Saturday, June 14, 2014

Azzuri Win Calls For New Italian Fave

If nothing else, you know that the 2014 World Cup is going to provide a few intriguing games - both from the teams involved and from the location of the venues. We're still in the opening weekend and fans from around the world were transported to Manaus and the middle of the Amazon jungle for England versus Italy. Whether you're barracking for England or the Azzurri, this was a big game by any standards.

Picking a wine to represent these teams is somewhat pre-determined in the Vancouver market. We have plenty of Italian wines to choose from. Not so with English wines. I know that there are English wines out there - particularly bubblies - because I've actually added one to The List (at #1325) but that bottle was a gift from visiting Brits. I'd be surprised to see anything on any local shelves.

As such I picked a unique wine to toast the Italian 2-1 win.

1630.  2008 Falesco - Ferentano (Lazio IGT - Italy)

If memory serves, I read something about this wine being made from an extremely rare grape. Forever on the lookout for grapes to add to my Wine Century Club tally, I figured this would be as good a time as any to open it. Pasta with our first spot prawns of the season called out for Italian white.

Turns out this is a winner - just like the Azzurri were on the day. And it would seem that calling this a "rare" grape is barely setting the stage. Ferentano is a 100% varietal wine featuring the Roscetto grape and the winery, Falesco, may be the only winery in the world that grows and markets it.

Roscetto is enough of a rarity that it doesn't even merit a reference in Jancis Robinson's tome, Wine Grapes, although 1368 other grapes did.

Robinson's website, Purple Pages, however, has written a bit about the grape when they reviewed an earlier vintage of this wine. The grape is apparently indigenous to Lazio province in central Italy and it was close to extinction in the 1960's. Rob Tebeau, on his Fringe Wine blog, reported that Roscetto is so rare that it is grown in a single location and made by a single producer - Falesco.

Falesco, itself, was only established in 1979 and it set the promotion of indigenous grapes as a pillar of its business plan. At first, they used Roscetto as part of the winery's Est! Est! Est! blend, but they decided to produce a full varietal wine in 1998.

The grape gets its name from the fact that it turns pinkish red when fully ripe. The primary reason it fell into disfavour with growers appears to be the fact it has a low yield of fruit.

The winery acknowledges that it utilizes cyromaceration - a flash freezing of the grapes - followed by a cold soak to accentuate the varietal characteristics. Our wine was rich bodied and creamy - on the lines of a lightly oaked Chardonnay - with plenty of ripe tree fruit coming through. With Falesco being the only producer of Roscetto, it's hard to tell if all Roscetto wines would have this sort of profile. Who knows what the grape would taste like if grown in different conditions? I'd certainly be game to sip back on a couple additional versions - whether they hailed from Lazio or not.

In the mean time, I'll have to see what other World Cup wines I can come up with for the tournament's games. They might not all be as memorable or unique as this one but, then again, not all the games to follow will be as entertaining or important as this one was. Plus, as an added bonus, I get to add the #174 grape to my Wine Century Club tally.

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