The ‘Other’ Wine Grapes in Italy (#ItalianFWT)

Let’s explore a few non-native wine grapes grown on Italian soil

Italy is home to innumerable native (also referred to as autochthonous or indigenous) grape varieties, which makes it such an interesting country to explore.  Yet, there are many international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay – which are native to other countries like France – that are widely grown in Italy. These can make for very fine wines that are perhaps more recognizable to broader international markets, but yet uniquely express Italian terroir and winemaking styles.

Today I’m sharing a few Italian wines made from other wine grapes to feature for this month’s Italian Food, Wine and Travel (#ItalianFWT) topic. Let’s begin with Cabernet Sauvignon and a lovely discovery found dining in Rome a few years ago.

Il Filo Delle Vigne – Borgo Delle Casette Cabernet Riserva 2012

Il Filo Delle Vigne is the southernmost winery in the Veneto region’s Euganean Hills area. And within this area, the small Colli Euganei appellation sits on soils of volcanic origin.

Here they grow both native and international grapes in plots scattered throughout the hills. Each of the varieties in this Borgo Delle Casette wine are from different plots with slightly different soils: primarily Cabernet Sauvignon on calcarious, marly soil rich in marine fossils, with Cabernet Franc and Carménère on calcarious marl.

Il Filo’s website states the wine ages in oak barrels for 18 to 24 months. Per appellation rules, riserva wines must age a minimum of 2 years in oak.

In Cabernet Sauvignon style, the wine is big on dark fruits: black cherry, blackberry and cassis. Oak aging gives it vanilla, licorice, and tobacco aromas with warm toasted notes. Having plenty of vitality, it definitely transported Mark and me to Italy.

The next wine was a bit of a surprise; a Cabernet Sauvignon found at a wine shop vacationing near Naples.

Santa Margherita Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 – Lison Pramaggiore DOC

Unlike the above producer, the winery most known for their Pinot Grigio that swept the world years ago chose 100% Cabernet Sauvignon for this wine. I paused because I was not aware they made a Cab Sauv and many red wines from this tiny appellation, also in the Veneto, are a blend of non-native and native grapes: the two red Cabernet with the addition of Carménère, Malbec and/or Refusco dal Pedunculo.

Juicy cranberry and plum fruits flanked by violet floral, it was bright with a cool elegance on the front palate. The green tannins detracted from the glory of Cabernet Sauvignon, yet the pasta dishes with meat, pesto and tomatoes made them disappear.

Trofie pasta (from the north-western Italian region of Liguria) with pesto, cherry tomatoes and whipped ricotta was fresher, while the Pasta Alla Boscaiola (pasta with beef) so warming. Both paired nicely with this Santa Margherita Cabernet Sauvignon from the Lison Pramaggiore DOC.

Before moving on, let me show you where the two above appellations are located.

The bottom left arrow points to Colli Euganei DOC. It sits in the south Padua plains between Verona and Venice. The topography is rather flat, yet most of the region’s vineyards are located on the volcanic hills throughout the area.

The top right arrow points to Lison Pramaggiore, with one side budding up to the Adriatic Sea. This DOC, located northeast of Venice, is characterized by flat lands created by glaciation. The majority of red grapes in both appellations are non-natives: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Carmenère in both, with the addition of Malbec in Lison Pramaggiore. Map source:

The two pasta dishes above would also pair nicely with the next international grape tasted in Italy: Pinot Nero, also known as Blauburgunder or Spätburgunder in Germanic countries, and Pinot Noir in the new world.

Colterenzio – St. Daniel Pinot Nero (Blauburgunder) Riserva 2016 

Colterenzio sits just outside the town Bolzano in the Südtirol-Alto Adige region of northern Italy. The region borders Austria to the north and road signs (and most everything) are in both Italian and German. Pinot Nero is the second most grown red grape behind Schiava (Vernatsch in German).

Colterenzio is a high-quality cooperative who works with smaller producers, giving them an affordable way to process their grapes and make wine. This Pinot Nero is from their grower-partner vineyard St. Daniel.

