Trebbiano wine guide: all you need to know about the most important Italian white wine
Trebbiano is a white grape variety that has traveled and taken root all over Italy: you will find it in Tuscany, Romagna, Abruzzo, Lazio, and Umbria. After Catarratto it is the second white grape variety by extension of hectares, an unflattering record, given that Trebbiano is often produced on an “industrial” scale.
But as in many other cases, it is not correct to speak about one single Trebbiano grape variety, but about a family. A large family, because this traveling white grape variety has adapted, changed and has taken on different characteristics and new faces.
Basically, Trebbiano is a fairly shy wine, it is not very fragrant, it is not super structured or full of aromas, however, it boasts excellent acidity. And on this acidity, you can build simple, immediate and pleasant wines like in Romagna or dare and try to produce structured wines of great charm, as in Abruzzo. Let’s say it is a wannabe Chardonnay, but very derelict… It adapts to a thousand interpretations, thanks to its resistance, adaptability and its non-invasive flavor that can be easily manipulated.
Of course, the characteristics vary, especially as regards intensity and elegance, but more than a matter of clones, it is thanks to the terroir. In Abruzzo, it is salty and zippy due to the rocky terrain, the altitude and the influence of the sea. In Romagna, it is produced industrially with very high yields and is a kind of pale soft drink more than a noble white wine.
The production areas of Trebbiano
But before going into the details of each Trebbianos, let’s see the main areas where it thrives. We have Trebbiano Romagnolo, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano Spoletino, Trebbiano Giallo grown in Lazio and Trebbiano Toscano, also used for the famous Vin Santo.
Let’s dispel a myth: the Trebbiano di Lugana or di Soave, the one blended with Garganega, is Verdicchio. For years it has been assimilated to the Trebbiano family, but in reality, it is not a member of the clan.
The history of Trebbiano
Once again it is the encyclopedic Pliny the Elder who first speaks to us about the Vinum Trebulanum, speaking about the white wines produced in Capua, called Agro Trebulanis. According to others, it is of Etruscan origin and then it would have become the wine of the legionaries, thanks to the abundant yields it ensured.
If we follow the “topographical theories” it could be a wine born in the Trebbia Valley near Piacenza. Or in one of the villages that remember its name, such as Trebbo, Trebbio, Trebbiolo.
Which came first: the chicken or the egg? We don’t know, but the indisputable fact is that after the Roman colonization of Italy, it became a staple food in the Roman diet.
The bouquet of the Trebbiano wine
The nose is very delicate, with little variety and depth: pears, flowers, apple, acacia, lavender, mandarin and citrus and possible notes of honey. But we are examining the full aromatic spectrum, only in rare striking cases is it so rich.
What does Trebbiano wine taste like?
On the palate, it is potentially endowed with good acidity, medium body, discreet flavor, not exceptional, but sufficient persistence. It is not as opulent as Chardonnay. It is a classic Jack of all trades, master of none: if well made it’s decent, rarely great, too often battered by ugly productions.
Certainly the forerunner region for the rebirth of Trebbiano. There are many wineries that dare and offer more structured, mature, complex wines, but always with excellent acidity and drinkability. Mountain climate with excursion, rocks, and sea help to characterize the wine. The cream of the crop: Valentini, De Fermo, Centorame, Agriverde, Feudo Antico, La Valentina, Emidio Pepe, Valle Reale.
Not a bad wine, it’s growing in quality and precision. For years it has been the cornerstone of the region, with good body, excellent acidity, also for sparkling wines, tonic flavor, and good aromatic variety. Much used for blends, but some varietal wines are nice. The cream of the crop: Antonelli San Marco, Novelli winery, Vinsanto della Palazzola, Perticaia and Tabarrini.
Very widespread in Lazio together with Procanico (code name for the Tuscan Trebbiano), although almost always in blend with other vines.
The most wretched area, battered by nasty mass production to which the bad reputation is due. Some producers are trying to revive the fate of this yellow nectar. We await confidently, but we are light years from Abruzzo. The cream of the crop: Ancarani, Gallegati, Vigne dei Boschi, Fondo San Giuseppe.
We want to give a little shout-out to Trebbiano Romagnolo, with which two incredible niche products are produced Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Reggio Emilia. Yes they are made with cooked Trebbiano, so there is hope, we can dream!
Let’s finish our apology with Procanico: cross and delight of Tuscany. If it is true that it participates in the production of Vin Santo together with Malvasia and Grechetto, we must say that they are rare and very small productions, true elixirs of pleasure. First the drying and then the particular refinement in small caratelli (100 liters barrels), placed under the roofs, completely transform it, giving rise to wine similar to Sherry, of infinite elegance, full of fantastic aromas and incredible freshness.