Negrara is an indigenous Italian red wine grape varietal grown in north-east Italy including Trentino-Alto Adige and the Veneto region. It is still unclear if Negrara takes its named after its black skin or after the commune of ‘Negrar’ in Valpolicella where it is commonly grown. Best known for its inclusion in Bardolino DOC wine blends, plus it is a permitted varietal in the (DOC) wine Amarone - though rarely found as a single varietal.
While the grape was once more widely planted - the number of vines have been steadily declining for the past 40 years. The first record of Negrara was made in 1818 by the biologist Ciro Pollini (1782-1833). In 2006 DNA testing showed that the varietal ‘Enantio’ is either a parent or descendant of Negrara Trentina.
Negrara is a medium to late maturing grape vine and is very susceptible to botrytis and particularly to powdery and downy mildew. The vine is typically grown in selected small sites and grown up and along traditional pergolas trellising.
In the Valpolicella region, the Negrara varietal is allowed as a minor component in the full bodied DOCG straw wine called Amarone. As a percentage it can be as high as 5%, coming after Corvina Veronese (40-70%), Rondinella (20-40%) and Molinara (5-25%). On occasion, Negrara can make up to 15% of the Amarone wine provided the grapes used for the wine are harvested to a yield no greater than 8 tonnes/ ha. The wine then needs to be aged a minimum of two years and released with a minimum alcohol of 14%. Similar restrictions and blend composition exist for the regular red wine of the Valpolicella DOC except that the grapes do not have to be dried prior to fermentation with yields permitted up to 12 tonnes/ha and a minimum alcohol of 11%. A separate ‘Superiore’ style bottling is permitted for wines that have been aged at least one year in oak barrels.
Around Lake Garda, Negrara is also permitted in the Bardolino DOC wine where it can account for up to 10% - (but not the DOCG wine of Bardolino Superiore). Here grapes are limited to yield of 13 tonnes/ha with the wines having a minimum alcohol level of 10.5%.
On the southern banks of Lake Garda that crosses over into the Lombardy wine region, Negrara can be used in the red and rosé wines of the Garda Colli Mantovani DOC located in the hills of the Mantuan Morainic area. Here Negrara is permitted to make up to 15% of the wine along with Molinara and Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Rondinella making up the bulk of the blend. Grapes are limited to a harvest no greater than 14 tonnes/ha with the finished wine having a minimum alcohol level of 10.5%.
In the Valdadige DOC area that spans across the Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige / Südtirol wine regions. Negrara is a minor component in the red and rosé wines of the DOC behind Schiava and Lambrusco varieties. Along with Merlot, Pinot Noir, Lagrein and Teroldego, Negrara is permitted to make up the remainder of the blend provided the harvest yields do not exceed 14 tonnes/ha and wine has a minimum alcohol level of 10.5% for rosé wines and 11% for the red wines.