Oseleta is an extremely rare red wine grape varietal grown just to the north of the city of Verona in the Veneto region of Italy. Oseleta grapes were and are still used to add colour and tannin to locally crafted red wines. The Oseleta grape varietal was ever so close to extinction as it was severely affected by the phylloxera infection in the late 19th century. Fortunately, it has been saved from extinction by a small number of dedicated local wine families and currently, there are around 25-30 hectares of Oseleta vines planted in the region.
The Oseleta has a rich history, first documented over 150 years ago - though it is believed to have been a key component of local wines for several centuries. But because of its low yields, Oseleta was taken over by other indigenous grape varietals with higher yields.
This was because of both economic pressures on wineries, plus the process of appassimento (the partial drying of the grapes) - the small bunches and thick skinned berries resulted in only a very small amount of juice to make wine.
Oseleta is also known as; Osela, Oselina, Oselletta Nera and Osella. Recent DNA testing has drawn a link between the following grape varietals: Garganega, Pelara, Dindarella, Rondinella and Corvine Veronese - and ongoing testing is still to give a final genetic parentage.
This indigenous Veronese grape varietal with its small bunches is particularly well suited to undergoing the appassimento (drying) technique due to its thick skins and resilience too botrytis. The grape name is believed to have derived from the word ‘oselét’ in the local Veneto dialect, which means ‘little bird’, because, when ripe, these red grapes are particularly tempting to the small local bird life.
Today a few passionate wine producers (i.e. Masi & Pasqua) are experimenting with reviving this indigenous grape Oseleta in a range of Valpolicella red wines. And thanks to the efforts of these local Veneto families, the Oseleta varietal has been reinstated on the national register of wine grape varietals, and is again being looked at as a future option for quality wine producers in the region.
The typical character of the Oseleta grape is that it has a bold tannin structure, mineral notes and rich dark berry flavours. Which is the complete opposite to the low tannins of most Valpolicella grapes - with the most dominant being Corvina. The wine law now permits up to 10% Oseleta in Valpolicella DOC (Corvina being the dominant varietal, supported by Rondinella and Molinara).
Oseleta wines pair well with game dishes and earthy vegetables. A classic example is braised lamb served with a side of vegetables and rosemary, along with grilled chicken with a balsamic dressing. Keep an eye out for this grape being a part of future Valpolicella wines (e.g. Amarone), plus also as a single varietal expression.