2016 Vouvray “Le Portail”Champalou
France | Loire
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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.
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.
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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