Posted by: tomciocco | October 17, 2014

ANSONICA PLAYS THE NAME GAME (IN ITALIAN OF COURSE)

The names of grape cultivars and their “true” identities are as often at odds as they are in step. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is also known as Cordisco. Grenache is also known as Alicante and Cannonau. There are a bevy of grapes that have “Trebbiano” in their names but which gentically turn out to be members of at least three completely unrelated families of vines. And so we arrive at Ansonica…or should we say Inzolia?

No matter what name this variety goes by (“Ansora” is another one), genetic testing has proved that all of the monikers point to the same vine. There is some controversy as to Ansonica’s origins, but most vivtcultural scholars agree that Ansonica’s home land is Sicily, specifically near the island’s biggest city Palermo, but there, and indeed all over Sicily, the vine is always known by the name “Inzolia” or very similarly, “Insolia”. The name Ansonica is the one that is most frequently used in the variety’s second home along the southern Tuscan coast and on the island of Elba. Small planting of this vine also exist in Lazio, Campania, Sardegna as well as the place of origin of this wine, Calabria. And despite Calabria’s proximity to the grape’s homeland in Sicily, the producer of this this wine eschews the Sicilian name for the Tuscan one. Dunno…

And if you thought if the confusion ended there, well, you’d be mistaken. In the course of trying to conclusively determine just what and who Inzolia/Ansonica was, it was discovered that there seem to be four quite distinct clonal “siblings” of the vine one of which most commonly carries the name “Inzolia” with the other three carrying completely different names that prior to this research, had been previously thought to be unrelated to Inzolia/Ansonica. Which one (or more) of the siblings made its way to Calabria and into this wine, I don’t know.

But, what I do know is that this is one hell of an Ansonica, with all of the luscious richness for which the grape is known and with plenty of balancing acidity that can be lacking in this variety if the cultivation sites are not optimal, the season is too wet, or the bunches are left to hang too long. This bottling most adroitly avoids any of these pitfalls, and to match its corpulent but still quite spunky character, I matched it with a first course of baked zucchini stuffed with scamorza and pecorino cheeses, with red pepper flakes, mint and oregano followed by hake braised with tomato, wine, onion, potatoes, peas basil and parsley.

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Cataldo Calabretta Ansonica 2013

Medium bright golden color. Big aromas of apricot, yellow cherry, cantaloupe, ground pinoli and almonds, intense yellow flower notes, and delicate honey scents. In the mouth the wine is full-bodied and rich but well balanced by clean elegant acids and flavors of mandarin orange, candied citron, pineapple, wet stones, and ground ginger. Long, bittersweet finish. Very nice stuff.

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