Saturday, 21 March 2015

In search of Massaretta/Barsaglina

This is not what it seems. To explain we have to go back to the summer of 2014 when we discovered the wines of the Colli di Candia, Alpi Apuani and Colli Luni, Lunigiana, an area crossing two provinces, Liguria and Toscana and yet so obscure that the wines are barely known even locally. Our annual trips to the Versilia for the last 30 years and more hadn't brought us into contact with these wines until then (see our post of 31.8.14). Naturally (since this is Italy) there are local grapes involved including the mysterious Massaretta - aka Barsaglina. Massaretta is made in purezza only extremely rarely. The picture above shows us pouring such an example down the sink. Why?

Not because we didn't love it. We did, even if this sample was from a bottle of 2 Euro vino sfuso of which more later. It was full of character in a slightly resinous way. Lovely colour. Considered by some as a vino da contadino (in which case we are glad to be contadini). Sadly we couldn't take it home with us because over the previous weeks we had been in correspondence with our friend from last year, Paolo Borsalino of 'Bier e Vino Shop' on the road from Carrara to Massa and Paolo had kindly assembled  several bottles to take back to London so there was no room for any extras.

Pietro filling our bottle with Massaretto

Pietro is a member of the family concern L'Aurora di Francesco

Their Terramarina contains 25% each of Massaretto, Sangiovese, Vermentino Nero and Cilegiolo
Indeed we had stumbled across this Massaretto sfuso unexpectedly at the shop belonging to L'Aurora di Francesco, one of the producers using this grape in their blends we also discovered in 2014 and on Paolo's list.

Vino Genuino; that is what Paolo stands for!
The man himself
True to his word, Paolo had assembled the following treasures not only from the Colli di Candia but also from Colli Luni over the border in Liguria. His efforts had been strenuous because a number of producers didn't respond ("Up to now I was unable to talk to them. Even the Email is not working" was one report), others were on vacation, sold out or had not yet released the new wine and so forth. No wonder these wines are not well known; they don't even feature on the local map. Who drinks them we wondered.

Paolo has his work cut out to enthuse the local community with their local wines. He succeeds in attracting a steady flow of customers for his Vino Sfuso although he is not sure if they know or care about exactly what the grape variety is that they are drinking. He says that the marble industry in Carrara employs about 25% of what it did at its height and mentioned that it is cheaper to send the stone to China to be fashioned than to do it locally. Against this less than exciting background, Paolo is working hard to make a difference. He has even invented a way of keeping his draft wine fresh in their demijohns.

So here are the 10 bottles we eventually took away with us;

Please note, CYBO, not KYBO

 This was the only 100% Massaretta.

Next, a Massaretta and Vermentino Nero.

 Then our old friend from last summer by Paolo Armandi Nardi over the border in Liguria; 'Massaretta (50%), Merlot and others about which Sr. Nardi was vague.

Then comes our other acquaintance from 2014; Terramarina which as we have seen is 25% each of Massaretto, Sangiovese, Vermentino Nero and Cilegiolo.

Not all blends from the area contain Massaretto but most are original. Here is a Merlot, Cilegiolo and Rossara one for example.

and we just had to have this one with the even more obscure Bracciola together with Sangiovese, Vermentino Nero and Schiava. Very jolly in principle. Let's see how it tastes in reality.

Canaiolo features significantly in the area where it is also known as Merla. Producers such as Podere Lavandaro count Merla as a 'vitigno autoctono del comune di Fosdinovo' here blended with Canaiolo proper. Merla is said to be a biotype of Canaiolo.

The white wines of Liguria and this part of Toscana are better known than the reds and consist almost invariably of Vermentino. In fact the next day we determined to visit the Museo del Vermentino at Castelnuovo Magro nearby. Meanwhile, Paolo had persuaded us to take a bottle fermented Vermentino made by friends of his from the Colli di Candia.

This being Italy, Vermentino is not the only show in town. There is Durella too. We had asked Paolo to find a good example and this is what he came up with from Podere Benelli.

But hush, what's this? Pollera? Yes, just over the border in Liguria, they have obscure varieties of their own. we had also come across Pollera in a wine from the well known company Lunae - the only one from the region to have an international profile. We loved their Niccolo V which contains Pollera and so it was with great interest that we found this example of 100% Pollera also from Benelli.

That made 10 bottles from Paolo with more to come in our pre-planned spree so perhaps that explains why we had to pour the Massaretto sfuso down the sink after tasting.

That night we had determined to make a pilgrimage to L'Enoteca Marcucci in Pietrasanta. 

This is a famous Wine merchant and Restaurant already mentioned in this blog from previous visits - a favourite of celebs and summerfolk alike. Indeed it was here that we had our first wine containing Massaretto, Il Negreto a couple of years back. We had tried to obtain a bottle on this occasion but none was to be found, not even at Marcucci. 

We had this with our meal and it was very good.

Terenzuola is better known than most of the producers already mentioned but still not as well known as it deserves. They make wine in the Cinque Terre as well as Fosdinovo, Toscana. Tintoretto is another local synonym for Colorino.

