Provenza Garda Classico Groppello 2008

provenza-guarda-gropelloThere was a time in the recent past when it was unimaginable that Italian wines such as Perricone, Verduzzo and Petit Arvine would one day be found in the PLCB system. (We’re all familiar with the Chiantis, Pinot Grigios and others that commandeered the shelves.) Supply was reacting to a demand for recognizable wines that reflected and satisfied casual drinkers’ understanding of what Italy had to offer. As consumers have become more knowledgeable and willing to expand their comfort zone, interest in heretofore obscure and exotic varietals has undergone a commensurate growth.

Groppello is a grape for which references have been found dating back 500 years. It shares with many Italian varietals a long history of being part of a blend, usually partnered with Sangiovese and Barbera. More recently, it even shows up as a small percentage in some Valpolicellas. Its name derives from the tightly packed berries which resemble a knot, or groppo in local dialect.

Provenza’s version is doubly unique: it’s made from Groppello do Mocasina, the less common of two sub-varieties that grow on the western, or Lombardian, side of Lake Garda; and it’s rarely bottled as a single varietal.

Looking back on my tasting notes from almost a decade ago, it shares some characteristics with the producer’s 2001 Negresco, a mix of Groppello, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Marzemino from the same Garda Classico DOC. That was an eccentric, funky wine that had very mild tannins and a low level of acidity that allowed red and black fruits take center stage, with a texture and body similar to a Nero d’Avola.

The Provenza Garda Classico Groppello 2008 (available in-store, $13.99) is uncomplicated and understated; it delivers solid berry flavors after an odd entrance redolent with bitter almond. The medium acidity blends well with the other basic elements and, like the Negresco, promotes a heightened sense of ripeness and fullness that offsets mildly dry tannins which are more evident toward the finish and provide subtle structure.