Three For The Road

photo by Hubert K

Don’t be fooled by that cool first week of June. We know it’s coming, heat and humidity. Pool days…beach weather…dining outdoors, maybe in the Poconos. Time to reach for wine that won’t cause fermentation sweats or make you plunge your head into an ice filled cooler. Time for wine that will help us endure the road to autumn.

If you’ve followed PAVC for a while, it’s no secret that Mike and I are always on the prowl for Italian grapes that aren’t exactly household names, even to Italians. We’ve found some deserving of obscurity and others that were revelations. Recently we’ve been consulting Ian D’Agata’s Native Wine Grapes of Italy as a reference, a meticulously researched tome that brings academic order to the chaos of Italy’s wines. In other words, the epitome of wine geekery.

Let me be clear, however, that there is no truth to the rumor (we suspect started by Jeff) that we’re in a competition to determine how many of the 700 or so grapes indexed by D’Agata we can drink. So it was with serendipitous anticipation that I came across three wines in May that may not be familiar but fit the bill for warm weather drinking.

(And by the way, Mike, that puts me three up on you.)

Cantine-Lunae-Bosoni---Mea-RosaLunae Bosoni Mea Rosa Rosato di Riviere Ligure 2013 ($12.98)
Sitting among a hodgepodge of “last chance” bottles I was drawn to this one by its coppery salmon color and the fact it was a Bosoni wine, a name familiar to me. There was no indication from which varietal(s) it had been produced. Turns out I drew to a royal flush: it’s a stunner of a rosato, and it’s made from 100% Vermentino Nero, a rare grape that was all but gone and forgotten thirty years ago along the coasts of Liguria and Tuscany, the only areas where it grows. The nose and entrance convey earthiness beneath bright apricots, wild strawberries and what seems the requisite characteristic for Ligurian whites – a cutting slice of salinity and minerals. Seductively different, this is no lightweight, it has a fullness, presence and intensity maintained by an unobtrusive core of acidity. Buy it by the case and enjoy throughout the dog days, with or without light fare. (Wine Works, NJ)

Matteo Coreggia Anthos Brachetto 2013 ($11.98)
Brachetto is no stranger to our shores. The more familiar sparkling wines offer a red alternative to Prosecco and garden variety spumanti. Harder to find but worth taking a chance on are still versions. This one from the Coreggia estate in Piedmont is only the second I’ve come across in the past five years. What I got from it was at first perplexing in that there was something there that I wouldn’t usually associate with wine – a bittersweet wave of herbs normally found in amari digestives; and a grainy, effervescent texture that smacked the palate with the tangy drive of vermouth. Strange but far from unpleasant. As it opened, raspberry, strawberry and mildly tart cherries rolled around in my mouth, leaving a fresh and fruity aftertaste. This is made for late afternoon or early evening sipping as you wash the dust off everyday life. (Wine Works, NJ)

Sella & Mosca Terre Bianche Torbato 2012
Torbato is an ancient cultivar native to the chalky soil of northwestern Sardinia known as terre bianche. Like other thin skinned grapes it’s difficult to cultivate, which probably explains why Sella & Mosca is the only estate producing it. Torbato would be easy to dismiss as just another refreshing summery white wine if it didn’t pull you in with tempting sensations that reward patience. It’s not a hussy, obvious and slicked up to overwhelm your palate. It’s coy and flirts, revealing its unique qualities gradually. Aromas of orange peel and pineapple weave in and out of delicate traces of pear. It manages to stay fresh and lively despite the low acidity common for this varietal as crisp flavors of pear and citrus fruit emerge, with a mild and fleeting bitterness that suggests pistachio or almond – I couldn’t decide. Which means another bottle or two…for research, of course.

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