Cinta is a wine bearing the name of Michele Marcucci, thus proving the credentials of Enoteca Marcucci as a Negociant.

It would have taken all night to check out the shelves of Enoteca Marcucci. There are treasures from all over Italy and abroad, but nothing from up the road in the Colli Candia on this occasion. There was a selection of 3 Tuscan Pinot Noirs however at fancy prices too! What will they think of next?

The streets of Pietrasanta not heaving in January!

The following day we paid a visit to the Museo multimediale del Vermentino at the Enoteca Regionale della Liguria in Castelnuovo Magro.

 Mentioned by Nicolas Belfrage in 'Brunello to Zibibbo' we just had to see this: a museum devoted to a single grape variety.

the bins were for grain storage

Being out of season the museum had no show and the shop was low in stocks but we applaud this initiative and wish them success.

charming place, Castelnuovo Magra. Vaut le detour.
We then had a date with Arianna from the fascinating Podere Scurtarola, one of the most significant operations in the world of wine as we will see in our next post.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Beware of pity

Rulanske Modre variety
On a recent trip to Prague we naturally took the opportunity to look at Czech wines. In preparation we had researched the varieties grown in the Czech Republic (mostly in Moravia) and found that there is a surprising number of locally produced hybrids. Quite why this should be so is not clear as vinifera varieties such as those grown in Austria seem also to grow in the Czech Republic but resistance to frost and fungus diseases seems to be desirable;

For the record, the list is as follows;

Agni ( Andre x Irsai Oliver)
Andre was nothing to write home about in our 'North' tasting

Andre (Blaufraenkisch x St. Laurent)
Ariana (Riesling x St. Laurent) x Zweigelt
Aurelius (Neuburger x Riesling)

Cabernet Moravia (Cabernet Franc x Zweigelt)
Devin (Gewurtztraminer x Roter Veltiner)
Lena (Lipovina x Irsai Oliver)
Laurot (Merlot x Seibel 13666) x (Blaufränkisch x St. Laurent)
Malverina (Rakisch x Merlan)

Moravian Muscat (Ottonel x Splendor)
Neronet (St Laurent x Blauer Portugieser) x (Alicante Bouschet x Cabernet Sauvignon)

Palava is considered locally as one of the best hybrids

Palava (Gewurztraminer x Muller-Thurgau)
Revolta (Malingre x Chrupka Bila) x (Corinth Cabanská x Perla Rosa)
Rubinet (Revolta x Alibernet) x André)
Veritas (Red Riesling x Bouvier)
Vrboska (Red Traminer x Cabanská Perla (Pearl of Csaba)

Not all of these are originally Czech and some have only reached the experimental stage but you can see there is plenty of activity in the creation of hybrids. In fact such is the enthusiasm for hybrids in general, you could call the Czech republic a hybrid hotspot. Amazingly we found these too:

our old friend Solaris, now ubiquitous it seems
a hybrid from Geisenheim
Old friend Kerner, quite low in alcohol here (12.5%)
Another Geisenheim variety now more frequent in the Czech Republic than in Germany
A Hungarian hybrid, unknown to 'Wine Grapes'
Not to be outdone by their neighbour, here is a list of Slovak hybrids;



Looking around shops in Prague, mainly at a large shop called My Narodni Obchodni domy Tesco, we soon came to work out the main vinifera varieties;

Frankovka = Blaufraenkisch

Modry Portugal = Blauer Portugieser
Neuburske = Neuburger
Rulandske Sede = Pinot Gris
Ryzlink Rynsky = Rhine Riesling
Ryzlink Vlassky = Weslschriesling
Sylvanske Zelene = Silvaner

Svatovavrinecke = St. Laurent (a bit more difficult this one but data roaming came to the rescue)

Tramin Cerveny = Gewurztraminer
Veltlínské červené rané = Fruehroter Veltliner
Veltlinske Zelene = Gruener Veltliner

Relatively simple really, but then there was something rather intriguing called Rulandske Modry. Thanks to Portugal Modry we had worked out that Modry means Blue but what could Rulandske Modry be? Pinot Gris is often called Rulander in Germany due to a historical person called Johann Seger Ruland who discovered Pinot Gris vines in a garden in Speyer in the mid - 18th century and popularised them. We fancied this must be a new variety what with all the crosses and hybrids going on; Blue Pinot Gris! We knew that Pinot Gris could have a variety of berry colours so why not?

Due to various circumstances we were not able to buy any wine on this trip so it was with great satisfaction that a cafe near our hotel was selling Rulandske Modry by the glass. One sip sparked joy as they say. Here was a discovery indeed. Reminiscent of something quite familiar we thought, but what? Our palate memory is poor to non-existant as we have said but Rulanske Modry was something new and exceptional. How exciting to make such a discovery! That's what we at Slotovino are all about; digging up hidden gems, supporting the under-dog.

Beware of pity: Rulandske Modry = Pinot Noir! 

What's more, Rulandske bile = Pinot Blanc.