Domenico Winery + Osteria

Coda di volpe grape bunches on the vine

Fascinating Italian Wine Grapes: Coda di Volpe

Italy is home to more native grapes than any other country. We’re talking over 2,000 grape varieties that we know of! Of course, there are the very well-known ones: Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Pinot Grigio, to name a few. However, various lesser-known grape varieties are amazing too. And, there’s one close to our hearts. Its name is Coda di Volpe.

This grape is not super common. But – boy – does it have a fascinating and ancient story to discover.

Let’s explore all there is to know about Coda di Volpe!


Its name is pretty adorable

You may be wondering – what does Coda di Volpe mean? Well, it translates quite literally in Italian. It directly translates to ‘fox’s tail.’ This name is a specific reference to the shape of its grape bunches. They’re long and curvy, like a fox’s tail!


Just to be clear, Coda di Volpe is a white grape

With a name like “fox’s tail,” it might be hard to guess whether this is a red or white grape. Coda di Volpe is a white grape with bunches that look yellow and almost waxy.

Pliny the Elder most likely named this grape

Before Coda di Volpe developed its Italian name, it had its Latin name. In Pliny the Elder’s “Naturalis Historia,” he cites this grape as Cauda Vulpium. In Latin, this translates to fox’s tail as well.

Pliny didn’t just name this grape. He also had some specific thoughts on it. He found this grape to be excellent at building pergolas. This vine training system was popular in Roman times. You probably have seen a pergola before – grapes trellised around wooden frames with bunches dangling overhead. It is still a very romantic way to envision grapes growing. They aren’t very sustainable as they grow tons of big grape bunches that do not produce quality wines. Sorry, Pliny!


This grape is almost exclusively found in one Italian region

Italian grapes all call somewhere home. For Coda di Volpe, its Campania. This Southern Italian region is on the Western coast, with its historic capital of Napoli. Just outside the city is this grape’s ancient home. Coda di Volpe has grown in the foothills of Vesuvius and Benevento for thousands of years, dating back to Roman times.

Coda di Volpe grows in a few other Italian regions, all in the South. Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, and even Sicily are all known to have Coda di Volpe. But, you will not find it in nearly as large of a volume as Campania (and even in Campania, Coda di Volpe is only grown moderately.)


Coda di Volpe has multiple false synonyms

It’s very common for Italian grapes to take on various local names. Often, these names can make things very confusing. Coda di Volpe has a few false synonyms. While most of these are now known to be wrong, in localities where this grape has been called the same name for generations, it just might not change. That’s why it’s good to know these false synonyms, in case you find yourself in a random little town in Campania growing Coda di Volpe.

First, many call this grape Pallagrello, although Coda di Volpe is not related to either Pallagrello Nero or Bianco. Also, for a long time, it was believed Coda di Volpe was a clone of Caprettone, another white grape grown in similar areas. A recent DNA analysis canceled this association out fast!


This grape has more character than once believed

For a long time, this grape was typically used in blends because many believed it to be a pretty inferior grape. It is a sensitive grape and doesn’t produce a ton of fruit. Yet, when given some TLC, it can really show potential. And, fortunately, recent winemaking experiments have proven so.

Coda di Volpe has a pretty pale straw color in the glass with balanced acidity and body. Depending on where it grows, it can have great minerality and even a mildly spicy finish.


Historia Antiqua produces a single varietal Coda di Volpe

Nestled in the province of Avellino, Historia Antiqua – a small family-run winery – produces wines from various local varietals. They make a delicious Coda di Volpe. It has a fuller body and vibrant flavors of stone fruit and spice.Historia Antiqua 2018 Coda di Volpe

Fun fact about Historia Antiqua: they are cousins to Dominick, owner and head winemaker at Domenico Winery. It’s a treasure when family traditions can be shared, even thousands of miles away. Domenico imports Historia Antiqua wines so that everyone can savor the wines of their family’s homeland.

Have you tried Coda di Volpe? Don’t be shy – it’s most likely the first time you’ve heard of the grape. That’s because it’s a rare one! So, don’t be shy to try this delicious Southern Italian wine for yourself. Historia Antiqua’s 2018 Coda di Volpe is tasting mighty fine!