When choosing a wine, it is easy to pick from the tried and true. On average, most wines we try contain grapes we know, so-called international grapes: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot. The list goes on. These grapes originally hail from France, or France popularized them through California and planted throughout North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. They even pervaded countries like Italy and Spain, who have treasure troves of their own indigenous grapes. While these are some of the best grapes to make wine with, there are more, many more and Bristol Bar & Grille Scott Harper suggests you try these obscure white grapes.
A recently published book lists more than 1,300 vine varieties that make wine in the world. Italy alone is a hot bed of indigenous varieties with over 500. There has been a movement in the last few decades to preserve and even seek out indigenous grapes and make delicious and unique wines from them. It is a very good thing to produce wines with such character, as diversity in wine is one of its many strengths. At least for me, if I had to drink wine produced from only international grapes, it would become monotonous.
You can travel far when exploring the world of obscure and unique grapes. For example, while visiting Lombardy, Italy, I went to a Franciacorta winery named Majolini. Majolini produces 350 magnums (the equivalent of 700 bottles) of wine from a grape only they planted called Majolina. While this wine was certainly very interesting, I wanted to be sure that the obscure grapes I wrote about our readers could find. Therefore, while they are still obscure, you should be able to find the following wines at better wine shops or on a thoughtful wine list, many of which are quite affordable.
Try these obscure white grapes:
The grape Coda Di Volpe dates from at least Roman times. The name given by Pliny means “tail of the fox.” It refers to the shape of the grape clusters. One could write an article just on the indigenous grapes of the Southern Italian region of Campania. In my mind they make some of the finest white wines in all of Italy. The leader in the region is the Mastroberardino family, who is famous for preserving the native grapes of Campania, and different branches of the family own the Terredora Di Paolo and Mastroberardino wineries. This wine is dry and crisp with flavors of citrus, quince, and white flowers. It is medium-bodied, fresh and enchanting.
Suggested wine and producer: Coda Di Volpe Terredora Di Paolo, Campania 2014
You likely tasted tasted Colombard without knowing it. Armagnac and Cognac, along with California’s bulk ordinary wine typically named French Colombard uses the grape. Native to Southwest France and the land of D’Artignan, this grape makes quality value wine. This example is dry with the flavors of apple, peach, pear, and citrus. All in a light body that is vibrant, crisp and fresh. Mont Gravet produces the grape. Mont refers to the hills. Gravet refers to the oval shape rocks of the area depicted on the label.
Suggested wine and producer: Colombard, Cotes de Gascogne Mont Gravet 2014
The Rioja region of Spain, widely known for great red wine, producers this white wine. Incidentally, many wine drinkers don’t realize the region makes white wine and rosé alongside its famous red wines. This wine region is located in Northeastern Spain and named after the River Rio Oja. Outside Rioja, the grape is called Macabéo, especially in Catalonia. There it’s part of the blend for the sparkling wines of Cava. The winery history dates back to 1879. The same family still runs it five generations later. Dry, medium-bodied and tasty with the flavors of green apple, melon, lemon, and zesty minerality.
Suggested wine and producer: Viura, Rioja Blanco Cune “Monopole” 2014
The Verdicchio grape is named for its green-colored berries, or in Italian, verdi. It is one of the few Italian grapes that can stand up to oak but ironically rarely is. It hails from the region of Marche located in east-central Italy on the Adriatic. Basically it comes from two areas within Marche: Matelica or Castelli Di Jesi. Matelica is known for a touch more body. Very dry, light and crisp with the flavors of limestone minerals, straw, lemon zest, white peach and apple. Its color is pale yellow. Through the early 1990’s Beatrice Lucangeli and Stefano Aymerich di Laconi transformed their estate, improving the quality of their vineyards and wine production.
Suggested wine and producer: Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi Classico “Villa Torre” Tenuta di Tavignano 2014