Nonino’s first grappa made from a single grape variety — i.e., monovarietal grappa — was made from Picolit. Here’s a short backgrounder on the grape…
Picolit is one of Friuli’s most fascinating and prestigious indigenous grape varieties. Highly prized for its delicate aromatic profile, Picolit has been the favored wine of royalty for centuries.
In high-quality vineyards, farmers do whatever they can to reduce the fruit yields so that the vines concentrate all of their energy into a smaller number of grapes. Picolit, however, has its own unique process of slimming down yields. The vine undergoes a spontaneous flower abortion that results in a grape cluster that does not have all of its berries. Its name, in fact, comes from the Italian word piccolo, meaning small, a reference to the yields and also the size of the grapes. The fruit that does grow on these sparsely populated clusters is much more concentrated and, in the end, creates a wine of unparalleled complexity.
Picolit saw the height of its popularity in the royal courts of the 18th century. Count Fabio Asquini is credited with helping the variety reach international fame. He recorded his methods of successful farming of the difficult grape, but production went into decline nonetheless due to the high cost of cultivation. The worldwide Philoxera epidemic was also a factor.
High levels of acidity and sugar make Picolit ideal for dessert wine. The most common styles are passito (drying of the grapes in ventilated rooms) and late-harvest (allowing the grapes to dry slowly on the vines).