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Extensive online gallery featuring over 1,000 Italian wine labels
Extensive online gallery featuring over 1,000 Italian wine labels


Emilia-Romagna Native Vines – Second Part
Rosa D'Ancona – September 20, 2006

Native White Vines

Among the most important white grapes of Emilia Romagna, Albana holds a pre-eminent position. Currently this variety is cultivated along the foothills of the Apennine, in the section that runs from the outskirts of Bologna, the regional capital city, all the way to the seashore, near the border of Marche. The production area includes vineyards in the provinces of Bologna, Forlì-Cesena, and Ravenna.

The origins of the Albana vine have been lost in the past.

  Lambrusco Grasparossa
  Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro
  Lambrusco di Sorbara
  Lambrusco di Sorbara
  Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce
  Lambrusco Salamino
di Santa Croce
  Uva Longanesi
  Uva Longanesi

It is said that once, Galla Placidia, daughter of the emperor Teodosio, during a stop in a small Romagna town, tasted the wine made with these grapes. Offered by local peasants, the wine was served to the princess in a terra cotta vase. She liked the wine so much that, as soon as she tasted it, she said: "Not in such a humble container should you be drunk, but rather in golden goblets, to honor your finesse!". From then on, the story goes, at the imperial court of Ravenna the Albana wine was drunk in precious golden chalises. The small town where the princess first drank that nectar was at that time called Bertinoro (To Be Drunk in Gold), a name which has lasted to this day. 

When the grapes of this vine are left to wither before being crushed, the result is golden-hued DOC spumante (sparkling) wine, with characteristic perfume, intense and delicate, and a sweet, pleasant flavor.

The origins of this vine are uncertain. The author De Crescenzi mentions it in his 1495 writings. Later, it can be found in the 1723 work of Trinci, and in the 1825 writings of Acerbi. French ampelographers, on their part, supposed that the vine was present in vineyards in the southern part France. What is certain though, is that the Alionza grape has been cultivated in the provinces of Bologna and Modena from time immemorial. In ancient times the vine, mixed with other traditional varieties, used to climb up trees, according to the famed 'alberata' growing method, a system which is currently used almost exclusively in the Campania region for the the Asprinio di Aversa grapes.

In the province of Bologna this grape is known as Uva Schiava (Slave Grape) as well. The name may refer to the possible Slavic origin of the vine, or possibly because of the traditional cultivation alternatively used instead of the alberata, which trains the vine in long lines using poles and iron wire. Other synonyms for this vine are Aleonza, GlionzaUva Lonza and Alionga Bianca del Bolognese, among others.

The grape is not part part of the mandatory varieties required for the production of regional DOC wines, however, it's allowed in blends produced in the two provinces of origin. The leaf is medium-sized and pentagonal. The bunch is big, with a long, pyramid-like shape, sometimes with one big wing or, more rarely, two wings. The grapes are medium loose, large and round, The skin is thick and consistent, with abundant pruina, are bright yellow in color and have a curiously pronounced brownish 'belly button' (see image).

This variety thrives in loose, warm, hilly soil. The production is regular and consistent. It has good resistance to oidium, botrytis, acarina and light frost. In bad years it may be affected by the so-called 'acinellatura', when, because of the 'floral abortion', only five or six grapes out of 30 ripen.

Montù (or Montuni)
This vine of uncertain origin is cultivated mostly in the provinces of Bologna and Ravenna. At the beginning of the last century, the agronomist Domizio Cavazza explained that the etymology of the name derived from the local dialect and means 'many grapes'. In effect, this variety is very vigorous, and produces grapes with high acidity, thus is used to produce wines with pronounced fragrance and able to age gracefully.

The Pignoletto, which has been rediscovered and appreciated in recent years, is an ancient vine native of the Bolognese Hills. Many historic references to this grape date as far back as Roman times when Plinius the Elder, wrote in his 'Naturalis Historia' of a wine called "Pino Lieto" (Happy Pine), which "is not sweet enough to be good." As we know, the ancient Romans used to love impossibly sweet wines.

In 1654, in his treatise entitled 'Economia del Cittadino in Villa' (Citizen's Country Estate Budgeting), the writer Tanara mentions "Uve Pignole", cultivated in the hilly countryside surrounding Bologna. Currently the Pignoletto is the base grape for many DOC wines in various versions: dry, semi-spumante (lightly sparkling) , spumante (sparkling), and passito (dessert wine made with more or less withered grapes).

Native Red Vines

Traditionally this red vine is cultivated mostly in the province of Reggio Emilia and, in smaller amounts, in other provinces of the Emilia Romagna region. The name probably derives from the Modenese family Lancellotti, or Lancillotto, who first cultivated this grape in the 14th century. In fact, sometimes the variety is called Lancellotta.

