As much as a perfect little jewel of a place as Dolceacqua, Liguria is, it is tiny, and most who hail from a such place, who have even a shred of ambition, bust out, shall we say…The Rossese grape is just such a native son.
A tiny point of the town of Dolceacqua, on the rushing Nervia river, touches the present-day Italo-French border (though the fact that for centuries the city of Nice was known as Nizza testifies to the ebb and flow of cultures in this frontier region). So, because expansion westward from there is not possible, and the celebrated wine Rossese di Dolceacqua is more highly sought after, and consequently rarer than ever, demands have been met by Rome by allowing for the creation of the Riviera di Ligure Ponente appellation which gave Rossese a few more square hectares of space to stretch out its feet, so to speak.
Rossese is purported to have been Napoleon’s favorite wine grape, and he had access to it all, so that’s always been a pretty good shot in the arm for this still rare variety. Despite all the hype above, Rossese has precisely ZERO chance of becoming even the 107th most popular wine grape in the world. Rossese roughly means “reddish”, and indeed, this just what it is – not a trace of purple or crimson anywhere – it is a pale red, and if you’re used to big, New World reds, it’s a rose`. That said, Rossese is no sissy. It’s got a wiry, tough core, it never lacks for alcohol, and a spicy/floral/forest fruit flavor profile that make it the very definition of “plucky”.
I served this strictly Ligurian wine with a strictly Ligurian menu of fettuccine with a tocco di funghi (an herb and olive oil-based mushroom sauce) as first course, and then for the main course, hake poached with celery and bay leaf, served with a salsa genovese (a thick carrot, shallot, thyme, and wine sauce) and fagiolini (a.k.a. haricots verts) smothered with a chunk of butter.
Cascina Feipu dei Massaretti Rossese di Riviera di Ligure Ponente 2010
Transparent rosy/brown ruby color. Prettily rustic nose of coffee, fresh ground beef, chocolate cherry cordial, sea air, black truffle, damp earth, grass, and dried wildflowers. The palate is very well balanced, medium-bodied, velvety, supple, and slightly pulpy in texture, with a zesty acidity, and a softly dry bittersweet tannic structure that frames flavors of strawberry, watermelon, and raspberry fruit, cinnamon, rosemary, and savory spices. Big, soft, warm finish.