There is no doubt Italy’s Piemonte wine growing region ranks among the world’s most elite. The appellations of Barolo & Barbaresco, for instance, have been producing majestic, world class red wines for quite some time, each based upon the Nebbiolo grape variety.
Well, wine lovers, the Nebbiolo grape is not the only act in town.
In the old days, Nebbiolo would ripen only 2 or 3 vintages out of every 10. This extreme marginality is at least partly why the wines are what they are & why they are so treasured. Furthermore, even on the finest hillside sites (called concas), if the aspect changed, even ever so slightly, the risk of ripening Nebbiolo would be even more challenging. Many families took that opportunity to then plant other grape varieties–Barbera & Dolcetto are the 2 most famous, but the list also included Grignolino, Freisa, Brachetto, Croatina & Ruchè, just to name a few.
Red wines produced from any of these “other” grape varieties, especially if grown on a hallowed Cru hillside could not only be interesting & superb in quality, but also be very well priced too.
In addition, once in a while, one can run across a small, family run estate who actually specializes in the “other” grape varieties. Such is the case with Cantine Valpane. Here is an excerpt from their U.S. importer’s website, which will hopefully whet your appetite some.
“The stately villa at Valpane overlooked one of the most enviable vineyard sites in the Monferrato, a perfect amphitheater that had been planted with vines since at least the 1700s. Pietro Giuseppe Arditi began working the land in 1900 under a sharecropping agreement, and purchased the estate in 1902.
Although the names Asti and Alba may be more widely recognized today, Pietro explains that the Monferrato provides more faithful expressions of Barbera (& the “other” grape varieties). This is due in part to the warmer climate and longer hours of sunlight here, which allow the grapes to ripen completely and unfurl the full personality of the variety. The Monferrato is also still relatively untamed, and the forests and fields here benefit the area’s vineyards by providing a natural source of variety.”
While I thoroughly enjoy & relish Valpane’s Barbera, Freisa & Grignolino bottlings, it is the highly aromatic, light colored, though masculine & virile “Rosa Ruske”, which produced from the nearly forgotten Ruchè grape variety, is a recent & amazing “find” for me. Thank you, Kermit Lynch.
Yes, this wine does smell like roses….with musk, ferality, spice, earth & sandalwood all intermixed. Furthermore, you will see the fabulous, innate perfume creates a whole new & unique dynamic with Mediterranean styled foods. WOW! These aromatic wines seemingly uplifts foods just as fresh herbs would.
Furthermore, it may be light colored, but this wine still has mojo in the core, all done with deliciousness, balance & lots of charm & personality.