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The concept of “passito“, in its essence, is very simple. While generally fresh grapes are used for the production of wine, in this case dried grapes are used. Less water, therefore, and more concentration, which means a greater quantity of sugars. The bunches change color, becoming golden if berries are white, or brick color in case of red berries. The aroma, the concentration of sugars and the density of the juice itself all increase. The roads that explore the wide typologies of raisin wines branch off in different directions, let’s see which are the main ones.

A first subdivision concerns the drying method. We can talk about natural withering when it takes place directly on the plant, allowing the grapes to dehydrate spontaneously, to then be picked with a postponed harvest, which is defined as “late”. Artificial drying, conversely, is managed by the producer. The grapes are harvested, as usual, but instead of pressing them, they are dried. The process takes place in special dry rooms, where ventilation is essential: it can be either naturally caused by the environment or induced by special fans. The objective, in any case, is to protect the bunches from mouldering, which is why they are always spaced apart, sometimes hung on racks, other times placed on straw beds or boxes. There are still some places where, as happened in the past, the grapes are dried under the sun. For example, Pantelleria.

When we talk about winemaking, the technique does not change compared to what typically happens for other wines. The wine is obtained, from the must, by the action of yeasts that transform sugars into alcohol. What changes in sweet wines is that during fermentation not all the sugars are transformed into alcohol. In fact, they are very concentrated due to drying, so much that they interrupt the action of the yeasts once they exceed a certain alcohol content. In some cases, fermentation can also be interrupted artificially by lowering the temperature, by adding sulfur dioxide or through specific filtration. The result, in any case, is that we will find residual sugars in the final product.

Wines made from dried grapes have the characteristic of being sweeter and softer, because with dehydration the acidity that characterizes the grapes decreases. Even from a chromatic point of view they show particularities: depending on white or red grapes they embrace a spectrum of colors that goes from gold to amber, up to orange and mahogany.

When referring to the world of raisin wines, we tend to think about sweet wines. However, it is important to remember that dry raisin wines also exist. They are made with raisin grapes, yes, but they contain no sugar, because it has been transformed entirely into alcohol. Two examples: Amarone della Valpolicella and Sforzato della Valtellina. We have dedicated one of our previous articles to this specific typology.

There is also another particular way of drying grapes. It comes from the effect of a mold – Botrytis Cinerea, or noble mold – which attacks the grapes and transforms and dehydrates them. The resulting wines are called “muffled (muffati)” and are characterized by truly unique scents. In this case too, it is possible to deepen the topic thanks to one of our articles already published.

A final case study concerns Ice Wines, produced in cold places such as Canada, Germany, Austria, and in general in the Alps. The bunches, in this case, are left on the vine until freezing and harvested late, when the temperature drops below zero.

Returning to the more classic dessert wines, and talking about varieties, for this methodology we often tend to use aromatic grapes; among these we remember Moscato, Malvasia and Gewürztraminer. It is precisely with the latter that the South Tyrolean winery Hofstätter produces its Rechtenthaler Schlossleiten, obtained from a late harvest. The peculiar
climate of the area where the vineyards are located, characterizes the grapes with an important acidity. In the glass this translates into a vein of surprising crispness, which definitely distinguishes Rechtenthaler Schlossleiten in the panorama of dessert wines. Another key feature is the low alcohol content, which stands at around 7% and makes it much leaner than the average for the type. The palate is persuasive: it recalls honey, apricots and dehydrated fruit in general. Interesting idea to taste it at the end of a meal, perhaps to accompany a dessert or a selection of blue cheeses.


Graziano Nani

Over 15 years in communication, today Graziano Nani is Branded Content Lead in Chora, where he deals with podcasts. AIS Sommelier, he writes for Intravino and curates @HellOfaWine on Instagram. He teaches wine communication at the Catholic University. He deals with the same topic in the podcast “La Retrolabel”, of which he is co-author, and with speeches at dedicated events.


