Saturday, 21 October 2017

Pignoletto - or should we say Grechetto Gentile?

Thanks to the estimable Carla Capalbo, we received this invitation to an event described as 'a complete collection of over 70 Pignoletto wines' - 'For the first time ever in London'. In fact there were exactly 100.

We should say so! Pignoletto is only just beginning to permeate people's minds here in the UK thanks to some sterling work by Tesco of all people (of which more later) followed by others.

We adore pressure groups and lobbyists working on behalf of a particular grape variety. We salute the Global Riesling Network but why are there no others? It took the film 'Sideways' to put even Pinot Noir on the map but as anyone trying to sell wine will tell you, mention of an unfamiliar grape variety will put people off to the extent that the merchants dare not speak their names and the winemakers omit them from their labels.

So congratulations to the Consorzio Pignoletto for organising this event in London with Carla. Monaco, Duesseldorf and Frankfurt are also mentioned under the title of 'Bologna hills wineries on tour' so this seems to be a rolling event. When the tour ends people should have an infinitely greater awareness of Pignoletto for a start and the monopoly of Prosecco may have to yield which will be a very good thing indeed. How did Prosecco get to its sudden pre-eminence anyway? Last time we looked, there hadn't been a Prosecco-wineries-on-tour event.

Now here's the thing. Pignoletto used to be the name of a grape variety. This name can be found in the literature since the 17th century. Pignoletto is the grape name in entries in Galet's 'Dictionnaire Encyclopedique des Cepages', Robinson, Harding and Vouillamoz's 'Wine Grapes' and D'Agata's 'Native wine grapes of Italy', the most recent of these three authoritative works. 

But in the 100 wines shown at this Pignoletto tasting, not a single one is listed in the catalogue as employing a grape called Pignoletto. 

The explanation for this astonishing fact was given almost sotto voce in the tutored tasting to which we were fortunate enought to be admitted on the day of the Pignoletto tasting. 

Three years ago the Consorzio Pignoletto Emilia Romagna decided to name the AREA where Pignoletto is produced PIGNOLETTO and the grape, GRECHETTO GENTILE. 

The parrallel with Prosecco is obvious. Whereas Prosecco was previously a grape it is now the name of a wine, a DOC - and the grape is called Glera.

Pignoletto has also been known as Grechetto di Todi and several other names. It has been identified as identical to Pallagrella di Caserta but the Consorzio Pignoletto Emilia Romagna obviously favoured a name without connotations to other provinces hence Grechetto Gentile.

From left to right, Susan Hulme MW and Carla Capalbo presiding with Nicolas Belfrage MW 'gracing the tasting',

In the tutored tasting led by Susan Hulme MW and Carla Capalbo, we learned that up to 45 - 50 yeas ago, Pignoletto/Grechetto Gentile was grown mainly in the valleys and trained up and between trees for all sakes as if this was still the time of antiquity. Apparently land owners didn't like this because when the vines shed their leaves it made a mess but the tenant farmers renting the land were in favour because the vines formed a windbreak which protected their crops of hemp etc. So it is in living memory that Pignoletto/Grechetto Gentile wines, sparkling and still have accelerated to their present state of plantings and production.

80% of the new plantings of Grechetto Gentile in the Pignoletto area has been undertaken by the Cantine Riunite, formed in 2008 by amalgamating other co-operatives making Lambrusco as well as other wines including Pignoletto. With over 2,000 members the Cantine Riunite make determined efforts to protect the authenticity of their produce. 

'made from the unusual Pignoletto grape' (sic).

On hand at our tasting was a representative from Gaetano Righi, one of the most important members of the co-operative who was instrumental in selling Pignoletto to Tesco, so getting it started in the UK. 

Indeed, Righi's Spumante Pignoletto DOC Spumante Brut 11.5% was the first wine on our tutored  tasting menu. The others were 

Moden Blanc, Cleto Chiarli Spumante Pignoletto Brut DOC Moderna Vino 12%

150 CentoCinquanta Masselina Pignoletto DOC Vino Frizzante 20216 12%

Montevecchio Isolani Colli Bolognesi Pignoletto DOCG Frizzante Vino Biologico 12%

Orsi Vigneto San Vito Sui Lieviti Colli Bolognesi Pignoletto DOCG Frizzante 2015 12.5% 

Manaresi Colli Bolognesi Pignoletto Classico DOCG 2015 14%

Erioli Badianum Colli Bolognesi Pignoletto Classico DOCG 13.5%

Vallona Ammestesso Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto DOCG 2010 14%

We learned that the difference between Spumante and Frizzante was that of pressure (bar). Spumante has 20% or more and Frizzante 80% or more. The last three wines were still (fermo) by the way and this is one of the interesting features about Pignoletto. 67 of the wines on tasting were sparkling of one kind or another, 33 were still. Also there was a marked diversity of colour (some were even orange wines) and alcohol levels (from 11.5% - 14.5%). there were also a few Pignoletto Dessert wines from Grechetto Gentile.  This is we would say an advantage over Prosecco where the only still version it to be found in Vino Sfuso shops under the name 'Prosecco spento' in our experience.

Our favourite from the above was Cleto Chiarli's 'Moden Blanc.' This is not widely available (N/A UK) and should not be confused with 'Vecchia Modena' from the same company. We immediately ordered 6 bottles for Xmas. Other standouts were the Righi, the Biodynamic Orsi Sui Lieviti, the Erioli Orange wine

and the Vallona Ammsetesso - a wine macerated and fermented in stainless steel for 20 days and then left for 3 years on its lees in cement vats where the lees are stirred once a month. The winemaker says it has taken him 25 years to each this point. That's dedication and it shows. We were even able to forgive him the whopping 14% alcohol content which in general we try to avoid especially in white wine.

As with other big tastings we had to limit ourselves, so taking it as read that the Spumanti and Frizzanti were closer in style than the Fermi, we decided to devote ourselves to those still wines around 12% in alcohol. There were plenty of good ones including these;

This by Cantina Bazzano was one of our favourites

as was La Marmocchia


Complimenti to Francesco Cavazza Isolani, President of the Consorzio Pignoletto Emilia Romagna, his 100 members represented at the tasting and the organizers and presenters mentioned above. 

Can we look forward to a Complete Krasnostop Zolotovskiy tasting one day? Why not?

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