The Great Grape Alphabet
Here are varieties beginning with D, E and F, as we continue to plough our way alphabetically and blissfully through the ampelographic wonderland, supported by diverse examples from our wine portfolio.
Dolcetto is a black Italian wine grape variety widely grown in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. The Italian word dolcetto means "little sweet one", probably nothing to do with wine’s inherent sweetness. It certainly ain’t that. Dolcettos can be tannic and fruity with moderate, or decidedly low levels of acidity, and are typically meant to be consumed within a few years after release. Sometimes they are blended with their alter ego grape, Barbera. The dark purple skin of Dolcetto grapes have high amounts of anthocyanins, which require only a short maceration time with the skin to produce a dark-coloured wine. The amount of skin contact affects the resulting tannin levels in the wine, with most winemakers preferring to limit maceration time to as short as possible
Ferdinando Principiano’s Dosset (“Dolcetto” in the local dialect) is symbolic of this approach. At 10.5% alcohol, it is very light, fragrant and fruity. A graceful wine (produced with the grapes from the vineyards of St. Anna and San Martino of Monforte d’Alba), for the table, for the jug and for hilarious company – and with no added sulphites. Stefano Bellotti’s version is made with Dolcetto a Graspo Rosso variety (with red stems), which in the local dialect is called Nibiô. This particular variety has been grown here for more than 1000 years and it is even mentioned in the annals of the Republic of Genoa. The vineyards are planted on gravelly-lime clay soils that give the wine a marked elegance and complexity. Vinification is done in oak vats as well as a 12-month ageing. Indigenous yeasts, unfiltered and unfined. Zero sulphur added. Prunes, dark chocolate, brown sauce and meat juice; it’s savoury all right. Other Dolcettos are the more elegant Dolcetto d’Alba Vigna Scot from Cavollotto, fermented in Slavonian oak botte. It features additionally in the Zampaglione’s Pecoranera blend, which is earthy, sour and full of smoky bacon aromas.
Quick definition: Dolcetto et non decorum est
The House of Duras is a family of treacherous Klingons in the Star Trek universe. The Duras grape does not make their blood wine, although it is fairly sanguine. Duras is actually a traditional French variety of red wine grape that is mostly grown around the Tarn River, northeast of Toulouse. It is usually blended with other traditional varieties, but production has been declining in recent years. Despite the name the grape appears to have no connection with the region of the Côtes de Duras east and is only really found in the upper reaches of the Tarn River, in Gaillac, the Côtes de Millau and the Vins d'Estaing north of Rodez. It makes robust red wines with a peppery note that are typically blended with other traditional varieties such as Fer and Négrette and majors in the earthy yet quaffable Cuvée des Drilles from Domaine d’Escausses, whilst featuring also in the Tarn babies from Chateau Clément-Termes and Cave de Labastide de Lévis. Plageoles, the archivists of autochthonous grapes in Gaillac, do a 100% Duras.
Quick definition: Rustic Gaillac blender
The name Enfariné comes from the French word farine meaning flour. It comes from the "bloom" or "blush" (now known to be indigenous yeast) that covers ripening grapes, looking like flour dusting. The first written record of Enfariné noir comes from the 3rd February 1731 decree from the parliament of Besançon in the Doubs department of the Franche-Comté. This decree mandated that all plantings of several grape varieties, including Enfariné, Foirard noir, Foirard blanc, Maldoux, Valet noir and Barclan blanc, that were planted after 1702 had to be uprooted and replaced with cereal crops. The number of Enfariné vines decreased dramatically over the years, until in 2008, less than 1 hectare (2.5 acre) of the vine was reported to be planted. Now producers such as Jean-Francois Ganevat, Étienne Thiebaud and Domaine Jean Bourdy have worked to replant and sustain the variety in conservation vineyards. Ganevat, in particular, co-ferments it in several of his négoce blends with Gamay including the Madelon (where it is normally 20%) and De Toute Beaute. The variety is planted on French rootstock.
Quick definition: Flour power
The Fiano di Avellino takes its name from the variety that the Romans called Vitis Apiana. That was because the vine’s grapes were so sweet that they proved irresistible to bees (api). The wine, which was already highly appreciated in the Middle Ages, originated a very long time ago. An order for three salme (a measure) of Fiano is entered in the register of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. And Charles d’Anjou must have enjoyed the wine, since he had 16,000 Fiano vines planted in the royal vineyards.
