Greco: A Noble Choice

Greco grapes
Greco grapes in vineyard in Italy.
Walk into any wine store and ask for a bottle of Chardonnay,
or Cabernet, or Pinot, and you will get a variety of choices, with offerings
from many different countries. But ask for a bottle of Greco, you just might
get a blank stare. That’s too bad, because Greco, my latest discovery, is an
Italian white wine that should not be missed.
But before looking deeper at Greco, let’s look at “international
varietals” and “noble grapes.”
Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir are grape
varietals. They are three of 13 International
, which are those grapes that we’ve all heard of as their names
are likely to appear on wine labels. These grapes have been successfully grown
and vinified in many places other than their original homeland. Chardonnay, for example, is a white
International grape varietal, whose origins can be traced back to Burgundy,
France, but is now successfully grown in such far-flung places as California,
South Africa, South America, and New Zealand. The other white International
varietals are Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling,
Pinot Gris
(known as Pinot Grigio in Italy) Viognier, and Muscat.
International red grape varietals include
Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah
(known as Shiraz in
Australia), Grenache (known as Garnacha
in Spain), Sangiovese, and Tempranillo.
The term Noble Grape has
been applied to those grapes that make what are considered the highest quality
wines. Traditionally, the term has been attached to just six of these varietals
— Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and
Merlot — all of which, coincidentally, are grown in France. Since the wine
industry is now recognized as more than French, however, this term is used to
describe many other types of grapes in different geographies.
The 13 International grape varietals have become so
widespread and popular that they often overshadow – and literally overtake
production of – the hundreds of other indigenous grapes being used for wine
production worldwide. Some of these lesser-known varietals make up a small
percentage of blended wines, others are only well known in their country of
origin (vine origin is often debated), and still others are only grown where
their very specific growing conditions allow.
Greco Bianco was introduced
to me as “an up-and-coming white grape varietal” at the “Vino California Grand
Tasting” (
in May. Grown in Southern Italy (Campania and Calabria) and considered a Noble
Grape there, it is believed to originate in Greece, hence its name. It has a
floral aromatic quality which I find similar to one of my favorite
international varietals, Viognier.  Greco
Bianco offers so much more depth and character than the ubiquitous Italian
white import, Pinot Grigio. Although extremely popular in the US market, Pinot
Grigio is not so popular in Italy. Maybe the Italians have been holding out on
The two Greco wines I sampled are:
La Guardiense Greco
 This has a floral, aromatic nose, and a
light, refreshing body, making it a nice wine for pairing with light
appetizers, salads, and shellfish.  It
has an average US price of $9. Great 
if you can find it. I searched the Internet for a US retailer, and found just
Statti Greco Calabria
 This has similar floral aromatics to La
Guardiense, and seems to be more widely distributed in the US, just not at my
local stores. You may have more luck finding it locally. Prices ranged from $11
to $18.
A more available version of this varietal is called Greco di Tufo, which comes from the
village of Tufo in Campania, Italy. Names you may find on wine store shelves
include Feudi di San Gregorio,
Terredora, La Cicogna,
and Benito
, and prices range from $18 to $28. An Internet search brought up
several options.
I talked to my local merchant, The Los Angeles Wine Company
(, about Greco,
and, although he had none in stock, he listened and informed me he will likely
get some cases soon (so it pays to ask!).
Finally, don’t confuse Greco Bianco, which is white, with
Greco Nero, which is red. The latter is more widely planted, mainly around
Calabria, Italy, and it is often blended with another red varietal called
So try something new, explore a little, and expand your wine
Until next time, cheers!