Body: Generally full
Dry / Sweet: Dry
Age: Best enjoyed young, within three years of release.
Aka: Also known as Asprinio, Greco delle Torre, Greco del Vesuvio and Ragusano Bianco.
Greco (GREK-KO), or to give it its full name Greco Bianco, is an Italian grape with a long history. It is believed to have been introduced to the Campania region of southwest Italy by the ancient Greeks prior to the foundation of Rome. Despite this supposed origin no grape variety in Greece has been found that resembles Greco.
DNA sampling has shown that it is genetically identical to a grape named Asprinio, which is also found in Campania. The most highly prized wines in ancient Rome came from the north coast of Campania and first amongst them was Falernian (or Falernum), which is generally believed to have contained a substantial proportion of Greco.
Today, Greco’s presence is relatively small and almost exclusively limited to Campania and the neighboring region of Calabria. It almost went extinct, along with other southern Italian varieties, after the Second World War when vineyards were devastated and many winemakers moved into emerging post-war industries or emigrated. Fortunately Greco did survive thanks to the efforts of dedicated winemakers who understood and appreciated the unique wines this grape is capable of producing.
While Greco Bianco is generally referred to simply as Greco, there is also a red variant of the grape called Greco Nero, which is actually more widely planted in southern Italy than the white and is primarily used in blends.
The area most closely associated with Greco, and where it is at its best and most expressive, is around the village of Tufo. The wines from Tufo, and several surrounding communities, were given DOCG status in 2003 and are labeled Greco di Tufo. They are amongst the best white wines of southern Italy and have their own unique appeal.
Generally, they are made without the use of oak and if it is used its influence is minimal. It is also common to age the wines on their lees (solids, including dead yeast cells and grape pulp that fall to the bottom of the tank during fermentation), which adds textural richness and complexity. Above all it is their refreshing acidity that stands out most and they can be very full bodied.
Aromas of acacia, citrus and tropical fruits are followed by subtle flavors of pear, apple, lemon, apricot and peach together with notes of toasted almonds and a refreshing mineral finish. Lees aging can add a rich, creamy texture and substantial mouth feel to the wine. The best examples are complex with additional herbal notes and a more pronounced mineral quality. Most wines are best enjoyed when they are young, so drink them within three years of the vintage.
Greco is also used for blending in other areas of southern Italy, like the island of Capri, where it is blended with Falanghina and sometimes other native grape varieties. In Calabria (at the “toe of the Italian boot”), around the town of Bianco, it is used to produce the DOC wine Greco di Bianco, which is a very good quality passito (made from partially dried grapes) sweet dessert wine.
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