Canaiolo Nero | Red wine grape variety native to Italy. During the 16th-century, Canaiolo Nero was the main grape in Chianti, but now plays second fiddle in many Tuscan blends, softening Sangiovese’s tannins, making it less austere and more drinkable, and doing so in a less obtrusive way compared to Cabernet, or Merlot for example. As Maurizio Castelli (Enogea) says, Canaiolo Nero was ‘once both widely grown and well regarded in the Chianti territory. It was historically almost exclusively trained up trees, because post-phylloxera it grafted poorly onto American rootstocks, and usually gives reds with good structure, a strong spicy character and good temperament.’ Canaiolo Nero’s aforementioned poor adaptation to American rootstocks saw a decline in its popularity, exacerbated by a lack of healthy vine material for grafting, and its thin skin. 

No family ties | Canaiolo Nero is completely unrelated to Canaiolo Bianco (the latter is also known as Drupeggio), and the many so-called Canaiolo Neros in Umbria are in fact members of the Colorino family.

Biotypes | Cannaiola (sic), native to northwestern Lazio, is a biotype of Canaiolo Nero.

Other names | Merla (Tuscany).

Wine style | Colour is deeper than medium. Typical flavours are dog rose, red berry, sour red cherry.

Wines | Tuscany: Carmignano DOCG. | Chianti DOCG. | Chianti Classico DOCG. | Colli dell’Etruria Centrale DOC. | Montecarlo DOC. | Rosso di Montepulciano DOC. | Valdarno di Sopra DOC Canaiolo Nero. | Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG. 

Producers of interest | Vallone di Cecione (Chianti Classico DOCG). | Villa Vallacchio (Chianti Classico DOCG).

Bibliography

Bill Nesto MW & Frances Di Savino, Chianti Classico, the Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine, (University of California Press, 2016).

Italian Wine Unplugged (Positive Press, 2017), p87-8.

Maurizio Castelli, Enogea, ‘Maurizio Castelli, il sangiovese e il Chianti Classico. Intevista vintage,’ interview 21 January 2014 by Francesco Falcone for Enogea (enogea.it).

Oxford Companion to Wine 4th edition ed. Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW (Oxford University Press, 2015).