Just across the French-Italian border from Nice, on the dramatically steep hillsides of western Liguria, Alessandro Anfosso farms Rossese in the Rossese di Dolceacqua DOC, representing the sixth generation of his family to cultivate this finicky grape that is capable of producing gorgeous wines. Markedly distinct from the Rosseses crafted by Punta Crena in the coastal Riviera Ligure di Ponente DOC, which are lighter and brighter, Anfosso’s Rosseses, made slightly inland on near-vertical rocky terraces, are darker, more structured, and charming in an altogether different way. The fruit—think cherries and strawberries—is more reserved, with smoke and stones sharing the stage. This wine pairs spectacularly with grilled and braised meats as well as a mushroom-based pasta or pizza. If you enjoy this red, I highly recommend trying Tenuta Anfosso’s single-vineyard Luvaira, Fulavin, and Poggio Pini bottlings next, the last of which is made from vines planted in 1888!
In the hills of western Liguria you’ll find Tenuta Anfosso, located in the town of Soldano, and the growing area (or DOC) known as Rossese di Dolceacqua. The grape grown here is the same Rossese as is planted throughout Liguria, but the terroir of Dolceacqua takes the grape to soaring new heights. The wines are reminiscent of Côte-Rôtie, with their combination of floral and roasted/bacon fat aromas and silky mid-palate with stoniness on the finish. There is a level of concentration, structure, spice, and minerality that the more fruit-driven Rossese from further east in Liguria does not possess.
A long, crescent-shaped sliver of mountainous coastline ranging from the French border in the west to that of Tuscany in the east, Liguria is a region of unrivaled Mediterranean charm. This applies not only to its colorful seaside villages and carefree, welcoming people, but also to the wines it produces—crisp whites and light reds designed to be quaffed with locally caught seafood.
Viticulture has thrived along these coastal hillsides since Etruscan times. Ancient stone terraces line the steep slopes all along the Riviera, many abandoned while others still host olive trees, lemon trees, and of course, the vine. What Liguria lacks in acreage, it makes up for in diversity and originality: home to numerous indigenous grape varieties, it produces wines of infectious local character.
The hallmarks of Ligurian wines are fragrant aromatics and lively freshness. Whites from grapes like Vermentino and Pigato capture the pervasive flavors of wild herbs and citrus with a sea-breeze salinity, while the rare reds from Rossese, among others, have a brightness of flavor that allows them to complement dishes from the sea or land—served with a slight chill, of course.
While Kermit’s history in the region is relatively recent, Liguria has rapidly become one of his favorite places to visit. It’s hard to blame him—enjoying a crisp, perfumed white with a platter of fried sea critters on the Mediterranean is definitely not the worst part of the job.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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