Friday 3 July 2009

Rossese Report

I'd been meaning to write my Rossese report up last week but couldn't after an encounter with a date palm...

These are viscious plants. There I was, pulling up weeds, making it's life more tolerable when whammo, take that. Spiked in the eye. Of course I left it two days before visiting the GP. She took one look and sent me straight to 'Eye Casualty'.

After three hours and three examinations involving various things being shone, squirted and poked in my eye, the doctor's informed opinion was... that it needed another doctors informed opinion.
"His clinic's on just now but the wait's two hours"... "Ok, is there somewhere I can get a coffee or a sandwich?"... "Err, you can't eat or drink anything, you see, this may need an operation"...
Great. So instead, with a pupil the size of a golf ball, I went for a stroll in the blinding sunlight, down past the virus laboratory and up around the cancer wards. So far, not a good day.

Back in the waiting room people on the cusp of death were being wheeled in to see the eye specialist, I wondered why they bothered and if they'd mind letting me in first?
The informed opinion of Dr Cox, 'small and sharp like the apple', his description, was that I'd lacerated my eye to just before the crucial bit. Two days of squirting in drops should do the trick. And it did. Phew.
Anyway, back to happier times, just a week before...

The wines from this part of Liguria are really worth getting to know. Some are world class, particularly among the Rosseses. But the region's beautiful landscape makes for difficult farming. The wines are produced in miniscule quantities, and even there, many are in short supply.

The main wine of note here is the red Rossese di Dolceacqua. Reputedly a favourite of Napolean, it's named after the attractive town at the heart of the region. On the main street of Dolceacqua, left hand side, after all the trattoria and heading towards Isolabona, is a fabulous wine shop. Helpful, knowledgeable staff with impressive local wines and spectacular bottles from further afield. Annoyingly I've accidentally deleted my photo of it.
We sampled extensively and thought the following particularly worth mentioning:

This was from that great wine shop. Superiore means it spent longer in barrels, think the minimum was 9 months. Not normally new, but some growers are now experimenting with French barriques. This was a serious wine, lot's of complex flavours and a great lasting aftertaste.

Maixei is a cooperative of twenty growers with a nice little shop in the 'even older' town's piazza. Co-ops here make a lot of sense because individually many growers don't have enough vines to justify the investment needed for modern winemaking. Anyway, the results are great. Their Rossese Superiore is super. Really pleasurable to drink, especially with the local rabbit. Also their Vermentino was one of the best we tried. Refreshing, sherbet lemon flavour with a sort of sweaty, slightly cheesey tang. Nicer than it may sound, honest. Brilliant with grilled fish and prawns.

This came from a tiny touristy art gallery just over the ancient bridge illustrated on it's label. Delicious, very hand made tasting, and tiny quantities. Went back for some more, and...

Bumped in to the very man who'd made it!

This one came from the village shop in Apricale. Organic and a more straightforward interpretation of the grape, but very quaffable, and at 9 euros one of the cheaper bottles.
This is something you see on a lot of bottles...

It's something familiar from my, ahem, own wine making days (see profile) and I reckon it's the mark left by a hand corking machine. That gives some idea of the scale of production here!

Ka Mancine, 'Beragna' 2008. Not a Superiore but together with the same growers Galeae, among the best we tried. Really strong, forceful flavour of plum and blackberry with a delicious almost refreshing acidity. This is worth searching out. Went surprisingly well with olive oil based pasta dishes.
The pick of the local white wines were definitely those made from the Pigato grape. Again, if only they could make it in bigger quantities...

It's refreshing and lemony but with a complex, minerally taste in the mouth that demands you immediately take another slurp. Quaffalicious!


  1. Poor you, goodness. I binned my yukka a few days ago. Never looked back.

  2. Many thanks for the sympathy Douglas. It would have been a bloody silly way to lose an eye. Though must confess, I rather warmed to the prospect of an eye patch!

  3. You missed the best Rossese Di Dolceacqua of all, Testalonga. It is made in a tiny ancient Cantina right under our small village house in the middle of Dolceacqua and as been voted one of the top 100 wines in Italy. - Roger T

  4. Great to hear a Rossese Di Dolceacqua was voted into the top 100 Roger. I'm hoping to be back fairly soon, so please let me know where I can buy Testalonga then I won't miss it for a second time!

  5. I will be in Dolceacqua next week. Do you have a contact email for Testalongo? Also, I am very interested in a good producer of olive oil.

  6. Hi Marty, your email got me wondering and I checked my wine rack to discover that one of the two bottles of Rossese I have left is in fact Testalonga 2007!! I hadn't twigged when Roger T left his comment. Anyway, putting my excitement to one side, there is no contact information on the (stylish) label, but I've just found this online:
    Antonio Perrino
    Azienda Agricola Testalonga
    Dolceacqua, Imperia
    Tel. 0184 206267
    Consumed a lot of great olive oil there but used all my excess weight on wine so wasn't buying.
    Good luck!

  7. PS Marty,
    The other unconsumed bottle of Rossese is from a producer mentioned in Alfonso Cevola's great blog. I didn't visit, but he sounds fascinating... and makes olive oil too. Here's the address:

  8. thanks! Got a hold of Dino Marsala, am going by for some of that oil! Will find that testalonga too!