Following last week’s exploration of wines from the Savoie, we’re journeying southwards this week into Northern Italy. Let’s head over the Alps and into Piedmont, Liguria, and Friuli – all very distinct regions but all with producers dedicated to preserving native grape varietals. Sometimes it seems that, with so many indigenous grape varietals all over the world that are constantly being replaced with more popular varieties, there should be an ‘Endangered Grape Varietal’ list! The following producers are working to preserve their native varietals and keep grape diversity strong!
The Ruffino family has been tending vines in the small beachside village of Varigotti for over 500 years. Their vineyards are located on steep hand-built terraces just up the hillside from the quaint beachfront ‘downtown’. Run by four siblings, Tommaso, Paolo, Anna, and Nicola, Punta Crena is producing wine the same way their family’s been doing it for generations. They have the last remaining plantings of the native grape Mataòssu – which has been repeatedly ripped up by others in favor of more popular grapes. Traditionalists to the max, Paolo laughs at the idea of ‘organic farming’ as if it were a new high tech invention; instead saying, “We just do everything the same way our ancestors have for hundreds of years.” Mataòssu is light, crisp, and floral with light briny qualities reminiscent of the ocean and tart acidity – perfect with the seafood of the region!
Perfect Pairing: Fritto misto
A visit to Benjamin Zidarich in the Eastern most region of Italy, the DOC of Carso (Friuli), is like a visit to the Shire. Benjamin’s estate is located on a series of small hillsides in the town of Prepotto, with views of the nearby Adriatic Sea. His aging cellars are a series of underground caves that open onto the middle of the hillsides with large wooden doors, somewhat like Hobbit holes! Benjamin grows varietals native to the area, specifically Vitovska, which originated in neighboring Slovenia. His vineyards wind up and down the hillsides, the soils are red with iron, and you can smell the sea air in the breeze. These unique aspects of his location transform themselves amazingly into his wine. His Vitovska is bright and floral, with aromas of stone fruit, orange, and sea foam. The opaque color of the wine tells you he doesn’t filter his wines and the texture is full and round with flavors of apricot, citrus, yeast, and minerals.
Perfect Pairing: Braised artichoke and grilled chicory salad
The name Giuseppe Mascarello is synonymous with some of the highest quality Barolos being made today. And while winemakers Mauro and Giuseppe are definitely most well-known for their single vineyard Barolos, they are also producing amazing wines from less ‘noble’ grapes (at more affordable prices!). The Mascarello’s are also known for extensive aging of their wines and this bottle from the 2006 vintage is tasting amazing right now! Freisa is a grape native to the Piedmont that is actually related to Nebbiolo. It has beautiful floral and violet qualities along with scents of plums and earth. Medium bodied and elegant, flavors of juicy dark fruit, mushrooms, and minerals are long lasting!
Perfect Pairing: Guffanti 2-Milk Robiola (pictured below!)
The Guffanti family has been producing cheese in the Piedmont since 1867, aging them in a re-purposed silver mine. Their 2-Milk Robiola is a small format bloomy rind cheese made with cow and sheep’s milk. Beautifully creamy inside, the paste is savory, yet mild with notes of mushrooms and hay. Perfect alongside a glass of Mascarello Friesa – come ask us for a taste!
Upcoming Tastings at 18 Reasons:
- Thursdays, every week, 6-10PM, Drop-in: 18th Hour Cafe
- Friday, February 8, 6-8PM, Ticketed: Tasting Seminar: Nebbiolo with Tenute Sella & Ettore Germano
- Tuesday, February 12, 7-9PM, Ticketed: Farmhouse Beer & Cheese