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BOMBINO BIANCO

THE ITALIAN EAST COAST WHITE

BOMBINO BIANCO

GRAPE

Bombino Bianco has always been grown mainly in Puglia, situated at the southeastern tip (or the heel of the boot) of the Italian peninsula.

Puglia has a wine culture of the most ancient tradition where it's plains have been a sanctuary for grape vines and olive trees since the time of the Phoenicians and Greeks. Today, Puglia produces more wine than almost any other region in Italy, even if much of Puglia's wine is used as vino da taglio (filler wine) to reinforce weaker wines. It is the least mountainous region in Italy, consisting mainly of broad plains and low-lying hills. The only mountainous areas, the Gargano promontory and the Monti Dauni do not exceed 1,150 meters and are found in the north in Puglia (1).

Outside of Puglia, Bombino Bianco is also grown in the rich and fertile flatlands of Emilia-Romagna, the Mediterranean climate of Abruzzo, the plains of Lazio, the hilly central region of Umbria and the ancient island of Sardinia.

Bombino Bianco is a white varietal of unknown origin. Some experts believe Bombino Bianco was brought to Italy by the Templar knights during the Crusades, others say that it's of Spanish origin, but there is no convincing documentation to support either hypothesis. It's name probably derives from the unique shape of the bunch which resembles that of a cuddling infant and has nothing to do with bombs (fruit, small, or otherwise). Another hypothesis is that the name is a corruption of bonvino, or good wine. Recent research suggests that Bombino Bianco is most likely a parent of two other Puglian cultivars, Impigno and Moscatello Selvatico (2).

Until recently, Bombino Bianco's merits have long gone unrecognized and has often been confused with Emilia-Romagna's Mostosa, with Abruzzo's Trebbiano Abruzzese, and more recently with Lazio's Ottoonese.

In Lazio's Castelli Romani area, the presence of Bombino Bianco has been documented for centuries, but recent research implied that it is also identical to Ottonese, a variety typical of the more southern reaches of a long sequence of planting errors ensued; in the belief that Bombino Bianco is identical to Mostosa (or Pagadebit), it was planted extensively in Emilia-Romagna, and for the same reason, it was also much planted in Abruzzo, because producers wishing to plant Pagadebit or Trebbiano Abruzzese were told they were identical varieties.

Howerver, when nurseries were asked for Bombino Bianco, they were just as likely to send one of the other varieties. For example, most of the producers in Emilia-Romagna have said that the nursery grapevines available over the last twenty or thirty years were undoubtedly Bombino Bianco and not of true Pagadebit. To further add to the confusion, these varieties behave differently in the field and do not produce wines of similar quality.

So while many farmers and scientists believed they were dealing with Bombino Bianco, it is likely they were actually growing or studying mixtures of distinct, similar-looking varieties: older vines of the original variety were interplanted with newer vines of another variety right in the same vineyard (2).

True Bombino Bianco is characterized by conical, sometimes conical-cylindrical bunches that are medium large; and fairly large round berries.

It is included in the blend of two DOCG wines, both from Lazio: Frascati and Frascati Cannellino. It is also allowed in DOC blends such as Puglia's Cacc'e' Mmitte di Lucera, Castel del Monte, and San Severo, Lazio's Marino and Frascati, Abruzzo's Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Emilia-Romagna's Colli della Romagna Centrale and Pagadebit di Romagna. It is also allowed in roughly forty IGT wines. It's large presence is a testament to Bombino Bianco's importance (2).

True Bombino Bianco wines from Puglia are creamier than those from other regions with aromas and flavors of minerals, almonds, aniseed, and hints of apricot and tropical fruit. Bombino Bianco from Lazio and Emilia-Romagna are thinner, more herbal and lemony. Donnardea is the first estate in Lazio to have gone the monovarietal route. In southwestern Lazio monovarietal bombino is easier to come by now, but it is labeled Ottonese, as that is the name the variety is known by there. Ottonese wines are very high acid, lemony and mineral, and for this reason, many producers prefer to blend in a little Ballone or one of the local Malvasias to soften their edge (2).

(1.) Botturi & Meraviglia "An Overview of Italian Wine"
(2.) D'Agata, Ian. " Native Wiine Grapes of Italy"