Tuesday, June 16, 2015

White Wine Grapes, Part 5: Grechetto

We started this series five weeks ago after tasting a couple of lovely white blends from Montauto of Tuscany.  Now we're returning to Montauto by taking a look at Grechetto which occupied 70% of Montauto's "Arcione" white blend.  According to the encyclopedia, Grechetto adds structure and richness along with herbal and nutty flavors to any white blend and in the case of Arcione, it most definitely did that.

That same encyclopedia says the Grechetto grape comes to Italy, like so many others, from Greece, just as its name intimates.  Other sources, however, maintain that the grape is an autochthonous grape of Umbria where it has a lengthy and successful history in white wine blends.  Whenever uncertainty regarding grape origins occurs it usually means the ampelographers have taken their science back as far as they can and now must guess as to origins.  When the grape is acknowledged to be the best of its region like Grechetto is to Umbria, this in turn, leads to the opportunity for the state to step in and claim the grape as its own as California did for years with Zinfandel.  In 1997 Italy responded to Grechetto's burgeoning popularity by creating the Assisi DOC to market varietal Grechettos out of the eastern Umbrian countryside.

Landlocked Umbria is known as the "the green heart of Italy".  It features a uniquely mineral-rich soil comprised of aquatic fossils betraying its ancient seabed origins.  Grechetto plantings in central Italy extend to the east into Marches, west into Tuscany, and south into Latium.  There are currently twenty-five names for Grechetto reflecting both the territorial breadth and history of plantings.  While the Italian claim on Grechetto is both historically and culturally based, the grape also shares genetic material with other central Italian grapes.

Blending partners with Grechetto include Trebbiano, Malvasia, Verdello, Vermentino, and of course, the international giant, Chardonnay.  By its nature Grechetto is medium to full bodied with good acidity and a strong, dry taste.  Grechetto is best known  as the principal grape of the DOC, Orvieto, in Umbria.  In this incarnation and others Grechetto is rarely oak aged.  More often, malolactic fermentation is the preferred manipulation to soften Grechetto's stronger flavors.  When blended, Grechetto is more likely to see moderate oak exposure.

Viticulturists and winemakers love Grechetto.  In the vineyard it is a thick skinned, disease resistant, low yielding vine and that usually results in concentrated flavors.  As new plantings in select regions in and around Umbria have increased, the potential is seen for a new generation of fine Italian white wines featuring complex aromas and flavors of exotic fruits and mixed nuts.    

Please join us this Friday, the 19th, after 5pm when Ted Fields of Domaine Fine Wines presents an array of Italian reds and whites for us to enjoy.  Ted is a former art history professor who now spends much of his time in Europe in pursuit of liquid art for us to consider here on the home front.  Expect some artful cheeses to be on the table also.

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