Liguria is the banana-shaped coastal region of Italy in the north-west of the country bordering France. It's long and narrow and dominated by coastal mountains. The region is roughly divided in two, with the port city of Genoa separating the two parts. In wine terms Vermentino is the unifying factor, with this white grape grown on both sides of the divide. To the west though, another grape variety, related to Vermentino makes interesting whites called Pigato. Red wines are also made here from local varieties Ormeasco and Rossese. The eastern part on the other hand is influenced by nearby Tuscany and makes pre-dominantly whites from Vermentino, often blended with Albarola and Bosco as well as some Sangiovese based reds. The most famous DOC of eastern Liguria is the Cinque Terre, which is also a popular tourist destination.
We started our tasting with one of the much under-represented western Ligurians with the wines of the Azienda Gualtieri. Unfortunately they didn't have a card with their details on them, nor do they seem to have an internet presence. However their wines were very pleasant indeed, especially their reds from Ormeasco. Here are the notes:
- Pigato 2012: medium straw colour; nice sweet herbal aromas , floral and fresh; the palate had a pleasant tingling sensation with typical notes of white pepper; a little short on the finish perhaps.
- Vermentino 2012: pale straw, aromas of yeast and fresh bread; softer on the palate with minerally, elegant, racy notes, which seemed almost Riesling-like. Very good indeed.
- Ormeasco di Pornassio 'Sciac-Tra' 2012: a rosé made like a white wine from free-run juice; the colour was an almost obscene pink; the nose was not overly aromatic, but showed some dark cherry fruit; the palate was dry with a marked acidity, nicely understated but with a long quite full finish. This is definitely more of a food wine than a sipping rosé.
- Ormeasco di Pornassio 2011: Medium purple in colour, paling at the rim; the nose displayed plums, farmyard and leather notes; the palate was warm, spicy and rich with a good tannic backbone, finishing long. Very good
- Ormeasco di Pornassio Superiore 2011: Deep ruby colour with a pale rim; The nose showed intense aromas of eukalyptus, farmyard, dark chocolate, liquorice and mulberry; the palate was warm and rich with plenty of spice and almost espresso coffee-like characters. The finish was huge. This wine is still young, but its complexity is promising a serious wine years to come
- Cinque Terre DOC 2012: This white displayed earthy characters combined with delicate honey notes and some minerally notes; the palate had a touch of spice with warm fruit flavours of peach and almond and a warm, long, mouth-filling finish.
- Rosso Vino da Tavola: This is made from 50% Merlot, 30% Syrah and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The colour is medium ruby with a pale rim; the nose displays an open fruit reminiscent of elderberries and cherries as well as hints of vanilla; the palate was soft and spicy, with some pleasant and elegant fruit flavours.
They use a mixture of local and international grapes to produce wines of real character:
- I Piani Liguria di Levante IGT Bianco 2012: Made from Albarola and Sauvignon Blanc, the colour is medium straw; there are delicate aromas of gooseberry and hawthorn blossoms; on the palate there is more delicate gooseberry fruit combined with some herbal characters. The acidity is a little angular though.
- Pein 2011 Liguria di Levante IGT Rosso: A blend of 60% Merlot, 35% Syrah and 5% Ciliegiolo, the colour is a deep ruby; the nose displays dark cherries cobined with forest-like damp leave characters; the palate is rich and spicy with some lovely spice and a touch of spice and herbal notes on the finish. A lovely and rich wine.
- The Imara 2011 is grown on a higher altitude near the village of Zignago at 500m asl on clay soils. The blend consists of mostly Merlot with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon and the local Pollerá. The colour is deep ruby to almost opaque, the nose was big rich and spicy with underlying dense fruit; the palate was deep, rich and long with hints of chocolate. This is not your typical soft Merlot, but a real hunk of a wine. Great wine of real character!
From the same village the winery of Mésuéto (Via Masignano, 61, 19021 Arcola, tel: 0187 987418) also produced a Vermentino Colli di Luni 2012. This offering was pale gold in colour; the nose was rich and honeyed with a touch of clove-like spice; the palate carried on in the same vein with some nice apricot fruit and a soft finish.
