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Test Drive

Pillitteri auditions three new-to-Niagara Italian vines

By Amanda Allison

Pillitteri Estates Winery’s Jamie Slingerland has fought a long and hard battle to bring Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara to the Niagara region.

The winery’s director of viticulture saw great potential in these vinifera vines from northern Italy and knew he had to get his hands on them. Problem was, nobody was giving them up.

“The growers have been secretive and even reclusive with their vines,” he said.

“They’ve got a good thing happening, and they want to keep it to themselves.”

Tougher still was finding vines that were certified and approved by the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). After an exhaustive search, certified vines were found at the research facility at University of California Davis.

After not receiving any vines last year due to lack of supply, all seemed lost. However, a sluggish U.S. economy recently created a surplus of vines, and Gemmrich Nursery in Niagara-on-the-Lake was able to help import the three varieties.

“Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara — these are very interesting varieties. No one has really had a chance to test them,” said Slingerland.

“They could be the next wave of plantings that if we play with them enough, we may end up with some pretty interesting wine.”

Each different variety brings something to Amarone wines from Valpolicella. Corvina gives the wine structure, body and character, while the Rondinella adds colour and the Molinara supplies a perfume.

However, Slingerland isn’t sure that a blend is the be-all or end-all for these grapes.

“We think there is other potential there. There are all these combinations and experimentations we have to do.”

If all else fails, Slingerland knows that the grapes will fit in nicely to what Pillitteri already does best – Icewine.

“We are world-renowned for our Icewine, so using these grapes together or individually as a new variety of Icewines is an easier way to introduce them to the public.”

Regardless of its format, Slingerland is excited to be offering something new to the wine industry.

“The whole concept of bringing the grapes in is to make something that is an improved product,” he said.

With greater demand for a special bottle that may be higher in price, but is definitely higher in uniqueness, Slingerland’s dedication to importing these vines should move Pillitteri to the forefront of what’s new and hot for Canadian consumers. Look for wines produced from these new varieties to hit Pillitteri shelves as early as 2015.



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