Pignolo (also called Pignul) is an Italian red wine grape varietal grown predominantly in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeast Italy. The name related to the form, shape of the bunches, which are small and firm, reminiscent of a pine cone - which is ‘pigna’ in Italian.
It is an ancient grape varietal, currently believed to be originally from the Friuli wine region in Italy. Most experts believe that it is not related to the Lombardy ‘Pignola’ grape of the Valtellina region, but DNA research continues. Its presence in the region of Fruili was documented back in 1398, when Francesco from Carrara requested the Serenissima (the Maritime Republic of Venice) a permit to ship 20 barrels of Pignolo wine from Rosazzo, (from Friuli to Padua) for his own use and well-being, following the advice of his doctor.
The Pignolo origins are traced to the vineyards of the Rosazzo Abbey, where it was probably originally planted by the Benedictine monks. The wines produced from this grape were of extremely high quality, with the grape now being a prominent varietal in the Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC.
It is believed that the Pignolo grapes were cultivated before the 17th century, in particular in the areas of Albana, Premariacco, Prepotto and Rosazzo. The last two remaining vines at the Rosazzo Abbey were relatively recently saved from certain extinction thanks to recovery work done back in 1978.
The first specific recorded reference of the grape varietal in viticulture and winemaking was in Abbot Giobatta Michieli's late 17th century book ‘Bacchus’ in Friuli in which he described the grape making “excellent black wine”.
Its leaf is small, three-lobed (sometimes five-lobed); the cluster is typically small, cylindrical, simple and tight; with small round berries, with a thick, black waxy skin. The vine has medium vigour, with uneven yields it not well managed, giving the best results in clay-limestone soils and in hot dry conditions.
Today the grape is used to make rich, deep coloured, full bodied wines which responded well to time in oak. Well-made examples of the wine have good balance between the grape's acidity and tannins with flavour characters of red plums though to wild blackberry. It is considered one of the Friuli wines which improves with ageing, producing results that stand up to the most noble of Italian red wines.