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.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Weird Blend Wednesday - Bosco, Vermentino & Albarola, Cinque Terre, Liguria, Italy

Bosco Grapes
A few days ago we took a look at the Albarola grape, which is known as Bianchetta Genovese in the Golfo del Tigullio region of Liguria.  Today I'd like to take a look at another Ligurian wine that has a little Albarola in it, but is blended in such a way that Albarola isn't the star.  This wine is from the Cinque Terre region of Liguria, which is a little south and east from the Golfo del Tigullio, near the Ligurian border with Tuscany, but still right on the Ligurian Sea.  Cinque Terre means "five lands," and is so named for the five villages (Monterosso al Mare, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore and Vernazza) that compose it.  The villages are built right into the cliffs that overlook the Ligurian Sea and are accessible only via boat, train or on foot.  The entire landscape is steep and hilly and, as you might imagine, viticulture isn't exactly easy.  The locals have carved terraces into the hillsides to support both the buildings and any agricultural pursuits, such as growing vines (though olive trees are cultivated as well).  The hills are so steep that mechanized viticulture is virtually impossible and most vineyards are tended and picked by hand. Production is very small here since there isn't a lot of room for vineyards, and much of what is produced is drunk by tourists, both of which drive the price of the wines up a bit, though the labor-intensive nature of growing grapes here is also a contributing factor to the relatively high prices fetched by the wines.

Wines from the Cinque Terre DOC must be made up of at least 40% Bosco and can contain a maximum of 40% Vermentino and/or Albarola and a maximum of 20% of "other authorized white grapes."  As mentioned above, we just recently took a look at the Albarola grape, and we've taken a few indirect looks at the Vermentino grape (in the context of the Favorita and the Pigato grapes, which are genetically identical to Vermentino), which just leaves us the Bosco grape, about which there is apparently very little to say.  The Oxford Companion to Wine's entry reads in full: "ordinary white grape of Liguria."  Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes adds little more, as that entry reads "very ordinary Ligurian that forms the basis of Cinqueterre and oxidizes easily."  Nicolas Belfrage, in his Barolo to Valpolicella calls the grape "strange, but not so wonderful."  Besides Cinque Terre, Bosco is permitted in only one other DOC region, the Val Polcevara just west of Genoa in central Liguria, where it is allowed to make up no more than 40% of the blend.

I was able to try the 2009 Bisson "Marea," which is 60% Bosco and 40% Vermentina/Albarola (the winery doesn't give a more precise breakdown).  I picked this bottle up for about $29 locally.  In the glass the wine was a fairly deep lemon gold color.  The nose was moderately intense with aromas of golden apples, fresh pears, honeysuckle flower, pineapple and lemon.  On the palate the wine was medium bodied with medium acidity.  There were flavors of ripe red apples, lemon, almonds and pecan.  It was bitter and kind of metallic tasting as well.  I noted above that Bosco oxidizes pretty easily, and it's possible that this wine was starting to go through that process.  This bottle is only about three years old and I wouldn't expect it to be shot this soon, especially at this price point, but it's hard to say whether I just got a bad bottle or whether this is a wine meant to be drunk as early as possible.  I don't exactly relish the idea of dropping another $30 to try to find out, so please leave a comment below if you've had some experience with this wine and want to share it.


Anonymous said...

Try to get the youngest one possible. 2009 is probably too old. Not this wine, but had similar blends in the Cinque Terre. Light, fresh, and great acidity. Not world-class wines, but terrific with the seafood. Maybe best bet is to drink them locally. Of course, total cost for that might be a bit more than $30! :-)


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