Food & Drink

Ancient grapes yield new flavors

In a wine world that seems to be all about chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and merlot, it’s good to know there are stubborn producers out there who insist on continuing to grow lesser-known but tried-and-true varieties.

In Italy, winemakers are seeking to keep or bring back grapes that may be native or may have been imported 2,000 years ago from Spain, Greece or even Persia.

Near the many-towered Tuscan town of San Gimignano, the husband-and- wife team of Teruzzi and Puthod are blending vernaccia, an aromatic grape that may date to the Greeks, with crisply mineral vermentino, spicy malvasia and modern chardonnay grapes to produce Teruzzi & Puthod Terre di Tufi.

On the Italian island of Sardinia, the Sella & Mosca estate is one of the last vineyards growing the ancient torbato grape — a challenging proposition because its fruit is heavy and its stems fragile.

In the Puglia region, near the heel of Italy’s boot, the iconic Antinori family has combined two huge wine estates — Bocca di Lupo in the north and Masseria Maime in the south—under the Tormaresca brand. Each estate has its own modern winery set amid ancient farm buildings.

Antinori’s idea is to reintroduce grapes—aglianico, negroamaro, primitivo— that have grown there for more than 2,000 years ago, and to soften their austere, tannic nature with modern production methods.

The Antinoris also make vermentino wines in the Maremma, the southern part of Tuscany. They claim it picks up flavors of the salty Mediterranean air, making it a perfect accompaniment to seafood.

In the Tuscan region called Vino Nobile di Montalcino, the Tenimenti Anelini family has added cabernet sauvignon to its traditional blend of sangiovese and canaiolo to create a powerful and fruity wine called Trerose.

I say let’s raise a glass to these stubborn winemakers and their distinctive grapes.

Highly recommended

2003 Tormaresca Torcicoda Salento IGT (primitivo grape): soft and rich, with black plum flavors; warm and generous; $24.

2006 Teruzzi & Puthod Terre di Tufi, Toscana IGT (vernaccia, chardonnay, malvasia, vermentino): rich, crisp and intensely fruity, with aromas and flavors of citrus and mangoes; $21.


2004 Tormaresca Bocca di Lupo, Castel del Monte DOC (aglianico): red plum and clove aromas and flavors; firm tannins; muscular; long finish; $36.

2004 Tormaresca Masseria Maime Salento IGT (negroamaro): soft and lightly sweet, with black cherry, licorice and espresso aromas and flavors; $34.

2006 Teruzzi & Puthod Rondolino Vernaccia, San Gimignano DOCG: light, crisp and lively, with tart apple and mineral aromas and flavors; $14.

2007 Sella & Mosca Terre Bianche Torbato, Alghero DOC, Sardinia: hints of oak; very crisp and rich, with vanilla and citrus aromas and flavors; $20.