Ronchi di Manzano Pignolo 2016

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fresh blueberries, black currants, lavender, juniper berries, tamarind, wet oyster shells


I am on a kick right now to stock rare and unusual varieties. I posted a full blog on the subject, but my inspiration is the book, Eating to Extinction by Dan Saladino. The details are in the blog post. After the World Wars in Europe the vast diversity of grape varieties were culled in favor of high yielding, predictable vines. Much like our food supply, the producers of the time traded flavor for ease and cost of production. Thankfully, there is now a generation of winemakers seeking out old varieties that are part of the historic fabric of many of Europes most famous wine regions. Over the coming weeks we will be bringing you many examples so stay tuned.

This week the feature is Pignolo, a grape variety that grows in the Friuli Colli Orientali, Italy’s northeast corner bordering Slovenia. The name of this variety translates to mean “fussy,” which describes the challenges in growing it. As a consequence, since WWII this grape has all but disappeared but a few stalwarts continue to produce small quantities like this version from Ronchi di Manzano.

I love several wines from this estate, which is run by Roberta Borghese with her two daughters, Lisa and Nicole. The property is quite large, over 150 acres, with vines growing in the mineral rich, limestone soils of the area called ponca. To get the finicky Pignolo to ripen the vines are planted in full sun exposure at the top of the hill, and harvested in late October. To buffer the big tannins for which this grape is known it is aged for two years in barriques before bottling. It is worth noting that 2016 is the current vintage, so this wine has spent an additional 5 years in bottle.

I suggest decanting this wine for a half hour before serving. On the palate this wine is incredibly dense, with concentrated fruit framed by firm tannins that persist into a long finish, accented by more chalkiness. Drink 2023-2028 with cotechino with lentils, grilled lamb chops or slow braised pork shoulder.

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