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Ugni Blanc / Trebbiano

Trebbiano cluster.While it may have many aliases, the grape variety known primarily as Ugni Blanc or St. Emilion in France, Ugni Blanc in the United States, and as Trebbiano in Italy. Under one name or another, Trebbiano is very likely one of the top five most widely-planted grapes in the world1. It is so prolific that it probably produces the largest quantity of white wine in the world.

Trebbiano was known as a variety in Roman times and likely originated in the Eastern Mediterranean. An Italian DNA study has shown a close genetic relationship between Trebbiano and Garganega, although the true nature of this connection is yet to be established.

Ugni Blanc was identified in California vineyards in the 1880's. Plantings have dwindled from about 1,000 acres after World War II to less than half that by the beginning of the Second Millennium.

The principal use for this grape is to make brandy (and Cognac and Armagnac in France); it is also used to make Balsamic vinegar; as a wine grape, its most frequent use is for blending. Trebbiano is on the approved list in more Italian DOC regulations than any other variety. The most well-known example is Chianti; Tuscans consider the white Trebbiano a traditional part of the blend where it adds acidity and lightens tannins of the red Sangiovese and Caniolo grapes. The most well-known or successful wine made significantly from Trebbiano is Orvieto in Umbria and Lazio, Italy2.

The medium-open canopy Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc vines have a low inclination to powdery mildew, Botrytis and bunch rot, but their shoots are susceptible to wind damage. Ripe clusters can hang reasonably long periods with less risk than most of destemming, oxidizing, or raisining, but it seems to respirate acid rapidly during ripening. With high vigor and very high productivity of 10 to 13 tons per acre, Ugni Blanc is considered an easy grape to manage in the vineyard.

Ugni Blanc is quite neutral in aroma and flavor. Reports vary of its tendency to be either very low or very high in acidity, but considering the extended harvest period possible, this disparity seems likely to be more anecdotal and connected to particular temperature conditions and hang times rather than natural proclivity.

*Typical Ugni Blanc/Trebbiano Smell and/or Flavor Descriptors
*Typicity depends upon individual tasting ability and experience and is also affected by terroir and seasonal conditions, as well as viticultural and enological techniques. This list therefore is merely suggestive and neither comprehensive nor exclusive.

Varietal Aromas/Flavors:

Processing Bouquets/Flavors:

Fruit:

Terroir:

Floral:

Light Oak: (atypical)

Spice:

Heavy Oak: (atypical)

Herbal:

Bottle Age: (atypical)

(Too few tasting notes could be found on either Ugni Blanc or Trebbiano to list any or summarize typicity...)

by Jim LaMar


NOTES
1. Vineyards are planted, grafted over to other varieties, and ripped out with regularity. Many countries, especially those in the Eastern Bloc and Asia Minor don't keep statistical records of which varieties are planted. "Most widely planted worldwide" is an estimate at best; contenders in the past 30 years are cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, grenache, merlot, tempranillo, and trebbiano. Crop yields and density of vine plantings vary greatly; the dought-resistant airén variety (used primarily for brandy) is planted to such low density that it covers more than 750,000 acres in Spain, but is little-known in other countries. BACK to TEXT

2. Grapes known as Trebbiano di Soave and Trebbiano di Lugana are actually an entirely different variety: Verdicchio. BACK to TEXT


RESOURCES
1. Jancis Robinson (ed), Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition, (Oxford University Press: London) 2006

2. Jancis Robinson (ed), Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes, (Oxford University Press: New York) 1996

3. Steven Spurrier & Michel Dovaz, Academie du Vin, Complete Wine Course (G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York) 1983

4. Charles Sullivan, A Companion to California Wine: An Encyclopedia of Wine and Winemaking from the Mission Period to the Present (University of California Press: Berkeley) 1998

5. L. Peter Christensen, Nick K. Dokoozlian, M. Andrew Walker, James A Wolpert, et all. Wine Grape Varieties in California (University of California, Agricultural and Natural Resources Publications: Oakland) 2003


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Page created August 15, 2010; updated July 23, 2011
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Jim LaMar.