Little-Known Italian Grapes on the Rise

Monday, 21 January, 2019
SevenFiftyDaily, Alan Tardi
From Rossese Bianco to Schioppettino, these emerging varieties should be on your radar

On the outskirts of Monforte d’Alba, the Josetta Saffirio winery is located in the tiny hamlet of Castelletto, between the villages of Serralunga and Castiglione Falletto—in the middle of Barolo country. But what excites Sara Vezza, Josetta’s daughter and the fourth-generation proprietor of the estate, even more than Barolo is a rare white grape that grows in this area and practically nowhere else.

“We made our first Rossese Bianco in 2008,” says Vezza, “after a small vineyard of white grapes that had been leased out for a long time came back to us. My mother didn’t want to plant Chardonnay, and I’m glad she didn’t. The [Rossese] clusters are small and compact and the wine is unique. It’s moderately aromatic with scents of white flowers and petrol, mineral and sapid on the palate, and has lots of personality. When people come here to taste Barolo, many try Rossese first and are totally surprised. Everyone really likes it!”

Rossese Bianco probably came to this area centuries ago along the Via del Sale, the ancient trade route that connected coastal Liguria with landlocked Piedmont. Josetta Saffirio has a half hectare of Rossese, from which it produces about 3,000 bottles per year. The winemaker Giovanni Manzone, also in Castelletto, is another longtime supporter of Rossese Bianco, which was officially admitted to the Langhe DOC appellation in 2010. There are currently less than 2 hectares under vine and five wineries in the Langhe that produce it.

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