After WWI, the vine was planted with interesting results in the wine zone comprised of the areas between the towns of Mori and Avio, in the Val d'Adige (Adige River Valley), in the southern part of the Trentino region. Currently, the Ancellotta is cultivated in smaller quantities in the regions of Friuli, Lombardy, Veneto, Tuscany, Apulia and Sardinia as well.

Centesimino, or Sauvignon Rosso (Red Sauvignon), or also Savignon Rosso, as it is sometimes called in the province of Faenza, is a grape variety cultivated in Romagna since at least WWII. Around the mid 1960s, in order to promote the wine made with this grape, the erstwhile assistant agronomist of the Opere Pie Raggruppate (OO. PP. RR), Paolo Visani, proposed to embellish the bottles with special labels produced by the Litografie Artistiche Faentine (Artistic Litographs of Faenza – a well known and appreciated art publisher in Faenza).

A variety of printed and oral sources report that the many vineyards of this variety planted during the 1960s and 1970s around the town of Oriolo come from pre-existing local cultivation. All the original clones are derived from a vineyard in the Podere Terbato, owned by Pietro Pianori, nicknamed 'Centesimino' (Little Cent).

From the 1960s on, this vine has been known locally as Sauvignôn, Savignon, or Uva di Centesimino (Little Cent's Grape), from the nickname of the vintner who first identified and grew the variety.

Know also as Uva d'Oro (Golden Grape), this vine is believed to have been brought from France around the mid-1500s. In the past it was traditionally cultivated along the banks of the Po' river, in the area between Parma and Ferrara, where it was used mostly in blend with Lambrusco grapes, bringing to the resulting wine deeper color and moderate tannins.

Malbo Gentile
This vine, whose existence has been documented for about a century, is currently cultivated exclusively in the province of Modena. It's a vigorous variety with good, consistent production of fruit of high sugar content. It's used to produce varietal wine as well as blended with Lambrusco. The vini novelli (young wines) produced with this variety are particularly interesting.

The various types of Lambrusco constitute a vine family which has been perfectly integrated in the Modenese landscape for centuries. These grapes produce an unmistakable type of wine, due to its natural refermentation in springtime.

The Vitis Lambrusca was known as far back as Roman times, but it was only in the 19th century that a few genetic lines prevailed and acquired specific characteristics. Thus, three types of vine with similar characteristics, though fairly distinct one from the other, were registered in the province of Modena: The Lambrusco di Sorbara (Lambrusco from Sorbara), Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro (Red Stemmed Lambrusco from Castelvetro), and Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce (Little Salami Lambrusco from Santa Croce [Saint Cross – name of a town in the province of Modena]).

This vine existence in the area was documented as far back as the 1600s, and was mentioned in poetry by Pier Maria De' Minimi from Forlì, and Jacopo Landoni, from Ravenna. The wine became fairly popular in the 18th century.

There are different stories about the etymology of its name. According to glottologist Schurr, it derives from Monte Giove (Mt. Jove), the hill upon which Santacangelo di Romagna is built.

A local legend has it that the the monks of the frati cappuccini fraternity who lived in the monastery of Santarcangelo di Romagna, among other things, cultivated vineyards. Once, a well known personality of the time came as a guest. The VIP truly appreciated the wine made by the monks and asked the name of it. The monks were embarrassed, as they had never thought of calling their product anything other than 'vino' (wine). One fast thinker among them though, came up with a name on the spot: 'Sanguis di Jovis' (Latin for 'Blood of Jove'). The name then became 'Sangue di Giove' in Italian and, eventually, devolved into the Sangiovese that we now know.

Uva Longanesi
This vine variety, known  locally also as 'Burson' ('Big Bag', or, 'Big Bore', in local slang) from the nickname of the family who saved it from extinction, lines 200 hectares (around 500 acres) of vineyards. The vine thrives in the Ravenna plains and the Faenza hills. Is was the local vintner Antonio Longanesi who saved this variety from extinction. Longanesi found one vine of this variety in the 1950s, in one of his cultivated fields in Boncellino di Bagnacavallo. He experimented with grafts and waited patiently to harvest the first grapes. The result was, surprisingly, a great success. The vintner's consortium of producers, called 'Il Bagnacavallo', was founded in 1999 with the goal of promoting and protecting this vine variety along with other local products from the land.

Outstanding Producers of DOC Wines

Etichetta: Albana di Romagna Passito Scacco Matto

  • Fattorie Vallona

Etichetta: Permartina

Etichetta: Aulente

Etichette: Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa Doc Lambrusco Grasparossa Vecchio Moro

Etichetta: Nadel

Etichetta: Sangiovese di Romagna Riserva Superiore Ombroso

Etichetta: Reggiano Lambrusco Arte e Concerto

Etichetta: Ronco delle Ginestre

Etichette: Lambrusco Grasparossa Doc Terre dei Pio,
Lambrusco Grasparossa Doc Organico


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