The genetic group of Grignolino comes from a disappeared vine, son of Nebbiolo and Botagera. It emerges from a CNR research presented in the talk “Grignolino: the DNA of a great wine”, organized by the csntina Hic et Nunc of Vignale Monferrato, on a journey through history, the agronomic, genetic, enological and sensorial characteristics of one of the vines symbol of Monferrato – the anarchist “testabalorda”, as Veronelli renamed this indomitable vine – which, thanks to the analysis of the DNA, discovered that he had a noble “grandfather” like Nebbiolo.
Widely widespread today throughout the province of Alessandria and in a part of the Asti area, its cultivation area would initially seem limited to the Casalese. Grignolino appears, for the first time, in a document of 1249, with the name of “Berbexinis”. The most probable etymology is that which refers to the grignolo, the grape seed, present in the berries in number of 3-4, much higher than that of other varieties. Characterized by a marked tannin and late ripening, widely cultivated in medieval times, over the centuries it goes from being of high economic value – even planted in California – to an almost forgotten variety, which has always intrigued scholars for its morphological similarities with Nebbiolo and for its similar geographical distribution.
Historical documents attest that Grignolino was the first vine, cultivated today, to be mentioned in Piedmont, and as for the other traditional vines, the cross-fertilization took place spontaneously: the “mother” and “father” vines transmitted half of their genetic heritage to the new plant. To identify the two parents we therefore need DNA analysis. The careful analysis of the DNA of the vines of North-West Italy involved more than 800 varieties, of which over 200 from Piedmont. The result was a complex study on the kinship network, in which the so-called main parents are highlighted. The genealogy of many grape varieties was discovered only thanks to the recovery of old clones, historical heritage and cultural wealth of the area.
“Grignolino is a vine with a long history. The first news dates back to 1249: we are talking about Barbesino, and it was a prestigious vine. It is the first vine, still cultivated today, to be mentioned in Piedmont “, explains Anna Schneider, CNR researcher, who coordinated the pool of researchers. “Its area of origin was the Casalese, then it spread to Monferrato. The one on Grignolino is part of a genetic investigation on the vines of the North West of Italy carried out by the CNR. The birth of a vine is the result of a very specific time and place, potentially revealed by genetic analysis. Two different methods of investigation – Anna Schneider explains – conducted with different markers, have led us to the same results: Grignolino is the son of a reconstructed genotype, extinct or perhaps not yet recovered, in turn the son of Nebbiolo. The anthocyanin profile of the two grapes is very similar, even to that of Freisa (daughter of Nebbiolo and therefore “aunt” of Grignolino). Today we can say with certainty that there is a close kinship relationship between Grignolino and Nebbiolo: the genetic group of Grignolino comes from a vine probably disappeared, son of Nebbiolo and Botagera. Nebbiolo is the grandfather of Grignolino ”.
Taking a step back on the line of history, there was a period of great commercial success for Grignolino: still in the seventies many great producers produced it, from Bruno Giacosa to Gigi Rosso, from the Marquises of Barolo to Bersano, and today interest returns. for a vine that is difficult to grow and make wine. “The future is a wine that also interests the producers of the Langhe as it once was. Grignolino is a great wine on which this territory must bet “, comments Paolo Massobrio, journalist and founder of “Il Golosario” (moderator of the round table on Grignolino, ed). From an exquisitely enological and sensorial point of view, “Grignolino expresses itself in a different way depending on the soil, it is important not to mystify its characteristics, preferring the infusion to the extraction, in order not to damage the skins and little manipulate the pips, to ensure liveliness and good aging prospects”, concludes Cristiano Garella, oenologist of the Hic et Nunc winery.