2016 Vouvray “Le Portail”Champalou
France | Loire
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by Anthony Lynch
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.
Drinking distilled spirits, beer, coolers, wine and other alcoholic beverages may increase cancer risk, and, during pregnancy, can cause birth defects. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/alcohol
Many food and beverage cans have linings containing bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical known to cause harm to the female reproductive system. Jar lids and bottle caps may also contain BPA. You can be exposed to BPA when you consume foods or beverages packaged in these containers. For more information, go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/bpa