Posted by: tomciocco | June 6, 2014

PIGNOLETTO – EMILIA-ROMAGNA’S WHITE BUBBLY

For me, one of the most satisfying development in the world of wine over the last decade or so is the rise of quality Lambrusco to its proper place in the oenological pantheon. For too many years, the Lambrusco (or more properly “Lambruschi” since nearly all of the grapes that go into making the wine are quite confusingly completely distinct and unrelated varieties) wines that were exported were little more than grape sodas with a healthy squirt of alcohol, devoid of any real character and almost always unthoughtfully sweet. Thankfully, those times are mostly over with the ready availability of real Lambrusco, and it is a wine that has become appreciated for the boldly earthy, rich, fun but still complex and fat-razoring nature that the real stuff had always displayed in its native Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy.

But not all of the frothy Charmat method wine from what is the central core of Italy’s “bread basket” is inky purple in color. Some of this sparkling wine is as clear as a May morning and it is drunk in nearly the quantities that Lambrusco is, but almost exclusively in its homeland. But as palates broaden and the market demands new products, these white bubblies from Emilia-Romagna stand to emerge rapidly, and the principal of these varieties is known in its native land as Pignoletto.

As it turns out, Pignoletto is genetically identical to a somewhat better known grape variety from Umbria in central Italy called Grechetto (Grechetto di Todi to be specific; another “Grechetto” variety, Grechetto di Orvieto, turns out to be completely unrelated) that is characterful, hardy, produces high yields and adapts well to the traditional high pergola training so common in Emilia Romagna, a technique which is employed to minimize bunch rot in this hot and humid region. The upshot of all of these various elements is that Pignoletto very reliably produces lots of good qulaity and fresh sparkling wine that serves as a perfect foil to the rich and complex cuisine of Emilia-Romagna that might not be ideally suited to a pairing with the deeply pigmented and somewhat funky experience offered up by the various Lambruschi.

It might be a while before a wine like Pignoletto makes the space for itself that Lambrusco has lately made for itself, and there’s always the chance that it never will, but if one assumes that good taste and good sense in the wine market continues to expand, it’ll make it sooner than later. Keep your eyes peeled for this ultra-food-friendly, refreshing and high value sparkling wine that could easily displace the spots currently held in your wine rack by Prosecco or Cava.

To make the most of Pignoletto’s charming attributes, I matched this wine with a first course of (home made) potato gnocchi with a creamy Gorgonzola and Mascarpone sauce flavored with nutmeg and garlic followed by a main course of walnut, marjoram and breadcrumb-encrusted Turbot fillets over a bed of melted leeks and yellow squash.

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Zucchi Pignoletto Spumante N.V.

“White gold” color. Lightly aromatic nose of  lemon custard, stewed quince, a touch of lime, lavender, dried white flowers, almond, and malted grain. On th palate the wine shows surprisingly fine bubbles, and quite full-bodied but nonetheless fresh mouthfeel and brightly acidic and minerally flavors of yellow cherry, apricot, pineapple, sour cream, white spices, and mixed fresh herbs. Long and pleasantly bitter and chalky finish.

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