Friday, 10 September 2010

What we drank this summer

To Italy, of course: Toscana and Umbria. Was there anything new to find in these well-trodden parts?

Actually, yes. At Enoteca Marcucci, Pietrasanta there is a gentleman who lived and worked in Brighton for a number of years. He entered the spirit of our quest for unknown/unusual grape varieties and came up withwhat we thought was a winner: Massaretta. He thought the example called "Negreto"

from Tenuta Palatina (Alta Versilia - Rosso di Toscano) was 100% Massaretta but subsequently we discovered it may have a majority of Vermentino Nero, itself a new one on us (see below) and some Syrah in the mix. never mind - a very tasty blend of mostly obscure grape varieties.

On an excursion to Pienza we chanced on Enoteca di Ghino which was notable for having a number of bottles of Chateau Petrus tastefully arranged in a basket near the door. Ghino himself was down the alley having a chat with neighbours. There was no one else to be seen. Naturally, there was no temptation to pocket the Petrus - it is only Merlot after all.

Ghino is a man with a bit of an obsession for Sangiovese clones. He informed us there are 8 of these. We then tried to tell him that although this was very interesting, what we were after was something more obscure than Sangiovese in any of its clonal forms. Ghino belongs to the group of people who don't really understand our search, or perhaps don't think it valid. Trying to give him a 'for instance' we mentioned Pugnitello (see 'What we drank this summer' - 2008).

"Ah, Pugnitello," he said. "Yes we used to stock it but we decided it wasn't really very good when considering the price/quality ratio." Disappointed we were just considering this statement when he added "of course Pugnitello is just a clone of Sangiovese..."

We made our excuses and left.

In Lucca, our favourite Enoteca Vanni was closed but in its place we found Marsili Costantino around the corner in the Piazza San Michele.

There we bought a Traminer which turned out to be a Gewurtztraminer (in Italy there is a great deal of 'confusione' on this point as we have seen (the argument we had at Venice Airport). A quite expensive mistake, but our fault entirely. The shop has a good and interesting selection if you're not looking off the beaten track. We also bought a reasonably priced Bianco di Pitigliano which went down well for its bone-dryness and a Ribolla Gialla from Friuli if memory serves.

In Forte dei Marmi we tried our luck at the fashionable Gastronomia "Salumeria dai Parmigiani" (founded 1952).

It was market day and the place was brimmimg with customers (you will have to imagine them in the photo here) making it difficult to find a place to stand never mind inspect the stock. Eventually we were referred to the rather young and dynamic wine buyer who put his hand immediately on a Vermentino Nero (sitting in a box, out on the pavement), yet another lacuna in our otherwise burgeoning knowledge of out-of-the-way grape varieties.

And the bottle cost under 10 Euros and doesn't appear in Jancis Robinson's 1986 'Vines, Grapes and Wines' or the recent Oxford Companion to wine. Bliss.

In restaurants, we drank some wines from Lucca and noted that the steady improvement over the years has been maintained and also how the prices have increased. Tenuta di Valgiano is now around the 20 Euro mark for instance.

At the Co-op we found again some wines by Tiberio whose Canaiolo in purezza had so impressed us on our visit to Chianciano Terme in 2008. This time it was a Malvasia Nera which was almost equally delicious.

Definitely one for the hall of fame.

In Umbria we tried to track down a Rosso Orvietano Canaiolo but only drew blanks. Umbria's claim to fame is Sagrantino of course but that really is good but not really great when considering the price/quality ratio if you ask us.

No comments: