The Greco Incident

Below we have a quick synopsis of the original petition submitted to the TTB with their bizarre and self-contradicting response at the top and a copy of the actual letter I received. The last entry is the original blog post I made when we picked the first crop in Yolo County.

We just received the TTB's judgement on whether or not to recognize Greco (Bianco or Tufo) as a grape name in the United States and their judgement was - no judgement (meaning no). Greco di Tufo in the US is now in purgatorial limbo for the next couple of years even though Greco vines are being sold - too bad for us because it is already bottled. Time to come up with a clever fanciful name I guess, and you better believe we are going to call them out on this silliness, just like how they screwed up Tocai Friulano so that it is not allowed to be exported now because they contradict EU labeling laws. 

Our original Greco pressing documentary is right here.

Behold:





For those of you who find this sort of thing interesting here is a good portion of our original petition:


(VCR 11 at the bottom is FPS 01)

[Greco is not recognized as a grape variety in the U.S. yet. We picked the first harvest of this cool Campanian grape propagated by Novavine last fall, documented here, producing about 65 gallons of rather orangeish, minerally wine. Assuming the petition passes, we will be the first winery in the U.S. to produce a "Greco Bianco" wine. We have also ordered budwood to graft over our Chardonnay block to it].


Rosa d’Oro Vineyards of Kelseyville, California hereby petitions the TTB to recognize “Greco Bianco” as a prime grape variety name approved for the designation of American wines. Foundation Plant Services has recognized one clone (FPS 01) of Greco as Greco di Tufo, but because Tufo is a place name, and black and white varieties exist, we believe that Greco Bianco would be the most appropriate prime grape variety name [though Greco di Tufo is infinitely better].
Greco Bianco (White Greco) and Greco Nero (Black Greco) have been cultivated in Southern Italy for at least 2000 years. Greco Bianco is most famous as the Italian DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) wine “Greco di Tufo” or Greco from the town of Tufo in Campania. In nearby Calabria a D.O.C. sweet wine known as “Greco di Bianco” is also produced near the town of Bianco [ed note - I think Greco Bianco in Calabria is actually Muscat used in the passito style, which may be a bit of a hangup for this petition]. Current estimate is that approximately 2,500 acres of Greco Bianco is grown in Southern Italy.

Other Italian D.O.C. wines that allow Greco Bianco (percentage listed after) as part of the blend are:
· Bivongi (30-50%)
· Capri (up to 50%)
· Cilento (10-15%)
· Ciro (up to 5%)
· Gravina (35-60%)
· Molise if labeled varietally (minimum 85%)
· Penisola Sorrentina (up to 60%)
· Sannio (up to 50%)
· Sant’Agata dei Goti (40-60%)
· Sant’Anna di Isola Capo Rizzuto (up to 35%)
· Scavigna (up to 20%)

· And, the DOCG wine Fiano di Avellino (up to 15% blended in).

In California, Novavine grapevine nursery acts as the importer of Italian budwood produced by Vivai Cooperativi Rauscedo (VCR). All VCR clones utilized by Novavine have passed through Foundation Plant Services (FPS), and FPS officially recognizes Greco FPS 01, generated from Italian clone VCR 11 as Greco di Tufo (see supporting dosumentation #1). The Italian VCR clones of Greco are printed as document #2. In 2009, at their budwood growing ground in Dunnigan, California, Novavine grafted one row of approximately 185 previously established rootstock to Greco FPS 01. One picture of this row was taken by this author in August 2010 and is reprinted in supporting documentation #9.

In 2010 Rosa d’Oro Vineyards harvested the first crop produced by that row of Greco FPS 01. We produced approximately 70 gallons of dry white wine. The harvest and vinification is documented in #9.

Greco, along with regional companion Fiano, are of tremendous potential to warmer growing regions of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. It is capable of producing varietally unique ultra-premium wine, and most importantly Greco is extremely heat tolerant and drought tolerant, minimizing the need for irrigation. Greco Bianco is moderately susceptible to powdery mildew. Greco Bianco’s canopy is very vigorous but it produces a relatively light crop, probably never exceeding four tons per acre in even very fertile soil.

