Unknown but flavorful wine varietals – Timorasso, Nosiola, Pigato. Others?
There’s an interesting short interview with Ceri Smith, the proprietor of a [mainly] Italian wine store in San Francisco in the Chronicle today:
Whiner first made mention of Ceri Smith (“a beautiful young woman who has clearly forgotten more about Italian wine than I will ever learn”) in his post recommending an SF store to purchase Amarone.
In the article she discusses a few varietals unknown to me:
--Timorasso, a white wine from Piedmont: “I love it. Vigneti Massa's is like honey almond, and then it opens up with this rich, creamy green tea in the nose. It's a white wine that opens like a red wine.”
--Nosiola, from Trentino-Alto Adige: “Where Pinot Grigio stops, it just keeps going.”
-- She also “loves” Pigato, from Liguria.
Any other interesting and relatively unknown varietals with wonderful flavors? Italian or otherwise? Or comments on these?
I’m currently exploring Cesanese, after Pallavicini’s exotic nose and wonderful flavors for $16 won me over. Looking for other Cesanese recs as well as mentions of other varietals worth exploring.
Carswell mentioned Erbaluce from Piedmont the other day: “Erbaluce's aromas/flavours tend to white fruit and citrus with an undercurrent of volatile herbs (sage?) and minerals.”
I have to thank you for posting this article. I once tried a Pigato from Liguria about 12-13 years ago. It was offered through a private importer once. I can't remember the producer. All I remember was that it was a very unique, delicious wine. I have looked for more Pigato since that time, but have never seen another bottle. Looks like I may have found a source! I am looking forward to trying this type of wine again.
My favorite Pigato is from Riccardo Bruna, his Russeghine vineyard. A wonderful glass of wine that usually sells for about $20/bottle retail in NYC. Goes well with artichokes, peas, asparagus and other early summer vegetables that can be problematic. A natural fit with most fin fish, oysters - depending on the prep. It is actually a wine I look forward to each summer.
Oh - there are just so many. There are thousands of varieties currently being used commercially for wines in different countries. And Italy has some wonderful ones that are not widely seen.
Some years ago I was raving about Arneis on a number of boards -- last time I was in California I found a couple of wineries making it -- but too sweet.
There's an increasing public willingness to try new varieties. Suggest you buy a bottle of each and every variety you come across for the first time. But always reserve judgement on ones you don't like -- maybe its just that one winery and its treatment of the variety.....
re: Gussie Finknottle
Did the Arneis from California actually have RS? Or was it "fruit sweetness" in a dry wine?
I'm a big fan of the Arneis from the Roero district in Piedmont. I think it's just about the best wine I've ever had with fresh tomatoes.
I very much like this comment:
"But always reserve judgement on ones you don't like -- maybe its just that one winery and its treatment of the variety."
C'est vrai. One winery's version does not a varietal make.
Some more obscure varietals I've tasted and enjoyed:
Moschofilero from Greece. It's an aromatic white similar to an Italian Moscato or a Spanish Albariño. Light and lively on the palate, it's got citrusy apricot and apple notes.
Zwiegelt from Austria. A medium-bodied red with good cherry fruit, some floral notes and peachy mineral core.
Teroldego from Trentino, Italy. (Trentino actually has a LOT of obscure and delicious wines) Full-bodied red with plums raspberry and licorice.
re: maria lorraine
Oops -- I misspelled the varietal. It's Zweigelt. Sorry. My favorite of these to date has been the Sattler, although Hillinger makes a pretty good one too. The NYTimes did a tasting of a few different ones last year:
Austrian wines in general are very underrated.
I first came across the Moschofilero at Insieme in NYC. The sommelier, Paul Grieco recommended it for our group after I mentioned we were looking for interesting wines. The one I had there was from Domaine Spiropoulos in Mantinia, Greece and that's been the best I've found to date.
For Teroldego, I like Foradori. It's sort of New World in style, which I don't generally go for, but this is really well-made and just delicious.
Another nice thing about obscure varietals is that you get a lot of value for your money -- I've always found all of these varietals to be very well-priced. As it gets harder to pronounce or spell, the QPR shoots way up.
re: maria lorraine
I just had a chance to try the Heinrich Zweigelt 2006 with lunch. It was a beautiful dark purple colour with a bouquet of cherries and raspberry. It tasted of red berries and had a light taste of mushrooms and earth, tannins were also light. It had a nice acidity and freshness, and it reminded me a lot of a young Pinot Noir. It went very well with an omelette made with herbs, lardons and wild mushrooms. What a lovely food wine!
I also recently tried the Umanthum Zweigelt Reserve 2000. It was a very elegant, well-balanced wine with a bit more depth of flavour than the Heinrich, but with a matching increased price.
I will be searching out more of this varietal! Thanks folks for the recommendation!
A quick heads up for the Plavac red wines from Croatia too (eg. Dingac and Zlatan Plavac) - often superb wines from the Peljesac vineyards. Mavrud is found in Bulgaria and when well made produces a very sturdy and assertive red of great depth and worthy of bottle-ageing. But much of it exported is sadly just plain rough!
In Romania, Tămâioasă Românească grapes can produce a superb sweet golden white wine - I have never seen a decent example of it outside Romania though.
There are several lesser-known varieties from Portugal - although these same grapes have been used in making Port (which is a blend) for centuries.
Try, for example, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesca. Even better if they are from the Douro region (where Port originates).
I recently tasted through a Portugal Wine event, and found, almost without exception, that the Portuguese reds (especially Touriga Nacional) overoaked to the point of oenocide. I wish I could taste the grapes without the overbearing oak, but alas couldn't tease the two apart. Have you experienced the same thing?
re: maria lorraine
Yes, some are overoaked - but in my experience that was mainly the Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo) which is also aged in American oak in Rioja.
Not sure what you got to try, but jamie Goode has been a reliable source (for me). His articles can be found at
Although some American oak is being used, it's mainly European oak - except for a few relatively wealthy places - and those seem to be using the Australian-style as a template.
So avoid the Aussie winemakers! (If you can).