Every region has grapes that it favours in terms of its production of Italian wines. Of course, we have those that seem to defy all boundaries and are used all over the world, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot. And we also have the grapes that are so indelibly bound to a single region that simply saying their name conjures up a specific type of wine.
For example, what do you think of when we say Nebbiolo?
The odds are that you thought of Barolo or Barbaresco, right?
But then we have another category of grapes. These grapes have links to a specific region but they have yet to achieve the level of fame afforded to other grapes in the Italian wine pantheon. As such, they’re rarely the grapes that people look out for on wine bottle labels, regardless of their inherent quality.
Biancolella is one such grape
Though it has been used in Italian wines for centuries, it is a grape that we feel doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves. That’s why we’ve chosen to shine the Xtrawine spotlight on it in this article. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll know everything that you need to know about this amazing Italian wine grape.
There’s some debate about the origins of the Biancolella grape and how it came to Italy.
Some scholars will point you in the direction of the Ancient Greeks. Known for their love of wine, it’s possible that the Greeks introduced the grape that would eventually become Biancolella at some point during their fairly brief occupation of various Italian regions.
Others argue that the grape has a French origin instead. In France, it is raised as the Petite Blanche grape, though the similarities are there for all to see. Some claim that the grape travelled from the French islands all the way to Ischia, off the coast of Naples. It may have been here that the grape first saw widespread use in Italian wines.
Whatever the case may be, there’s no denying that the grape has been used in Italy for several centuries.
As mentioned, the grape is grown primarily on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples. Many believe that it is on this small island that the grape reaches its most perfect form. As such, the wines made using these grapes gain the most respect for wine aficionados. After all, it is believed that only this island can provide the volcanic soils that give the grape its unique character.
However, the grape is also used in several other DOC wines beyond what emerges out of Ischia and is widely grown in the Campania region. These wines include the Costa d’Amalfi, Campi Flegrei, and Penisola Sorrentina. In many cases, the wine gets blended with other white wine varieties to create simple, elegant, and very accessible Italian wines.
Regardless of its true history, there’s no denying that this is a grape of immense quality. That’s why it’s used in so many DOC wines. That makes it all the stranger that this grape does not achieve the same level of fame as some of its Italian wine brethren.
The Grape’s Key Qualities
The Biancolella grape is a white variety that is primarily grown to be used as a blended grape. As such, it’s fairly rare to see pure Biancolella wines. Instead, it specialises in bringing out the very best in the varieties that producers mix it with.
When you do manage to drink a wine made using this grape alone, you will tend to find that it produces a fairly dry wine. The grape offers a number of fruity notes, which contribute to its accessibility. But those who are willing to explore a little deeper may just discover the notes of almond that give Biancolella wines a touch more complexity than they appear to have at first.
The grape produces wines that have a gorgeous straw colouring, with just the merest hints of other shades flitting in and out. Wines made using these grapes also tend to be very aromatic, with the scent of the vine often making its way into the drink. This, coupled with additional floral notes, perfectly accompany the fruitier notes that the grape is better known for.
When introduced to the palate, Biancolella wines tend to be refreshing and exceptionally light. This makes them perfect summer wines, especially when the producer has learned how to blend the grape with others.
The Food Pairings
Let’s say that you want to paid a Biancolella wine with some food. What choices should you make?
As a fairly dry and refreshing white wine grape, this is something that doesn’t go particularly well with rich foods. Red meats and desserts will likely overpower the wine, leaving you with disappointing culinary results.
Instead, we recommend serving the wine alongside fish and other forms of seafood. In fact, we’ve found that the grape does a wonderful job of cutting through the often powerful and overwhelming flavours of anchovies, which many other wines experience difficulties with.
The wine also pairs well with many seasoned cheeses, with mozzarella being a big standout. Plus, it pairs well with paella and other dishes that make use of shrimps or prawns. Again, the wine is able to cut through some fairly sweet and rich flavours to provide perfect balance to these dishes.
So, as a general rule, the Biancolella grape works well for almost anything other than the richest of dishes.
The Final Word
For our money, Biancolella is one of the more underappreciated grapes in the Italian wine industry. Though it has been in use for centuries, the wines that it creates are not held in the same esteem as those that make up the top tier of Italian wine.
Perhaps it is time for that to change.
At Xtrawine, we offer several Italian wines that make use of this fine grape. Explore them today and perhaps you’ll discover your new favourite white wine variety.