Four varieties you never knew you loved

Viognier? Schiava? Lacrima? Ruché? They may not be famous (yet), but they all make for some great wines

While everybody loves a Sangiovese or Nebbiolo, at Domenico Valentino we do our best to provide you with some of the more obscure wines found throughout Italy, still often relatively unknown on these shores. One of the aspects which makes Italian wine so fascinating is its great variety, both in winemaking styles and in its grape varieties. This week we are excited to introduce four wines made from four different grapes, each of which might not yet roll off the tongue of the average U.S. wine consumer. But the commitment of these producers to making wine from local varieties, plus our determination to introduce them to a wider audience, can only mean these rare grapes won’t remain unknown for much longer.

abbonaCinerino 2006 Abbona / Piemonte
Although the Viognier grape is cultivated traditionally in the Rhône valley of France where small amounts are blended with Syrah in the Côte Rôtie appellation, recent DNA analysis of the grape has shown that it is a “white” cousin of Nebbiolo, the variety used to make Barolo and Barbaresco. Ever since, the experimenter Marziano Abbona has produced this Viognier from grapes grown in Dogliani (since no appellation exists for Viognier there, it is simply called a Vino da Tavola or “table wine”). He named it after the elegant gray heron of Northern Italy, the airone cinerino meaning the “ashen heron” (from the Italian cenere or “ash”).

Schiava Bischofsleiten 2007 Castel 1344Sallegg / Trentino-Alto Adige
That mouthful of a name means Schiava at its best. A grape variety that has grown for generations on the steep slopes of sub-Alpine Alto Adige, Schiava produces a lightly-colored red wine that is a local favorite. The variety finds its greatest expression on the western side of Lake Caldaro where, trained in the traditional pergola system, grapes can achieve maximum ripeness and attain the most unique reflection of their terroir. Bischofsleiten, or “Bishop’s Slope”, is a vineyard named for its founder, the Bishop of Trento, and is considered by many area producers to be the zone’s best site.

Lacrima di Morro d’Alba 2007 Enzo Mecella / Marche
lacrima-enzo3The Marche town Morro d’Alba (not to be confused with the town of Alba in the Langhe), is home to the grape Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, and one of the most exciting recent DOC varieties to emerge from Central Italy. Enzo Mecella specializes in local varieties, and his Lacrima is a fine expression of the fruit. The name lacrima, meaning “tear drop”, is still the subject of some debate. Many say it simply refers to the oval shape of the grape, or the formation of the grape clusters. Others argue the name is due to the “tears” that this rich grape shows in hot summer months when the skins of some berries split and the grapes “cry.”

Ruché di Castiglione Monferrato 2007 Luca Ferraris / Piemonte
ruche-72Luca Ferraris’ flagship wine comes from his “Bric d’Bianc” vineyard, part of an entire hill between Castagnole Monferrato and Scurzolengo which he purchased in 2000. The cultivation of Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato is limited to the town of Castagnole Monferrato near Asti, making it one of the smallest denominations in Italy. Though once of modest output, production is now expanding due to its award of DOC status, and Ferraris remains one of only a handful of producers who focus on the grape. Luca recently showed us his Salotto del Ruché or “Ruché Parlour”, a network of underground chambers where he vinifies and ages his wine.

If you wish to make a tasting appointment please call 718-902-1140 or email info@domenicovalentino.com. Further information is available on our website.

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