Posted by: tomciocco | October 2, 2013

A GRAPE CALLED TAI ROSSO, OR, A KNOT OF NOMENCLATURE

OK, here’s the deal in as few words as possible. Tai Rosso is the “new” name (based on an old dialect name for the grape) that now stands in for the variety’s former name Tocai Rosso. About 10 years ago, the European Union commission that deals with such things declared that the name “Tocai”, which is the name of a white grape variety from northeastern Italy by the way, was no longer permissible based on a formal suit brought and won by the consortium of producers of the ancient and noble Hungarian sweet wine “Tokaji” (pronounced the same way), an action which incidentally also effected the traditional labeling of an Alsatian wine, e.g. “Tokay-Pinot Gris” (which is just plain old Pinot Gris, a.k.a. Pinot Grigio). When the dust cleared, at least as far as EU law was concerned, only the name Tokaji was left standing; all the rest had to come up with some other way to designate themselves.

So in this way, the grape formerly known as “Tocai Rosso” officially became “Tai Rosso”. And if you weren’t already confused, here are a few more twists. As it turns out, the white grape previously known as “Tocai” (which is now known as “Friulano” or “Furlan”) turns out to be an old clone of a “long lost” French grape, and Sauvignon Blanc relative called Sauvignonasse, which is now almost extinct in France. And it gets worse. Despite the logical conclusion that one might draw that “Tocai” and “Tocai Rosso” might be siblings, as it turns out, these two grapes are completely unrelated. Had enough yet?

If you’ve actually cared to follow all of this, you might have arrived at the question “So just what the hell is Tai Rosso anyway”? Well, after all of the genetic testing was done, science has determined that Tai Rosso is none other than a distant cousin of…(drumroll)…Grenache! (a.k.a. Garnacha, Granaccia, Alicante, Cannonau, et al.)

And though Tai Rosso presents itself as a dark rose` wine in the glass, just a sip or two makes it pretty clear that its soft, sweet, voluptuous red fruit character, and its semi-aromatic, almost candied aromas indubitably put it squarely within the Grenache family tree. Most of the other relatives thrive in the more sunny and southerly regions of the Mediterranean, so how the hell this one cousin wound up in the often damp and chilly hills south of Vicenza in Italy’s Veneto region is anybody’s guess, but there you have it…

I served this pretty and vivacious light-colored red with a first course of egg fettuccine with a mushroom, zucchini , and herb cream sauce, followed by chicken bocconcini with a classic sauce from the Veneto called “peverada” (chicken livers, pancetta, lemon zest and juice, wine, vinegar, parsley and garlic) with a side of spinach with fresh tomato.

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Monte Oseliera Colli Berici Tai Rosso 2012

Very pink light ruby color. Sprightly and semi-aromatic nose of maraschino cherry, crushed fresh raspberry, white pepper, cinnamon, licorice, and hibiscus flowers. The palate shows a medium weight with a soft tannic structure and a spunky acidity that pushes out clean flavors of strawberry, cranberry juice cocktail, caramel and a touch of cocoa. A fun, feminine, and youthful wine.

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