Passerina is described by Dr Ian D’Agata (2014, p385) as a complicated population of unrelated white grape varieties native to Italy. D’Agata says the Passerina of southeastern Lazio is radically different to the Passerina of the Le Marche and Abruzzo regions, even if they share some desirable common features. He defines these traits as: general hardiness, disease resistance, and reliable productivity. The names of the many synonyms of Passerina’s unrelated ‘family members’ (sic) often make reference either to its colour, eg. Uva ‘Oro’, or gold-generating grape (high yields). Others focus on its productiveness by association with Trebbiano. 

Trebbiano-based synonyms include Trebbiano Scenciato near Chieti in Abruzzo, Trebbiano Dorata near Pescara, Trebbiano Camplese around Teramo and L’Aquila (D’Agata (2014, p385). Passerina’s potential for providing financial wellbeing for growers is celebrated in various synonyms: Cacciadebito and ‘Sciacciadebito’, chase away or void the debt). Scacciadebito should not be confused with Emilia-Romagna’s Pagadebit (‘payer of debts’). Camplese and Uva Fermana are rarer synonyms (D’Agata (2014, p385).

National registry code number | 181.

Where grown | Abruzzo. | Lazio. | Le Marche.

The name | Passerina’s name may be derived from the small size and sweetness of its berries and the attraction of its ripening grapes to birds, the so-called bird grapes or ‘uve uzeline’ (D’Agata (2014, p385). In ornithology passerines are distinguished from other orders of birds by having with three toes pointing forward and one back, which aids perching.

The vine | Generally vigorous. Large bunches and berries. Disease resistant. Reliable production.

Biotypes, Marche region | There are 3 Passerina biotypes in the Marche, the most common of which has a 5-lobed leaf, a small bunch which is conical and sparse or loose, and with a pale, small berry, says Ian D’Agata (2014, p386). The second most common biotype has a large compact bunch, and the leaf only has three lobes. The berry is also bigger and oval in shape. The least common biotype is similar to the second but easily differentiated from it because it always sports at least one or two wings, D’agata says. He calls Passerina an ‘extremely underrated grape, being resistant and capable of yielding copious quantities of very good wine.’

Wine styles | Dry, still, sparkling, sweet (late harvest or passito). D’Agata (2014, p386-7) makes the point that growers of Passerina from Offida in Le Marche and in Controguerra DOC in neighbouring Abruzzo say the grape holds its acidity at harvest-time, whereas growers of ‘Passerina’ in Lazio worry as the grape can drop its acidity levels almost overnight.

Typical flavours | Tropical, citrus aromas and flavours.

Wines | Controguerra DOC Passerina (Abruzzo). | Offida DOCG (Marche). | Passerina del Frusinate IGT (Lazio).

Bibliography

Dr Ian d’Agata, Native Wine Grapes of Italy (University of California Press, 2014).

Italian Wine Unplugged (Positive Press, 2017), p194-5.