Monday, 21 February 2011

CINQUE TERRE SCIACCHETRA’: A TASTING CONVERSATION BETWEEN UMBERTO CURTI AND WALTER DE BATTE’



The Santuario di Montenero overlooks Riomaggiore



Regretfully to say, Liguria often features an unaccomplished expression of its food and wine bounty. But good things come to those who wait – or, shall we say, to those who make things happen?
Thursday 17th 2011 was in fact a great day for Genoese wine lovers. The 9th meeting of the “eVINings” wine festival proved to be a superb evening dedicated to the king of Ligurian wines (i.e. Sciacchetrà) and the hard work of heroic Cinque Terre’s winemakers.
Wine writer and ethnogastronomer Umberto Curti, the author of the http://www.ligucibario.com/ website, planned the “eVINings” cycle as a celebration of Ligurian oenology. The organization of the seminars has been carried out by LiguriaStyle.it, an arts and crafts exhibition centre (set in Palazzo Imperiale, an astounding 16th century palace of the historical centre) dedicated to the promotion of regional artisanal manufactures.
The Sciacchetrà eVINing was a feast of the senses… as well as of the mind. The presence of Walter de Battè, Cinque Terre’s winemaker par excellence, provided plenty of opportunities for lively Q &A and audience participation. First, Umberto Curti gave full details about the role of Sciacchetrà in the regional oenological panorama (the name itself hints to the ancient history of this passito wine – shekar was the Hebrew – Aramaic for inebriating wine). Then, the interview developed with an outline of both the Cinque Terre’s vine growing techniques (a story of hard work and sacrifice, vineyards being lovingly cultivated on steep dry stone walls terraces) and Sciacchetrà making. De Battè took time to explain the whole process – harvesting by hand–to-fermentation, explaining his personal point of view on the subject. As regards Sciacchetrà De Batté opts for fermentation on the grape’s skins (a process similar to the one followed in making red wines), the same white grape varieties - Bosco, Albarola, Vermentino – used in the local dry white according to the DOC rules. This 21st century wine philosopher (also a consultant winemaker for important Italian estates) reminds us that the skins are the mirror of the terroir, and speaking of the Cinque Terre they also reflect the effects of sea, sun and wind.

Finally, the time came for serious Sciacchetrà tasting: De Battè 2006, Forlini Cappellini 2005, Terre di Bargòn 2004, these were the “magnificent three” that satisfied the thirst for knowledge (and the epicurean quest) of the participants. Each wine was a protagonist in itself: Umberto Curti and Walter de Battè discussed the different hues (a symphony of amber and ancient orange gold), scents (dehydrated yellow fleshed-fruit, spices…) and flavours (with a remarkable mineral note) of the three Sciacchetrà, conveniently paired with two important Ligurian cheeses and slices of lavish pandolce Genovese.
The night ended with a toast to the “heroic viticulture” (a definition we owe to journalist and wine lover Mario Soldati) of the Cinque Terre and with an arrivederci to Thursday 3rd March, when the eVINings will celebrate the DOC Rossese di Dolceacqua.
Luisa Puppo

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