Erbaluce | White wine grape native to Italy. Little-known outside of northern Piedmont, this wine has a distinguished past including having its wines win a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1855, the same fair that yielded the famous 1855 classification of Bordeaux’s Medoc and Sauternes wines.

The name | Legend has it that a fairy called Albaluce (dawn’s light) bestowed the variety on the people of Caluso as a gift, and the name of the variety has morphed into Erbaluce. The pale colour of both the berries and the wine also refer to dawn’s pale light.

Where grown | Piedmont: Erbaluce di Caluso or Caluso DOCG. | Canavese DOC. | Colline Novaresi DOC. | Coste della Sesia DOC.

Viticulture | Early bud break makes Erbaluce susceptible to spring frosts in the more northerly Canavese area of Piedmont. Canopy-style training does protect the vines from hail common in these parts but also limits sunlight,  sometimes resulting in lean wines. Thick skins and high acidity make it suitable for air-drying.

Wine style | Pale lemon with green tinges. The grape’s high acidity results in very fresh, crisp, mineral-driven wines. Delicate aromas of white flowers, apricot, green grass.

Specific styles | Dry and still is the most common style; also made into sparkling and/or sweet wines, both late-harvest and air-dried. Virtually never blended. Oaked examples are uncommon. The passito wines from air-dried Erbaluce are rare but can provide fascinating wines showing honey, fig, almond and even tropical notes, unusual for wines grown at this latitude.

Bibliography

Italian Wine Unplugged (Positive Press, 2017), p.99-100.