Posted by: tomciocco | August 12, 2011


Yup, it’s another Italian wine made from a super-rare variety, and thank all the gods of fermented beverages everywhere, too! I shan’t launch into a tirade about biodiversity and its many benefits, because wines like this speak a book’s worth with just a few sniffs and sips. No Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio nowhere has a voice like Ortrugo (it does sound like a character in an Italian opera, doesn’t it?)

The hills around the small city of Piacenza in the far western end of Emilia(-Romagna) is the only patch of earth to be blessed with this dramatic but yet very amiable white grape. The long story of this cultivar cut short is the usual one: Ortrugo is yet another pulled-back-from-the-edge salvage job. A  few growers who had a few untended rows in the corners and margins of their vineyards, on a lark before ripping them up, made experimental wines that were just too intriguing, and with too much potential to ignore.  

Ortrugo produces wines that in their youth are very fresh and vivacious, but  with a year or two in the bottle, gain mass and an exotic, spicy fruit character. As it turns out, the variety also lends itself very well to the production of sparkling wines (both frizzante and spumante) that can age quite gracefully as well.

Dinner was: Non-egg pappardelle with a sauce of ricotta, mushrooms, zucchini (NJ), tomato, basil, and mint (all from  own pots) and then pollo alla francese (A.K.A. Chicken Francese, an Italian-American classic developed just a few miles from where I now sit) with braised carrots as the contorno.

Cantina Valtidone Colli Piacentini Ortrugo 2008 (Intrepid Wine Co.)

Bright medium-light greenish gold color. Bold nose of quince, lime, cantaloupe, linseed oil, flint, almonds and pinoli nuts. The palate opens with a bright, zippy acidity, underpinned by bitterish and zesty green flavors enveloping a creamy and firm core full of mouth-filling flavors of lemon custard pie and spiced applesauce. Clean and intensely minerally finish. A singular glass of wine.


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