Albana, Boschera,  Erbaluce, Incrocio Bruni, Maceratino: Rare Italian White Grapes Plus Pairings #ItalianFWT

Verovino imports intersting Italians

Ready to expand your indigenous Italian white wine horizons beyond Moscato (sweet and/or sparkling), Prosecco (made from the Glera grape), Soave’s Garganega, or Pinot Grigio? Maybe you’re already familiar with grapes like these as well as Trebbiano, which is grown in at least 80 Italian DOCs, making it the most widely grown white grape in all of Italy. Well we have some grapes for you to discover! Ever heard of these rare white grapes?

  • Albana
  • Boschera 
  • Erbaluce
  • Incrocio Bruni
  • Maceratino

Just how rare are these grapes? In Italian Grapes Unplugged: Grape by Grape, these grapes are listed as “rare” and some are being recovered after almost going extinct. This is the first time we’ve tasted three of these grapes, and

this is the first time Boschera has ever been tasted in the US! How special and rare is that?

You’d think you’d have to go to Italy to find wines as rare as these. But in the US, we are fortunate that importer Sheila Donohue is connecting passions: her passion for these specail wines, the passion of the producers, and the passion of consumers like us. She’s finding the wineries, convincing these families to trust her with their special wines, importing  them, and helping us to find them via her weekly informative blog articles and regular “VeroTalks.”   

I mean, really, why go all the way to Italy when you can get these amazing, affordable, natural, and sustainable wines here in the US? (Well, I’m going to Italy in September and early October; more on why in the next post!) 

This month discover these and more native grapes of Italy with the Italian Food Wine and Travel group of wine writers hosted by Italian Wine Ambassador and expert Marcia Hamm; read her informative invitation here. Scroll down to read their topics, click links to their articles, and to find the prompts for our 8am Sat. 6/4/22 Pacific twitter chat.

First, other than rare, weird, or little known, what makes a grape “native”? I explored this topic last year as part of my studies with VinItaly where my partner and I produced this video:

In the video which we filmed at The Wine Vault near the San Francisco Wine Academy where the tasting  portion of the class was help , I quote Italian wine expert Ian D’Agata from his book Italian Wine Unplugged where he defines “native grapes” as those “born in a specific place and have remained almost exclusively associated with that location.” According to D’Agata,  another word for native is autochthonous, deriving from the Greek word “auto” meaning “own” and “khthôn” meaning “earth”. 

A grape that’s native is from its “own earth” or its own place on earth,

However, if a variety came from elsewhere, but has been associated with its new home for thousands or even hundreds of years, it can also be considered “native.” 

D’Agata says that many of the grapes that we think of as Italian natives are actually of Greek or Middle Eastern origin having been brought to Italy by returning Roman legionnaires, seafaring Phoenician traders, and Greek colonists.

Instead of “native” some grapes are merely locals. But these locals have adapted and changed greatly over the years in which they have made mountainous Italy their home. Due to a number of factors, including disease and economic pressure, many of these native grapes were forgotten for most of the twentieth century. However, “Passionate estate owners in Italy have always replanted and nurtured vines of rare varieties that they felt were capable of yielding good wines,” writes D’Agata. 

Ready to check out these wines? 

WINES imported from Italy by Verovino

  • 2019 Braschi Seco Albana
  • 2018 Zanon Boschera Brut Nature
  • 2021 Antonella Piatti Favalospa Erbaluce 
  • 2017 Quercia Scarlatta Marchese Japo:
    70% Maceratino, 20% Incrocio Bruni 54, 10% Trebbiano  

MENU

  • Cheeseboard:
    Mitica Fontina Val D’Aosta (oldest cheese in Italy), Boshetto Al Tartufo, La Tur, Artichoke bruschetta, nasturtium pesto, truffle almonds 
  • Ceasar Salad
    with anchovies and homemade dressing 
  • Organic pasta
    with browned butter and grated Ricotta Salata
  • Grilled artichoke
    Steamed with lemon herbs then grilled (recipe below)
  • Gretel’s Red Snapper
    from the Farmer’s Market, grilled with kosher salt and olive oil, yopped with a gremolata of olive oil, lemon juice, caper, parsley, garlic and mediteranian seasoning. 
  • Fresh Mussels
    cooked in the lemon and herbs from the artichokes 

Gretel noted: “This was one of the most successful evenings we have had as far as pairings and wine. Everything worked in one way or another.” Indeed, a spectacular meal paired with intriguing wines.

2017 Quercia Scarlatta | Marchese Japo

2017 Quercia Scarlatta | Marchese Japo  
ABV 13.0%
SRP $22
Imported by Verovino; more details here
Organic Grapes: 70% Maceratino, 20% Incrocio Bruni 54, 10% Trebbiano (likely Toscana) 
Sample for my review provided by Verovino

Quercia Scarlatta means red oak, and these grapes are so very rare and unusual with the two primary grapes new to importer Sheila Donohue. The name Maceratino comes from where the area where the grapes come from.

