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Argentina trials ancient Italian grape

Argentina’s Doña Paula winery has high hopes for an extremely rare Italian red grape called Casavecchia, which will be used as a blending partner for Malbec.

Martin Kaiser
Dona Paula viticulturalist Martin Kaiser at Los Indios vineyard, where the Argentine producer has planted the ancient Italian grape Casavecchia

The grape, which stems from Campania, was first registered by Doña Paula in 2006, when it planted Casavecchia in the Los Indios vineyard, in the Altamira subregion of the Uco Valley.

According to the winery’s viticulturalist Martín Kaiser, just 100 hectares remains of the grape in Italy, and Doña Paula has dedicated a 0.5ha plot to the variety, which it plans to use in a blend with Malbec and Cabernet Franc.

Kaiser told db during a visit to the Argentine property last year that Casavecchia was an “interesting variety for blending” due to its high tannins and perfume, noting that unusually for a red grape, it has a strong scent of grapefruits.

He also said that he had decided to plant the grape having been impressed by a sample wine made from Casavecchia by Italian nursery Rauscedo, which supplied the vine material to Doña Paula.

Since planting the grape in 2006, Kaiser said that he had supplied a few friends in the Argentine wine industry with cuttings, but at present, Doña Paula is the only winery outside Italy which has made wine from Casavecchia, which, due to its high tannins, requires at least three years in barrel to soften, according to Kaiser.

The respected viticulturist also believes strongly in the potential for Cabernet Franc in the Uco Valley, particularly in cooler higher altitude areas such as Gualtallary, at the far northern end of the valley, where he said that the grape gives a flavour of raspberries.

Kaiser told db that the greatest demand for vineyard material at Argentine nurseries after Malbec is for Cabernet Franc, and then Pinot Noir, which he said was being planted primarily for making traditional method sparkling wine.

According to Wine Grapes (Robinson, Harding, Vouillamoz, 2012), cuttings from a very old vine of Casavecchia were taken from a vineyard near an old stone farmhouse in Campania in the nineteenth century, and hence its name: casa means “house” and vecchia means “old”.

The same book notes that the variety produces wines with aromas of herbs, dried leaves, green pepper and licquorice.

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