It is a noble local grape and seemingly adept terroir-communicator. Guido Marsello’s estate is located near town of Mercogliano and represents a jewel in the enological panorama of the Avellino district, springing to prominence when Paolo Massobrio and Marco Gatti, two well-respected food and wine journalists, selected the Fiano in their “100 Best Italian Wines”. Marsella produces only one wine, and its vinification is strictly made using only estate-grown grapes and traditional techniques. A deliciously pure style of Fiano with restrained, subtle yet concentrated notes of peach kernel and toasted hazelnuts. Il Tufiello’s Fiano “Sancho Panza” from vines planted at an altitude 800 metres above sea level on poor soils, is a very different style of wine. After a manual harvest in October the wine receives long maceration on the skins, is fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged on the lees in tank. Only a tiny amount of sulphur is used and the wine is bottled unfiltered. This is golden-amber in colour from being raised in an open vat, cloudy in the glass, and has seen very little sulphur. The nose comes alive with fresh green notes, aromatic yellow fruits, and dried herbs. The palate is round and full of citrusy, lemon intensity finishing with a hint of tannin. Cantine Barone’s example from a cru vineyard on volcanic sandy soils called Particella 928, is rich golden in colour, a touch honeyed, floral, rich in acidity, with a touch of glycerine on the palate that makes it feel a bit “warmer” and less savoury than the Marsella. The wine bangs with minerals, and has really good length. Ryme Cellars in California make a delicious single-vineyard Fiano (fermented and aged in barrel), one which conveys rich fruity aromas of crisp melon, feijoa and charred pineapple with spicy green cardamom and a light peaty smokiness. The palate is full of vibrant energy and dense fruit with a firm resinous phenolic structure.
Quick definition: Nice Fian-olics
Frappato, also known in the past as Surra or Nero Capitano, is a variety responsible for some of Sicily’s most delicious unknown wines. A good varietal Frappato will be medium bodied, lightly tannic, pale red and fragrant with notes of cherry, violet, and dried herbs. Frappato wines pair well with lighter dishes such as stir-fried duck, lamb-stuffed courgettes, pork-stuffed potato pancakes, and Palermitan pizza. The most famous Frappato wine, Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, comes from Ragusa. Cerasuolo meaning "cherry", refers to the cherry aromas found in the wine. Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG is made with 50-70% Nero d’Avola and 30-50% Frappato. Frappato has the same softening effect here that Canaiolo Nero has with Sangiovese in Tuscany or Malvasia Nera with Negro Amaro in Puglia. If you want 100% Frappato we have two very different versions to choose from. The one from COS has a bright red colour, the nose ebullient with posies of violets, freesia and cherry-blossom. The palate is sweet and round, suggestive of raspberries and succulent cherries – the tannins barely evident. Almost Jurassic in style. Il Frappato, in the hands of Arianna Occhipinti, is an extraordinary wine. Light in colour yet remarkable in complexity with notes of cherry, raspberry and white pepper, this wine shows cool climate characteristics in Sicily. 70% of the Frappato is macerated for two months on its skins, while the other 30% stays on its skins for eight months. The fluidity, the everchanging character of this wine is truly remarkable. Every time you think you have it pinned down, it throws something else at you. Here you are smelling cherries, and in come the figs, the raisins, before a whiff of fresh-cooked strawberries runs by. Pepper? Or is that smoke? Or maybe dried leaves. Or… no, maybe more blood orange. And then there’s that floral character. A little volatile acidity is there, but it gets completely swallowed up by the swirl of aromas that keeps dancing around in the glass.
Quick definition: Cherry and more
Friulano AKA Sauvignon Vert
Another synonym of Sauvignon vert is the Italian wine grape known as Friulano in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Friulano from Friuli-Venezia Giulia was known as “Tocai” Friulano until March 31, 2007 when the European Court of Justice prohibited the name “Tocai” in the name of the wine (as stipulated in a 1993 agreement between the EU and Hungary).
At home in Collio and Goriška Brda it is one of the regions' most widely planted grape varieties. For us Friulano is Jakot (spell it backwards) and takes the skins nicely-nicely. The version from Dario Princic achieves its bronzes by undergoing a twenty-day maceration in open-top fermenters. The tannins, golden fruits and lees-spices weave nicely together. On the other side of the border Andrej Kristancic (Nando Winery) makes a stainless steel fermented version with a just a little time on skins to give it a golden hue and add some fleshy texture to the floral notes. It’s a lovely wine.
Quick definition: Full metal Jakot
So that takes us to next time when we will be exploring parts 'H, K,L'...stay tuned!
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