Monday, December 17, 2012

Winemaking on The Edge: Cinque Terre

By Eric Guido

From the beginning, as I started to learn about Italian wine, there would always be small mentionings of the excellent, yet difficult to find, wines of Liguria. It always piqued my interest, especially when I heard that esteemed Barolo producer, Elio Altare, had begun working on a project in Ligura to produce white wines from traditional varieties (Bosco and Albarola grapes) under the Cinque Terre DOC. However, with all the times I read about these wines and with all the interest I had in tasting them, somehow, I never seemed to have the chance—until now.

So why was this wine so obscure? For one thing, there really isn’t much of it made. Imagine if you will, a wine that is produced on steep slopes overlooking the Italian Riviera. Slopes that were terraced over centuries by sandstone rocks, held together with dirt, crushed stone and without mortar. These terraced vineyards must be maintained by hand, making it extremely difficult. I can only imagine the determination that a winemaker must have to continue to produce these unique wines.

And that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? With all of the great wines of Italy, these wines represent a sense of place and a tradition of its people. Coming from one of the most beautiful (yet dangerous) locations on earth, the Campogrande Cinque Terre is made in a very traditional fashion and really comes to life as the bouquet begins to bloom. Whereas the Telèmaco, having spent time in small oak, is more polished and sexy on the first pour but loses a small amount of the unique “sense of place” that I loved about the Cinque Terre.

They both demand your attention as you pour the first glass. I felt I simply couldn’t do these wines justice in my tasting notes. I found myself trying to explain the finish, as they seemed to dry my palate completely with a bitter twang, only to suddenly find my mouth watering and craving another sip. In the end, these wines were absolutely worth the hunt.

On to the wines:

2009 Campogrande Cinque Terre - The color was yellow-gold and very pretty in the glass. On the nose, I found apricot, grapefruit, and a spritz of lime, followed by wet minerals, herbal tones and raw almond. On the palate, it seemed almost weightless carrying the floral notes from the bouquet into the mouth, with notes of grapefruit, orange peel and a bitter twinge that puckered the cheeks. The finish started dry with a bitter citrus note, but soon made the mouth water and left me feeling completely refreshed. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2010 Campogrande Liguria di Levante Telèmaco - The nose showed pear and white floral notes followed by pineapple, wet minerals and a hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it started lean, with young kiwi, tealeaves, and saline minerals that lasted into the finish, which started dry; yet after a few seconds, it became mouthwatering, fresh and clean. (90 points) I could not find this wine at retail. If you're interested, ask for it by name, and maybe your local retailer can work some magic.

** Cinqueterre Campogrande website!

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