Sunday 31 August 2014

Discovery of the summer: Colli di Candia Alpi Apuani

Looking for a wine shop in Massa, we drove past this little place on the road from Carrara. It looked unpromising with its sign for 'Bier' (sic) e Vino but perhaps they knew where the real Enoteca was? On entering our impression was not altered. There were sparse offerings of stuff in jars, demijohns (vino sfuso), beer and wine. The chap behind the counter took his time to tune in to our wavelength when posed with our opening gambit about rare grape varieties.

He answered with Vermentino but when we asked about something rarer, he indicated two bottles with interesting blends including the very local Massaretto (i.e. 'little Massa'). We had been reading about this in Ian D'Agata's 'Native Wine Grapes of Italy', our holiday companion.

Ever dubious of blends where some grape of interest was submersed in unverifiable proportions with others of less interest, we nonetheless took advice to buy Terramarina's Toscana Rosso which consists of 25% each of Cilegiolo, Massaretto, Sangiovese and Vermentino Nero.

Terramarina Rosso

We also bought Azienda Biologica Nardi Paolo Armando Rosso Liguria di Levante. Vino Biologico. 13.5%. So not Colli di Candia but 5 km from there according to Sr. Nardi whom we telephoned for a bit more information. His answer to the 'uvaggio' was charming; Massaretto (50%) plus others including Merlot. Others? Vines in his vineyard which are unidentified. Fascinating.

Damage to label commensurate with pleasure of drinking

We asked Paolo (for it was he) if he could direct us to Podere Scurtarola who we recalled also used Massaretto (together with Buonamico, Cilegiolo and Sangiovese). He was a bit vague as to how to get there and in fact we didn't find the place on this occasion. We also didn't find a larger wine shop in Massa bur Bier Vino was becoming more and more interesting and if later attempts to buy the wine of Colli di Candia Alpi Apuani were anything to go by, they may well not have stocked it. Certainly no one in Lucca did.

All this was beginning to remind us of our trip to Barga in the Garfagnana the previous year. There we had discovered a marvellous white ('Riana') made from fascinating grapes, Balsoina and Verdolino (the former is unknown to 'Wine Grapes') and a slightly less enjoyable red called Fopola which also contains funky varieties: Pighetta and Farinella, similarly unknown to
'Wine Grapes'. Italy is just so rich in these amazing types of wine they don't know what to do with them. Colli Candia Alpi Apuani only obtained their DOC in 1981. Presumably they have been making their distinctive wines for centuries before that.

'Bier & Vino'  were committed to organic wines. Paolo had only recently opened the shop. He writes a blog and is set for the long haul. We wish him 'Auguri'. Certainly our introduction to the wines of the area was a big discovery. No more can anyone relegate Toscana to a province dedicated only to the better-known varieties.

Sunday 10 August 2014

RAW Wine Fair novelties

 The RAW wine Fair is a great place for novelties. Sparkling Sake anyone? This may have been around for ages (the Dakushu has the tag 'medieval') but it was new on us.

Other discoveries included an Italian grape called Malbo Gentile. Now we have to be forgiven for referring readers to D'Agata's 'Native Wine Grapes of Italy' for every Italian grape variety we come across. Just read his entry on this grape to see why. It must be the last word on Malbo Gentile - magisterial and curiously riveting, at least to us, and with a touch of humour. A few nuggets include the following information on Malbo Gentile;

It appears to be a domesticated wild grapevine from Emilia Romagna
It has been documented in Emilia since 1800
It is also found in Romagna where it has assumed a different phenotype due to more fertile soils
It is used to add power and sweetness to Lambrusco
It is also known as Amabile di Genova
It is a hardy grape to grow but can produce some of the most tannic wines around
It grows almost everywhere in Emilia Romagna if in sporadic plots. There may be as little at 10 hectares overall

Thanks to this gentleman from Cinque Campi we were able to taste Malbo Gentile in purezza and can say that his  initiative is thoroughly well worthwhile.