Why import this Natural Organic Vegan White Wine Blend?

“What struck me initially is the grapes, grapes I’d never had before. I get all excited about trying a new grape,” Sheila said in a recent interview. “I really liked the taste and when I brought the sample over to the US the feedback was very positive. People thought it was oaked but it’s on the lees for like 9 months and that substitutes for the extra flavors that you can get from oak.” 

This blend of hard-to-find native varieties comes from the province of Macerata in Le Marche, Italy, a hilly area just to the east of Tuscany not far from the Adriatic Sea. Quercia Scarlatta uses minimal intervention and native yeast fermentation; this wine was on the lees for six months with weekly battonage which contributes to its complexity. 

Color: Buttercup, daffodil, golden yellow, pretty rich color

Aroma: Fennel pollen, fennel, meadow flowers, clean minerals, citrus flower, white flower, chamomile

Palate: Lemon, Meyer lemon, fresh and clean, fennel, very nice roundness that has great lemon acidity

Pairing: Very versatile. I paired it with a number of dishes including sushi, salad, pesto pasta, fried calamari, and fish tacos where it loved the creamy yet slightly spicy sauce (for locals, the fish tacos were grilled and from Spencer McKenzies). 

2021 Antonella Piatti | Favalospa Erbaluce

2021 Antonella Piatti | Favalospa Erbaluce  

ABV 13.0% 
SRP $24
Grapes: Organic Erbaluce
Imported by Verovino; details here   
Sample for my review provided by Verovino

Never had Erbaluce? Not surprising. “Erbaluce is even hard in Italy to find,” says Sheila,. and she recounted a story of the challenges a restaurant had of trying to get this grape, much less this wine from a small producer like Antonella Piatti who says “We don’t sell to restaurants and wine stores.” She’s not even sure how she ended up selling it to Sheila who really liked her story and what she does, and when Sheila conveyed her enthusiasm, Antonella was won over. They do mainly field blends with Nebbiolo as the predominant grape, and Sheila hopes to import them in the future.   

Woman winemaker Antonella Piatti’s  Erbaluce comes from the famous Caluso DOCG denomination, and is fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel tanks for a clean, fresh, and vibrant expression of the grape.

Color: Pale gold, gold jewelry

Aroma: Very pretty nose, meadow flowers, grasses, vanilla, chamomile, lemon, herbs, wild roses. Every time we came back to this wine Sue loved the expressive nose.

Palate: Very lemony with a green herbal finish, parsley, sour grass, quite acidic, fresh and lovely. 

Pairing: Gretel was not excited with the truffle nut and the wine, the aged Fontina and the wine were just blah together, fabulous with the truffle cheese the two together are a bit explosive, very nice with the pesto, the spiciness of the works well with the wine, a basil pesto might be a bit better, very nice with the artichoke bruschetta, the wine works very nicely with lemon and herbs, so good with the La Tur, Great with the Cesar salad, also fantastic with the fish, both dishes have lots of lemon and herbs, very nice with the pasta dish the creamy richness of the pasta works well to tame the tart brightness of the wine. Perfect with the mussels.

2018 Zanon Boschera Brut Nature

2018 Zanon Boschera Brut Nature 

ABV 11.5%
SRP $32
Grapes Boschera 
Imported by Verovino; details here
Sample for my review provided by Verovino

There are only about 15 acres of this grape grown in the world, making it exceptionally rare. So rare this grape has never been in the U.S. before– and we are the first to taste it and write about it!

Sheila says she got really excited about five years ago when she learned about it at a friends house when she was there for dinner. At the time he was not interested in exporting but “I just kept after him. Last year he was willing to have me visit.” 

And with her passion, and her vision of connecting small producers with consumers, she convinced him to trust her and to allow her to import the wine to the US.

A Brut Nature, the grapes are aged following skin contact. While this Natural Sparkling wine is made in the traditional method just like in Champagne, it might also be called a col fundo. Having a vintage is an indication of quality.

This wine checks all the boxes… skin contact, native yeast fermentation, refermented in the bottle on the lees…

Boschera is a grape indigenous to the Valdobbiadene area that Eros Zanon brought back from probable extinction. With aging in the bottle, 36 months on the lees, made with native yeast fermentation, and with two days of contact with the skins, the wine has it contemplative and exceptional with or without food.

