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, January 19, 2012

Blatterle - Alto Adige, Italy

I live for wines like the one I'll be writing about today.  It's a wine made from a very unusual grape that is grown in a very small region of Italy and, essentially, vinified by pretty much only a single producer.  We've taken a look at a few wines like this in the past.  The Roscetto from Lazio and the Casetta from the Veneto are both similar in terms of their obscurity.  While I love to find wines like these, it can be a real pain to try to write about them.  When you pass a certain point of obscurity, doing the research for a blog post becomes a real struggle.  For most of my posts, the real challenge is in sifting through all the information I have to try and find the most interesting parts that I can write about.  With some grapes, though, the challenge becomes trying to find any information at all about them.  The grapes mentioned above, as well as today's grape, Blatterle, are not mentioned in any books that I have (aside from a passing mention of Casetta in Bastianich and Lynch's Vino Italiano) and are not heavily referenced online either.  My life gets a lot more difficult once I go diving past a certain level of obscurity and find myself in the murky waters of the virtually unknown.

I mention in the Casetta and Roscetto posts linked above that all of the information available about those particular grapes comes from the people who are selling you the bottle, which always makes me a little uneasy.  With Blatterle, the person who is growing the grapes and making the wine doesn't really have much of an online presence, so we are denied even that much access.  In this case, the source of most of the information is the importer of the wine, Louis/Dressner, whose founder Joe Dressner sadly passed away just a few months back.  I feel a little better about using the importer (this one in particular) rather than the winery itself as the primary source partly because the importer has a good reputation within the wine community,  but mostly because the content of their site, or at least the part dealing this grape, is very factually oriented, and if it's a sales pitch, it's one of the driest ones I've ever come across.  That sounds like a dig, but it's actually a really good thing in my opinion.  I'm a "just the facts" kind of person and am much more interested in winery sites that sound more like an encyclopedia than like a commercial.

Here is essentially what we know about Blatterle.  It is an old variety that is thought to be native to the Isarco River Valley in the Alto Adige.  The name Blatterle means "little leaf" in German (remember that the Alto Adige region is a weird kind of mixture of German and Italian cultures), which, I guess, means that this vine may have smaller than average leaves.  They say that the grapes themselves are kind of oval-shaped and golden colored, but I don't see it in the pictures that I was able to find.  It seems that historically the grape was used either for grape juice production or in the production of a lightish, everyday kind of wine.

The grape is grown pretty much exclusively by the Mayr-Nusserhof estate, which is located near (or possibly in) the city of Bolzano on the Isarco River.  The family who owns the estate are named Mayr while there are conflicting reports about where the Nusserhof comes from.  The importer says that it's a reference to some hazelnut trees (Nuss is the German word for nut) that used to surround the house but which were cut down as the city of Bolzano has impinged further and further on the Mayr family's spread, which is currently about 2.5 hectares of organically farmed land.  A shop in North Carolina presents the alternate theory that one of the current owner's relatives, a man named Josef Meyr Nusser, had the street named after him because of his actions in World War II, where his opposition to the Nazi regime led him to become a conscientious objector when the Nazis were recruiting soldiers from his occupied town.  As you might imagine, the Nazis weren't especially kind to opposition of any sort and Josef died in a concentration camp as a Catholic martyr.  The second story is not only much better, but is actually more plausible, so that's the one I'm going to choose to believe.

I was able to pick up a bottle of the 2007 Nusserhof "Blaterle" from my friends at Curtis Liquors for about $23.  You may notice that the name of the wine is "Blaterle" rather than Blatterle.  Since the Blatterle grape is not approved for use in any DOC wine, the winery bottles this as a Vino da Tavola, which has the restriction that you cannot print a place name, grape name or vintage on the label of the wine.  Just by dropping one of the T's in the middle of the word, the winery is able to dodge these restrictions (the vintage is hidden at the bottom of the label where it says L07, the last two numbers being the last two digits of the vintage year).  In the glass the wine was a pale greenish lemon color.  The nose was fairly reserved with some pear fruit and something slightly nutty.  As the wine approached room temperature, there was something vaguely floral that started to show up, but never in any serious amount.  On the palate the wine was medium bodied with medium to low acidity.  The wine had a very minerally flavor profile with some lean pear fruit and lemon peel, but not a whole lot.  This wine was probably on the wrong end of its life span and was suffering slightly for it.  It's interesting to compare my tasting notes with Jakob's Bowl who did his tasting a little over a year after I did and with a bottle that was one vintage year newer.  My bottle lacked the explosive floral notes that his had and mine had definitely picked up more pithy citrus in the bottle.  I'm interested in trying a younger version and will keep my eyes peeled and fingers crossed.

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