I love rosé, rosado, rosato. I loved it before it was cool. I’ll admit, back in my youth, I even loved that rosé that now makes my stomach churn, Sutter Homes. I don’t love it because it’s pink, (I’m not a girl who wears pink…I typically live in black), but despite it being pink. I love the way it calms me and makes me hear the ocean even when it is not near. Not that rosés are all made near the ocean, I just always envision myself on the beach when I drink one. It’s a getaway in a glass. All wine of course is, but rosé or rosato, well, it seems to have an extra edge on that.
So here it is, almost August, and we are still stuck at home, in the heat. Luckily, the #ItalianFWT group, led this month by Lauren of The Swirling Dervish, (what a great name, right?) is taking us on a virtual trip to Italy to explore rosatos of indigenous Italian grapes. Kinda perfect if you ask me.
If you want in on this getaway, you can join us on August 1st at 8am PDT or 11am EDT, on twitter. Just follow #ItalianFWT and join in the conversation. You can look forward to hearing about pink wines from all over Italy from my fellow wine writers! (scroll to the bottom for a list of all the different pieces with links!)
As I mentioned, rosé or rosato, as it is known in Italy, makes me hear the sea. So, it will not surprise you that I chose 2 coastal regions (although when you are in southern Italy, all the regions with the exception of Umbria, are coastal) to choose wines from. Both are made from the indigenous grape montepulciano and both come from the southern part of Italy on the Adriatic coast.
First let’s talk about this indigenous grape Montepulciano
Montepulciano (the grape) and Vino Nobile de Montepulciano – nope, they are not the same!
I’ve heard of that you might say, but you may be thinking of Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, which is the name of a wine, that is made of sangiovese. Confusing, no? Here’s the scoop.
Vino Nobile de Montepulciano – that would mean “Noble wine of Montepulciano”, Montepulciano being a village in Tuscany. The wine is made of sangiovese, the grape famous for Chianti.
Montepulciano, the grape, is a grape native to the southern part of Italy.
Due to the confusion with this wine and the grape, the folks at Vino Nobile de Montepulciano have opted to just refer to their wine as “Vino Nobile” and it seems to be sticking.
Montepulciano – the grape
Montepulciano is the 3rd most planted grape in Italy. It sits unsurprisingly, behind sangiovese in the top spot and the white grape trebbiano (or as it’s known in France ugni blanc), which is an undistinguished white grape, (at least typically) that is mostly used in making brandy.
It is most widely planted in the region of Abruzzo, but is also widely found in Marche, Molise, and Puglia. All four of these regions sit in a row down the Adriatic coast of Italy. It is a late ripening grape, which is what keeps it in the south, further north than Marche and you find difficulty ripening it. It is a deep colored grape that imparts great tannins and can age.
Montepulciano as a rosato
With these deeply colored skins, you would be unsurprised to find that the rosatos are deeply colored also. Now many people can get snooty about their rosé and want it in that ballet slipper pink or onion skin color of Provençal rosé, but I love the variety of shades. Rosé or rosato, is a color of wine, just like red or white, and everything pink does not and should not taste or look the same. These darker pink wines, (like Tavel in France), can carry more flavor and texture than a barely colored rosé, and as such can pair widely with foods.
Our first rosato is from Abruzzo where it is part of its own DOC for rosato.
Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC
Abruzzo spans from the mountains of central Italy out to the Adriatic Sea. It sits north of Molise and south of Marche. The ancient tribes of the region long resisted Roman rule, and the rugged landscape kept it isolated for many years.
In 2010 the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC was established for rosatos from the region. The name means cherry in Italian, and is taken from their deep cherry color.
This is not the easiest wine to pronounce. It is pronounced CHER-rah-ZOO’OH-loh dah-BROO-tsoh
2018 Azienda Agricola Cirelli, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo
This wine from Francesco Cirelli comes from the Cirelli Farm. I would love to describe it to you, but I think that Francesco on his site does it best.
“The sea is only 8 kilometers away and rolling hills, vineyards and olive groves surround the variegated landscape of the town of Atri in the Abruzzo region where our farmland lies. Nearby, national parks, woods, and badlands, all wonderfully preserved, are waiting to be discovered in the majestic silence that seems to characterize this region of Italy suspended in time and space.”Francesco Cirelli from his site
This is a farm with olive trees, vineyards, old grains, fruit trees, gardens, and animals. It is certified organic. The property is 22 hectares with 6 of those under vine. They dry farm and produce abut 30,000 bottles annually.
While our particular wine was not, he now makes a line of wines in amphorae. I look forward to an opportunity to taste the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo made in Terracotta Amphorae.
Tasting the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo
This wine was a deep pink-orange color and was clear. The nose took a moment to open for me, but Michael immediately got bright red fruit, “cherry fruit rollup” he declared! As I dove into it, I found sour cherry, with notes of watermelon, white flowers, and pomegranate. Additional notes of citrus like blood orange and bits of dried herbs popped up. On the palate it was dry with medium body, tannin, and alcohol (it sits at 12% abv). It had high acidity, and pronounced flavors of cranberry, red currant, and a splash of lime, with a long finish. It was tart and vibrant with red fruits bursting forward.
The second wine we had is again a rosato of montepulciano, but this one hails from Puglia. Puglia is the heel of the boot in Italy. This wine comes from just inland of the boot’s spur, the National Park of Gargano, that juts out into the Adriatic Sea. Valentina Passalacqua’s vineyard sits just west of the National Park and 20 minutes’ drive south of Lake Lesina that sits on the Adriatic Coast. Her mantra is “Peaceful Living”. Many of the vines on her property are on pergolas, providing shade for the workers as they pick during harvest. She has a wonderful video on her site that I encourage you to visit and watch.
