After a bit of an absence, I’m back with what will hopefully be the first of a number of good Italian red wines this fall. As much as I love summer in New England, fall and winter is really the best time to drink red wine, and though Italy has many great white wines to offer, I’ve always felt as though it was her reds that made her shine in the wine world. For this red wine we travel to Piedmont (where else?). When thinking of red wine from Piedmont, the same three grapes seem to always dominate the conversation – Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto. And for good reason; these three grapes make up the largest portion of red wine production in the region and are among the most important grapes in the Piedmontese winemaking tradition. However, as is the case throughout Italy, there is much more that Piedmont has to offer in it’s red wines than just those three grapes. This wine, from the Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG, shows us an example of that – the Ruché grape.
Red wines from this region, which is situated among the Monferrato hills in southeast Piedmont (the area that also lends it’s name to the Barbera del Monferrato DOC, among other things), are made from the Ruché grape. This grape, which must make up at least 90% of the blend, is found almost exclusively in this area of Piedmont. It wasn’t long ago that almost nobody had heard of this grape; as recently as the early 1980’s it was rarely grown even in this part of Piedmont. But interest in the grape has risen steadily since then, culminating in the creation of it’s own region, which was upgraded to it’s current DOCG status in 2011 (making this region one of the newest regions I’ve covered so far). There is some debate as to the exact origins of the grape, with some claiming that it originated in southern France instead of Italy, but it’s ties to Italy today are clear. With an estimated 125 acres of vines currently planted it is one of the most exclusive grapes made in any Italian wine region, DOC or DOCG.
This wine is produced by Luca Ferraris, a Piedmontese winemaker whose family has been making wine in the Monferrato area stretching back four generations. It has a nice clean, ruby red coloring to it. The nose is bright and fresh, carrying notes of cherry, plum and some spice. On the palate it has the feel of a young wine, with nice, bright, red fruit flavors, including plum, raspberry, and cherry, along with some spice and blossom notes. It is a rather full bodied wine with medium acidity and smooth, if somewhat subtle, tannins. It lingers on the palate nicely, with the red fruit and spice sticking around. The wine also has a bit of earthyness to it, which rounds out the red fruit flavors rather nicely. It definitely has some heft, but doesn’t hit you over the head with it. Overall an enjoyable wine, which is a touch exotic.