Despite its lackluster reputation, Trebbiano may just be one of the most important white wine grape varieties that you’ve barely heard of. The variety finds its origins in Italy, though today, is one of the most widely cultivated grape varieties around the globe. The grape goes by a handful of other names, most notably Ugni Blanc in France, as well as Albano, Greco, Saint Emilion, and Thalia.
Traces of Trebbiano in Italy date back to Roman times, though the variety truly found its global footing around the 14th century, when the papacy was moved to Avignon. Since then, Trebbiano (Ugni Blanc) has become a key player in French viticulture and distillation, particularly in the regions of Cognacand Armagnac, where it is the go-to grape variety for these regions’ eponymous spirits. Today, it is the most widely cultivated white grape variety in all of France.
On the vine, Trebbiano is high yielding and grows in long, cylinder-shaped bunches. Trebbiano grapes produce highly acidic juice, which makes them so useful in the crafting of distilled spirits. Extensive DNA studies have shown that Trebbiano has a very similar genetic makeup to Garganega, the key variety in Italy’s Soave production.
Over the last century, Trebbiano has been crossed with other grapes to create a handful of new varieties, including Veneto’s Manzoni Rosa. Grapes within the Trebbiano family (Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano di Soave, etc.) are responsible for nearly one third of all of Italy’s white wine production. The variety is also used in balsamic vinegar production.