A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.
Monday, August 6, 2012
Maceratino - Colli Maceratesi, Marche, Italy
A lot of the confusion with Maceratino has to do with synonyms. Maceratino has 21 synonyms listed in the VIVC, and, confusingly, eight of those synonyms include the word Greco while four include the word Verdicchio. Many sources (including the OCW, Wikipedia and this Italian source) indicate that there may be some kind of relationship between Maceratino and Greco and/or Verdicchio, and some of them use the overlapping synonyms as an argument for that. There are some ampelographic similarities between the vines that has led to the grapes sharing some synonyms, but it hasn't ever really been clear whether there's a serious genetic relationship between Maceratino, Greco and/or Verdicchio. While I didn't find any studies that answered the question directly, I think I was able to find some answers by linking the findings from a few different studies together.
Before taking a look at Maceratino, I first wanted to take a look at the relationship between Greco and Verdicchio. The OCW indicates that Maceratino could be related to either Greco or Verdicchio, but Wikipedia indicated that it was related to both, which naturally implies some sort of relationship between Greco and Verdicchio themselves. The Wikipedia article on Verdicchio makes this a bit more explicit, as they say that with Verdicchio, there "appears to be a genetic relation to Trebbiano and the Grecogrape varieties." We explored the relationship between Trebbiano and Verdicchio in the post on Turbiana, but this was the first that I had heard about an alleged relationship between Verdicchio and Greco. The source for this claim is Bastianich and Lynch's Vino Italiano, which refers to Greco as a family of grapes with the Umbrian Grechetto as a subvariety and the Sicilian Grecanico as either a synonym for Greco proper or merely an offshoot of the family. The authors further maintain that "greco may well have been the progenitor of most of the white varieties in Italy, including trebbiano, verdicchio, and the garganega of Soave in the Veneto," according to "some historians and scientists."
I took a look at a paper that I used for researching my Turbiana post, and pretty much all of the evidence that I needed was right there. The authors of this paper didn't test Maceratino, but they did test Greco Bianco and Verdicchio and found that there was only 20% similarity between the two cultivars genetically, meaning that if they were related to one another, it would be very distantly. Furthermore, Grechetto and Grecanico themselves had a similarity rating of 20% between them and both had a similarity rating of about 10% to Greco and Verdicchio, meaning that there isn't any really good reason to believe that these four grapes are closely related to one another at all.
So now that we know that Greco and Verdicchio aren't related to one another, we also know that if Maceratino is related to either of them, it can really only be related to one and not to both. Maceratino isn't a very common grape and I wasn't sure if I could find a study with any genetic information on it, but, fortunately, I not only found one, but I found one that also tested Verdicchio as well (citation below). This study was designed to test the discriminatory power of various microsatellite sites, which means basically that they were testing to see which areas of DNA differed the most across various grape varieties, so that those sites could be targeted in future studies. The results indicated that Verdicchio and Maceratino matched exactly at three sites, matched for one allele at two other sites and didn't match at all on the sixth site. This means that the two grapes are definitely distinct cultivars and are not a parent-offspring match, but there could be a more distant but still relatively close familial relationship between them. The similarity of Maceratino to Verdicchio also means that it is very unlikely that Maceratino is related to Greco Bianco.
Geographically, this makes a lot of sense. Verdicchio is thought to be native to the Marche region of Italy, where Maceratino is also found. The name Maceratino doesn't have anything to with the word "maceration," but rather with the fact that the grape is thought to be from the town of Macerata in the Marche (though two of its other synonyms, Montecchiesse, meaning from Montecchio, and Matelicano, meaning from Matelica indicate that this bit of information isn't necessarily 100% controversy-free either). Most Italian sources indicate that it has been grown in the Marche for hundreds of years, but plantings have been falling recently. The reasons for its decline aren't 100% clear, as the vine yields generously and is relatively hardy in the vineyard while still producing quality wine. This is usually the recipe for increased plantings, but some believe that Verdicchio's commercial success in international markets has led to many producers tearing up vines in order to plant more Verdicchio to meet consumer demand. Most of the Maceratino that is still grown is found in the Colli Maceratesi DOC, where the white wines must be at least 85% Maceratino.
Filippetti, I., Silvestroni, O., Thomas, M.R., and Intrieri, C. 2001. Genetic characterisation of Italian wine grape cultivars by microsatellite analysis. Acta Horta. 546. pp. 395-399.