Bellone, one of the best quality white grape varieties native to Italy. It is little grown, however. It was once abundant in the Castelli Romani vineyards in the Lazio region of central west Italy, where it is still found in Frascati (upto 10% of the Frascati DOC). Theoretically is allowed to comprise 100% of the Marino and Nettuno DOCs. Bellone’s ancestor is said to be the Uva Pantastica described in Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia as particularly high quality. Uva Pane (‘grape as good as bread’) may be the same vine as Bellone (D’Agata thinks they are the same, others disagree). In ancient Rome the term ‘belli’ referred to a family of grapes with opulent, generously-looking bunches (Ian D’Agata: 2014, p.194-6, abridged). Bellone is also found Tyrrhenian coast around Anzio and Nettuno, and around Cori where it is most common, this being a poorer sub-region whose Bellone vineyards survived as it was too costly to rip them out, hence this is where best 100% Bellone wines come from (Ian D’Agata: 2014, p.194-6).

National registry code number | 23.

Morphology | ‘Bellone has large round berries and portly [medium-large] bunches. It is also called ‘Pacioccone’ or fatso. Also known as Caccione, Pampanaro and Arciprete, though the last of these is not exact. Wine grower Marco Carpineti thinks Bellone is identical to one Arciprete biotype called Arciprete Bianco Liscio and different to another called Arciprete Bianco Peloso or ‘hairy’ due to a fuzzy underside to its leaf. Both Bellone and Arciprete Liscio are smooth. Peloso’s grape bunch is also sparser that Liscio’s. These morphologic differences may be due to viruses. The Liscio bunch is said to be more compact, and thus more rot resistant,’ (Ian D’Agata: 2014, p.194-6, abridged).

Growing Bellone | Vigorous. Early bud burst. Not sensitive to oidium (Powdery mildew). Is sensitive to peronospera (downy mildew) and Botrytis cinerea. ‘Both biotypes mentioned above show low basal fertility, hence the spur cordon system is not possible. Volcanic soils suit it (ruling out the 420A rootstock in favour of SO4), as does limestone, and also says Marco Carpineti pozzolana or sandy-clay, allowing drainage, hence it was historically planted on hill slopes, (Ian D’Agata: 2014, p.194-6 (abridged).

Clones | ‘VCR2 came from a co-op grower called Giupponi in Cori. The ARSIAL-CRA 618 clone gives lighter and less glyceral wines which seem not to represent Bellone at its best,’ (Ian D’Agata: 2014, p.194-6 (abridged).

Wine style‘Both dry and sweet wines. Likes noble rot. Telltale luscious texture, creaminess, resiny mouthfeel, juicy acidity if well made. Large berries, thin skins rich in pectin and polyphenols so grapes need to be pressed slowly. Reductive winemaking needed: despite its polyphenol content Bellone’s juice oxidises easily. High natural acidity: good potential for sparkling wines. Late harvested grapes are created by twisting the stalk in September and left until November. Harvested with about 50% of the water content is lost. The result is sweet, unctuous wines which do not cloy due to the acidity. On a par with the greatest sweet wines of the world. Late harvested or air dried Bellone wines,’ (Ian D’Agata: 2014, p.194-6).

Wines | Lazio: Cori DOC.

Wines to try | See Ian D’Agata: 2014, p.194-6.

Bibliography

Italian Wine Unplugged (Positive Press, 2017), p158-9.