Monday, 28 February 2011

Liguria and its wines – an introduction (part 2)

DOC Golfo del Tigullio was established in 1997 and covers 36 communi. Production include Bianchetta, Bianco, Vermentino, Rosato, Rosso, Ciliegiolo, Moscato and Passito. The Bianchetta of the Tigullio being richer in body than the Val Polcevera one, it is at its best when paired with typical Ligurian minestroni, the apex of vegetable soups. As for Ciliegiolo, this cherry-coloured wine derives its name from "cerasuolo", i.e. a wine making technique that processes red grape musts with no contact on marcs. Ciliegiolo is a Mediterranean must, in fact it arrived in Liguria from Spain via Tuscany, where it brings the roughness of ever-present Sangiovese under control. In Liguria it goes varietal (85% at least), shows modest alcohol contents (around 11%), a brilliant colouring — claret to purple — , pleasant scents (fruity and herbaceous, with a mineral hint), and graceful, dry flavours, well-balanced and full. Serve at 15°, young (1-2 years' aging ) and enjoy with tomato-sauce pasta dishes, e.g. tasty "taggiaen a o tocco" (taglierini with Genoese meat sauce), risotti, soups, ripieni (stuffed vegetables) and tomaxelle (veal rolls), but also with fish stews, "buridde", and genial stoccafisso accomodato (yes, drinking red wine with fish is no longer a capital sin!). Rarity hunters are advised to enroll for the discovery of Val Fontanabuona’s Ximixà (serious explorers should also aim at the passito version), a rare white recently saved from oblivion that ideally suits fish soups.

Doc Colline di Levanto was established in 1995 and covers 4 communi at the gate of the Cinque Terre It features both Bianco (known for its almond notes) and Rosso.

DOC Cinque Terre DOC was established in 1973 and includes Bianco, Rosso, and Sciacchetrà passito, the glory of oenological Liguria. The area’s wines have always enjoyed widespread repute, Francesco Petrarca and Giovanni Boccaccio featuring among fans. Vineyards are literally grown on the rock and on the aforesaid vertical terraces.

DOC Colli di Luni DOC was established in 1989. Tuscany is a few metres away: you can feel it in your glass of Bianco, Vermentino and Rosso.

Among the 3 regional IGTs (a label guaranteeing geographical provenance and tipicity), the most stimulating one is the IGT Colline Savonesi (the other two are the IGT Colline Genovesi and IGT Golfo dei Poeti). The IGT Colline Savonesi treasures Lumassina, a distinctive dry white (a.k.a. Buzzetto, Mataossu, Garella, Uga Matta…, a hundred names for the same vine variety) and remarkable red Granaccia. Lumassina almost certainly takes its name from snails (lumasse in the Ligurian dialect), a local delicacy, while Buzzetto derives from "buzzo" (i.e. unripe) and Mataossu from "matti" (the vernacular for children and “early” things). They all suit fried fish, seafood, stuffed vegetables and vegetable frittate (omelettes). Granaccia is the local declination of Grenache, Alicante, Cannonau, red Tokaj, Gamay and Tinto. The best matching of this elegant wine are beef, game, and palatable cheeses.

The IGT Colline Genovesi (or del Genovesato) offers an array of whites, rosés, and reds, each of them also in sparkling versions. The IGT Golfo dei Poeti (province of La Spezia) provides (also sparkling), red (sparkling and nouveau, too), rosé, and passito.

Let me end this introductory outline of Ligurian oenology with the simplest of recommendations: go for field testing – and tasting. Four out of eight regional DOCs featuring Vermentino, plan your own horizontal tasting (i.e. wines that come from the same vintage) and discover the wonders of microclimate and terroir. Take our advice and start the examination of the “fab four” with western Liguria wines, then move eastward. Enjoy the differences and make sure to live a rewarding (and responsible) experience.

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