Although nearing extinction, this grape has mostly been used as a blending grape with several of the notable Italian varieties, especially Sangiovese, which is still used as a blending agent with Abrusco.
These vines produce dark, bluish-black grapes with a pale coloured flesh. When fully ripened, Abrusco gives off fruity-spicy aromas and flavours.
Abrusco is an old variety and its name is etymologically Latin, meaning that it has been here in Tuscany since Roman times, although not much has been discovered yet on whether the grape was a popular variety back then.
Abrusco, over its past history, has witnessed downfalls and ascends, although in modern day, it has been put under the category of near extinction grape varieties.
Origins of Abrusco
Abrusco’s exact records, documents or evidences have not yet been unearthed, although documents from the Middle Ages do exist, describing the grape.
It has had several synonyms over these past four centuries and ‘Abrusco’ has been one of the oldest known names of this variety.
The grape’s earliest known descriptions go back as old as the 1600s when it was called as Abrostino and Colore back then.
Several writers of that time seem to have noted the grape’s dark coloured traits and the deep structure the grape can add to a wine.
Italian agronomist Giovan Vettorio Soderini noted Abrusco in one of his Italian writings and described the grape on its capabilities in adding deeper, redder colour to a blended wine.
In the decades that followed, Abrusco witnessed several downfalls and successes in its economic history.
The phylloxera crisis severely damaged its vineyards and after recovering from that state, Abrusco again underwent a terminal decline that still hasn’t been fixed yet.
Abrusco, as a result, is one of the least cultivated grape varieties of Italy, with not more than just 6 hectares recorded in 2000.
There are also certain suspected relationships with other grape varieties as well. DNA analyses revealed Abrusco to be distinct from the once thought a similar grape variety, the Colorino grape and the Emilia-Romagna grape, Lambrusco.
Muscat Rouge de Madere, once thought to be a synonym of Abrusco, is itself of the same variety.
Characteristics and uses
Abrusco is now mainly used as a blending agent in several of its allowed DOC regions. It gives off dark, blue-black grapes with a light flesh.
It is usually harvested in its mid ripening stage, or in the middle of its early and late ripening seasons.
Some of its main DOCs that allow Abrusco as a blending grape include Capalbio, Oricia and Pomino DOCs.
The most known region that produces Abrusco is the Chianti DOC where the signature Chianti wines from Abrusco are made. All these DOCs are in Tuscany itself.
In Capalbio, 50% of Abrusco is allowed to blend with red and rose blends while Sangiovese makes up the rest 50%.
In Pomino, Abrusco and other grapes can make almost 1/3rd of a quarter of a Sangiovese wine and 10-20% Merlot.
However, the best known wines of Abrusco are known in the Chianti DOC. Here, Abrusco can be blended with others to make up 10% of the Sangiovese wines and these wines should have a minimum of 12% alcohol levels to attain a DOCG status.
These grapes give Chianti wines a red tinge to them while giving fruity, spicy flavours and aromas.
Abrusco’s main purpose is to add colour to the otherwise pale red wines made from Sangiovese or related grapes.
Abrusco grapes give spicy aromas and flavours on the palate. The grape is very oriental in its aromas and can enrapture the olfactory.
Some wineries like the Le Tre Stelle are trying tooth and nail to make the grape come out of its near extinction situation and have recently started producing 100% varietals to allow the grape to recover itself from obscurity.
Only one 100% varietal exists and that is the Agino wine made from 100% Abrusco grapes.
Editor-in-Chief and Wine Writer
Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