A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sangue di Giuda - Oltrepò Pavese, Italy

Croatina Grapes
I don't want to alarm anyone, but we're going to brush up against our old friend Bonarda again in this post, so let's all put our serious faces on and buckle up once again.

The wine in question today is called Sangue di Giuda (or "Blood of Judas" in English) and it's made in the Oltrepò Pavese region of Lombardy in north-central Italy. Lombardy is bounded to the north by the Alps, to the west by Piedmont, to the east by the Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige and to the south by Emilia-Romagna. Oltrepò Pavese is in the southwest of Lombardy, touching the boundaries of both Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna. It is thought to be the first region in Italy where Pinot Noir was planted. Quality here is very variable: the region is a big time producer of bulk wines, turning out production figures comparable to production powerhouse Soave in the Veneto. Oltrepò Pavese has two offical subzones: Buttafuoco (which apparently means "sparks"...who knew?) and Sangue di Giuda.

Sangue di Giuda wines can be comprised of the following varieties: Barbera 25-65%, Croatina 25-65%, Uva Rara, Vespolina and/or Pinot Noir 45% max. The bottle I was able to find, the Bruno Verdi Paradiso 2009 ($17.50), is made up of 65% Croatina, 20% Uva Rara and 15% Barbera. Barbera is widely grown throughout Italy (it is the second most planted red grape behind Sangiovese), so I'm not really going to write much about it here, but Croatina and Uva Rara are, as the latter's name might suggest, a little more obscure.

Uva Rara
Croatina (which you can read much more about in this post) is grown mostly in northern Italy where, unfortunately, one of its many synonyms includes Bonarda. Croatina is unrelated to the grape previously featured in a post on this website concerning the Argentinian Bonarda (which, as helpfully pointed out in the comments to that article, seems to be actually related to the French grape Corbeau rather than an Italian variety, as I had surmised). It is also unrelated to Bonarda Piemontese, which Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch refer to as the "real Bonarda." It's kind of tricky. If you're in Oltrepò Pavese or Colli Piacentini (in Emilia-Romagna), then Bonarda means Croatina. If you're in northern Piedmont, what's called Bonarda Novarese is actually Uva Rara. If you find something labeled "Bonarda Piemontese," buy it for me and I'll reimburse you for it, because it's apparently pretty rare even though it's the "true" variety for the name in Italy. To add to the confusion here, when you try to look up Uva Rara on Wikipedia, it automatically redirects you to the page for Vespolina, but I believe that these are two different grapes (especially given that they are listed separately in the DOC regulations and because they are given separate entries in Oz Clarke's book, Bastianich and Lynch's book and on winecountry.it). To sum up, Croatina and Uva Rara are distinct grapes that are unrelated not only to each other, but to other grapes that, like them, march under the Bonarda banner in any of the many places that something called "Bonarda" is planted.

So, let's just pretend for a minute that we've got the grapes straight and move on. As a final twist, the DOC Oltrepò Pavese Sangue di Giuda doesn't necessarily tell you anything about the style of wine in the bottle. Sure, we know what the grape varieties are, but the wine can be made in a variety of styles ranging from dry and still to sweet and frizzante. There is no restriction on the wine style in this DOC, only restrictions on the grape varieties that can be used. How do you know what's in the bottle? Well, the alcohol content is a pretty good indicator as to the sugar content of the wine. Lower alcohol contents (under 9-10%) mean that there's probably some residual sugar that wasn't fully fermented. Something in the 12-14% range almost certainly mean the wine was fermented to dryness. As to whether the wine is still or frizzante, I'm not sure if there are any dead giveaways. I would guess the sweeter wines are more likely to be a little bubbly while the dryer wines are more likely to be still, but if you aren't sure, you either have to roll the dice or ask someone at the shop to let you know.

The Bruno Verdi Paradiso bottling clocks in at 7.5% alcohol and is slightly sweet. In the glass, the wine had a dark mulberry color with slight but visible bubbling. The nose was thick with crushed berries, dark plums and black cherry. It has a very alluring fruity smell to it. In the mouth, the wine is slightly fizzy and just a touch sweet. It is very grapey and fruity. It makes think about what grape soda would taste like if they took about half the sugar out. It has a rich texture and good acid with luscious purple and black fruits. Stylistically, I would say that this is right between a bone dry Lambrusco (a real one, not Riunite) and a sweet Brachetto D'Acqui. The sugar in this isn't so heavy that it must be relegated to the dessert table and I think it would be very interesting with a spicy barbecue meal, though it would be equally at home with a light dessert as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very thorough and informative post. Thank you!