Nerello Cappuccio Grape

Known mainly for its role in Etna Rosso DOC wines, Nerello Cappuccio is mainly grown on the steep soils surrounding the Etna Volcano.  Nerello Cappuccio’s name derives from the immense cap or canopy of the grapevines.  “Cappuccio” meaning cap refers to the unusual hood-like appearance of the vines.  The vines are most often bush-trained; hiding the view of the berries.  

Although Nerello Cappuccio has always been an important part of Etna’s viticulture, there is little known about this variety.  Nerello Cappuccio is much rarer than its soulmate, Nerello Mascalese, with which it is usually blended for Etna Rosso wines.  Although most often blended, Nerello Cappuccio can also be used to make a unique monovarietal wine.  

Nerello Cappuccio Grape

Contrarily some experts say Nerello Cappuccio as a monovarietal generally lacks the tannins necessary to stand alone.  Nerello Cappuccio can account for up to 20% of Etna rosso DOC blends to soften acidity and provide color.  This variety is most often combined with other varieties that are high in acidity and weak in color.  The high concentrations of acylated anthocyanins and malvin are responsible for Nerello Cappuccio berries’ deep color.  The acylated anthocyanins and malvin also allow Nerello Cappuccio to be less susceptible to oxidation or spoilage.

Some controversy surrounds Nerello Cappuccio due to its similarity to Nerello Mantellato.  A majority of experts believe it to be identical to Nerello Cappuccio.

The famous American importer of Italian wines and owner of Tenuta delle Terre Nere Estate of Etna, Marc de Grazia has commented that Nerello Cappuccio and Nerello Mantellato are completely different wine grape varieties, noting they both taste and look different.  In 2011, Grazia furthered his point by separately vinified lots of Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, and what he thought to be Nerello Mantellato.  From his accessions of the three varieties, it was analysed that both phenotypic and genotypic synonymies were false.    

Grazia’s results were valued immensely as the study proved 10 percent of what was thought to be Nerello Cappuccio was actually a mix of Ciliegiolo and Sangiovese and another 70 percent were actually Carignano.  Concluding that only 20 percent of the accessions were true Nerello Cappuccio.  Among the Nerello Cappuccio phenotype, many others were found in five distinct varieties.  This concluded that not only is Nerello Cappuccio more rare than previously expected, but there are also a multitude of biotypes as a result of the variety being interplanted throughout the years.  

Nerello Cappuccio can be found outside of the Etna DOC in the southern provinces of Caltanissetta, Agrigento, and Enna and in Faro near Messina. The Calabria DOC blend also often included Nerello Cappuccio; blending Scavigna, Savuto, and Lamezia.

Nerello Cappuccio Vineyard

Flavor Profile 
Primary - Grape Influences

Nerello Cappuccio berries are medium to large in size, round, and dark blue bunched in medium, compact, short, pyramidal clusters.  

It is often exposed to the influences of weather due to its early bud break and flowering.  This exposure often can lead to spring frosts and coulure on the vines and berries.  Besides early ripening, Nerello Cappuccio is exceptionally easy to tend as it is not demanding, and has good production levels and vigor.  This variety often ripens a few weeks before its co-blender, Nerello Mascalese.

Wine Style

Nerello Cappuccio as a monovarietal wine is medium to dark in color and offers light flavors and aromas.  Notes of minerals, vanilla, light coffee, and ripe cherry make this wine not very floral.  Although minimal floral notes are present, it still provides stronger floral notes than its blending partner, Nerello Mascalese.  Nerello Cappuccio wines often have a coarser quality and slightly more aggressive tannins than Nerello Mascalese wines.  Due to these qualities, it is often noted as the lesser of the two Nerellos of Sicily.  

Nerello Cappuccio Grape

Etna Vineyard

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