain origin, the grape was named after the green color of its berries. Wines can range from quite neutral and herbal, to more aromatic with mixed citrus flavors. Verdeca has been increasingly used to make monovarietal wines of distinction and historically was used in the production of vermouth, a popular aperitif in twenthieth- century in Italy.
Verdicchio, as the name suggests was named after the green color of its berries. Verdicchio grapes ripen slowly and evenly and always maintain high levels of tartaric acid, meaning that these wines can be crisp and refreshing but also very age- worthy. Verdicchio wines are very floral and delicately fruity, and older wines have a distinct flintiness. In both the young and aged expressions, Verdicchio often has a sweet almond-marzipan note.
Vermentino does best in poorly fertile soils and salty marine air, with dry climates and bright sun exposure. Vermentino can range from light and fresh to structured and highi in alcohol, offering a large range of flavors and aromas. Typically, Vermentino wines are dominant in citrus to ripe tropical fruit with floral and herbal notes with saline finish.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano is the name of both the grape and wine produced in Tuscany, and was the first Italian wine to receive a DOC appellation in the late 1960s, earning DOCG status in the early 1990s. Wines are usually bright, citrusy, and crisp, showing more of a mineral profile with age.
Vespolina creates light-red colored wines, with sour red cherry and berry aromas lifted by balsamic notes, roses, violets and spices like pepper on the nose. Typically planted in Northern Piedmont around Gattinara and Ghemme. Vespolina is typically blended with other grapes, such as Bonarda Piemontese and Nebbiolo.