Canaiolo Nero is a black grape from Italy, quickly losing ground in spite of having been an important blending partner to Sangiovese in Tuscany.
Canaiolo Nero has historically been popular with wine growers for its ability to dry without rotting and was therefore used as a kind of a backup.
Depending on where it has grown it will produce wines with elegant aromatics and gentle tannins.
Canaiolo Nero played an important part in the Chianti Classico created by Baron Bettino Ricasoli in the nineteenth century. It was added for its fruitiness and ability to soften Sangiovese’s tannins.
If you find a Canaiolo Nero wine from Umbria, it is likely to be light and fruity, made for early consumption.
If it instead comes from Tuscany, above all from the western coast sub zone Maremma, you’re likely to find a wine that is higher in alcohol and comes with more complex aromas. The difference depends on the various climates, inland versus maritime, that the vines are exposed to.
A light Canaiolo Nero wine will pair excellently with not too heavily seasoned pork or lamb dishes. Serve the wine at 14-16°C/57-61°F.
A more complex wine from for example Maremma will be wonderful with lamb, beef dishes, and even game. Serve the wine at 16-18°C/61-64°F.
Where is it grown?
After a decrease of more than fifty percent in ten years, Canaiolo Nero plantings are a modest 1.068 ha/2,639 ac. This makes it the seventy-sixth most planted grape in Italy. Most planted areas are still in Tuscany, above all in Firenze (410 ha/1,103 ac), Siena (244 ha/603 ac), and Arezzo (189 ha/467 ac).
Canaiolo Nero has a documented story in Tuscany for more than seven hundred years. Its true origins however remain unknown. The hypothesis that it should have been used already by the Etruscans, some 2500 years ago, has so far not been proven.
It has for sure been an important grape in the region before the Phylloxera epidemic. Its decline started when it turned out that it was difficult to graft to American rootstocks.
Before modern times, e.g. with for example the possibility to control fermentation temperatures, Tuscan wine makers developed the Governo method of restarting or prolonging the fermentation process. This was done by adding semi dried Canaiolo Nero grapes to the must.