Grignolino is a red-wine grape from the Monferrato hills of Piedmont. The pale red wine that Grignolino grapes produce is a local curiosity (particularly in eastern Piedmont), and its lack of depth and charm means it has very few fans outside the region. As a result, the variety has never ventured far from its northern Italian homeland, although there are a handful of Grignolino vines in California, in the Santa Clara and Napa valleys.
The name Grignolino derives from the Piedmontese dialectal term grignolo, which means “pip”. It serves as a warning that the variety produces grapes abundant in pips, and therefore tannins. The name does not, however, give any hint as to the grapes’ searing acidity. Naturally high levels of tannin and acidity might suggest that Grignolino could rank alongside Piedmont’s two most successful red varieties, Nebbiolo and Barbera, whose tannin and acid structure is a key element in their success. But this has not proven to be the case. The absence of warmth and intrigue in Grignolino wines has left the variety as a kind of back-up; it performs a similar role to Dolcetto (a fill-in wine to provide something to drink while the “proper” wines develop in barrel and bottle). If Grignolino had Dolcetto’s depth, or if Dolcetto had Grignolino’s acidity, things might be quite different, but fate has consigned these two grape varieties to the lower echelons of Piedmont’s red wine grapes. – Wine-Searcher