Wine Bottega in the North End of Boston. The Bottega had invited Alberto Tedeschi, a winemaker from Emilia-Romagna, to come over and present his wines, all of which are made from the Pignoletto grape. It's not often that I am able to meet the person who makes the unusual wines that I buy, so this was a real treat. I found the wines and the man very interesting and picked up a couple of bottles that we'll get to in a bit. First, though, I'd like to take a closer look at Alberto's grape of choice, Pignoletto.
The Pignoletto grape is considered the "king of the Colli Bolognese wine zone," but few have heard of it outside of this region. The grape is grown on over 17,000 acres of land in Italy, but it can be very difficult to find wines made from it here in the US, and in fact I've not been able to find another wine made from Pignoletto other than these Tedeschi bottles. For some reason, wines from the Emilia-Romagna region within Italy, other than Lambrusco, can be difficult to find in general. Today's post marks only the second time I've written about a wine from Emilia-Romagna (the first was Mostosa/Pagadebit), and I only have two or three more in my cellar that I hope to write about in future posts. There are a lot of really cool grapes grown in Emilia-Romagna, but for some reason, few of them make it to us over here.
Unfortunately, information about the grapes from Emilia-Romagna is about as scarce as the wines themselves. Wikipedia has no entry for the grape and the Oxford Companion to Wine's entry reads in full "lively, crisp white grape grown around Bologna in northern Italy on an area totalling almost 7,000 ha/17,300 acres according to the 2000 vineyard census." What information I've found is scattered on various sites online. Some of those sources indicate that Pignoletto is the same as the Grechetto grape grown primarily in Umbria, but I don't believe that's the case. The VIVC does list Pignoletto as an accepted synonym for Grechetto, but it also has a separate listing for Pignoletto itself, so I believe that the Pignoletto grown in Emilia-Romagna is distinct from Grechetto. The name Pignoletto probably comes from the word pigna, which means "pine cone" in Italian, which is the same root as the red Pignolo grape grown in Friulia, though the two grapes are not related. In both cases, the name comes from the fact that the bunches of grapes produced by the vines resemble pine cones. Some believe that the Pino Lieto referenced by the Roman writer Pliny is the same as the modern Pignoletto, but as we've found before, linking Roman grape names to modern grapes is a virtually impossible task. The grape is unusual in that it has very thick skins which are very high in tannins so most white wines made from the grape are pressed very lightly and moved away from the skins as soon as possible in order to avoid too much tannic extraction into the wine.
**UPDATE** I recently was able to try a more traditional wine from the Pignoletto grape and my tasting note can be found in this post.