Sunday, July 15, 2007

In vino, (the search for) Veritas

Xtina and I set off yesterday morning at 8:30 on a special assignment: to discover the secret of the little-known grape, Lacrima di Morro d'Alba. Yes, it truly is a mouth-full. It's found only in a small zone surrounding the Marchigiani town, Morro d'Alba. (Most Italians see "Alba" and immediately conclude this is a wine from Piemonte. Nope. They could be forgiven. The grape is incredibly flavorful, a nice change from some of the ho-hum Sangiovese/Montepulciano breeds that dominate Central Italy).

We visited the wine-making duo, Piergiovanni Giusti and his lovely wife, at their cantina in the hills north of Ancona. Coming down from the mountains of Amandola, it was a stark climatic change. The cool mountain climes gave way to the hot and dry coastal plains. The sun has been baking the earth with unrelenting force around here since late May - not ideal conditions for sensitive little grapes, but it's not as bad as the summer of 2003 when much of this crop was cooked in record temps. It's hot, but not too hot. 2007, we're told with a wink to the sky, will be a good year. Magari!

We toured the vineyard Saturday morning, and got a lesson in history, chemistry and voodoo, and then went straight to the tasting. We had a few sips (and a few more) of their four wines - a rosato and three reds. The Rubbiano was exceptional, but the Luigino was a revelation, as good as anything I've tasted from this fine grape (pictured above). Amid my steam of compliments, he informed they only make 3,400 bottles per year. I quickly did the math: that's not nearly enough. We then sat down for a nice meal at the exceptional Falconara restaurant, Il Camino where we discussed all manners of things, tucking into a decadent Marchigiano meal of fresh fish. For dessert: ice cream drizzled with olive oil and white pepper, and a few more glasses of the Luigino. We came home with two bottles - one we are giving Massimo for his 60th birthday this weekend; the other we'll keep for a special occasion in Roma.

You can bet I'll have more to say about Lacrima di Morro D'Alba in the future.

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