Grignolino, red wine grape grown around Asti in the Piemonte region of Italy. It was once highly prized by Piemontese nobility, commanding similar prices to Barolo.

The name: Grignolino may derive from “grignòle”, a term used in Piedmontese dialect which means grimace (as one might do when biting into this high acid, tannic grape). Alternatively, the word means pips, alluding to the greater number of pips it has in comparison with other grape varieties. Other names: Barbesino. Another possible origin derives from the verb “grignare” which in Asti dialect means laughing.

Viticulture: Grignolino prefers well-exposed sunny sites with good ventilation, its compact bunches and thin skins making it susceptible to rot. It is equally prone to milleran- dage and various grapevine diseases. As berries tend to mature unevenly within the same bunch, controlling vigour is essential for uniform ripening. Berries are small with lots of pips therefore yielding very little juice. Growing Grignolino requires dedication.

Wines:Piemonte (Piedmont): Grignolino d’Asti DOC. | Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese DOC. | Piemonte DOC Grignolino.

Wine style: Very pale still, dry red, almost pink in colour often with a garnet or orange hue. Colour is difficult to extract but longer macerations risk bitter, astringent tannin. Grignolino’s aromas include sour red cherry, red currant, iris, rose hip and white pepper. The palate shows noticeable acidity and very noticeable tannins, with a leanish rather than obviously fruit-rich mouthfeel. Grignolino is always light in body and typically very moderate in alcohol. Some producers are experimenting with barrel aging. Sandy soils give very fragrant, light wines, while those from Monferrato Casalese, where the soil is predominantly calcareous clay, are relatively bigger.

Bibliography

Italian Wine Unplugged (Positive Press, 2017), p.107-8.