Trebbiano: Ci sono tantissimi Trebbiani. There are tons of “Trebbiano” out there. To those unversed in the Trebbiano family tree, it might be about as confusing as the 17 different yet same-named Aureliano Buendias from the epic novel 100 Years of Solitude. To make matters worse, some grapes called “Trebbiano” aren’t even of the Trebbiano family! Don’t fret, it’s easier to understand than it may initially appear.
Trebbiano, AKA Ugni Blanc in France, is one of the most common varieties planted around Italy and in some parts of France. Pliny the Elder spoke of it in the 1st century AD as Vinum Trebulanum, marking the earliest mention of the grape in written records. In Italy it’s synonymous with crisp, clean, citrusy (and sometimes lackluster) white wines. In France it’s synonymous with Cognac. Trebbiano is permitted in some 80 DOC/G wines around the Italian Peninsula, more than any other Italian grape variety. It’s often used as a blending partner due partly to the ease of growing it (it’s particularly frost resistant) and the refreshingly high acidity it can add to a dry or even dessert wine.
Trebbiano has many names, variations, and misnomers:
- Domestically (=in Italy): Trebbiano Toscano (=both the most bland and planted of the bunch), Trebbiano di Romagna, Trebbiano Giallo, Trebbiano Romagnolo, Procanico
- Internationally (=everywhere else): Ugni Blanc (France, South America, South Africa), Tália (Portugal)
- Trebbiano di Soave= Verdicchio
- Trebbiano di Lugana= Verdicchio, aka Turbiana
- Trebbiano d’Abruzzo= Bombino Bianco
Why so many names and misnomers?
Partly for linguistic differences and partly because this old variety has mutated into different sub-varieties over time, with the Umbrian Procanico being arguably one of the highest quality versions out there. As for the erroneously named Trebbianos that are in fact not Trebbiano nor even related, we must consider that precise DNA mapping of grape varieties is a relatively modern ability and endeavor. In the past if something looked like a Trebbiano, and walked like a Trebbiano, why not assume it actually was one? Further, grapes sometimes were named after geographical features nearby, like the Trebbia river in Emilia-Romagna.
Some Italian Wines with Trebbiano:
Orvieto Classico (Umbria) – Simple, easy-drinking, lemon, apple, white blossom. Typically inexpensive and a good alternative to Pinot Grigio for less experienced Italian white wine drinkers.
Frascati Superiore (Lazio) – Light, inexpensive white wine composed of a number of indigenous grapes from the Rome area. “Superiore” on the label indicates grapes of a higher quality and should translate into a wine with better balance and richness than its non-superiore counterparts.
Soave Classico (Veneto) – An appellation that has previously suffered from over-production and over-expansion but some very nice examples featuring smaller percentages of Trebbiano Toscano can be found still, especially in the “Classico” areas.
Vin Santo (Tuscany) – A renowned Tuscan dessert wine perfect for dipping almondy biscotti in after dinner. It’s been around since at least the middle ages, produced with dried grapes and barrel ageing. Trebbiano is often among the grapes used in this blend.