The Wine of the Week by Annette Tomei
When most fans of Italian wine think of reds from Piemonte, they usually jump directly to the infamous Barolos, and even Barberas – not the tiny, obscure, recently DOCG-designated Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato (aka, simply, Ruché – the name of the actual grape)… but maybe they should.
The Ruché grape is most likely native to that tiny region just north of Asti, however that is still under debate (maybe it’s French?). What is known is that it has grown there in obscurity for hundreds of years and has just recently drawn the attention of the outside world. It has been compared to the Nebbiolo grape (of Barolo fame) in that it produces very aromatic, light colored, high tannin wines. According to the DOCG regulations, it may be blended with up to 10% Barbera and/or Brachetto.
The story of Luca Ferraris Vineyards is new by any standards, especially Italian. With a history of family winemaking in the region, the young Luca Ferraris has just recently (2009) created a company rooted in the regional history of producing Ruché, but with a mind for technology and growth. Though committed to the obscure regional grape, Ferraris also experiments with Syrah, Grignolino, Moscato, and more – even producing a grappa.
The Bric d’Bianc vineyard is the largest Ruché-only planting in the region. The grapes from this site produce a wine with concentration, structure, despite relatively low acidity. The Bric d’Bianc production is done in 100% stainless steel and sold in 1-liter bottles.
This wine will appeal to a diverse crowd, and is priced to do just that. It is unmistakably Old World-style but has many of the robust, even “sweet”, aromas of the New World. A first impression of Cherry Garcia flavors (one of my favorite wine descriptors!): dark chocolate, cherry, and almond. This opened to deep purple violets and dark velvety roses. On the palate: peppery five-spice and hearty herbs, then clean with an almost-chalky dryness at the finish. The tannins are certainly present but are well balanced by a swish of acidity. Try this wine with lamb chops, duck confit, or herb-roasted chicken. It also goes well with aged cheeses (especially from Northern Italy) and cured meats, as well as hearty kale, roasted winter squash, and nutty grains.
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