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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Piedirosso - Sannio, Campania, Italy

There are some grapes and wines out there that there just isn't a lot of information on.  Today's grape seems to be one of those.  The Oxford Companion to Wine has a whopping three sentences about Piedirosso and there isn't much other information available online.  Most of the information that I have is from Nicolas Belfrage's Brunello to Zibibbo: The Wines of Tuscany, Central and Southern Italy which is the second volume of his incredible two-volume publication on the wines of Italy.  I like Belfrage's approach because he focuses a lot on the grapes of Italy while still keeping the geographical approach that is so necessary to understanding the Italian wine landscape.  This two-volume set along with Bastianich and Lynch's Vino Italiano give the interested reader an excellent foothold in the world of Italian wines.

So on to Piedirosso.  Those of you with a bit of familiarity with the Italian language can suss out what the name of the grape means, but for the rest of you, it means "red feet."  Regular readers may remember a post a few weeks back about a grape called Refosco dal Pedunculo Rosso which has a similar name.  In both cases, the red feet refer to the stems which have a reddish color to them.  Piedirosso is also known as Palombina or Per'e Palummo which means "little dove" and "dove's foot" in the local dialect because the stem is made of up of three branches that can resemble a bird's foot.  Since Piedirosso and Refosco share the red-stemmed characteristic, it's natural to think they may be related in some way, but I can't seem to find any evidence to support that claim.  Belfrage claims that both grapes belong to the Malbec family (his claim being tempered by an admission that it is through hearsay only) but again, I can't find any corroboration for that.

The grape itself is purported to be of ancient origin and is thought to be the same as the Colombina mentioned by the Roman author Pliny.  It reached the peak of its popularity towards the end of the 19th Century as it was very heavily replanted into the phylloxera ravaged vineyard areas of southern Italy.  At its peak, Piedirosso was planted on about 10,000 hectares of land.  In 1844, an Italian writer said that wines made from Piedirosso were not only the equal in finesse of those made from Aglianico grapes, but they were superior in terms of power.  That opinion didn't hold, though, and as of 1990, there were only about 1,000 hectares of land devoted to its cultivation.  Plantings seem to have increased over the past twenty years, but the grape is hardly in any danger of catching the world on fire anytime soon.  Today it is used mostly as a blending grape in southern Italy, but there are a few producers who make 100% varietal wines.

The wine that I was able to pick up was the 2008 Mustilli bottling from the Sannio DOC in Campania.  I picked this bottle up at Federal Wine and Spirits for about $18.  In the glass, the wine had a medium purple-ruby color.  The nose was nicely aromatic with fresh blackberry, brambly wild berry fruit, chocolate, a touch of stewed blueberry and some cassis.  On the palate, the wine was medium bodied with high acidity and low tannins.  There were flavors of sour cherry and brambly berry fruit along with some blackcurrant, licorice and baking chocolate with just a touch of funk.  There was a very nice balance here between the fruit flavors and the earthy chocolate and licorice notes.   The acidity is definitely up there with this wine, making it a very nice, versatile wine to have with food.  These high-acid, soft tannin red wines from Italy always make me think about tomato sauce and that seems as good a pairing as any.  I'm definitely a sucker for these high-acid reds with wild, almost savage fruit in them and this wine was definitely right up my alley.

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