Italian Whites (Obscure or not?)

To the “average” American wine drinker, I would say all of those might be obscure. For me, only Picolit on that list. Loren mentioned Bellone, which I have not heard of either. For geeky wine people, you might need to dig a little deeper.

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I reckon Nascetta counts as obscure in Piemonte and even in its home in the Langhe!

This. And Picolit has gotten quite rare and also quite obscure. None of the others I’d really count as obscure - Timorasso maybe.

But Malvasia as a suggestion is a bit weird, since there is no single Malvasia, but instead numerous different ones. Some are obscure and others are anything but. Or Favorita? That’s just Vermentino.

If we really want to dive into the category that I think are obscure, let me nominate:

  • Garofanata
  • Ginestra
  • Maceratino
  • Minutolo (formerly thought to be a synonym for Fiano; now considered a separate variety)
  • Roscetto (historically a common variety in Umbria and Lazio, used as a part of blends; rare today and varietal wines are very obscure)
  • Rossese Bianco
  • Rovello Bianco
  • Torbato (a few decades ago was almost extinct, now relatively common in Sardinia)
  • Trebbiano Spoletino (this one is gaining traction, which is great)

And so on. These are just some varieties I’ve come across. Considering how there are probably something around 1000 different grape varieties grown only in Italy, I’m pretty sure it’s quite easy to find something even more obscure than these if one wants to keep digging.

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If you trust what’s on the Internet, those two are related but distinct.
Elio Sandris’ Jaunis (apparently 100% Favorita) wasn’t so memorable…

I trust José Vouillamoz: Morphological and DNA comparisons have clearly established that Favorita (Piemonte), Pigato (Liguria) and Vermentino (Liguria, Sardegna, Toscana and Corse) are one and the same variety.

I would rather consider Pigato a distinct variety rather than Favorita, since all the Favoritas I have tasted have been as bland and neutral as all the continental Vermentinos I’ve tasted, whereas Pigato not only makes more distinctive wines, but is also slightly different in appearance with its freckled skin. However, it seems it is just one of the many clones of Vermentino instead of a distinct variety.

The Piedmontese producers like to spread the word that Favorita is a distinct local variety, but it all seems nothing but rumors, nothing based on facts.

To my knowledge, Otto is right. The Italian registry shows them as distinct varieties, but DNA testing has shown them to simply be biotypes of Vermentino. I am sure more testing will be done in the future, but as of now it seems that some are just reluctant to give up their unique history.

I will say that sometimes the biotypes may as well be different varieties imo. Chiavennasca really should be considered differently to Nebbiolo, though they are technically both Nebbiolo.

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Well, people typically consider Pinots Noir, Blanc, Gris, Meunier and Precocé different varieties, whereas they are all just color mutations of one and same variety, ie. technically different biotypes but not different varieties.

The same with Gewurztraminer and Savagnin. They produce wines that are completely unlike each other, but technically they are one and the same variety - Gewurztraminer is just an aromatic color mutation of Savagnin.

But IMO the differences between Chiavennasca and the other biotypes of Nebbiolo are pretty minuscule compared to these examples, so I think it’s just fine to bundle them all under the Nebbiolo biotypes term.

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The flavor profile is distinctly different imo. To my knowledge the grapes and bunches are pretty distinct from one another as well.

Not sure it makes sense to compare them to the obvious differences of the Pinots or Gewurztraminer, but those are of course clear examples of my point as well.

In the end, to the consumer or diner, the fact that they are the same variety, becomes more or less irrelevant I think.

Levi shared this excellent video some years ago for those interested in this very topic:

If you didn’t watch it already, and for anyone else interested, I highly recommend it.

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Checking it out now. She actually did a seminar last week at the Barolo & Barbaresco World Opening in NYC. Sounds like it might be essentially the same talk, but even if it is this is fantastic that it is recorded.

Some Italian white grape varieties that could be considered “obscure” include Timorasso, Pecorino, Ribolla Gialla, and Carricante. These varieties are not as widely known internationally as others such as Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay, but they can offer unique and exciting flavor profiles when crafted into white wines

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I checked the list, I think we have all of them except Picolit.

Anyone wanting the extreme geek version should read Ian d’Agata’s two books on Italian grape varieties. I find them extremely useful. ‘Obscure’ is his middle name.


The only one I have not to my knowledge tried is Nascetta.

Varieties I have tried that are not listed or mentioned yet include Bombino, Coda di Volpe, Passerina, Pignoletto, Verdeca, and Verduzzo. Probably others that I can’t remember because they are too obscure.

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After doing a bit of research, I could make a reasonable argument that I have had them all.

Glera was one I didn’t know, I googled it. Barf.

Yes, and I bet there will be plenty of others in the same boat. I hated the protectionist chicanery that brought ‘Glera’ into our vocabulary.


Not all Glera is bad. This one, for example, is surprisingly good. It needs a longer name, though.

Merotto Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Cuvée del Fondatore Graziano Merotto Brut Rive di Col San Martino

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I’m sorry to tell you this but the length of the name automatically classifies this as a German Riesling. This supersedes any DOCG, AOC or other certification of origin.

It’s world law.

Baratuciat is something that could be added to the list. A very obscure piedmontese variety, that was previously used mainly as a table grape. Supposedly makes very sauvignon blanc-esque wine.


Bumping this before I close the poll.

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