Three Spectacular Italian Grapes You've Never Heard Of

Posted January 06, 2015

Ian Dorin


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Italy is home to thousands of different wine grapes. Knowing this, it's kind of weird to think that most consumers limit themselves to wines made from a select few. Sure Sangiovese, Barbera, and Pinot Grigio all make fantastic wine, but with all that variety out there, any wine lover has an endless amount of discovery ahead of them, if they're the curious type.

Here are three world-class wines made with grapes you've probably never tried. Give them a go! Maybe you might find a new favorite.

2012 Graci Etna Rosso

91 pts - Advocate

We always get asked "what's hot right now?", and at the moment it's Sicily. Big time. It's what the "cool kids" are drinking, as Gary would say. This is a big category among top Somms as the wines are incredibly food friendly, and usually offer outstanding value. Two major red varieties dominate in Sicily: Nero D'avola (more on that in the future), and Nerello Mascalese. With traits similar to Nebbiolo, as it has a faint color, high tannins and good acidity, Nerello Mascalese usually brings lovely floral character. There is a complimenting variety, Nerello Cappuccio, that is low in tannin, and much darker in color, however the flavor profile of Cappuccio doesn't excite as much as Mascalese, which is why they are so often blended together. This a great value from an up and coming producer, and really highlights the best parts of Mascalese (the wine above is 100% Mascalese).


2008 Colpetrone Sagrantino Di Montefalco

94 pts - Suckling

I bet you didn't know that we have six wines in the store with Sagrantino in them. So what is it? It's a native grape of Umbria, and is rarely seen anywhere else in the world out side of the subzone of Montefalco. This hillside region is home to a small number of producers, none of whom are putting out a lot of wine. Sagrantino di Montefalco falls under Italy's highest classification, DOCG. It requires the wine to be dry (there is a dessert wine style as well), aged for 30 months before release (minimum 12 in oak), and must be 100% Sagrantino grapes. The variety is very dark and rich, with a lot of fruit character, and very firm, dry tannins. Creating balance is tricky with the variety, and some producers will even air dry the grapes for a few weeks (kind of like an Amarone, but not nearly as long) to create more concentration to bury the tannins.


2012 Arnaldo Caprai Grecante Grechetto

Staying in Umbria, we have a great white variety called Grechetto. Much like Sagrantino, this can be made in to dessert wine as well. The wines are generally medium bodied, with medium acidity, and a great floral character on both the nose and palate. In can take on characteristics similar to Verdicchio, but with slightly more body, and less acidity. Another way to think of it is like a Viognier with more acidity. Caprai is one of the top producers in Umbria, and this is absolutely a wine that lovers of Italian whites should seek out.


With over 15 years of experience (and counting), Ian has risen to become Wine Director for the Wine Library. He also been featured in the Wall St. Journal, and has regularly been quoted in a variety of wine articles.

Product Label.

Colpetrone Sagrantino Di Montefalco

94 James Suckling - Jamessuck...

Item: 75595

750 mL

Retail: $24.99

$19.49 per btl

Product Label.

Graci Etna Rosso

92 James Suckling - Jamessuck...

Item: 84335

750 mL

Retail: $23.99

$21.99 per btl

Product Label.

Arnaldo Caprai Grecante Grechetto

89 Ian Dagata - Vinous Media

Item: 84371

750 mL

Retail: $20.00

$13.33 per btl