Color: Hint of cloudiness, more like a fog than a cloud, very delicate tiny bubbles, lemon yellow, 

Aroma: there is a warmth to the wine, amber, sandalwood, pine wood, ponderosa pine,  sweet florals, honeysuckle, toasted nuts, almond, apricot pit, golden delicious apple, asian pear, light brioche, citrus, Meyer lemon, tangerine, 

Palate: White flowers, pomelo, delicate light bubbles, violet pastelles on the finish, long and dry, not dry from acidity, dry from minerals, clay, the wine changes and morphs the entire time it is in the glass, 

Pairing: Heavenly with the La Tur, great with the mitica bringing out the beautiful nuttiness in the wine. The creaminess in the truffle cheese brings out the fizziness in the wine. Nice with the artichoke bruschetta, fabulous with the fish loving the capers and lemon. Also very nice with the muscles the muscles are so sweet and love the salinity of the ocean, very nice with the browned butter and creamy ricotta salata, Omg  for Sue with the Cesar salad. the wine is so versatile it has great acidity with wonderful richness. 

2019 Braschi Albana

2019 Braschi Albana 

ABV 14.5%
SRP $22
Grapes: EU certified Organic Albana
Imported by Verovino; details here
Sample for my review provided by Verovino

Albana is a white grape that acts like red grapes– super thick skinned, super high acidity, lends itself to being a sweet wine. They’ve grown since Sheila started importing them, so they are a bit larger and better known than others. 

We’ve written about Braschi before– check out these articles:

Color: Daffodil, deep gold, buttercup

Aroma: Rich, sage, chaparral, white flowers, daisy, rich in minerals, wet stone, quite expressive, 

Palate: Meyer lemon, tartness at the tip of the palate, roundness mid palate, and richness on the finish, lingering fresh and clean, 

Pairing: Lovely with the La Tur, the wine fights with green, It did not care for the artichoke the pesto and the green olives, great with the truffle cheese, the pairing is fantastic, three star pairing, the wine and the food enhance each other, works well with the parmesan cheese crisps, loves the creamy richness of the muscles, the flavors and richness of the food works well with the wine. Fabulous with the parmesan crisps. Gretel said, “When we were tasting through the wines, it was my least favorite of the three, but with the meal it is my favorite.” 

The wine went so nicely with every aspect of the meal. 

Grilled Artichokes

Ingredients

  • 5 cloves garlic smashed
  • 2 shallots large chopped, 
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 3 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 1 qt chicken broth
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 or 3 whole artichokes

Directions

  • Clean artichokes and slice in half
  • with a spoon clean out the choke 
  • In a large dutch oven saute shallots, garlic lemon, and oregano in olive oil. 
  • place artichokes halves cut side down in the pan and add chicken broth.
  • bring to a boil and cover. Cook 25 to 40 minutes until tender.
  • pull artichokes out of the liquid and drain, (save liquid for boiling muscles, or clams, or strain and freeze for veggie stock for later
  • place artichoke hearts on a grill for 10 to 20 minutes per side 

I hope you’re inspired to find more interesting, indigenous Italian wines! Check out these wines and pairings for more intrigue! 

All times Pacific for the first Saturday of June twitter chat:

  • 8a Q1 Good morning! Happy June! Welcome to the #Italian #Food #Wine #Travel chat on Italy’s #nativewhitegrapes. Say hi, introduce yourself, share a selfie, and a link to your blog if relevant. Remember to use the #ItalianFWT hashtag.
  • 8:05 Q2 Which native white grape did you choose and why?
  • 8:10 Q3 Today’s #ItalianFWT celebrates Italy’s vast native grapes, especially white grapes. Was it difficult to find an indigenous white grape variety to either source out or write about?
  • 8:15 Q4 Describe your #ItalianFWT tasting experience this month! Please share the link to your article with us!
  • 8:20 Q5 Had you tasted your chosen native grape before or was it new to you? #ItalianFWT
  • 8:25 Q6 Did you prepare a dish to go with your wine(s)? Tell us about your food pairings! #ItalianFWT
  • 8:30 Q7 Did you find the pairing successful? Why or why not? What did you learn? Would you change your pairing if you were to have the wine again? #ItalianFWT
  • 8:35 Q8 Did you learn anything about your wine that you didn’t know before? Please tell us about that! #ItalianFWT
  • 8:40 Q9 Have you visited the region or the winery where your wine is from? If so, please share fun facts and photos about the trip! Do you plan to go if you haven’t already? #ItalianFWT
  • 8:45 Q10 Did you have any “aha” moments with any of the wines you wrote about this month? Tell us about it! #ItalianFWT
  • 8:50 Q11 Any last comments or questions or anything to add? #ItalianFWT
  • 8:55 Q12. Thanks for participating with host @I.am_joyofwine! #ItalianFWT
  • Thank you for joining us for our #ItalianFWT chat today! See you next month for Italian Wines from Non-native grapes!

10 thoughts on “Albana, Boschera,  Erbaluce, Incrocio Bruni, Maceratino: Rare Italian White Grapes Plus Pairings #ItalianFWT

  1. AMAZING Gwendolyn! SOoooo happy you got to taste all these wines made with native grapes! I’ve never had Boschera before, so I was “tasting” this wine right along with you . Thanks for the informative post!

    Liked by 1 person

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