Piedirosso is an ancient red grape variety grown around the Naples area in southern Italy. It has long been cultivated here and is now prevalent throughout Campania. It is known locally as palumno, meaning Pigeon’s foot for the uncanny way in which grape clusters resemble a pigeon’s foot.
In recent years the role of Piedirosso was to soften the prominent tannins given by Aglianico. This is still generally the case, although there are plenty of producers experimenting with mono varietal wines now. The variety appears as a blending partner in many of the region’s red wine appellations, notably in the Campi Flegrei where it produces rustic red wines with a spicy berry fruit, as well as in Vesuvio DOC.
Further east of Naples, towards the provinces of Benevento and Avellino, Piedirosso behaves somewhat differently. Fattoria La Rivolta cultivate it around the area of Taburno, although since Taburno nailed its colours to the mast and created Aglianico del Taburno DOCG, Piedirosso wines are bottled under the larger Sannio appellation, sometimes with Taburno as an official subzone.
It is often found ungrafted due to the fact that phylloxera cannot survive in the area’s mineral rich volcanic soils. It is cultivated high up on poles in a trellis system known as Puteolano. In the cellar Piedirosso provides some dilemmas. Like with Nebbiolo and Aglianico, extracting enough colour can be problematic. Pushing too hard to achieve colour of course can lead to bitter flavours in the glass.
Piedirosso is a challenging grape to get one’s head around. There are dozens and dozens of producers all over the south of Italy that claim to cultivate the variety, but much of this appears differently in the vineyard and again in the glass. As such there is a strong case for further study of Piedirosso and its many synonyms.