The production of red wine is far from unknown in northern Italy’s rocky, sunny, maritime, and honorary “southern” region of Liguria. Though this fascinating crescent of sublime earth does contain such steeply upscale draws like the greater Italian Riviera, Cinqueterre, Portofino, and other places for those who possess the lifestyles of the rich and famous, the locals are more likely to be shy, tough fishermen and grand-scale gardners, famous for their parsimonious proclivities, and the production of super fish-friendly and delicate WHITE wines…
Of these whites, for me, Pigato is the flagship. Yes, there is Vermentino (which may be a cousin to Pigato), and rarer varieties like Bianchetta Genovese, Buzzeto, and Bosco, but no other grape is so particuliar to Liguria, and so perfectly concentrates the spirit of this exceedingly charming place. As I alluded to above, many of Liguia’s whites are pretty and fresh, and they typically beautifully embrace the region’s truly great and elegant cuisine.
But if you think Ligurian food, you almost certainly will, before all other dishes, conjure some pasta dish with pesto (alla genovese). This now world-famous, ultra-vividly flavored paste of olive oil, basil, pine nuts, garlic, and cheese is a notoriously difficult wine match, but as I’ve often said before, if you’re making this sauce for your trofie or gnocchi, and you don’t at least try to find a Pigato, you’re missing out – it’s a wine that bends (and envelops) but does not break in the face of pesto’s sweet brashness…
So as the title says, tonight’s wine was one BIG (and unctuously round) Pigato. Most of the grapes grown in Liguria spring from rocky ground, but in one of Italy’s sweetest climates- largely shielded from extremes of either heat or cold, the wines from Liguria as a whole are mostly even and delicate. That said, this wine, which hails from sunniest and warmest far-western Liguira, and is also the result of a great local white wine vintage, hits a rarely seen 13.5% alcohol. It still retains Pigato’s signature soft-focused elegance, but with a heft and punch that many Pigatos don’t possess.
A wine like this clearly calls for an equally stalwart but still elegant menu, which wound up as tagliatelle tossed with a creamy/buttery pesto of pinoli, garlic and marjoram, and then a marinated and braised pork loin with olives, thyme, bay leaves, white wine, etc., and a side dish of stuffed baked zucchini (breadcrumbs, anchovies, pancetta, oregano, etc.)
Poggio dei Gorlieri Pigato “Cycnus” Riviera Ligure del Ponente 2010
Slightly greenish, very pale gold color. Slyly beckoning nose of almond cream, balsamic wood, yellow cherries, green apple, pine needles, and a salty chalkiness. The body is medium-full, smooth, viscous, and broad, but with a well-balanced acidity, and an underlying taut nervous cord over which are layered flavors of hay, herbs, quince, lime zest, and beeswax. The finish is quite long a great balnce of bitter and rich.