Italian native grapes: my new old thing

Native grapes are my new obsession. Did you know that Italy has more native grapes than any other country in the world? More than France, Greece and Spain combined, the next three countries with the largest number of natives.

I love Italian wine but have never explored natives. It’s wonderful to learn that I know so little about something I love so much.

Many native grapes have been lost over the years, wiped out from disease or lost to mass production, urban migration and changes in legislation. But many did manage to survive a rough couple of centuries, persevering in forgotten backyard vineyards, cherished in small batches saved for home consumption or used for blending with more dominant and mainstream varieties.

The best part is that tasting wines made with native grapes is also surprisingly affordable. I’ve even discovered that many of my go-to table wines that I buy regularly because they are cheap and tasty are in fact natives and special in a way that I didn’t understand before. I’ve begun to draw up maps and scout out varieties with names I either never knew or didn’t give enough credence to – Malvasia Puntinata, Bellone, Nero Buono, Pelaverga Piccolo, Bonarda. These are the grapes that now gather upon my table.

I am excited to talk about this new wine experience and will write some posts in the coming weeks about the specific varieties I am drinking. I have no idea how easy they are to buy outside of Italy. Let me know if you ever find any in your neck of the woods or if you know where to order them online.

For the bookish folks amongst us, Ian D’Agata’s phenomenal book The Native Wine Grapes of Italy has become my new bible on this journey.

What about you? Do you drink wines made with native grapes? What are your favorites? What should I keep an eye out for?

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