Italian Wine Varietals You Should Know
Salute! Here at Rubino Estates, we are proud to bring a taste of Italy to the Livermore Wine Country scene. We are a Cal-Ital winery, infusing old world flair into our wines and borrowing from the rich legacies of both Italian and Californian winemaking. Some of our varietals, such as our Riserva Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon are familiar classics, while others, such as our Nebbiolo and Trebbiano are rare, delightful, and intriguing. Some of the varietals we feature are rarely grown outside of Italy.
Trebbiano grapes are a pale green, yielding wines that are light in color and on the palate. Refreshing, dry, and crisp, a glass of perfectly chilled Trebbiano is delectable on a summer day. Trebbiano supposedly originated in the eastern Mediterranean regions, making its way to Italy by the Roman times. This easygoing wine is perfect for pairing with all sorts of dishes, especially Mediterranean cuisine. In the US, Trebbiano is a rare find, but wines from the large Trebbiano family account for around one-third of Italy’s white wines.
Sangiovese, often called by the nickname “Sangio” around here, grows prolifically in its home region of Tuscany. Sangiovese is featured in the famous “Super Tuscans” and Chianti Classico, and is the most planted varietal in Italy. In the US, it’s much harder to find. Italy boasts about 155,000 acres of Sangiovese vines—the most planted varietal in the county—while the US grows only 2,000 acres. This varietal’s deep purple grapes produce a gorgeous red color and cherry flavors, with intriguing flavor variation determined by the growing environment.
Primitivo is a curious varietal. Genetically, it is identical to Zinfandel, but Italian influence in the winemaking process differs this wine from its close relative. Originally from Croatia, Primitivo was first planted in Italy in the 1700s and now grows heartily in Puglia, the “heel” to Italy’s “boot.” Primitivo earned its name from the Latin word for “early ripening” since Primitivo grapes reach maturity sooner than similar varietals. Primitivo yields wines that are big, jammy, and rustic, perfect for pairing with classic Italian dishes.
Another lesser-known red varietal, Nebbiolo is grown almost exclusively in the Piedmont region of Italy. Historical records as far back as 1268 feature Nebbiolo as a prominent wine grape. The US grows as little as 170 total acres of Nebbiolo nationwide, so we are proud to offer this gem here at our Cal-Ital winery in the form of our Landmark Collection Nebbiolo as well as Rosé of Nebbiolo. The tannic nature of Nebbiolo grapes makes the wine ideal for aging, even holding steady for 20 years or more. The color is a pleasant red and surprisingly bright for being the yield of a purple-black grape.
Here in the US, Barbera is one of the best-known Italian varietals, partially due to its vigorous and adaptable nature. Just like us, Barbera loves warm weather, which California has in abundance.This varietal’s prolific vines are known for easy drinking wines that are also worthy of savoring. Barbera grapes are a picturesque purple and yield medium-bodied, dry reds that are simultaneously fruity and savory. If you are looking for a reliable and versatile wine for food pairings, Barbera is the right red for you!
Now that you've got the background info, it's time for the fun part: tasting them! Our tasting room is open seven days a week so we're always here to raise a glass.
Did we miss your favorite varietal? Let us know on social media @rubinoestates!