It is interesting to understand why Pinot Noir is so loved, sought-after, and in some way revered by enthusiasts from all over the world. Part of its charm comes from the difficulty in cultivating its vine. It is a delicate and precocious variety, anything but versatile: suitable for specific places and climates only. The point is that when the right conditions exist, including the hand of men capable of enhancing the grape variety, the results can reach extraordinary levels. Pinot Noir also has the particular ability to enhance the characteristics of very small areas, so the micro-differences that exist between them, in a precise and multifaceted ways. A drop of a few meters in height, or a minimal discrepancy in soil level, is enough for two parcels, even very close together, to bring essentially different wines into the glass.

The homeland of this vine is France, and in particular Burgundy, where it express the highest quality levels. It can then be found in various other areas of the world characterized by cool climates and significant temperature ranges. These include Germany, Austria, South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, especially in Oregon and California. Even in Italy it can be found in different regions. In Oltrepò Pavese, where historically it is used to produce sparkling wines, as well as in Franciacorta. In Friuli, Tuscany, Umbria, Marche and Abruzzo. Lately it has also spread to the south, in Campania, Basilicata and Sicily, in the Etna area. And then it is found almost everywhere in the Alps: in South Tyrol, in particular, where it is also called Blauburgunder, various producers have been able to create wines that stand out for their texture and expressiveness.

Pinot Noir is a historical presence in South Tyrol, where it has been cultivated for over two centuries. To describe the qualitative peaks that it is able to reach in this region, it is necessary to explore the area of the villages of Egna and Montagna, and in particular the Mazzon plateau. Here, at an altitude of between about 250 and 450 metres, there is the Mazzon Vineyard, where in the mid-twentieth century some producers began to focus precisely on this vine. We are talking about a vineyard that covers about 60 hectares and boasts a particularly friendly position for the cultivation of Pinot Noir. Mazzon faces west. The mountains to the north perform a very important function, because in the early hours of the day they protect from the sun’s rays, avoiding excessive heat. Furthermore, they shelter the vineyard from the harsher winds that come from the north and east, leaving room instead for the Ora, the mild breeze that blows from Lake Garda. The vineyard then enjoys an excellent amount of light, which extends long into the afternoon. When the sun goes down, temperatures drop abruptly, determining the right range which is fundamental for the quality of Pinot Noir.

Mazzon features about a dozen South Tyrolean producers, who manage to obtain results of considerable interest. The wines of the various artisans who work the vineyard show some common traits. Among these a clear, fresh and sparkling fruit, often intertwined with spicy notes, for an overall profile capable of giving satisfactions after just a few years, and at the same time multiplying them over time. Among the names of these realities, Gottardi stands out, today led by Elisabeth Gottardi, who in the 1980s began a specific work on Pinot Noir, and over the course of a decade has managed to obtain levels of absolute excellence.

“Riserva Mazzon” is produced by the winery exclusively in the best years, working the grapes of the oldest vineyards. 100% Pinot Noir, ages for one year in new barriques and 14 months in large barrels, to then refine for 6 months in the bottle. The result is a complex red, a typical trait of the wines that come from this important vineyard. The 2016 vintage presents itself to the eye with a bright, shiny red. The nose smells of wild berries, with a particular inclination towards strawberries; in the background, spices and medicinal herbs. In the mouth it articulates a rich structure, with a graceful, elegant tannin, integrated with an aromatic profile of great breadth. Long, persistent, fresh and savory tolls chase and prolong the pleasant sensations on the palate. Immediately intriguing, it also has the right characteristics to remain in the cellar and evolve its profile over time.


Graziano Nani

Over 15 years in communication, today Graziano Nani is Branded Content Lead in Chora, where he deals with podcasts. Sommelier AIS, he writes for Intravino and takes care of @HellOfaWine on Instagram. He teaches wine communication at the Catholic University. He deals with the same theme in the “La Retroetiquette” podcast, of which he is co-author, and with speeches at dedicated events.


The world of taste has never stood still, over the centuries it has experienced constant evolution. These changes have always concerned both the sphere of wine and about food in general. Gualtiero Marchesi, for example, on the wave of Nouvelle Cuisine, has brought a great revolution in our country. Until then, the processing of ingredients, with very elaborate preparations, had a central role. It is precisely Marchesi in Italy who gives new dignity to the raw materials and the quality that distinguishes them, paving the way for an unprecedented style where the preparations are simplified, and the ingredients emerge with their intrinsic characteristics.

