Piedmont is oenologically one VAST sea of grapes, wines, and styles. Its tradition bests those of entire countries. If we’re speaking grape-wise, Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto alone furnish the average vignaiolo plenty of material to express himself and his vineyards, but in terms of numbers, these three are just the beginning.
Somewhere along the row of “second tier” of Piedmontese grapes (if only in terms of familiarity and fame) is Grignolino. Though Grignolino (green-yo-LEE-no) is now grown more widely throughout the region, its traditional home ranges a just short way across the Monferrato Hills over into Asti. This is not a grape that will be challenging Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah for world dominance any time…ever.
Grignolino takes its name for the Asti dialect’s word for seeds – grignole – of which this variety is cursed with many (or blessed, depending on what you think of the wine I guess). Grignolino skin is relatively pale reddish purple in color, so the resulting wine is pale red too, sometimes almost like a dusty rose color, depending on the style and producer. But what it lacks in richness and color, it makes up for with its penetrating woodsy/spicy, lightly aromatic aromas, and from all of those seeds, tannins galore, and a tart, dried fruit character, allowing it to punch well above its weight in the glass.
So because of all that tannin and acidity, Grignolino is traditionally paired with very rich or strongly flavors dishes, as well as with poultry (though I’ve never tried it, and it’s clearly not a traditional pairing, I’d imagine it would be superb with Southern fried chicken for example) so I made a traditional Piedmontese salame di tonno or tuna salami which is a hash of tuna, egg, parsley, etc. packed and wrapped into a cheesecloth, boiled, chilled, and sliced, with a caper, oil and vinegar sauce. The main course was a Piemontese style scaloppine alla cacciatora, and braised fennel with parmigiano and nutmeg.
Francesco Rinaldi Grignolino d’Asti 2009
Translucent blackish light ruby color. The nose is an effusive and fairly pungent bundle of woody spices, red cherries, strawberries, dried cranberries, grass, and dried aromatic herbs. The body is light but very spunky and wiry with austere, country-elegant flavors of roasted nuts, cinnamon, blackberry, old leather, and a touch of musk- and watermelon. The finish is tart and taut, with smoky notes of bitter almond.