Canaiolo Nero

Origin: Central Italy
Canaiolo Nero was once a upon a time as widely planted throughout Tuscany as the world-famous Sangiovese (and represented the biggest blending component of Chianti wines in the 18th century), but the lucky star did not shine upon Canaiolo for with the phylloxera outbreak of the 19th century came its downfall. It did not take well to the post-phylloxera grafting and became a footnote in the history books, while Sangiovese took on the world stage. But Canaiolo is now (with the help of modern vine growing knowledge) back for vengeance and this is a variety to keep your eyes on

Grown: Tuscany (90% of all plantings), but also found in Lazio, Marche and Sardinia

Climate: Warm Mediterranean and Continental climates

Soil: Rich and high in clay

Viticulture: Clonal selection and developing new technics are key behind re-establishing Canaiolo, but it still has a long way to go. it is resistant against many diseases and can dry without rotting (which is why it was often used as an aid to the fermentation process for Chianti wines (Governo method). Susceptible to mildew diseases and ripens unpredictably

Vinification: Perfect for drying/using as a sugar addition to stuck fermentations (Governo method). Rarely fermented on its own, usually only as a small portion of a blend. Should never be oak aged when on its own

Regional names to look for on label:

  • IGT Toscana (for a single variety wine)
  • Chianti DOCG (Maximum 30% of the blend, but very uncommon)

General Personality:

  • Colour: Rudy red with a strong blue shine
  • Aromas: Ripe berry compote, everything from strawberry to plum and cherries, leather and herbaceous tones with a pronounced black pepper aroma that adds complexity
  • Taste and Texture: Smooth, so smooth, but at the same time rich and juice. Full bodied without being overpowering. Uncomplicated, without being boring
  • Conclusion: Canaiolo Nero as a single grape variety wine is rare, but it is only when it is on its own that the true magic of Canaiolo Nero gets to shine through. It is like summer and dreams. Which doesn’t make any sense at all, but that is its flavour. It is rich and soft at the same time and has an acidity and tannin structure that are mild without being flabby. Best described as a dangerous wine, in the sense that you will definitely drink too much of it
  • Future: If you have managed to come across a single variety Canaiolo Nero wine then drink it now! And I mean now! Give me a call and I will bring the corkscrew

Food pairings:

  • General: This is a good example of a wine that is pure magic on its own. It does not need food! If you are lucky enough to have found a pure Canaiolo Nero, then do not worry about the food, just gather your friends around and enjoy (extra bonus: not a particularly expensive variety when you find it). But if you desperately need to pair it with food, here are some suggestions:
  • Obvious pairing: Primavera Pappardelle
    Go crazy! Creamy soya milk base or tomato sauce, you cannot fail. Fresh vegetables and (preferably) home made egg-free rustic pasta, it is as traditional Italian as it comes, making it perfect with Canaiolo Nero. Stay away from to high acidities in the sauce, since the acidity in Canaiolo is on the lower scale, but otherwise, you are good. Especially sweet peas work great in the pasta
  • On the wild side: Cheese platter
    I had a bit of fun with this one and here we are not talking healthy, we are just talking delicious. Canaiolo Nero is a sociable wine, and what goes better with social than cheese, vegan as it might be. Choose the type based on your ambition level, go to the specialty shop and buy your cheeses or do like I did and go a bit crazy in the kitchen. Cashew cream cheese, “goat” cheese, nacho cheese and Camembert there are so many recipes now, some simple while other might take a chemistry lesson or two, but what is the worst thing that might happen? You might have to drink the Canaiolo Nero on its own, what a nightmare…