Posted by: tomciocco | September 4, 2011


Just when I think I’ve seen and heard of every wine grape in Italy, here comes another total unknown…Believe it or not though, Erbaluce is not considered to be one of the hyper-obscure varietals that pokes forth from Piedmont’s varied soils like the near mythical Avana` or Avarengo, but then again it ain’t exactly Pinot Grigio either. Long used primarily to make a once rare sweet wine (which is still sought-after today, but now made in greater quantities) in the 1960s, some of the more experimentally-minded growers began to vinify Erbaluce dry, and the quickly successful results made fast friends… 

The name “erbaluce” translates roughly as “shining herb”, and what an apt handle it is: this is a variety with all kinds of piercing “green” aromas, a chewy, slightly corpulent texture, but which is balanced by a tangy, sunny  personality that makes it a truly great, and exceptionally versatile partner for all kinds of foods, both animal and vegetable.

Though soups and dry white wines are matched only somewhat rarely, Erbaluce’s many talents allow for it, so I paired the wine with a batch of Minestrone all’ Astigiano (a puree` of leeks, potatoes, and zucchini, perfumed with bay leaf, with egg pasta cooked directly in the soup) and then catfish cooked in the manner of a very similar Piedmontese freshwater fish called tinca (tench in English) with a thick vegtable, green olive, and herb sauce,  and smothered haricot verts on the side.









Az. Ag. Orsolani Erbaluce di Caluso 2009 (in a cool and useful 1 liter bottle!)

Bright, pale greenish gold color. Expressive nose of green apple, pear, subtle but pungent herbs, white flowers, and yellow cherries. The wine enters the mouth with a fairly weighty, medium-full impression, with rich but very clean flavors of hazelnut, buttered corn, and honey very nicely balanced by a notable freshness, a certain nervous minerality, and tidy flavors of bouquet garni, and sweet and sour candied fennel. The finish is marked by a smartly tart bittersweet marzipan finish.


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