Posted by: tomciocco | July 2, 2013

RUCHE’ AND PIZZA – STRANGE BEDFELLOWS INDEED…

Piedmont is the source of a whole lot of completely native vine varieties – lots of household names, lots that are almost completely unknown outside of their immediate growing zone, and a whole lot more that fall somewhere between these two extremes. The grape called Ruche` in my estimation falls in that broad middle, though admittedly closer to the border with obscurity than to the one whose names easily trip off the tongue.

Most Ruche` is grown under the plainly – shall we say ornate – name of Ruche` di Castagnole Monferrato, the latter half of which refers to the Monferrato hills just east of the very winey city of Asti in central Piedmont in which this grape is almost exclusively grown. The origins of the name of the vine itself –  “Ruche`” – are still debated, but most people’s best guess is that it stems from the plural of the local dialect word for “cliff”, because indeed Ruche` is most comfortable growing on very steep, rocky sites, a fact which surely contributes to its continuing scarcity.

As I allude to in the title, this decidedly obscure northern wine is not typically paired with decidedly common simple and southern Italian fare like pizza, but circumstances and curiosity got the better of me…As a matter of course, Ruche` is said to be a great match with local stuffed pastas like agnolotti or dishes of game like rabbit or pheasant, all of which is a long way from pizza, for sure.

So how’d it come out? Well, better than expected to be honest. Ruche` has an obviously florally aromatic nose, and a polished but still firm structure that picked up nicely on the fresh mozzarella as well as on the pungency of the onions we had Gino’s top the pie with. Would Ruche`ever be my first choice for pizza? Probably not, but the next time I spring for a rabbit that I’ll stew with mushrooms and marjoram, it’ll be right at the top of the list.

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Montalbera Ruche` di Castagnole Monferrato 2011

Just transparent, slightly brownish purple color. Arrestingly floral nose (lilies and violets) mixed with notes of chocolate covered cherries, fig paste, cloves and a hint of shoe polish. In the mouth the wine presents an elegant, medium-bodied, smooth and soft palate with fine tannins, discreet acidity and vibrant flavors of strawberry and blueberry compote, dried black currants, plum skin, bitter orange, gingerbread and sage. The wine finishes long with Earl Grey tea notes. 

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