Let’s explore yet another delicious, rare variety from the rolling hills of the Langhe in Piemonte. Nebbiolo really steals the show in this Italian wine region. Yet there is a seemingly infinite number of lesser-known indigenous varieties very much worth your time. We’ve already explored Ruché, Grignolino, Slarina, and Nascetta all of which do not disappoint. The even bigger upside to these wines is that they offer great quality for price, especially alongside the higher price points of Barolo and Barbaresco. Pelaverga, also known as Pelaverga Piccolo, is another rare variety from Piemonte which exceeds expectations.
The Variety: Pelaverga Piccolo
This rare Italian grape grows mainly in Verduno in the province of Cuneo. As of 2008, there were only 13.5 hectares of Pelaverga planted. Following the promotion of Piedmont’s lesser-known grapes starting in the 90s, plantings have since increased by 8% to 21.5 hectares as of 2018. Thankfully, 10-15 producers have held out on replacing their Pelaverga vines with the more profitable Nebbiolo. The variety was possibly brought to Verduno from Saluzzo, a town around 40km away, in the 18th century by a priest. However, the origins of Pelaverga are still unclear. In the 1990s, it was distinguished from a similar variety with larger berries known as Pelaverga Grosso, which grows in Saluzzo.
Pelaverga Piccolo has medium-small sized berries with medium to large conical or pyramid shaped clusters. It’s a mid-to-late ripening variety, which helps fortify the variety against spring frosts. The variety was almost completely forgotten until the 1970s when producers decided to rediscover the grape with an experimental vineyard. By the 1980s, single varietal Pelaverga wines began popping up more frequently. It’s a vigorous variety which provides a challenge during winemaking. Pelaverga wines are quite pale and in an effort to extract more color during fermentation, wines can become overly tannic.
Verduno Pelaverga DOC
Established in 1995, the Verduno Pelaverga DOC encompasses the Verduno area as the name suggests. The designation requires a minimum of 85% Pelaverga Piccolo grapes and the remaining 15% can be comprised of other native grapes. Wines must be aged for a 4-month minimum. As of 2018, the Verduno Pelaverga DOC claims 18 hectares of the variety’s total vineyard plantings in Piedmont. The DOC covers the village of Verduno as well as some vineyard area creeping into neighboring La Morra and Roddi d’Alba.
Colline Saluzzesi DOC
Alternatively, the Colline Saluzzesi DOC incorporates Pelaverga into blends along with Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Chatus. At least 60% of a Colline Saluzzesi Rosso must be made from one or more of these varieties. When labeled varietally as Colline Saluzzesi Pelaverga DOC, the wine must be made from 100% Pelaverga DOC. This designation also includes a rosato made from 100% Pelaverga that’s bound to be fresh and fruit forward with a touch of tantalizing spice.
In the Glass
Pelaverga Piccolo wines are characterized by a pale ruby red color. They’re quite light like Pinot Noir, Cinsault, or Freisa in Piedmont. Expect aromas of white or black pepper, red fruits, and occasionally black fruits. On the palate, these wines deliver high, mouthwatering acidity, light to moderate tannins, and moderate alcohol generally around 12-13% abv.
Verduno Pelaverga DOC Cantina Comunale Di Castiglione Falletto
We picked up this wine at the Cantina Comunale in Castiglione Falletto. After our tasting at Vietti, we headed into the village’s enoteca to grab a bottle of the Vietti Timorasso. This Pelaverga also caught my eye, as the variety had been on my radar for a while but I had yet to encounter a bottle. I’m so happy we crossed paths because this wine is absolutely fantastic…perhaps even a little too drinkable ;).
- Delicate, lovely, pale ruby red with garnet reflections in the glass.
- Fragrant, mesmerizing aromas of dried roses, fresh violets, raspberry, red cherry, red currant, white pepper, cinnamon, potpourri/dried flower quality, and earthy undertones.
- Really stunning on the nose; every time you smell the wine you find something new to enjoy.
- Medium bodied, high acidity, light tannins with a savory palate featuring red fruit, dried orange peel, and white pepper flavors.
- The finish is a bit short, but well-balanced on the palate.
Pelaverga is the ideal wine pairing for a variety of foods thanks to its high acidity, red fruit flavors, and subtle spice notes. This wine is the perfect match for herb-loaded dishes like Greek spanakopita as the fresh herb flavors complement the wine’s red fruit and spice notes deliciously. Alternatively, spiced chicken kebabs, tomato-based dishes like penne arrabbiata, grilled vegetables, and aged cheeses will all please your palate alongside a glass of this stunning Italian red wine.