At the author’s request Novavine indicated that in addition to an order of Greco placed by Rosa d’Oro Vineyards, in 2010 orders for Greco had been filled for Clondaire Vineyards in Calaveras County (cited in document #5) and for Callaghan Vineyards in Arizona.

The wine produced from Greco Bianco grown in Dunnigan, California by Novavine is true to type. It ripened very late for a white variety in mid-October. It retained very high natural acidity, has moderate to very thick skins, high phenolic content and produced a typical deeply colored yellow/straw/light orange wine. It also has the strong mineral and orange citrus characteristics typical of the grape. It has the potential to age and also has assertive and attractive youthfulness.

Written and compiled by
Pietro Buttitta
Rosa d’Oro Vineyards
certified sommelier



Supporting Documentation

#1) National Grape Registry, Accessed December 2, 2010, http://ngr.ucdavis.edu/varietyview.cfm?varietynum=2938

#2) Vivai Cooperativi Rauscedo, Greco Bianco biotypes accessed November 16, 2010, http://www.vivairauscedo.com/en/catalogo.php

#3) Novavine, accessed November 16, 2010, http://novavine.com/plant_materials/varieties_clones/vcr.asp
Novavine, 6735 Sonoma Highway, Santa Rosa, Ca. 95409, (707)539-5678, info@novavine.com

#4) Wikipedia, Greco entry, accessed November 16, 2010, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco_(grape)

#5) “Calaveras Winegrowers seek AVA Status Vineyard Tour Highlights new Rhone, Italian, and Iberian Varietals” in Wines & Vines Magazine, August 2010

#6) The Concise World Atlas of Wine, Octopus Publishing, 2009, by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, pp 144-145

#7) Making Sense of Italian Wine, Running Press Book Publishers, 2006, by Matt Kramer, pp 134-141

#8) Wine All-in-One for Dummies, Wiley Publishing, 2009, by Ed McCarthy, Mary Ewing-Mulligan, Maryann Egan, pp 380-83

#9) Rosa d’Oro Vineyards blog documenting Greco Harvest “The Cutest Grapes I Ever Saw 10/15/2010” http://www.blogger.com/goog_367405441

#10 Two scientific journal articles involving Greco Bianco

Funny how big-muscle operations seem to have no problem getting these petitions through with only a few supporting bits of evidence, just like all those AVAs in the middle of nowhere with only one owner and nothing interesting about them. Bummer.


Greco - the cutest grapes I ever saw.

   The cutest grapes I ever saw were a surprise.When something is simply called "Greco" you can feel pretty sure that you know where it came from. Most of these Southern Italian grapes have links to Greece, apocryphal or otherwise, but this one just calls it out. (There are other varietals that claim to be Greco as well, offering a more historical aspect than literal ampelographical - Trebbiano comes to mind).

   Here is what can be seen by the naked eye. Greco bunches are extremely small, and painfully cute. These were picked in Dunnigan where they were just reaching ripeness in equal time with Nebbiolo (!!), which is a very late season grape. The Greco canopies were still going quite strong, saying that they took heat, did not mind wind, took sun with glee, and even on sandy soil they miserly mined moisture while other vines had totally shut down. They are susceptible to mildew, but their tough skins resist damage though they may harbor the foul demon. They have very small leaves, that help form a webbing of protection around the fruit, somewhat like Montepulciano though totally different in appearance.

   Here is what they looked like In late August. Vigorous. Having only had a couple of Greco wines the varietal's profile is a little inconclusive. Medium bodied, some mineral finish, some herbal notes and citrus qualities. It certainly holds its acid well. Richly colored. It can also age and dig deep to develop interesting tertiary characteristics. Sort of a core warm-climate Chardonnay quality with a little Viognier thrown in and a touch of cold climate citrus and acid.

Keep your eyes out for the Southern Italian white triumvirate of Greco, Falanghina, and Fiano. Distribution has been increasing with Feudi San Gregorio leading the way. Incidentally they are based in Sorbo Serpico, and if I could be from one place in the universe, nothing could have a cooler name than that.

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