The wine ages two-thirds in large 35-hectoliter oak casks and one-third in French oak barrels. Bright yet savory, red cherry and plum aromas mix with clove and violets, and flavors of the same are wrapped in faint cola. It stands out for its elegant point of acidity and velvety tannins. No barnyard or leather here, just pure fruit and spice.

For more on this cooperative winery, see How Things Role in Alto Adige.

Similar to this Colterenzio Pinot, the Le Due Terre winery Pinot Nero also hits high notes for elegant acidity, and no shortage of them!

Le Due Terre – Pinot Nero 2015 – Friuli Colli Orientali DOC

Le Due Terre is a small winery in Friuli Venezia Giulia on the border with Slovenia. The winery name speaks to the land – one side is marl and the other is composed of reddish marl, clay and sandy soil.

They do not hold any certifications yet farm and make wine with no chemicals and minimal intervention. Wines are fermented in stainless or cement and aged in neutral oak barrels.

I adore when a wine takes me to a place. The earthy, fruity, and forest floor nature of this wine with its freshness takes me to their Colli Orientali location where they farm regeneratively. Crunchy red fruits, violet and bay leaf; crushed velvet tannins and no shortage of acidity. Just lovely! Purchased at Naturellement, a restaurant and wine shop in the 15th arrondissement in Paris.

I hope you enjoyed this non-native grapes of Italy mini tour! In addition to our August host Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog, (he has a nice overview of Italy’s non-native grapes here), the rest of this month’s bloggers are below. I note you will find some fantastic food pairings below, as well as links to each winery!

Winery links:

Il Filo Delle Vigne

Santa Margherita US importer: Santa Margherita USA

Colterenzio US importer: Ideal Wine

Le Due Terre – US Distributor: 100% Percent Italiano

16 thoughts on “The ‘Other’ Wine Grapes in Italy (#ItalianFWT)

  1. Allison Wallace

    This post has us yearning…yearning for a bottle of “Italian” cab, yearning for a bowl of fresh homemade pasta to pair it with, and yearning for an AdVINEture in Italy…saluti!

    1. Lynn Post author

      Well I’m glad it got your yearning going! I’d love to read about an AdVINEture in Italy from you two!

  2. Jen Martin

    I thought about featuring a Pinot Nero as well. I tend to see a lot of that from the northeastern area of Italy. Interesting to see a Cab from Santa Margherita as well. Thanks for sharing this variety!

    1. Lynn Post author

      The Santa Margherita and the Colli Euganei DOC wine were both surprises for me as well. I don’t usually buy Italian Cabs thus did a bit of research on these two. Cabernet under the Colli Euganei DOC must by a minimum of 85% Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and/or Carmenère, plus other approved natives. Learning new things daily!

  3. Juan

    The wine world is so expansive. I applaud you for writing about such obscure grape varietals that open others’ hearts to new flavors and palate experiences that take them beyond mainstream. Keep writing. Keep pouring. Keep opening us up to new wine experiences…

    1. Lynn Post author

      Makes me happy to read your words. May your palate continue to experience new things always!

    1. Lynn Post author

      Thanks Linda, Le Duex Terre was such a nice stumble upon. The list of wine to buy grows each month, particularly after I read all the articles from our different groups!

  4. Deanna

    What a spectacular tour of Italian wines and each region they are from! I was right there with you with all those detailed tasting notes. I’ve never heard of Trofie pasta, but it looked like a yummy bowl of green goodness I need to have. Whipped ricotta on top just like a savory sundae. Yes please!

    1. Lynn Post author

      Thanks Deanna! I don’t know if it’s the shape or the pesto, but one of my favorites. I’m betting you can find it somewhere in the Bay area. Savory sundae, love that and yes, it did kind of taste like one :-DDD

  5. Karen Grove

    What incredible timing! We leave tomorrow for that part of Italy and were just thinking about how we need to learn more about the wines there. Thanks!

    1. Lynn Post author

      What a coincidence! I know you two will have a fantastic time. I’ll be curious to hear about the wines you sipped!


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