Aglianico, Aleatico, Autochthonous vines, Bombino Bianco, Cacc'e Mmitt, Falanghina, Italian language wine glossary, Italian wines, Malvasia Nera, Moscato di Trani, Susumaniello, Verdeca, Wines of Puglia, Zibibbo
In my last post I wrote about the history of vini di Puglia and featured the 3 most common grapes. Puglia has many vitigni autoctoni (Autochthonous grapes or native grapes) that are not very well-known. You might not ever try them unless you visit Puglia! Many of these grapes were on the verge of extinction but are recently becoming more popular and grown with more care. You may have also noticed that most vini Pugliese are red. 80% of grapes grown are red, as the climate is too hot for most white grapes.
Aglianico (ahl·yah·NEE·koh) is named for ‘Hellanico’ meaning Greek or from Apulianicum, the Latin name for Puglia. Brought to Italia by Greek settlers, it is found in Basilicata, Campania and in Puglia near the Basilicata border. It thrives in volcanic soil and is grown mostly near Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano in Basilicata (Aglianico del Vulture DOC). Ripening late in October, it is full-bodied and musky with berry flavours, chocolate and plum aromas, firm tannins and high acidity. In Ancient Roma it may have been the main grape in the prized red Falernian wine, but there is no real evidence.
Aleatico (al·eh·ah·TEE·koh) Not the same grape as Aglianico. Aleatico is a member of the Moscato famiy, so it is a sweet grape. It is believed to be native to Puglia or possibly brought by the Ancient Greeks. Grown in the Bari area and Salento, it is used for dessert wine and has the aroma of roses, berries and lychee. Aleatico di Puglia DOC, known for its pomegranate colour, is Aleatico with Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera. Aleatico is also grown on Elba, where Aleatico di Portoferraio was enjoyed by Napoleon while he was in exile.
Bombino Bianco means little white bomb. The name may come from the word bonvino. Bombino Bianco is often confused with Trebbiano. In fact, in Abruzzo it is known as Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, but it is not the same as the Trebbiano grape that is grown in other parts of Italia. So confusing! It is a late ripening, high yield crop that produces an inexpensive mild white vino. Because of the high yield and amount of juice it was known as ‘pagadebito’ or ‘straccia cambiale’ (‘debt payer’ or ‘invoice ripper’). In the past, Bombino was grown as a ‘cash crop’ and shipped straight to Northern Europe, without even bottling, to be sold as generic white table wine. It is now grown with more care, especially in the San Severo area of Foggia. San Severo uses Bombino Bianco with Malvasia Bianca, Falanghina or Verdeca. There is also a Bombino Nero grape, used in Castel del Monte DOC red and rosé wines.
Cacc’e Mitt (KAH∙cheh∙MMEE∙te) is produced in the Monti Dauni of Foggia, in Lucera, Biccari and Troia. It is made up of Uva di Troia with Montepulciano, Malvasia Nera, Susumaniello, and sometimes Bombino Bianco. The name of this vino is dialetto for ‘togli e metti’ meaning ‘take out and put back’. This is often thought to mean the glass is always refilled because it is so drinkable. It actually refers to old winemaking techniques. The cantina and equipment were borrowed and shared, so the wine was made quickly and tubs emptied to give space to the next contadino. Cacc’e Mitt was ‘vino dei poveri’ wine of the poor. After the vendemmia, contadini would pass through again and collect what was left of the various grapes. This is why white grapes are also included. The Cacc’e Mitt Festival is held every year in Lucera at the end of August/beginning of September.
Falanghina is an ancient white grape brought by Greek settlers in the 7-8th Century BC. The name comes from the Latin ‘falanghae’, the stakes that supported the grapevines. I wonder if this is related to ‘phalanges’, the anatomical name for the finger bones? Grown in Puglia, but more common in Campania, Falanghina is yellow skinned and has a slight pine scent and orange, apple and pear aromas. Falanghina may have been one of the grapes in Falernian white, the most famous wine of Ancient Roma.
Malvasia is the name of a group of related grapes from the Mediterranean, mostly white, with a handful of reds for blending. Of ancient origin, the name comes from the Monemvasia fortress near Sparta or Malevizi on Crete. Malvasia is related to the Athiri grape grown all over Greece. Malvasia was 1 of 3 major wines exported from Greece in the middle ages. It grows well in dry climates, sloping terrain and well-drained soil.
Malvasia Nera –parents are Negroamaro and Malvasia Bianca Lunga. It is mostly a blending grape used with Negroamaro. Salice Salentino wine is Negroamaro with 15% Malvasia Nera, Nardò is Negroamaro with Malvasia Nera di Lecce. It has a dark colour and smells like chocolate covered cherries!
Moscato di Trani The main grape in Moscato di Trani is Moscato Bianco, of Ancient Greek origins. Trani is a beautiful port town that is definitely worth seeing. Wines from Puglia were traded via Trani to Venezia, starting in the 11th century. In 1974, Moscato di Trani 1974, was one of the first vini Pugliese to achieve DOC status in. It is vino dolce, a sweet dessert wine that goes well with almonds, pastries, and mild cheeses. It is a gold colour with woody and spicy aromas. Moscato di Trani is produced in the Trani and Bari areas and also in Cerignola and Trinitapoli, Provincia di Foggia.
Susumaniello, also called Somarello is among the most obscure grape varieties. An ancient grape only found in Puglia, it is originally from Greece or Croatia. It is the offspring of Sangiovese with the white Garganega grape. It is high yield and usually blended with Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera. It is a deep ruby colour with the aroma of red berries, plums and peppery dark chocolate. Somarello is dialetto for asinello or little donkey, implying the grapevines are heavily loaded like a donkey.
Tuccanese-Featured in Vini di Puglia post #3, coming soon!
Verdeca is a white blending grape from Croatia. Verdeca + Primitivo are the parents for Plavina Crna, a red grape found only in Croatia. Interestingly, Verdeca is not found in Croatia today. Verdeca is grown in the ‘trulli’ areas of Alberobello, Locorotondo, Cisternino, Fasano, Martina France, Ceglie Messapica and Ostuni. Locorotondo DOC and Martina Franca DOC are delicate dry whites and spumanti made with Verdeca, Bombino Bianco and Malvasia grapes.
Zibibbo This last one is not a common grape in Puglia, but I had to include it for sentimental reasons. I asked Papà what grapes were grown at La Cupa in my Nonno’s campagna. He said ‘Tuccanese, Malvasia Bianca, Mene di vacca and Zibib’. Zibib? What is a Zibib??? I looked it up and there actually is a grape called Zibibbo or Zibib. It means ‘dried grape’ in Egyptian (Zibib) or Arabic (Zabib). One of the oldest unmodified vines in existence, it is also called Moscato d’Alessandria. It is used to make Passito di Pantelleria, a white moscato from the Sicilian volcanic island of Pantelleria. The Zibib at La Cupa was planted by my Bisnonno Antonio in the early 1900’s so who knows how it got there!
Un Lessico per Vinicolture/A Glossary of Viniculture terms
DOC/DOCG=Denominazione di Origine Controllata (G=e Garantita) =controlled designation of origin/controlled and guaranteed designation of origin. A quality assurance label for Italian food products.
Vendemmia=the grape harvest
Vendemmiare=to harvest the grapes
Vitigno=species of grapevine
Vitigni autoctoni=autochthonous grapes, which are native or indigenous
Salute! Vini di Puglia Part 3, Il Tuccanese coming soon!