If you thought Liguria could be summed up by pesto and beaches, you are only partially correct. Wine likewise represents an integral part of the landscape—this narrow sliver, sandwiched between Piemonte and the Mediterranean, has seen its steep slopes cultivated for two and a half millennia, with Etruscans, Greek settlers, and the ineludible Romans making their mark on local viticulture. Driving along the coast today, you can still make out the remnants of ancient terraces covering the abrupt inclines facing the sea, telling of a people habituated to working the little land they have, no matter how steep or rocky. Nowhere is this more striking than around Dolceacqua, a charming village famously immortalized by Monet’s brush, where coastal hills morph into pre-Alpine ridges just a stone’s throw from the French border. These mountains once harbored terraced rows of Rossese as far as the eye can see. Two world wars and one bout of industrialization later, a scant eighty hectares remain, proudly cultivated by the last souls willing to brave these dramatic and incredibly labor-intensive vineyards. Named not for its color, but for its tendency to thrive in soils of pure rock, Rossese—called roxese or roccense in regional dialects—yields a wine that was prized throughout history, enjoying centuries of prestige until the terraces were largely abandoned, and much of what remained became subject to commercial market demands and excessive enological manipulation. Alessandro Anfosso is among the few remaining growers here who honor traditional ways of working, farming his ancient vines by hand, without herbicides, and bottling his wines unfiltered only when they are ready. Poggio Pini is Anfosso’s grand cru. Replanted just after the phylloxera epidemic, the vines on this sheer mountain face date back to 1888. These gnarled tree trunks produce a Rossese of great depth and class, with an epic mélange of fruit, floral, and savory nuances underpinned by a stony finale. The site is also home to some of the last Rossese Bianco vines in Liguria. Unrelated to red Rossese, this endemic white fell out of favor due to its low-yielding nature and the arrival of more marketable Vermentino. Anfosso’s Rossese Bianco somehow survived phylloxera; Alessandro estimates the vines to be around 170 years old. He crafts it the way his grandfather did: fermented spontaneously on its skins and aged in acacia casks. The textured, golden, honeyed Antea is truly a relic from an era past.
Flashback to 1888 on the steep mountainsides around Dolceacqua, not far from Ventimiglia. The Ligurian Alps, which emerge abruptly from the Mediterranean at the French-Italian border, are completely covered with vines—three thousand hectares of vines, to be exact, the majority clinging to near-vertical, rocky slopes terraced with dry stone walls. The Poggio Pini vineyard has just been replanted following the devastating phylloxera epidemic, its half-hectare of Rossese newly grafted onto resistant American rootstock. Now fast-forward to present day: only about eighty sparse hectares of Rossese dot the dramatic landscape. One of Liguria’s historically acclaimed wines once praised by the likes of Napoleon and numerous popes, Rossese di Dolceacqua fell victim to urbanization and mechanization over the latter half of the twentieth century—farmers deemed its precipitous inclines too difficult to farm and abandoned them to seek fortune elsewhere. The Anfosso family, proprietors of the breathtaking Poggio Pini vineyard, persisted. Alessandro Anfosso now farms this cru, proud to uphold the tradition his ancestors established over the five preceding generations. The 130-year-old vines at Poggio Pini give his greatest wine: a deep, silken Rossese that marries floral, smoky, and spice elements, culminating in a mouthwatering, stony finish. Equally adapted to fish, meat, vegetable, and mushroom dishes, this red is of unrivaled gastronomic value. But most of all, it is a riveting monument to one hell of a terroir, where the Rossese grape reaches heights that would make Alessandro’s ancestors, weary after a long day in their vineyards, proud.
Sourced from 170 year old Rossese Bianco vines (the oldest of all our producers!) the Anfosso Bianco is a rare bird to say the least. The short skin maceration lends a bit of color and most important, texture to this earthy, mineral, and exotic wine.
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