The “Uva del Fantini” (Fantini’s Grape) attained official status on July 9, meaning growers can now commercialize wine made from it under the appellation band Indicazione Geografica Tipica, which accommodates those wines that do not qualify for one of the quality wine designations (DOC, DOCG).
Fantini’s Grape was discovered in 1965 by its namesake, the Bolognese cave specialist and scholar of antiquities Luigi Fantini. When Fantini first stumbled across the hoary vine in Pianoro, in the Tusco-Emilian Apennines near Bologna, he wrote a brief description to accompany a photograph he took: “From the big trunk [120cm in circumference], the vigorous vine branches out, north and south, for a total length of around 20 meters. It produces, annually, between 500 and 600 kilograms of excellent black grapes.”
Despite Fantini's interest, the vine remained neglected until 2000 when Stefano Galli, a computer technician and manager of the local branch of a bird protection society, rediscovered it. What Galli found was a vine “completely submerged by brambles and partially covered by a pile of landfill,” as he told the Slowine website.
He had no idea what variety it was, or how old it could be, knowing only that elderly inhabitants of the hills referred to it as “the vine, or the big vine, of the 1600’s.”
Following the advice of a local botanist, Galli tended the vine, but he was unable to get local authorities involved. Several years later, he approached a local winery, Podere Riosto, the owner of which, Alessandro Galletti, was immediately interested.
In 2004 they planted 30 grafts taken from the mother vine on Galletti’s land, and Galletti has since expanded to 2000 plants on 0.66 hectares, which produce about 8,000 kilograms of grapes.
University of Bologna experts helped them work out that the vine did not belong to any of Italy’s registered varieties.
According to Galletti’s report (principally authored by Dr. Marisa Fontana) in support of the grape’s official status, chemical analysis showed it had distinctive characteristics. “An initial, sensory evaluation of the grapes, and of the wines, revealed good aromatic intensity [intense fruit], therefore, it was worth concentrating on this aspect, trying to obtain a product with low alcohol, one that was soft and perfumed,” it states.
The grape is not expected to produce wines of great structure or cellaring capacity, but the report said it was “particularly adapted to the production of fresh products with an elevated, aromatic pleasure that goes against current market trends.”
Before gaining IGT status Podere Riosto produced two wines from the grape: Vecchio Riosto, a table red, and For You, a sparkling rosé. Galletti describes Vecchio Riosto as having a “brilliant ruby red color with purple reflections,” a “delicate, fruity perfume with a hint of cherries, wild strawberries, violets and roses,” and a balanced flavor with good length and few tannins.
For You is described by its producer as delicate pink in color, “recalling the petals of the wild rose,” as having a fruity and floral nose, with the “sensation of ripe plums and red fruits,” and as being very drinkable.
Both are relatively low in alcohol. Vecchio Riosto is 12 percent alcohol per volume (abv) and For You comes in at 11.5 percent.