Grape Masterclass
Erbaluce Di Caluso: One DOCG, Three Remarkable Styles

Erbaluce Di Caluso: One DOCG, Three Remarkable Styles

Introduction

Knowing that Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG is one of the few Italian denominations boasting the certification for still, sparkling, and passito styles makes this article already insightful (the other two being Vermentino di Gallura and Colli Euganei Fiori d’Arancio).

What surprises us isn’t the fact that one grape variety can be used to make all the wine styles, but the fact that all of them are so outstanding to deserve the DOCG status.

To give you an example, Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG includes dry and sweet wines. However, some local pioneers such as Sacciadiavoli started making full-bodied Traditional Method rosé sparkling wines with 100% Sagrantino grapes. This style doesn’t deserve the DOCG according to the strict Italian law requirements.

So how did it happen with Erbaluce di Caluso? Well, we believe that the versatility of the grape variety makes it perfect to render remarkable wines in all the possible styles. It’s exactly what happens with Vouvray AOC in Touraine (Middle Loire). In this case, the acidity-driven Chenin Blanc is responsible for this noteworthy outcome.

As you can see, things like these don’t happen very often in the Old World, since the European Union’s GIs are much stricter than the non-European Union GIs.

Let’s familiarize ourselves with this interesting grape variety and all the styles that winemakers can juggle to make out of it.

Erbaluce di Caluso vineyards and sunset
Figure 1: Erbaluce di Caluso vineyards and sunset (Hannau, 2014)

The Grape: Erbaluce Di Caluso

The agricultural census of 2000 recorded 342 ha of Erbaluce in Italy.

The Origins

The earliest mention of Erbaluce appears in Croce in 1606 under the name “Elbalus“. The name possibly derives from “Alba luce“, meaning “dawn light” because the berries gleam when they are ripe.

The grape originated in the Canavese region in the province of Torino, in the foothills of the Alps. Genetic analysis suggests a close relationship with Cascarolo Bianco from Piedmont. Even though the synonymous Greco and Greco Bianco are used in Ghemme, Erbaluce has no relationship with the variety from Campania.

According to a study made by Labra et al. (2001), Erbaluce could be close (morphologically and genetically) to Clairette, which also has similar etymology “clear, bright“. However, this relationship has yet to be confirmed.

Principal Synonyms

Albaluce, Bian Roustì, Bianchera, Greco Bianco di Novara, Uva Rustìa.

Wine Grapes (José Vouillamoz, Jancis Robinson, and Julia Harding, 2012)

Viticultural Characteristics

  • Vigorous;
  • Often trained on “topia“, a particular type of pergola in the Canavese region;
  • Thick-skinned;
  • The grape turns amber when ripe;
  • Early to mid-ripening;
  • Remarkable high acidity levels;
  • Medium alcohol content;
  • Medium-bodied wine;
  • Poor resistance to powdery mildew;
Some Erbaluce di Caluso vineyards
Figure 2: Some Erbaluce di Caluso vineyards (alibaba.com, 2020)

No matter the style, acidity is the main focus when it comes to Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG.

The sparkling version has a brilliant straw yellow color, with soft golden nuances. The perlage is fine, elegant, and persistent. The nose is intense, complex, elegant, with crust of bread notes, meadow grass hints, and soft toasted nuances. The palate is pleasantly fresh, harmonious, characterized by a good structure and persistence with a soft almond hint in the end.

As for the sparkling style, the still one shares the same color. The main drivers of the still version are hints of fresh fruit where green apple and herbaceous notes are the most dominant. The mouthfeel is refreshing, full-bodied, and absolutely well-balanced.

As far as the passito style is concerned, the color varies from golden to amber according to the years spent in the bottle. Our palate recognized the primary, secondary, and tertiary aromas all well-integrated. Essences of peach, orange, bergamot become more complex and leave space to scents of tobacco, honey, and dried fig when the wine opens up.

The DOCG, Its Styles, And The Best Producers

Erbaluce was granted DOCG in 2010.

By law, it can only be made with 100% Erbaluce di Caluso grapes.

These are the possible styles that the DOCG might have:

  • Dry
  • Spumante
  • Passito (also Riserva)

These are the Wine Jokers’ recommendations:

We strongly recommend going through the producers’ websites mentioned above. There are so many interesting products you might order right away, and they make all the possible styles of Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG.

The bright amber color of an Erbaluce di Caluso passito
Figure 3: The bright amber color of an Erbaluce di Caluso passito (wikimedia.org, 2018)

Conclusions

As we saw, Erbaluce di Caluso is an exceptional DOCG of the Italian wine heritage.

It gathers dry white, sparkling, and even sweet styles within one common denomination. This is quite rare in Italy and, generally speaking, in the Old World countries due to their strict law regulations.

So many times we pointed out that you could base your whole dining experience on local wines from the same wine region. But the concept is emphasized even more when it comes to Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG. You could literally start drinking the sparkling style, move on with the dry white, and pair your dessert with a passito.

So guys if you want to delight your guest, you could organize this kind of dinner. They would be amazed by the story that Erbaluce di Caluso has to share with them…


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