Tuesday 10 September 2013

What we drank this summer

Being abysmally ignorant we supposed Lucca had always been part of Toscana but this year we discovered it had until the unification of Italy been either an independent city state or part of something called the Garfagnana - this after making Lucca our summer HQ for perhaps 35 years.

The Garfagnana is a geographical area which had belonged to the Duchy of Modena and Reggio with Castelnuovo Garfagnana as its capital. The d'Este family ruled and they appointed the poet Lodovico Ariosto as its governor in the 16th century. It is mountainous and one of the wettest - and greenest parts of Italy.

Local grape varieties have survived, some of them, dare we venture, are unknown to 'Wine Grapes' (unless they are unrecognised synonyms for other grapes). We discovered these in wines in Barga, a pretty hill town right in the middle of the Garfagnana. The wines of Poderi di Garfagnana, Vini di Montagna.

Seduced partly by the name (Riana) we bought this beauty before discovering the grapes involved were Balsoina and Verdolino. Verdolino turns out to be Verdeca - not exactly unknown but Balsoina? The wine by the way is excellent and deserves to be widely known.

The red is composed of Pighetta and Farinella which our preliminary researches suggest might be quite unknown elsewhere. The wine is tannic and a bit rustic but opens out nicely and is not unpleasant by any means.

In our post about wine at the Frieze Art fair, New York back in April this year we had noted that a wine from Lucca had finally crossed the Atlantic and promised to take a look at the estate concerned, Sardi Giustiniani.

This we did and bought a Colorino in purezza as well as a blend. We had enjoyed Colorino previously and this was no less attractive.

So much so that we picked up another Colorino at Enoteca Vanni in Lucca of which more shortly. This second Colorino proved that the grape has merit in more than just one or two emanations.

The Sardi Giustiniani operation is interesting as they are working to revive heritage varieties and have created an attractive Agriturismo.

Enoteca Vanni, Lucca is the best wine shop we know in the area. Apart from Champagne practically all their wines are Italian and inevitably as well as the Colorino mentioned above we found some other lovely wines. The one we kept coming back to was a Demeter Biodynamic natural Cortese of all things from Bellotti

Now Slotovino has had a problem with Cortese in the past as in we never had one we actually liked. This one we loved. At less than ten Euros it was also reasonable in alcohol at 12.5%. And it's available in the UK.

By luck, again this year we were practically neighbours of what we consider to be the best producer in the Lucchese, Fabbrica San Martino of Pieve Santo Stefano. As previously we introduced ourselves to the delightful Giuseppe Ferrua who has built up the less then 3 ha. vineyard to produce 2 reds,

the San Martino and the Arcipressi (meaning 'over by the cypresses in local dialect), a white, now a Rose and Olive oil. There are in addition all sorts of toiletries made from ingredients grown on the 20 ha. property (annual production only 12,500 bottles).

Sr. Ferrua had been at Vinitaly this year but we had contrived to miss him as we had missed so much else. He has distribution now in the USA (Louis/Dressner), Japan and several European countries although not yet the UK. He also exports to a private customer in Russia for his own consumption.

Last year we had found the Arcipressi, a blend of 9 grapes more interesting than the San Martino (only 3 varieties; Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino) but this time it was the other way around. The white (Vermentino, Malvasia and Trebbiano) continues to be a delight and the Rose (only made in certain years) was pleasurable too.

There was at least one variety in the Arcipressi which we couldn't find in 'Wine Grapes.' We asked Sr. Ferrua how he had identified all the vines that go into his field blend. The answer was that he had invited an ampelographer to examine them and this was the list he came up with.

Malvasia Nera
Muscat d'Amburgo

Sunday 8 September 2013

Here's another one, Jancis

Jancis Robinson, on the button again wrote in yesterday's FT about highly-priced entrants to the market.

We didn't know the phenomenon was as frequent as it would seem from her piece but we had clocked an example of our own at San Francisco International Airport Duty Free of all places.

Could the cop on his Segway have been providing security?