Some Nosiolo grapes on the vine.

Some Nosiola grapes on the vine. Lonely little fellow stuck out there in Trentino, Lombardy, and Veneto. Give the poor guy some love.

I’d certainly forgive you if you were unfamiliar with the medium-sized berry white grape Nosiola. Seeing as there are only about 50 hectares of the little guys planted in the entire world, and all of those are located in northern Italy, (Trentino, Lombardy, and Veneto to be exact), it’s hardly surprising that sightings of wines labelled as such are very much few and far between.

As is the case with so many of these more obscure grape varietals, the vast majority of these vines (there were well over 850 hectares planted as recently as 54  years back) were replanted to more profitable grapes (namely Pinot Grigio in this part of Italy). Hence the Nosiola is pretty much close to non-existent, but it is certainly worth tracking down if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.

According to lore, the name Nosiola comes from the Italian nocciola, or hazelnut, due to the colour of both the berry and the stalk when fully ripened. It’s also true that some of the wines produced from Nosolia can be said to exhibit particularly distinctive aromatics of toasted hazelnut.

More suited to well-ventilated hillside sites rather than flatlands, due to it susceptibility to rot and mildew, Nosolia is utilised to make soft, delicate, lighter white wines that in the best examples exhibit floral and citrus aromatics alongside that distinctive hazelnut character. Allow the vine to overcrop and you’ll be left with a diminutive wine, but with the right climatic conditions and lower yields the wines have the potential to be incredibly nuanced and surprisingly complex.

The grape is also used to make Trentino Vino Santo, an often exquisite, rich, creamy, nutty sweet wine that in my mind (and I have only tried it twice!) more than gives the Vin Santos of Italy a run for their money.  

Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’d like to see more Nosiola as soon as possible please.