#WineGrapeChallenge 1: Nosiola

Entry number 1 of what I hope will be 1386.. The beginning of the Jancis ‘Wine Grapes’ Challenge. If you missed how it began the take a look here.

I promised that I wouldn’t start this challenge with something run of the mill and pedestrian. I therefore hope you agree that a dry Nosiola from Trentino fits the bill nicely. Never heard of Nosiola? Nor me……

Found only in Northern Italy and more specifically and especially in the Valle dei Laghi near Trento,  it is a very localised indigenous grape with increasingly limited production. 

Local DOC law dictates that any DOC Nosiola must be limited to a harvest yield of 14 tonnes/ha maximum and a minimum alcohol level of 10.5%.

What does Jancis Say?
Nosiola is also know as Groppello Bianco or Spargelen (in Alto Adige) . The name “Nosiola” is reputed to originate from “Nocciola” meaning hazelnut.

It is a mid to late ripening grape that is susceptible to spring frost and powdery mildew. 

Much of the Nosiola harvest is deliberately affected by noble rot and then dried on racks to make a very rare Vino Santo (only around 10 hectares remain and only around 30,000 half bottles produced). So rare, unfortunately, that I couldn’t find any.

The dry version is often considered to be fragrant and zesty with a slight hazelnut aroma.

Original Italy map template from www.presentationmagazine.com

What did I drink?

Gino Pedrotti is one of the main Nosiola producers in the area and, in addition to the Nosiola offers up a Chardonnay and a white blend as well as three reds (Merlot, Rebo, Schiava Nero and a blend). That’s of course in addition to the hallowed Vino Santo. The current vintage on offer is the 2013. 

Their website is unusually detailed for such a small scale wine so I can tell you that this particular wine was harvested by hand between 9-11 October 2013, and was subject to 20 days skin contact before completing fermentation in a stainless tank. It was matured for 15 months (12 in steel, 3 in bottle) resulting in 12.2% alcohol. All extremely precise!

At first the wine was rather closed on the nose bar a mineral note, so we decanted it and waited a while. I’d like to say that decanting lead to an explosion of fruit or flowers but sadly it remained quite a muted offering. 

The palate is hard to define with no discernable specific fruit, its an easy drinker and a flexible food match mainly because it is so inoffensive but equally sadly, unexciting. 

After a rounded mid-palate, a couple of seconds later a bitter almost rather burnt aftertaste develops with a faint nuttiness. This reflects, I suppose, the reputed hazelnut flavour typical of the grape.

Where can you get some?

The Pedrotti version that I tried came from Cellar SW4  £38 is the bar list price but at the moment you take any bottle away for £12 less than list so £26.

BuonVino have a 100% Nosiola from Giuseppe Fanti at £18 here

Liberty Wines have a (trade only) dry Nosiola from Cesconi in Trentino Alto Adige.   You can read about it here. From their description it sounds as though it shares characteristics to a degree with the one that I tasted from the lightly fruity palate to the slightly nutty aftertaste.

Slurp have a skin-contact, orange wine version of Nosiola that is also matured in amphora buried underground. You can find it here. At £30, its a pricey drop for something that is a bit of a gamble but highly likely to be interesting bearing in mind the amount its been fiddled with to get to bottle!

What all these wines have in common is the small nature of their production and the unusual techniques that the wine makers are deploying on what almost seems like an experimental basis. Whilst its great to see such experimentation, it does result in expensive price tags meaning that they are rarely going to be commercially viable as the mainstay of a vigneron’s stable of wines. It does also strike me that all these different techniques are arguably attempts to make a rather neutral grape more interesting. I am glad that Trentino’s winemakers are making the effort to preserve Nosiola though bearing in mind its status as reputedly the only original indigenous white grape to the area (and that based on everyone’s ambivalent reaction to it- its not likely to be exported to new climes).  Although I might not hunt out a dry version again in too much of a hurry, I would be keen to try the Vino Santo- pass the cantuccini….

So, one down and 1385 grapes to go. 


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