Aleatico is an unusual sweet black vine variety from central Italy. Unusual because the fact that it has an unclear past and an unknown origin that goes side-by-side with its local popularity to produce red and rose wines hat has also earned it a DOCG status, a rare honor for a sweet vine from Italy.
Historically, the grape has been commonly cultivated in the Elba region for a very long time, although nobody really knows for how long.
Its ancient past is absolutely unclear and mane suggests it’s indigenous to Tuscany, while other suggests that it might have had some Greek ancestry.
It also shares genetic relationships with some of the best Italian varieties like Sangiovese and Lacrima although it has continually been confused with the Muscat Blanc variety because of the high aromas it exhibits that puts it extremely close to the latter variety.
Although the grape remains an exclusive Italian variety, some very minor percentage of it has also been recorded from USA, Australia and even Ukraine.
History of Aleatico
The Aleatico variety has historically been associated with the Elba region and the Salento peninsula that is the ‘heel’ of southern Italy.
Since the grape is a dark skinned variety, very similar to Muscat Blanc, many winemakers did confuse it to be a relative or a mutation of the latter grape.
However, recent DNA analysis has ruled out any relation to the Muscat Blanc variety since no genetic relationship exists.
On the contrary, the grape does exhibit genotypes that are also found Sangiovese and Lacrima grapes, however, not all has been proven and some say that the grape might be a distant offspring of Muscat Blanc rather than just a mutation.
Its origins remain equally unclear. Certain medieval documents do exist, like those written by an Italian writer Pietro Crescenzi, who in the 14th century described a grape that was being cultivated in central and southern Italy as ‘Livatica’.
Another synonym that existed was ‘Agliano’. Combine these two together and you get Aleatico.
However, behind its concrete etymology and genetic relationships, its real history remains an obscurity.
Two groups argue that Aleatico is either an indigenous to Tuscany or the ancient Greeks brought with them when they settled down in and around southern Italy during which, back then, the whole of southern Italy was called Magna Graecia in Latin, meaning ‘greater Greece’.
Whatever be its strange and unclear origins, the variety remains a favorite among locals of this region.
In fact, Aleatico wine was one of the only few sources of solace of Napoleon when he was spending his time in exile at the island of Elba.
Wine regions of Aleatico
Aleatico remains a primarily Italian cultivate, although it is grown in only some amounts outside Italy too.
Here, the regions of Elba, Apulia, Lazio and southern Tuscany as its major producers while some quantities are also produced in Marche, Abruzzo and Sicily.
Outside Italy, these are also grown in Australia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and also Kazakhstan.California in the US is catching up with Aleatico cultivation as also Chile in the new world.
In France, the island of Corsica is its producer. In Italy, the grape saw some rapid declines in cultivated acres, but recently has seen some revival in production.
Modern technologies and awareness among winemakers has made it possible for a lot of grapes that suffered the phylloxera crisis in the 1880s and of course, some of those that had to suffer because of their poorer resistance towards pests and fungal infections, to witness a revival in cultivation practices. Aleatico is one of them.
This is also a variety that has earned the rare DOCG status. This honor, provided by Italian authorities is very rarely found for sweet varieties, most of them being certified to alcoholic or white varieties; Aleatico is a rarity however.
Aleatico produces some very sweet wines that go pretty well with vegetarian dishes and mild-bitter cheeses.
A gorgonzola paired up with Aleatico is the best contrast.
Pecan pie is a nice dessert that can be taken with Aleatico to give the whole meal a fruity touch.
Or pair it up with a black forest gateau to make the best out of it.
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