2018 Valentina Passalacqua “Mezzo Rosa” Puglia IGP
This wine is made from montepulciano grapes from young pergola vineyards. Fermentation is spontaneous in open vats. It is unfiltered and aged 6-8 months in steel. It is 10.5% or 11.5% abv (I found conflicting and could not locate it on the bottle) and is bottled in a one-liter bottle with a crown cap. The label was drawn by her daughter.
“My work has no secrets. Together with my collaborators-artists, I only try to collect what the Earth presents to me and to give it a personal value through art and craftsmanship. My wines are fragments of the soul of the Gargano, the Mountain of the Sun. A white limestone promontory, which extends into the Adriatic Sea with the green silences of the millenary forests of the Umbra Forest and the scents of the Mediterranean scrub of the National Park. We are waiting for you, to give you a taste of this magical reality.”Valentina Passalacqua from her site
Tasting this rosato from Puglia
This wine had the same vibrant orange pink color but was a bit cloudy as it wasn’t filtered. There was sediment in the bottom. On the nose you were hit first with funk, the kind that I like. Notes of leather and red fruit, sour cherry, and spice. On the palate it was dry with medium tannins, body, and acidity. I think the fact that it was unfiltered made the acidity seem lower. On the palate I got blood orange, red cherry, blackberry, leather, and dried herbs. I think the nose was really integrated, which was why I determined it as funk, and didn’t break it down like I was able to on the palate.
Pairing with foods of the region
I searched for dishes from each of the regions and the one thing that popped up in both was that these are poorer regions, where meat is a luxury. As such, both my dishes are vegetarian, and both have relatively few ingredients
Pallotte cac e ove
My dish from Abruzzo is called Pallotte cac e ove (cheese and egg balls)
I found the inspiration recipe on “Italia Sweet Italia”
The recipe is simple: Mix together ½ cup of breadcrumbs, 1 cup of grated parmesan, salt, minced garlic, pepper, and a pinch of baking soda. Then add in 3 eggs and mix. Roll into balls. You can either fry them now, to enjoy as an appetizer or do as I did, and toss them in the fridge for a bit, then cook them in a pot of fresh tomato sauce for 15 minutes.
Orecchiette from Puglia
The second dish is from Puglia. Puglia is known for its orecchiette pasta, the little hand made pastas whose name means “little ears”. Traditionally this is served with turnip tops or broccoli rabe. We had baby broccoli and cherry tomatoes.
I boiled the pasta and added the baby broccoli to blanche in the last 2 minutes. I drained it reserving some of the cooking water. Then I cooked up some minced garlic in butter and olive oil until it was fragrant, I added a bit of the cooking water then, the orecchiette and broccoli, some grated parmesan, juice of a lemon, chili flakes, the sliced cherry tomatoes and lemon zest.
Each of the dishes went well with the food, but each also paired best with the wine from their region.
We also did a cheese plate with orange, herbed mozzarella balls, blackberries, strawberries, pomegranate, rosemary asiago, prosciutto, and almonds. The herbs from the mozzarella balls really paired beautifully, elevating the flavors of the herbs.
So that covers 1 grape. Italy has more than 400 grape varieties allowed in their wines. Guaranteed, a few of those are international varieties, but still… If you count the subvarieties, the total comes to almost 2000. Wonder what varieties the other #ItalianFWT writers got into?
- David from Cooking Chat writes about Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo: Pairings with My Favorite Italian Rosé
- Pinny from Chinese Food and Wine Pairings writes about Pairing Bibi Graetz Casamatta Toscana Rosato with Drunken Cold Chicken Wings and Pork Knuckle, Sautéed Julienne Leeks #ItalianFWT
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla tempts us with Sardinian Native Grapes, Italian Pinks, and Gamberi all’Aglio
- Terri from Our Good Life shares her pairing for Roasted Chicken Flatbread with Rosato Floats
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass says Summer Won’t Last: and Neither Will this Charming Chiaretto in Your Glass
- Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog is Dreaming of Sicily with a Graci Rosato
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator offers Summer Dinner with Rosato from Tuscany and Sicily
- Marcia from Joy of Wine chats about Rosato d’Aglianico Vulture: Much More than a Red Wine
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest suggests Rosato: Drinking Pink Italian Style, from the Mountains to the Sea
- Nicole from Somm’s Table prepares Cheese, Charcuterie, and Ciabatta with Praesidium Cerasuolo
- Katrina from The Corkscrew Concierge advises us to Get to Know Lambrusco Rosato
- Susannah from Avvinare tells us that Italy’s Chiaretto from Lake Garda Makes Waves
- Jennifer from Vino Travels shares Rosato from the Veneto with Pasqua
- Katarina from Grape Vine Adventures shares An Italian Rosé Wine that Makes You Sparkle
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish will share Cantele Negroamaro Rosato: Summer Wine from the Heart of Puglia
Don’t forget to join us Saturday August 1, 2020 at 11 am Eastern Time (8 am Pacific) on twitter to chat! Just follow #ItalianFWT! We’d love for you to tell us about your favorite Italian rosatos, just remember to add the hashtage #ItalianFWT to be part of the conversation thread!
Do you love pink wines? Well we have written about them before and if you would like to explore…
- A Sparkling Rosé by any other name just might be a crémant winophiles
- Côtes de Provençe through rosé colored glasses
- Is a Rosé just a Rosé?
- Zweigelt – Pink and Natty and so Satisfying
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.