Italians love wine, that’s common knowledge. What’s a little less known is their seasonal affair with il novello, or “young wine”. That’s a special type of wine that’s only sold between November 6th and the last day of the year, with some analogies with the much better known Beaujolais nouveau from France. It is light in alcohol content (no more than 11%), very fruity due to the lack of tannins and pretty light – so much that with a pun on the ‘novello’ word (literally: ‘new’, but also ‘young’) it is also said to be a wine for kids.
In fact, vino novello was considered a sort of less noble variety until about 1980s, when a marketing effort and better production processes turned it into a fashionable variation for new generations indeed, but not in a pejorative way at all. The competition with the Beaujolais tradition sure played a part – novello even beats it to the stores arriving about two weeks earlier – but this was a great way to sell a necessarily limited edition product, since only about 15 million bottles are produced each year. This is why novello isn’t really famous outside of the national borders: foreign markets just don’t get much in the first place!
Novello wine uses the same production technique of its French counterpart, invented in the 1930s. The uncrushed grapes are set in a special vat saturated with carbon dioxide that speeds up fermentation: this makes the wine fizzy and colorful. Differently from Beaujolais, however, novello can be made with about sixty different types of grapes, only seven of which are grown outside of Italy. The major varieties are twelve, but it is easy to imagine the range of flavors novello can gain, and why enthusiasts race each other to find and collect the best variations of the year.
This selection can be rather hard, since more than half of the novello production comes from the Veneto region, but the rest is spread very thinly all over the country, all the way down to Sicily. Consider how few bottles each winery can make, and you can picture how some excellent variations become immediately unavailable to anyone not wishing to rush throughout the nation to sample all the year’s offering. Should you manage to get hold of one bottle, you can of course drink it any way you want to – but if you want to stay true to the Italian tradition, novello is customarily drunk along with roasted chestnuts, another traditional Fall food from Italy.