Unveiling Vespolina: The Rare Red Grape that Adds Elegance to Nebbiolo and Barbera
Vespolina, which is also called Ughetta or Uvetta de Canneto, is a type of red grape that grows in Piedmont. It has been grown in the province of Novara for hundreds of years, especially in the northernmost areas close to the Alps.
The wine that comes out of this is thin, fresh, and tasty, with a light structure and a lot of pleasure from the round fruit and elegant spicy and floral aromas.
The berries don’t have very thin skins, and the grapes are picked early, by the end of September at the latest. It has a good amount of sugar, but the structure and tannins are not very strong. Instead, it puts all of its attention on the smoothness of the line, not on strength or a highly concentrated extract.
In fact, you only have to look at these wines to see that they are delicate. Their pale color and clearness give them away.
History of the Vespolina vine and where it is grown
Since 1700, there have been signs of it in the Novarese area, and it has always been grown there and in the pre-Alpine areas of Vercelli and Novara, even though its natural birthplace is the hills around Gattinara.
As proof of how important the vine was, which is sadly becoming less important today, Nebbiolo, Freisa, Barbera, Spanna, and Uva Rara were often blended with Vespolina to add more elegance, aromas, and expressiveness. This is still done to a lesser extent today.
The name Vespolina comes from the fact that the grapes are so sweet that they attract wasps and bees. This is also true of Moscato, which Pliny the Elder called “apiana grapes” because they are also very sweet.
In the 19th century, Vespolina was the best cutting grape in many parts of Piedmont and Lombardy. It was like parsley—you could never have too much of it.
Today, since it’s best to make pure Nebbiolo, the situation has changed a lot, and it’s becoming more and more rare, even though it’s doing well in the classic areas and in the Oltrep Pavese.
Let’s just say that Lino Maga’s Barbacarlo, one of the most majestic wines in all of Italy, is a mix of Vespolina, Uva Rara, and Croatina.
It is part of the DOC Boca, DOC Bramaterra, DOC Colline Novaresi, DOC Coste della Sesia, and DOC Sizzano. Rarely is it found on its own. At most, it is used as a blending grape, even in small amounts: 5–10% is enough to “soften” the strong Nebbiolo di Montagna.
As was already said, there is a lot of freshness and sweetness, but the body is thin and the tannins don’t make a lot of noise. As a reference, the perfumes have a very floral, spicy, and “sweet” tone, but they don’t smell like an aromatic vine. The end is soft with sage and rosemary.
It won’t be a great immortal vine, but if you try the wines from the Le Piane di Boca cellar and the Barbacarlo, you’ll get an idea of what it’s capable of.
Not just because they smell good, but also so that they can make a wider range of wines and keep their traditions alive.
After all, you can’t live on Nebbiolo alone (the “monovarietal at all costs” mantra should be rethought), and it would be crazy to lose these simple but very tasty wines.
Even more so when there are wineries like this one that make natural wines with a lot of flavor and character. The Mimmo is a great wine that costs 15 euros and is very good.