“Oh, you have to try the tortellini there,” my hairdresser said when I told him I was traveling to Bologna, Italy.
Italians are famously regional with their food and drink, so even though we were in Rome — a mere 2-hour train ride away — he advised me on a few of the classic things I needed to eat in the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region.
Sure, it’s possible to get a perfectly salty Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or a rich, sparkling Lambrusco elsewhere when you travel to Italy, but there are some things which just taste better in Bologna.
Discovering Pignoletto Wine
With a list of a few specific items in my Notes app, I thought I was prepared to try all things unique to the area. Once I arrived, though, I overheard someone talking about an Italian sparkling wine made from at least 85% Grechetto Gentile grapes in the hills of Bologna. Its name? Pignoletto.
“Whether still or sparkling, Pignoletto is a light, super zesty, and highly drinkable wine with a very aromatic nose reminiscent of white peaches, ginger, jasmine, and grapefruit,” sommelier Filippo Bartolotta explained. “On the palate is an explosion of citrus fruit combined with elderflower, basil, and a symphonic chamomile with an almond finish.”
What Styles Of Pignoletto Wine Are There?
Although Prosecco is typically my go-to Italian sparkling wine when I travel in Italy, I made it my own personal mission to get a glass of any Pignoletto I came across in Bologna. As far as Italian wine types go, Pignoletto is definitely lesser-known it’s becoming more and more popular. Pignoletto wine can be prepared with or without bubbles, and there are also “Pet-Nat” options which ferment right in the bottle and offer a bit of a savory finish.
“Pignoletto is perfect to go with the local ham and salami, fried bread, young cheeses, and light fish dishes, and it’s awesome with oysters,” Filippo advised.
I tried a couple of the still versions (which are rarer) and found them to have a really potent flavor — something I much preferred to pair with a cheese plate. The more prominent frizzante Pignoletto, however, was a wonderful, light anytime beverage which was my favorite, and I enjoyed on its own or with a simple aperitivo.
Where You Can Find Pignoletto In Italy
Because Pignoletto is local to this region, you’ll definitely want to add it to the list of must-try dishes and drinks in Bologna.
Here are a few places in the city where you can grab a glass of Pignoletto for yourself.
Despite its close proximity to the famed Piazza Maggiore, this is a favorite amongst locals — in fact, don’t be surprised if you see a group of elderly Italian men speaking with fervor over a card game or a family gathering for a joyful get-together. You won’t find any food on their menu (drinks only, here), but you can bring in anything you’d like to eat. They have a hearty variety of Italian wine types and the price is right at a mere €2 for a glass of Pignoletto. A bonus: it turned out to be the perfect people-watching spot for the afternoon.
Enoteca Italiana is a little bit of everything: wine shop, deli, market, and enoteca. I loved the laid-back atmosphere here where I could peruse their shelves boasting an endless amount of wines, enjoy a masterfully crafted cheese plate, or shop for special culinary souvenirs all in the same visit. Take your glass and explore the shop or situate yourself at one of the many tables inside, but it’s definitely worth chatting up the employees behind the counter — they’ll happily offer up suggestions and tell you more about the Pignolettos and other wines they’re pouring.
Enter this large indoor market and you’ll find the usual suspects like fresh produce, cheese, and meat stands, but wander into the side wings and find a wide range of restaurants and bars with a cozy eating area. I first wandered in here on a Sunday afternoon and it was packed, so I flowed through the bustling crowd just to see what it was like. When I returned on a weekday evening, it was much more my speed: some open tables, live jazz, and relaxed atmosphere. There are a few places to grab wine here, but I recommend heading to the place in the corner labeled “alimentari” for some Pignoletto and picking up food from any of the vendors there to enjoy at a bistro table.
Have you tried Pignoletto wine before? What other Italian wines are your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Photo Credit: HEX