Lambrusco is one of the most widely discussed and maligned grape varieties grown in Italy, together with Albana and Pinot Grigio. There are many different grapes with Lambrusco as part of their name, mostly grown in Emilia Romagna but not all. It is likely that they are related to a wild grapevine that was already known to both Pliny and Virgil in antiquity. The first one mentioned today in fact does not grow in Emilia but in Piedmont and Lombardy. It was much more amply planted before phylloxera hit but after was less widely seen. Today it is often blended with Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa and Bonarda.
The latter grape, Lambrusco a Foglia Frastagliata is grown in Trentino and is more widely known by the name Enantio. I actually tried this wine a few years ago but only recently learned of its connection to Lambrusco. This one is often used for making rose wines.
A fellow blogger who often writes on Italian wines, Jennifer Martin on Vino Travels published this article on Lambrusco ahead of Lambrusco day which was apparently June 20. It’s a good read and a good primer on Lambrusco.
I discovered Castel del Salve one year at Vinitaly. I was tasting Aleatico that year in Puglia and I was very attracted to their modernist labels. I then discovered that they are from a small town in the Salento, Depressa, which oddly enough was home to a woman I had been working with. Of course, they were friends. It’s a small world at the end of the day.
Earlier this year, I had the occasion to taste a number of their wines at the Slow Wine event in February. They didn’t disappoint. What I liked about their wines turns out to be one of their credos, the wines were fresh and not overly fruity. Francesco Winspeare, one of the owners of Castel di Salve stated “the most important thing for us is to preserve freshness and fruitiness because too often in our area the wines are oxidised or over-matured”. I think he and his co-founder Francesco Marra are right on in the direction they have chosen for their wines. I particularly liked Armecolo, made from 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera di Lecce. It was elegant and beautiful as well as approachable. It was not oaked but instead was in stainless steel and bottles before coming to market. It was nice to taste a wine from Puglia that wasn’t overly oaked or a fruit bomb. While many are shying away from those styles, I think you still see them more than I would like.
The Salento is one of the most beautiful places in Italy, which is certainly saying something. I took a marvelous trip there some years ago and spent a glorious week soaking in the beauty, light, sea and hospitality of the people. There are also great towns such as Gallipoli, Otranto and Lecce of course. So much to see and do while drinking all of this great wine.
This morning I walked a 10k to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. The race was all women in Central Park. There were so many of us.over 8,000 and so many people cheering on Team In Training runners/walkers, etc that it felt really celebratory. Lots of people donated to my fundraising page and I very touched. I had a few people to see today so after playground and sprinkler time, I was really ready for a nice glass of wine. I have found a new place to hang out on the Upper West Side, Acqua. It’s been there for a long time but I had never gone until recently. I had a glass of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, something I never do. Oddly enough, it was the first Italian DOC wine in 1966. The wine received its DOCG designation in 1993.
Vernaccia is not an easy grape. The wine is generally pretty bitter and acidic. It has to be made from 90% Vernaccia and 10% of other grapes but non-aromatic ones.
I have had many Vernaccia over the years but it has never been my favorite, until one summer when I brought a bottle of wine from Podere la Marronaia called Visla to Cape Cod. I had met the owners years ago, Luigi Dei and Silvia Morrocchi, and their sons Pietro and Corrado. I remember Luigi was doing the New York Marathon. I enjoyed reconnecting with their wine today. Their grapes are organic certified and they pay a lot of attention to their practices. A friend used to make their wine but I think she is no longer involved. I can’t wait for this year’s Lobster evenings on the Cape.
My wine of the week is Ronco del Gelso’s Vigna della Permuta. This wine is made from Malvasia, a grape that I am not usually partial to except when it comes from this particular part of Friuli, Isonzo. Here I find it shows great fruit, minerality, salinity and spice. A powerful combination that makes it a great food wine. I would love to have this wine with Indian food or Sushi. The aromas and flavors are due to the great micro-climate, soils and fresh breezes in this area as well as its proximity to the sea. The winery made it’s first official wine in 1988 when they were producing 3,000 bottles. They now make 150,000 some 28 years later. Most of their wines are whites but they also make a Cabernet and a red blend using Pignolo and Merlot. I tried a number of their wines at a tasting earlier this year and found them all to be beautifully made and elegant wines.
I am back to my indigenous grape varieties series and this week I am writing about Livornese Bianco and Lumassina. The former grape hails from Tuscany which is the site of the picture above. The latter from Liguria which is shown in the picture below.
Neither grape is seen that often but both are only used to make wine rather than existing separately as table grapes. Livornese bianco does not come from the area around Livorno but rather from the one around Massa Carrara, not so far from Liguria in fact. This grape is usually blended with other local white varieties.
Lumassina is instead from the province of Savona in Liguria. It is often blended with another white variety called Bosco. It is a vigorous variety. One winery that is available in the United States that makes Lumassina is Punta Crena. I first met them many years ago at a tasting in New York. They are now brought in by Kermit Lynch so in very good hands indeed.
Lumassina is a great wine to drink with summer fare. It has nice acidity and mineral notes as well as the bitter almond finish typical of many Italian white wines. I have never tried one but it is also supposed to make lovely sparkling wine. Next week I will tackle the Lambrusco family of varieties and then move on to the letter “M” which should take me the rest of the year to complete as there are so many varieties that begin with that letter. I have thus far written 140 posts on Italian indigenous varieties on this blog over the last seven (7) years since I started this project for AltaCucina in 2009. I just found this video where I interviewed Paolo Vannini from Alta Cucina and Luca Maroni. It’s interesting to hear what people thought in 2010.
Let me begin by saying that I have never been a huge fan of this grape variety and that this week’s wine is one I thought I would not be keen on. However, I have learned to be both humble and have an open mind about the wines I taste and so I tried this Gewürztraminer from Hoffstatter at Operawine.com and I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
This Gewürztraminer is made from grapes grown in their Kolbenhof estate which overlooks Tramin. Thanks to the microclimate, soils of clay, gravel and lime, the southeastern exposure of the vineyard and the age of the vines, they produce a beautiful example of what this variety can do.
The wine is somewhat more textured than many I have had and that is thanks to the skin contact that it undergoes for a few hours and the 8 months it spends on the lees with battonage once a week. It had the opulent aromas and fruit flavors that are typical of this variety but it also had great acidity. It would be great with Indian food which I am currently craving. I wish I had a bottle on hand this evening.
Josef Hofstätter founded the winery in the year 1907 and it is now run by the fourth generation. They have 50 hectares of vines at between
800 and 2.600 feet above sea level.
Wine study is the topic of my Monday posts on Avvinare. Last week I wrote about a couple of French wine programs that I have undertaken and today I want to emphasize the new Italian wine certificate program run by Vinitaly International Academy. I was not able to do the progam this year because of timing but do hope to do it in the future. For an understanding of how it was from the student perspective, I am sure Joel Mack of Vintrospective will write about his recent experience. I have known Ian D’Agata, the Director of the VIA for a few years and I am sure it is an intense yet funny experience. Ian has the gift of being super smart and knowledgeable but also making people feel at ease, not an easy task and not always a combination that one finds in the wine world. This year was the second edition of the program and I believe around 50% of the students passed. I am not sure when I will be able to do the class but it is definitely something in my future. Ian’s book on indigenous grapes is right up my alley and as I wrote last week, I am a fan of education