Grape varieties that originated outside Italy or are best known for wines of other countries:
Barbera Native to Piedmont, but now widespread in Italy and internationally. Low in tannin, high in acidity, and deeply purple in color. Aromas & flavors: Tart red fruit (cherry, raspberry), dried herbs, lavender, underbrush, spices. Best DOPs: Barbera d’Asti and Nizza.
Cannonau Cannonau is a genetic match with Garnacha of Spain (Grenache in France and many other countries), as are Tai Rosso and Vernaccia Nera, but all of them have developed in relative isolation for centuries. Light in color. Aromas & flavors: Floral, herbal. Best DOP: Cannonau di Sardegna subzones Oliena, Jerzu, and Capo Ferrato.
Carignano Cariñena, transplanted from Spain centuries ago. Similar or identical to Bovale Grande. Grows best on sandy soils, where it produces creamy wines with soft tannins. Best DOP: Carignano del Sulcis.
Malvasia Malvasia: Group of mostly unrelated varieties—17 different “Malvasias” on official list, most white, some red (see Malvasia Nera), one pink (see Malvasia Rosa). Primary white varieties:
- Malvasia Bianca di Candia: Most-planted Malvasia. Light bodied; high in acidity. Aromas & flavors: White flowers, citrus, green or yellow apple, herbs.
- Malvasia Bianca Lunga: Primary ingredient (with or without Trebbiano Toscano) in vin santo. Low acidity.
- Malvasia del Lazio: Aka Malvasia Puntinata; a crossing of Zibibbo and Schiava Grossa. Highest-quality Malvasia. Aromas & flavors: Yellow fruit (peach, mango, banana, passionfruit), sage. Best DOP: Frascati DOC/G.
- Malvasia di Candia Aromatica: High-quality variety, especially for sweet wines. Aromas & flavors: Aromatic; tropical fruit and spice. Best DOPs: Colli di Parma DOC, Colli Piacentini DOC.
- Malvasia di Lipari: Genetically same as Calabria’s Greco Bianco. Primarily used for passito wines. Aromas & flavors: Peach, apricot, honey, orange. Best DOP: Malvasia delle Lipari DOC.
- Malvasia Istriana: Often used for “orange wines.” Minerally. Aromas & flavors: Peach, apricot, pear, wisteria, (with age) diesel. Best DOPs: Carso DOC, Collio DOC, Friuli Isonzo DOC.
Moscato Moscato Bianco is the most widespread member and probable progenitor of the international Muscat family, a large and varied group that has two major subtypes, Moscato Bianco (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) and Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria), as well as pink and red versions—Moscato Rosa and Moscato Nero, respectively. Low acidity. Aromas & flavors: Grapefruit, floral. Best DOP: Asti DOCG.
Moscato Nero The Muscat family is a large and varied group that includes the red Moscato Nero as well as pink (Moscato Rosa) and white versions (Muscat of Alexandria aka Zibibbo and Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains aka Moscato Bianco.
Moscato Rosa The Muscat family is a large and varied group that has white—Muscat of Alexandria (Zibibbo) and Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains (Moscato Bianco)—and red versions (Moscato Nero), as well as this intermediate pink subtype.
Primitivo Essentially the same as Zinfandel (both are biotypes of the Croatian Crljenak Kaštelanski aka Tribidrag). One of earliest ripening varieties in Italy. High in alcohol. Aromas & flavors: Red cherry, strawberry jam, plum; sometimes tobacco, tar, herbs. Best DOPs: Gioia del Colle DOC, Primitivo di Manduria DOC.
Trebbiano Prolific group of several unrelated varieties, all white. The only related ones are (1) Trebbiano Abruzzese and Trebbiano Spoletino and (2) Trebbiano di Lugana and Trebbiano di Soave (which are really Verdicchio). Primary varieties:
- Trebbiano Abruzzese: The highest-quality Trebbiano (apart from the ones that are actually Verdicchio). High acidity. Aromas & flavors: White flowers, peach, citrus.
- Trebbiano Toscano: The most planted type of Trebbiano. Same as Ugni Blanc, the grape of Cognac in France. High in acidity. Aromas & flavors: Generally neutral; can be delicately herbal and lemony.
Vernaccia Nera Vernaccia Nera is genetically identical to the Garnacha of Spain (Grenache in France and many other countries), as are Cannonau and Tai Rosso, but all of them have developed in relative isolation for centuries.
Welschriesling (Riesling Italico)
Zibibbo Aka Moscato di Alessandria (Muscat of Alexandria). Member of the large Muscat family of varieties; offspring of Moscato Bianco. Aromas & flavors: Apricot, orange blossom, lily of the valley, ginger, dried herbs; (sweet wines) orange jam, caramel, fig, raisin. Best DOP: Pantelleria DOC.