To find very precise information on Italian grapes, I’d suggest going to the 'Italian Vitis Database,' an updated website where you can find a lot of information, links to the grape history, its distribution, its characteristics, all the pictures...
In Italian Wine Podcast Episode 363, Irving So, Italian Wine Expert based in Tokyo, sought some background information on a couple of interesting bottles he'd come across and had the good fortune to taste. And when one has wine-related questions, to whom does one turn? That's right: Professor Attlio Scienza and handler Stevie Kim. Here, the two took Irving's question and ran with it. Thankfully, yet again, the fabulous Anna Carnera stepped in to translate the banter, below.
Original recording of IWP Ep. 363
Académie du Vin, Tokyo
Italian Vitis Database
Stevie: OK, hello everybody! Welcome to the Everybody Needs a Bit of Scienza segment of the Italian Wine Podcast. I’m Stevie Kim, and I’m here with our chief scientist of VIA, Vinitaly International Academy, and we occasionally ask our VIA community to send us questions to ask the Professore. Of course, as you know by now, he doesn’t speak English. Otherwise, he would be be, I think, super famous all over the anglophile world. But we are trying to bridge that gap here by doing a little bit of Italian, Itanglish, English, trying to keep the conversation going.
So, today our question is from Irving So. He is our Italian Wine Expert from Tokyo, Japan. And his question is, uh, it’s a little bit long:
“I came across two varieties in two different bottles of wine I tried a few weeks ago. One of them was a youthful Massaretta in Liguria di Levante IGT blend from Cantina Lunae, and the second a mature 2008 Pugnitello Toscana IGT from Poggio al Gello. Can you talk about the two varieties a little bit? It’s hard to find information on them.”
I can believe it! it’s a very geeky question. And he has a follow up question:
“I came across two Grillo recently, one being Marco De Bartoli’s Grappoli del Grillo and the other Tasca d’Almerita Grillo Mozia, both 2016. They cannot be more different in style, the formal more Soave like with aromas of thiols but some herbal tones too, the latter more saline but quite oily and fuller bodied. Is It due differences in terroir? Or biotype differences? Or winemaking differences? Or everything?”
Super technical these questions. Have you already read them?
Scienza: Yes, I got it all.
Stevie: For sure, your name is Scienza (Science).
Stevie: And it’s not just a coincidence!
(repeats the questions in Italian)
Stevie: OK, it’s your turn!
Scienza: So, the name Massaretta, recalls the geographical origin because it came from Massa Carrara.
Scienza: It’s a Barsaglina. Its real name is Barsaglina...
Stevie: So, it is....
Scienza: It’s a synonym. The use of the name Massaretta is uncommon; Barsaglina is used more. This is a grape found in Tuscany on the border with Liguria, and it shares some morphological similarities with Sangiovese. Although it is much richer in anthocyanins, so it has much more color. It has high acidity but, in the past, it was abandoned. In fact, it was known with a very disrespectful name that basically meant “smelly,” because it always had problems with a lot of reduction, you could never make a drinkable wine.
Stevie: So, it’s a nickname?
Scienza: Yes, it is. When oenological techniques improved they took care of the stench and this grape has been reintroduced. It is now cultivated again, but only in this area of Massa Carrara and in southeast Liguria.
Pugnitello instead is a Montepulciano, but with a smaller bunch and loosely clustered. The word Pugnitello came from “punch,” or small bunch (fistful). The grape came from Abruzzo and it arrived in Maremma through transhumance (look it up!). Every year, from Abruzzo, shepherds used to go to Maremma to pass the winter there. During the summer the shepherds stayed in Abruzzo, in the mountains on the Gran Sasso, and when it started to snow making it difficult to find forage they would go to the seaside, to Maremma.
So, they brought this grape with them. The grape was “rediscovered” about fifteen years ago. it was present, sporadically, in various vineyards and initially it was thought to be a native grape. Then they realised that it was a Montepulciano. Some use it as a single variety and it produces a wine of great structure, with lots of power and color. Others use it to add colour to Chianti Classico DOCG, an adjustment allowed in the Chianti Classico DOCG “disciplinare.”
It is not a very productive vine. The plant grows vigorously, but produces few bunches. It is a very late harvest vine with good acidity. It is also well positioned to deal with climate change. It adapts well to a warm climate as it is a vine that comes from a warm region. For these reasons, I would say that it is a very interesting vine as a complement to Sangiovese.
To find very precise information on Italian grapes, I’d suggest going to the "Italian Vitis Database," an updated website where you can find a lot of information, links to the grape history, its distribution, its characteristics, all the pictures...
Stevie: Okay, so Irving…
Scienza: …it’s really interesting.
Stevie: This is very important. He said that for a very technical explanation of the Italian grape varieties you should go to Italian Vitis Database and we are going to post it with this segment. We’ll post [the link to] the website and how you can find it. You will remember that, Jacob? OK.
Scienza: Regarding Grillo, I would say that the differences between the wines made by De Bartoli (actually made by his children), and the wines made by Tasca, are due to both winemaking technique and the environment. De Bartoli’s Grillo grows between Trapani and Marsala, in really warm, clayey soils, with a lot of calcareous marl, so it has a very explosive maturation and a very strong concentration. These territories used to produce Marsala, and therefore they have a vocation for make wines of great concentration and great alcohol.
Tasca’s wines, instead, come from the small island of Mozia, near the gulf of Marsala, and it has completely different soils. The island has sandy soil and very particular climatic characteristics, because it is well ventilated by all the sea air currents. So, there is a slower, more progressive maturation, with wines that are very...
Stevie: And it is completely open, right?
Scienza: Yes, of course. The other difference is due to the winemaking process. De Bartoli uses grape maceration, so they take these grapes and for a few days they let them macerate with their skins. Therefore, there is a much stronger extraction, and a complexity that comes from this.
On the other hand, Tasca uses a classic white winemaking process: soft pressing, settling, fermentation at low temperature. So it’s a wine with a more modern and, I would say, less aggressive wine making process regarding the chemical composition of the grapes.
Stevie: But Irving was saying that it was more saline, oilier, and...
Scienza: Saline sure, because it has a lighter process. The other one has, on the contrary, a stronger concentration, Irving was saying an herb...
Stevie: Herbaceous arom...
Scienza: Herbaceous aromas that came from maceration. They are like Georgian wines, these wines made in amphorae, with a deep concentration of herbs - some green herbs too - that come from skins and from thiols. Irving compared this wine with Soave because it has a lot of thiols, because it is a mix between Moscato di Pantelleria and Catarratto. Thiols come from Cataratto and not from Moscato.
Stevie: OK already. That was the question from Irving So, our Italian Wine Expert from Tokyo, Japan. Thank you for sending that through - very geeky and technical questions for the right person here, Professor Scienza. So, um, that’s it for now. Until next time, alla prossima!
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Scienza: Ciao, alla prossima!