Unusual varities part 1

I have a very bad sense of direction. I always loose my way, especially on romantic or special trips abroad. Despite being aware of this fault I will NEVER take a minute, lower the car window and ask for help or advice. Never.

Despite all the above I still dare complain about people drinking boring wines. I seriously think something’s not right with them. Why on earth would you, out of a wine list packed with reasonably priced, interesting, different & exciting wines (“I’ve never heard of X will be the biggest compliment) will one choose a Gavi or PG. Is it the fear of being lost in the world of unknown surrounded by foreign names that are difficult to pronounce or maybe just a lack of imagination? In many cases I get the feeling they’re just the old me in the car feeling too proud or stupid to ask.

That is why I felt both proud and happy to help in an adventurous project. I do like being adventurous, just not in a car. And adventurous it was. I was asked to chase and find the most obscure and unusual grape varieties. Strange how the bizarre demands feel to me like the simplest of tasks. This is my chance to do what I do best. I will use this old flair of mine that manages to source unusual wines and persuade innocent people to drink them.

After a few weeks of nudging, begging and simply endlessly chasing my various contacts in the wine trade I ended up with a box full of goodies. We both sat in the wine cellar of l’anima. It was chilly but the wines benefited from it. I have carefully organised all the usual suspects with extra care as I am tasting today with Julia Harding MW, she is the mind behind my scam. She offers to try the red first and I naturally oblige. It is a bit of a hit and try game as we haven’t tried most of the wines before and so the order is decided according to our assumptions.

We kicked off with Lacryma Moro di Alba 08 from Colonnara – Great wine to start with I thought after nosing a very fragrant and perfumed Aroma. The palate showed fresh almost crisp Red cherries and some fine spices. Summery wine that could work well slightly chilled and with some BBQ roar as a background noise.

Second and third on the grid were wines made from the seriously obscure Longanesi. The wine also stated Burson as the grape variety, so we were left slightly confused. (see more for this here). Fact is that both of the wines were very different, the bad side of different in fact. Burned rubber, meaty and tinned vegetables on the nose. Terrible extraction on the palate with no delicacy or grace. A very pronounced rusticism that made us feel the wines were not quite right.

Then arrived two Campanian blokes who were to be made the stars of the tasting. It all started quite difficultly. The first wine answered to the name of “Cunto” 07 from Alois (I was later informed by Luca Dusi, the importer that it will bear a different name for the UK market, phew…). The wine was made from the unusual grape Pallagrello Nero and caught our attention for good reasons. A very subtle yet complex nose, dry herbs, minty note, light cherry frauit were all harmonious. The palate bursting with (almost sharp) acidity, youthful red fruit and an elegant spicy character. Beauty and elegance with a hint of salty minerality – reminding me that in Campania we are.

His older brother answered to the name of “Trebolanum” 04 from Alois. It was made from the Casavechia grape (more info in the Alois website here ). The nose was richer and showed quite a lot of new oak with vanilla, liquorice and soft sweet spice. The palate proved to be much more in balance. Great black fruit concentration, sweet spice and above all, again, the typical Campanian cutting through minerality. A bigger style, for heavier loving palates yet well made and left us with a strong varietal character impression.

On the white sector I was impressed by the Timorraso 04 from Morgassi Superiore. Timorasso, indigenous variety of red wineland Piedmont (excluding the much discussed Cortese…). bearing in mind that the wine is almost 5 years old I found it to be very exciting and again, on the good side of the different. A spicy and lightly oaked nose, a very delicate mushroomy note and hint of minerality. The palate also proved to be unique. Something that reminded us both of an old flat champagne. There might have been just a hint of oxidation but this was well hidden by a dried stone fruit character and a still vibrant minerality. Enjoyable and a very interesting food matching prospect.

It was a very special tasting. Not being able to mention all the wines we tried, I just did the very best. It was highly interesting to see that good varietal character comes out hand in hand with purity. This only enhanced the fact that tipicity and varietal character are amongst the most important factors determining quality of wine.

It was an exciting afternoon with flavours and smell to cherish and remember where one conclusion was made—–> Pallagrello Nero is the new Nebbiolo!

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