Trebbiano is synonymous with France's ignominious Ugni Blanc and with few exceptions, is just as innocuous. It made its way across the Mediterranean, via trading routes, during the 14th century. Yet Trebbiano's importance in terms of the volume of wine it is responsible for and the hectares across which it is planted, belies its inconsequential wines.
Trebbiano is the most widely planted grape variety in Italy, prevalent across Italy's fecund north and central districts, while still managing to lay claim to meager vineyards strewn through the south. It is in the wilderness of Abruzzo, after all, where Trebbiano's highest note seems to be expressed in full voice by the iconoclastic Azienda Agricola Valentini. Sadly, while the label lists the wine as Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, the nomenclature is a ruse! The grape used is actually Bombino.
Trebbiano's most complex expression in the real world is that of a distillation agent for Cognac and other brandies. This role gives some insight into the variety's inherent neutrality, high acidity, low alcohol and potential extract-all ideal traits for the transformative process of heating.
As a dry white wine, Trebbiano has largely come to symbolize crisp expressions of little character, memorable only for the sore head the morning after consumption. High volumes, and less-than-judicious care in the vineyard and winery, inevitably demand high sulphur levels to obviate ripeness issues.
Yet while Spain's Airen lays claim to the largest area under vine, followed by Grenache, Trebbiano constitutes quite possibly more wine produced than any other grape variety in the world. To put this into perspective, Trebbiano is cited in more DOC regulations than any other grape variety in Italy and accounts for somewhere in the vicinity therefore, of more than 30 per cent of Italy's entire DOC white wine production.
Trebbiano's sheer ubiquity is matched by the oft-sighted wines for which it is responsible, be it as a blending ingredient, or as a straight varietal expression. These include Orvieto, Soave and Frascati. Trebbiano was once also blended across the red wines of Chianti and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, although it is now largely reserved for Tuscan Vin Santo whereby long oxidative handling, as with distillation, imbues the wines with a sense of interest.
In Australia and other parts of the New World, Trebbiano is frequently used to stretch 'fruit salad' blends, made across the vast irrigated swathes of warm inland areas. The grape also serves to bolster acidity and lower pH, for balance and drinkability.