Of course the Wine Anarchist said hello to his friends at Federici as well, but on this occasion only stopped for a quick glass and chat, as he already knew the wines well and there was so much more to taste.
There were quite a few representative of wineries from the Tuscan side of the Lunigiana, and as they always surprise with their characterful wines made from local varieties. One of the Wine Anarchist's all-time favourite wineries of that region is the Fattoria Ruschi Noceti (Piazza della Republica, 1 54027 Pontremoli, tel: 0187 830153, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). Here they produce seriously traditional wines from some weird and wonderful grape varieties of the region such as Pollerá, Duralla and Luagda. Their approach is stubbornly anti-modern, making wines in old barrels designed for ageing and to be paired with the rustic local dishes.
- Marchesa Caterina Rosé IGT Val di Magra 2012: this deep salmon coloured rosé is made from 70% Pollerá plus a hotchpotch of other local varieties, which may or may not have names. The nose is of water paints and strawberry and cream; the palate displays more of the same with some interesting herbal notes, a great balancing acidity and some good length.
- Otto Ottobre Bianco IGT Val di Magra 2011: This blend of the local Durella and Luadga grapes is so named, because it traditionally gets picked around the 8th of October, as both are very late ripening varieties. The alcohol level usually ends up at around 15% and for a white it is capable to age really well. The colour of ths offering was medium gold, whilst the palate was rich and honeyed with notes of spice and ripe autumn apples, balanced by some lively acidity; on the palate some residual sugar was evident, but all in all it was very well balanced displaying more of the characteristics of the aromas. The finish was long. A beautiful wine, that in the experience of the Wine Anarchist will age gracefully. In fact he could not resist buying a magnum of the 2007, which he may open for a special occasion. Watch this space! :)
- Pollera 2009 IGT Val di Magra: Made from 100% of what is arguably the most exciting grape variety of the region. The colour was medium ruby, showing some garnet tinge on the edge; the nose and palate consistently are rich in warm herbal characters with notes of liquorice and elderberries; the palate has a big backbone and finishes rich and long. A great wine, which does not easily fit into any category, but works really well with some wild boar for instance.
- Bigoncio 2011 IGT Val di Magra. This is exactly the same wine as the Otto Ottobre, except the fermentation was finished early by fine filtration to result in a medium sweet wine with only 11.5% alcohol (with a further potential alcohol level of 3.5%). This wine shows far more honeyed characters and some rich marzipan in addition to the flavour profile of the dry version..
- Caras Delicias Bianco IGT Toscana 2012: This is a blend of 40% Vermentino, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Durella and 20% Albirola, the colour is medium straw; the nose revealed fresh gooseberry notes as well as herbs such as nrosemary; the palate was fresh, yet rich with some nice yellow plum fruit with a long spicy finish. A nice quite full wine, which do nicely with a creamy sauce.
- Belmesseri Rosso Toscana IGT 2010: A blend of 40% Merlot, 30% a mixture of unnamed local varieties, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, this offering had a deep ruby colour; on the nose there was some rich redcurrant fruit, a touch of spice and hints of milk chocolate; The rich fruit carried through on the palate, also incorporating some herbal notes. A very attractive, lively, modern wine.
- Tafuri Rosso Toscana IGT 2010: This blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Merlot, and 10% Pollerá has been aged for 8 months in French barrique. This is a serious wine deeply coloured; the nose reveals intense herb and spice notes combined with liquorice and elderberry fruit; the palate is dominated by a big tannic backbone, supported by more of the rich fruit and a long chocolatey finish. Great wine, but still needs a few years in bottle to come around and soften out a bit.
- Amore e Psyche Val di Magra IGT 2012: A blend of 40% Merlot, 60% local grape varieties, including Pollerá, the name does not need translating... The colour was deep purple; the nose displayed some lovely ripe blackcurrant fruit; the palate was very clean and well defined with some more of that nice fruit balanced by some spice. A well balanced, long and attractive wine.
- Diversamente dal Solito IGT Val di Magra 2012. This translates as 'different from the usual', it is a blend of Syrah, Merlot and local grape varieties (the exact percentages were either not known, or the Wine Anarchist was too drunk, this being the last stand he stopped at). Unfortunately it seems he was even too drunk to make notes either, but the wine is worth the inclusion for its name alone ;)