Rare Varieties is all about supporting producers passionately working to diversify the wine industry by honoring native grapes of their respective regions. In many instances, the efforts of producers featured in this series result in indigenous varieties being saved from near extinction, which makes their work even more valuable. Throughout the Rare Varieties series we’ve seen this play out with Maturana Blanca, Maturana Tinta, and Tempranillo Blanco from Viña Ijalba in Rioja. The same rang true for Ruché, Nascetta, and Grignolino in Piemonte. For this week’s featured minority variety, we’re looking at another red grape saved from near extinction in Piemonte called Slarina.
The Variety: Slarina
Slarina hails from the rolling hills of Monferrato in eastern Piemonte and is an extremely rare variety. It’s also known as Cellerina, or Cenerina, a derivative of the word for ash, due to the abundance of bloom which naturally forms on its grape skins. Slarina is an extremely low-yielding variety. Consequently, many plantings were removed in favor of Barbera in the early 1900s causing near extinction of this grape. Thanks to the University of Turin and the team at the Research Institute of Sustainable Plants, Slarina was rediscovered and reintroduced to Italy’s National Register in 2007.
The genetic lineage of Slarina is unknown. It’s medium-to-late ripening and characterized by small, almost blueberry-like berries with relatively sparse clusters. Currently, there is only a handful of estates in Piemonte supporting the revival of this Italian grape. Many of which planted vineyards of Slarina as recently as 2013-2016, so their first experimental vintages with this grape may just be coming to fruition. The rarity of Slarina is evident in the limited information available online covering this variety. From the wineries working with Slarina that I’ve found (Fabrizio Luli, Agricola Sulin, Enrico Druetto), it seems they each only have 1 hectare or less planted to this grape. So, it’s safe to say Slarina plantings are limited indeed. Though it looks like Fabrizio Luli has made a few vintages of this variety already.
If you have more information on Slarina, please get in touch!
The Winery: Enrico Druetto
Enrico Druetto decided to follow in his grandfather’s winemaking footsteps in 2010. He embraces natural practices with zero insecticides, pesticides, or fertilizers used in the vineyards. Druetto cultivates mainly Barbera, as well as indigenous varieties Slarina and Baratuciat, choosing to vinify the native grapes in purity. Traditionally, Slarina was blended with other varieties like Barbera, but Druetto prefers to let the personality of minority varieties shine.
As told to Original Italia, Enrico describes his winemaking philosophy perfectly, “I have a deep need to make wine; I consider it a moral duty towards those who did it before me. Everything I have comes from the land I know and cultivate. I hope to leave it cleaner, healthier and more alive one day than when I received it.”
All of Druetto’s wines undergo spontaneous fermentation and he practices minimal intervention winemaking.
Druetto managed to cultivate his Slarina vineyard from clippings of the variety he found growing amongst wild brambles. He named his wine accordingly, as Rovej is Piedmontese dialect for bramble. Exemplifying the low-yield of this grape, Druetto only gets around 1,000 bottles from 4,000 vines planted.
The Wine: Enrico Druetto Rovej 2017
- Intense ruby red color in the glass with a garnet rim
- Medium intensity aromas of stewed cherries and strawberries, wild blackberries, bramble, rhubarb, cedar bark, burnt orange peel
- Medium body, balanced acidity, sweet tannins with intense flavors of red fruits, licorice, rhubarb and concentration that lasts long beyond each sip
- An age-worthy wine; tasting beautifully now, but could continue to cellar a few more years
A big thank you to Piedmont Delights for gifting me this bottle, as well as introducing me to Slarina and the wines of Enrico Druetto. Piedmont Delights is on a mission to bring the flavors and eno-gastronomic traditions of Piedmont, one of Italy’s most beloved regions, to food and wine lovers throughout Europe. From alpine cheeses to cured meats, artisan wines, specialty products, and more, you’re sure to discover an authentic taste of this world-class region with Piedmont Delights.