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, December 12, 2012

Çimixà (Scimiscià) - Colline del Genovesato, Liguria, Italy

Though most of the wines I write about on this site are things that I've come across on my own, I do occasionally receive tips from readers about interesting grapes and wines they've come across that I might also be interested in.  One of my more prolific tipsters is Tony from Pennsylvania who, in addition to providing a tasting note for my post on Nuragus, also has a sharp eye for unusual wines.  He has previously pointed me to Albarín Blanco and Tempranillo Blanco, but the grape he directed me to for today's post is definitely more obscure than either of those.

A few months ago, Tony asked if I had ever heard of a grape called Çimixà from Liguria.  Çimixà was definitely a new one on me, and a cursory glance on the internet revealed virtually no information the grape.  I saw that Bisson, whose wines I had featured in some prior posts, and whose portfolio seems to be pretty well represented in the Boston area, made a varietal Çimixà, so I set about trying to track a bottle down.  I asked around locally to see if anybody could get their hands on some, and came up empty.  Not only that, but none of the guys I asked about ordering the wine had ever even heard of it, and these guys are pretty tough to stump.  I was now getting more and more anxious to get my hands on a bottle.  Tony pointed me in the direction of MCF Rare Wine in New York City, who had about half a dozen bottles in stock and who was willing to sell a bottle to me (all legally, of course).

Though I pulled the cork on my bottle a month or so ago, I've been quietly dreading having to write this post because, as I mentioned above, I wasn't able to find any information at all about Çimixà when I had previously searched online, and a new Google search didn't really get me very much new information either.  I went to look the grape up in Wine Grapes, and began to get despondent when I didn't see an entry under Çimixà, so I checked the index and found that it was listed under the name Scimiscià.  I know I was a little harsh on Wine Grapes in my review of that book, and I still stand by my criticisms, but it is really an excellent reference work and is very helpful for situations just like this one.  Their entry on the grape indicates that it is one of those grapes (like Pugnitello or Nascetta or Pecorino, etc) that was on the brink of extinction, but was rescued by a gentleman named Marco Baciagalupo, a pastry chef from Genoa, Liguria.  In the 1970's, Marco gathered together about 500 vines that were purported to be Çimixà and planted them all together in a single plot.  A local cooperative took over the job of caring for these vines in the 1990's, and by 2003, the grape was included in the national register of varieties in Italy.

Eagle-eyed readers may note that the picture I've included with this post is for a grape called Genovese, and not Çimixà or Scimiscià.  The reason for that is that a study done in 2009 found that the Scimiscià of Liguria was not only the same as the grape known as Frate Pelato in the Cinque Terre, but was also the same as the Genovese of Corsica.  It had been suspected that the Corsican Genovese was actually either a local curiosity or was identical to the Bianchetta Genovese/Albarola or the Bosco of Liguria, but this team was able to show that none of these hypotheses were true.  Though the three grapes share some morphological similarities, it doesn't look like any of them have any first degree relationships with one another, though Bosco and Albarola appear to be more closely related to one another than either is to Scimiscià.

The last published agricultural census for Italy was carried out before Scimiscià was added to the national register of varieties, so there currently is no figure on total plantings of the grape in Italy (though one imagines that the total is probably pretty minuscule).  According to this site, the Çimixà and Scimiscià names are dialectical variants of one another, and both refer to bedbugs because the vine apparently has these spots on it that look like bedbug bites, which is not very appetizing at all.  Under the name Genovese, Scimiscià can be found in some Corsican wines, but is pretty much used as a blending grape there.  As Frate Pelato, the grape is occasionally used in the blends of the Cinque Terre.  There are a handful of Ligurian producers making varietal wines from the grape, and nearly all of them use either the Çimixà or the Scimiscià name for their products.

Bisson chooses to use the Çimixà name on their label, though the wine itself is called "L'Antico."  I paid about $30 for my bottle from MCF Rare Wine in New York.  I am not sure whether any Italian DOC allows for a 100% Çimixà wine, but this was bottled as an IGT, so it's not really a problem.  In the glass the wine was a medium lemon gold color.  The nose was moderately intense with lovely, delicate aromas of peach, pear, lime, white flowers and chalk.  On the palate the wine was on the lighter side of medium with medium acidity.  There were flavors of apricot, lime peel, ripe pear, and golden apple with some chalky minerality on the finish.  The wine was subtle, delicate and elegant and was really just lovely to drink.  It's not a wine to lay down, though, and it had completely unraveled by the next day, but while it held together, it was very pretty.  It is a bit on the expensive side, as many wines from Liguria tend to be, but it's a really unique drinking experience and I don't feel slighted by the price at all.


Tony said...

As always, great work Rob! I knew if anybody was going to dig up info on that grape, it'd be you.

joseph brown said...

Thanks for posting this blog.another great piece of writing.I really appreciate it.

facebook fan page
facebook advertising