Thanks to its mountainous topography and its people’s firm commitment to local tradition, Liguria has remained relatively immune to the globalization that has seen international wine styles pervade in regions like Tuscany and the Veneto. The Ruffino family, who has grown grapes on the sea-facing slopes above the resort town of Varigotti for half a millennium, epitomizes Liguria’s wealth of viticultural treasures. In addition to Vermentino, Pigato, and Rossese—widespread throughout the region—they continue to grow heirloom grapes such as Lumassina and Barbarossa, and their vineyards are home to some of the last remaining plantings of Mataòssu and Crovino.
What’s more, the Ruffinos are reintroducing experimental plots of Vermentino Nero and Rossese Bianco, so expect exciting novelties to come from these sunbaked Mediterranean hillsides. With a dozen children running around the winery—the oldest of whom are already fully implicated in the family business—we have no doubt Liguria’s fascinating traditions will persist for many more years.
This gently sparkling dry rosé is the stuff aperitivo dreams are made of. A blend of Rossese and Crovino, it has the bright fruit and palate-cleansing fizz to wash down deep-fried seafood, or simply to quench one’s thirst on a warm afternoon.
Mataòssu is molto resistente,” Paolo Ruffino told me last summer. Resistente in the sense that wines from this near-extinct white grape are highly resistant to oxidation—the 2011 vintage is tasting superb today, and the 1999, shockingly, shows nary a trace of evolution. Fortunately, one need not wait to enjoy the fruit of these vines planted in 1934. The new vintage is full of herbal, citrusy refreshment, offering a waxy texture and a crisp, saline finish.
Don’t miss a chance to taste the world’s only Crovino—other growers uprooted their vines due to the variety’s low yields and tendency to drop its berries upon achieving ripeness. Those drawbacks are not enough to discourage the Ruffinos, who continue to wave the flag for this ultra-local medium-bodied red. With notes of fresh berries, pepper, and a sweet spiciness, it will wonderfully complement homemade pasta dishes or my favorite pairing, roast rabbit smothered with herbs.
More from the October 2018 Newsletter
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