The same goes for wine. Around the eighties and nineties many enthusiasts loved full-bodied and very structured reds, produced using small barrels to ensure that the hints of wood significantly affect the wine itself. Even critics valued that type of label, and the market consequently did the same. Over the decades the picture has changed a lot and today we find ourselves in a period in which a different trend is consolidating, in some ways almost opposite. To describe it you have to take a step back.  The world of tasting, among the various approaches, uses one that divides the scents of wine into hardness and softness. In the first group there are acidity, sapidity and tannins; in the second one there are sugars, alcohol and polyalcohols. Last ones include glycerin, essential for giving the wine viscosity, therefore density and softness. A well made wine, among the various characteristics, gets a balance between these aspects, or in any case a reasoned proportion upstream. Having clarified these two dimensions, we can say that for some years there has been a tendency to enhance hardness. Let’s leave aside the tannins, which derive from the use of the skins in the wine making process, and mainly concern red wines and the so-called orange wines. In wine shops you can find more and more often wines with greater acidity and freshness than in the past, more sharp. The sapidity is also enhanced: it can be reflected, for example, in subtle, barely perceptible iodized scents, or in clearer and more marked saline notes.

The world of sparkling wines is not excluded from this new wave. Indeed, if we talk about the Classic Method in particular, the theme takes on great centrality. In fact, we know that these wines are classified according to the quantity of residual sugars found in the bottle. Extra-dry, brut and extra-brut, for example, are words that identify a specific quantity of residual sugar. We can say that, due to a game of balances between the different dimensions that we have seen, the soft component will emerge more in a sparkling wine with more sugar. Conversely, a smaller quantity of sugars will leave more room for acidity and sapidity, therefore for hardness.

Today, in line with the above trend, there is ever greater attention for sparkling wines with a very low, or even zero, sugar content. The category is called zero dosage, or pas dosé; the name derives from the dosage of the liqueur d’expédition, the one that precisely determines the quantity of sugars that will remain in the bottle. More evident hardness means sharp wines, with acidity in the foreground and sapidity which can be expressed with salty notes, or notes linked to the world of minerals, including for example graphite.

Pas dosé are versatile wines, able for different occasions. For example the aperitif, where freshness plays a fundamental role to enjoy drinks without pairing, or at least accompanied by light appetizers. Also as regards the possible combinations for lunch and dinner, the zero dosages are highly adaptable and leave many doors open. Here is a possible direction, which starts from the absence or almost no sugar, and therefore from their characteristic of essentiality. In this sense, a combination with equally essential dishes such as raw fish, perhaps tartare, can be interesting, based on the quality and purity of the raw material, which is not even cooked, but only delicately seasoned.

One of the most interesting producers in the Champagne world is Tarlant. His “Zero Brut Nature“, in particular, is produced with a blend of grapes that include Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and other ancient vines. The management is organic, with great respect for nature and an approach that aim to the least possible intervention by men. First fermentation is in steel tanks, so the wine age in barrique for six months, then there is the second fermentation and the wine rest on the lees for at least six years, finally disgorging by hand. The perfumes stay between the world of flowers and that of citrus fruits, together with references to more enveloping sensations, such as those of honey. In the mouth it shows a very fine perlage, and, naturally, a prominent presence of the tendendcy of hardness: refreshing acidity, and a saline texture as a counterpoint. It has a great persistence, with the aromas that accompany the palate for a long time, leaving a beautiful memory of this artisanal maison that is increasingly sought after today.

Graziano Nani

Over 15 years in communication, today Graziano Nani is Branded Content Lead in Chora, where he deals with podcasts. Sommelier AIS, he writes for Intravino and takes care of @HellOfaWine on Instagram. He teaches wine communication at the Catholic University. He deals with the same theme in the “La Retroetiquette” podcast, of which he is co-author, and with speeches at dedicated events.