In keeping with my recent trend, this week I selected another grape with very little information available about it due the grape’s scarcity. Piccola Nera (translated means ‘little black’ and is named so because of the size and color of the grape) is a red grape found primarily in Trieste in northeastern Italy. This region is also in close proximity to the border of Slovenia, where the grape can also occasionally be found. In Slovenia, it is known as Mala Cerna. It usually makes lighter red or rosé style still wines. It can also be blended. In the Carso DOC, it is commonly blended with Terrano. As of the year 2000, there were under 50 acres of Piccola Nera being grown within Italy.
This week’s bottle is a 2018 Piccola Nera from Nicolini Vineyards in Trevenezie IGT. This is a family run winery that consists of just 2 total hectares of vineyard land. On these 2 ha, they only cultivate indigenous grape varieties. Each vintage they produce a meager 6000 bottles (500 cases) of wine in total. When I took the amber, Riesling-style bottle off the shelf at the wine shop, my only indicators of what to expect were the word Nera and the region Trevenezie that were listed on the label. It was only upon pouring my glass did I begin to unveil some of the mysteries this bottle held. When I pulled the cork, I was intrigued to find virtually no color on it, as if it came from a bottle of white wine, and not a 4 year old bottle made with red grapes. Then I poured my glass and a coppery salmon colored liquid flowed from the bottle. It surely was not a hue I anticipated when seeing after reading the ‘little black’ translation of the grape name. I also observed tiny little bubbles collecting around the bowl of my glass in a frequency and size that reminded me of the stars in the sky. The aromas this wine radiated were those of red currants, red huckleberries, thimbleberry, slightly dried rose petal, and red apple juice. On the palate, this lighter bodied dry wine had enough tannin to add texture and balance the moderate level of acid and alcohol. The bottle listed an abv (alcohol by volume) of 11.5% but this bottle drinks a little heavier than this would indicate. This wine had notes reminiscent of strawberry in the form of candy and gum, as well as fresh wild ripe strawberries. The bitter character of ripe cranberry and the earthy minerality this wine displayed added depth and lingered on the finish. This wine has enough acid, it could stand up to cioppino or manicotti. It would also be wonderful with charcuterie.