The Barsanti brothers from Macea (near Altopascio between Firenze and Lucca) have 3 hectares of fascinating varieties including Malvasia Nera, Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, 'Tannet' (Tannat?), Bracciola and something they refer to as Montanina e Barghigiana. Nether Montanina nor Barghigiana can be found in D'Agata's index although Montanara and Montanera are there. This is unlikely to be the same as Montanina because it hails from the Veneto. Their Campo Caturesi (far left) is a blend of these. Fantastic.

 This image of their strange vineyard has come out a bit blurred but you get the picture. Is it man-made like Silbury Hill?

This dessert wine from Podere Pradarolo in Emilia Romagna is made from another rare creature, Temarina Nera. D'Agata rightly praises Alberto and Claudia Peretti for deciding to take up making wine from this variety after what seems to have been a long period of neglect. As can be seen they are an appropriately sweet couple to make this particular wine.

 Prejudice can be fun if one likes to have one's views re-enforced or overturned but mostly it is sinister as hell we hardly need say. on this occasion we passed by Podere Scurtarola on the grounds that it was from Toscana and as we all know, there's not a huge amount of diversity in that region. Falso, falso, falso! D'Agata writes up 30 obscure Tuscan varieties and as we have seen in the case of Macea there are other varieties to be found. If we had been less prejudiced we might have read Pierpaolo Lorieri's thumbnail for Podere Scurtarola in the RAW catalogue in which he says "I have a collection of 51 local grapes: 11 born only in Massa Carrara and 4 are unknown."

We were finally alerted to Podere Scurtarola by Fred Plotkin who enthuses about the Scurtarola Agriturismo in his wonderful, if now no longer quite up-to-date 'Italy for the Gourmet Traveller". We were actually researching Massaretto - a promising variety local to Massa near to our old stomping ground of Lucca/Viareggio. So thanks to Plotkin we have discovered the wines of the Alpi Apuani, Candia, Colli di Luni and Massa Carrara. Lunigiana wines had been in evidence for ever but we had no idea how interesting they could be until the moment when we decided to take a 30 minute trip up the Autostrada while on our hols in the Versilia of which more in a future post.

While with the Italians, we just have to mention Casa Caterina whose thumbnail is more of a V sign and a glorious one at that:

"Despite  being situated in some of Franciacorta's top crus, Aurelio and Emilio del Bono have decided not to bother with the DOCG. The wines are certainly atypical for the area and we think all the better for it. The family have called these hills home for the past 12 generations and their 7 hectares are tended biodynamically."

They grow Chardonnay (for their Spumante Brut Nature wine) Marsanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier among others plus Rebo. Rebo is a Teroldego/Marzemino cross surprisingly common in Trentino but Casa Caterina is true to type in growing it in Lombardia and making a 100% red wine from it alongside their highly rated white and sparkling wines.

There were plenty of familiar names at RAW including Amiel, Cotar, Cornelissen, Dettori, Foradori, Gauby, la Grange Tiphaine, Malibran, Maurer, Meinklang, Radikon, Riecine, Strohmeier etc. but how often do you meet someone who actually remembers sending you some wine? This charming lady from Hirschhorner Weinkontor either has only a handful of customers or a prodigious memory (we think the latter). Our German expert Eytan Pessen had sent us a case of Hirschhorner in the hope of converting us to his (enthusiastic) view on Riesling. The wines certainly converted us to Hirschhorn Riesling and here they were at the RAW fair. If you are impelled to rush out and order your own case of these wines on reading this, you may need to know they are changing their name to 'Frank John' for some reason.

2Naturkinder is the name of the small winery belonging to Michael Voelker and Melanie Drese in Franken. They make only 2 wines, a Silvaner and this Regent called Kleine Wanderlust. This was really interesting because unlike other German Regents it is light at only 11.5% and made to be served chilled. We happen to think Regent is the most promising fungus resistant (Piwi) hybrid and have planted a few vines of our own.

Melanie Drese is also an enthusiast of course and this product was completely convincing. Gratuliere!

If our photos of this nice Kiralyanika seem to have been taken on the slant it might have been that by this time we has 'appreciated' rather too much wine at this always excellent event.