Grignolino…. Fly on Little Wing!

6 October 2015

GRIGNOLINO (….the 2nd ‘G’ is silent and so it sounds more like GRINIO-LINO).

Silent for a century or more? Apparently so. Though, when you discover that currently almost 2 million bottles are produced per vintage, you’ve got to ask yourself, what the heck is Grignolino, should I try get my hands on it and if so, where?

To find it, get yourself to Piemonte in Northern Italy. Indeed more precisely to the provinces of Alessandria and Asti. If you’re like us, always searching for the best in quality, you’ll park up in and around Vignale Monferrato. Infact how about this….open Google maps, search for Casale Monferrato and then draw a series of lines from there to Alessandria and from Alessandria to Asti and then back to Casale Monferrato. You’re now looking at an isosceles triangle, in the centre of which you’ll find Vignale Monferrato. And by the reckoning of many, this is most likely to be the native home of Grignolino, one of Piemonte’s lesser known native Red grapes.

Vignale Monferrato is also the home of native grape winemaking hero, Ermanno Accornero, owner at the Accornero Vineyard. And together with oenologist, Mario Ronco, they’re working hard to bring Grignolino back to its historical and most noble roots. Interestingly though it seems their efforts go contrary to Piemonte’s DOC regulations. You see back in 1971 when they were published, the DOC encouraged producers to produce Grignolino as a youthful, less complex, wine. At that time it wasn’t deemed to be worth the bother. Well, when one considers that, come harvest time, this is a vine that regularly offers unevenly matured fruit, the idea of making something cheerful and probably cheap really doesn’t make much sense. Surely this grape needs a little care and attention? That’s what Ermanno and Mario thought and that’s what they are doing. Afterall, the records show this grapes history goes back as far as the 1300’s. Indeed right up to two centuries ago, Grignolino was getting serious attention, considered as it was one of the noblest wine grapes in Piemonte.

So where did it get derailed ? Who knows, maybe it was the ravages of phylloxera, changing tastes, commercial expediency or simply a growing ignorance of the variety that put paid to its popularity in the last 150 years.

But the great news today is that with Accornero, Grignolino is back on the radar. And it’s already proving its noble credentials with their Grignolino ‘Vigne Vecchie’ Bricco del Bosco 2009 scooping some of Italy’s top awards for 2015.

Grignolino has its own peculiarities. One immediate and visible one being it contains a lot of pips. Also, even though it is a RED variety, in its hometown the locals see it as behaving more like a white variety. When you get your first sighting of it, perhaps you’ll understand why. It’s seriously pale in colour. While the younger vintages might be pale ruby’s, in Accornero’s case, after lengthy aging, it’s a magical pale garnet with ‘amber and orange’ hues.

In colourful terms, Mario Ronco explained the influence of ‘yellow’ in this wines colour spectrum and how it gives this striking ‘orange’ tone. Certainly, at a quick first glance, you’d easily be deceived as to this wines origin. But a first whiff on the nose and then a drop on the palate, and you’ll discover a world apart – dry, floral, red fruit conserves, lightly spiced, with notes of caramel, chocolate, tobacco and black tea fused seamlessly with soft crushed velvety tannins. Elegant ? No. It’s bloody heavenly!! Aged in oak & bottle for 54 months, it’s meditative marvel if ever there was one.

Let’s not sit on the fence. Grignolino is a red grape producing wines that are assertive, talented, uniquely identifiable, noble, explosive and mind-blowingly brilliant.  Just like the brilliance of Hendrix in his day, this wine is flying solo…..and without hesitation we say…. Fly on Little Wing!

Sadly we’ll never know how Jimi would have aged. But, if you’re lucky enough to have one of Ermanno Accornero’s vintage Vigne Vecchie Grignolino’s in hand, hold on to it as long as you can bear. He’s given us back a real gem… one that we didn’t even realise we could so easily have lost.

Vintage Jimi Hendrix from 1967, together with the vintage Grignolino Vigne Vecchie 2009 Bricco del Bosco…..and if good fortune favours you, for a ‘walk through the clouds‘ try the Accornero 2008

Here’s Ermanno himself talking you through his own tasting of the 2007…..

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