An Italian Wine Grape You Have Probably Never Heard Of – Cari (or Pelaverga)

If you read Ian D’Agata’s comprehensive guide, Native Wine Grapes of Italy, you will learn that there are approximately 2000 indigenous grape varieties in Italy, although only 400 of them are currently used to make commercial wine. Italy is home to more indigenous grape varieties than anywhere else in the world and sometimes you have to be in Italy to find them. On a recent trip to the Piemonte region, I was introduced to a wine varietal that I had never had before – Cari.

Cari is a rare red grape from the hills of Piemonte. It is also called Pelaverga, Carola, Fra Germano and Taddone. Cari (Pelaverga) can be found in the domination Collina Torinese DOC, established in 1999. One of the smallest DOCs in Italy, there are only two producers left producing Collina Torinese Cari (Pelaverga) for a total of 6000 bottles annually. Cari is a very delicate grape and very rare.

One of the two producers is Balbiano and I tried the Balbiano Collina Torinese Cari 2017 on a recent visit to the winery in Torino. The wine is served as a dessert wine. At only 6% alcohol, it is a cherry-red color and looks like Brachetto (one of my favorite wines). But, unlike Brachetto or Moscato, Cari is not an aromatic grape. The Balbiano Collina Torinese Cari 2017 has fruit and floral notes on the palate. It has half of the residual sugar of Brachetto or Moscato. Unlike these two wines whose sweetness coats the mouth, the Cari is higher in acidity and this acidity can pair with any sweet dessert, especially pastries, cakes, cookies and creams.