Autochthonous grapes, also known as indigenous or native grapes, are grape varieties that are originally from a specific winemaking region, grown there for hundreds, if not thousands of years. These grapes have adapted to the local climate, soil, and other environmental factors, and they often have unique characteristics that make them well-suited to the production of particular wine styles.
Some grapes considered autochthonous varietals for purposes of regional winemaking include:
Italy: Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Aglianico, Montepulciano, Nero d'Avola
France: Gamay, Malbec, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan
Spain: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell, Mencía
Portugal: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro, Baga
Greece: Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko, Moschofilero, Xinomavro
Georgia: Saperavi, Rkatsiteli, Kisi, Kakhuri Mtsvane
These grapes are an important part of the winemaking heritage of their respective regions, and many winemakers are dedicated to preserving and promoting their use in the production of high-quality, distinctive wines.
It's worth noting that while a grape variety may be native to a particular region and have a long history of indigenous cultivation, it is not necessarily limited to that region. Grape vines are often propagated and transplanted to other global regions, where they can adapt to new growing conditions and produce wines with their own distinct flavors and aromas. This can lead to exciting new expressions of classic grape varieties, as well as the emergence of new, lesser-known varieties that may become the autochthonous grapes of future wine regions.
Examples of Indigenous Grapes and Wines
- Sangiovese: This is the most widely planted red grape variety in Italy and is the main grape used in the production of Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and other famous Tuscan wines. A great example of a Sangiovese wine is the Brunello di Montalcino, which is known for its complex aromas of dark fruit, leather, and tobacco, and its long, velvety finish.
- Nebbiolo: This grape is most famously grown in the Piedmont region of northern Italy and is the grape used to make Barolo and Barbaresco, two of Italy's most iconic wines. A notable example of a Nebbiolo wine is the Barolo, which is known for its elegant, yet powerful character, with notes of red berries, licorice, and spice.
- Aglianico: This grape is native to the Campania and Basilicata regions in southern Italy and is known for its rich, full-bodied red wines. A great example of an Aglianico wine is the Taurasi Radici from Mastroberardino, which is aged for several years in oak barrels and has a complex bouquet of dark fruit, leather, and spice.
- Gamay: This grape is most famous for being the primary grape in the production of Beaujolais, a red wine made in the Beaujolais region of eastern France. A notable example of a Gamay wine is the Morgon, which is known for its bright, fruity character and subtle notes of earth and spice.
- Malbec: This grape is most famous for being the primary grape in the production of Cahors, a red wine made in the Cahors region of southwestern France. Cahors Malbec wines are for their deep color, full body, and flavors of dark fruit, chocolate, and tobacco.
- Syrah: This grape is most famously grown in the northern Rhône region of France and is the primary grape used in the production of Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, and other famous wines. Rhone Syrah wine is famous for its complex aromas of black fruit, herbs, and spice, and its long, velvety finish.
- Tempranillo: This grape is most famous for being the primary grape in the production of Rioja, a red wine made in the Rioja region of northeastern Spain. A notable example of a Tempranillo wine is the Rioja Reserva from Bodegas Muga, which is known for its rich, full-bodied character and flavors of dark fruit, vanilla, and spice.
- Garnacha: This grape is most famous for being the primary grape in the production of Priorat, a red wine made in the Priorat region of northeastern Spain. A notable example of a Garnacha wine from Priorat, renowned worldwide for its powerful, concentrated flavors of dark fruit, chocolate, and spice.
- Monastrell: This grape is most famous for being the primary grape in the production of Jumilla, a red wine made in the Jumilla region of southeastern Spain.