Malvasia is the most common grape variety in Italy, but probably has its roots in ancient Greece. The name Malvasia is most likely a corruption of the southern Greek port city of Monemvasia, which was a key entrepôt for the much sought after dessert wines of the eastern Mediterranean during the Middle Ages. Such was Malvasia’s influence, the wine shops of the Venetian Republic were known as malvasie. Malvasia today comes in a broad range of usually white wines with rich colour and sweetness, notably dessert wines. The grape can now be found in various forms around the world, but most prominently in Italy and Iberia. While there are various differences between the wide range of grapes carrying the name Malvasia, or corruptions of it, they most often produce richly coloured white wines with strong characters, high alcohol content and often residual sugar. In many ways, Malvasia is similar in style and variety as Muscadet. Despite the wide reach of Malvasia, it is generally grown in small quantities. It is still today one of the most widely planted grapes in Italy, and is commonly used in blended wines, often with Trebbiano.
This is a rare red grape that was recently rescued from apparent extinction. The name comes from the Italian pigna, pine cone, due to the shape of its dense bunches. It was mentioned in a late 17th century book, “Bacchus in Friuli” by Abbot Giobatta Michieli, as making “excellent black wine”, but was devastated by the late 19th century outbreak of phylloxera. It only began its re-emergence in the 1970s, when a row of ancient ungrafted vines was discovered in the abbey of Rosazzo. These cuttings were first replanted by Girolamo Dorigo in 1973. There were around 20 hectares of Pignolo in 2000, but this has probably increased over time. Pignolo can make some excellent full-bodied and deeply coloured wines, either blended or varietal. The varietals generally have good acidity and soft tannins, with stone fruit and red berry flavours