I spent my first few days in Italy down on Mt. Etna, observing the harvest at Passopisciaro. Andrea Franchetti, its owner, showed me how the color of the leaves and slope of the hills could allow him to predict what would be ready first – the vines with yellowed leaves were already bare, the sugars directed to the grapes on the areas where the soil wasn’t as rich (the deeper the green, the later the ripening goes his approach); and where there were depressions in the vineyard, however slight, those grapes too were still left to ripen, while the edges of the rows on higher ground were already plucked. We tasted from plant after plant, and for the first time I could really understand how much a single vine could vary from its neighbor. Some were just on the cusp of ripeness, with sweet juices bursting in my mouth and the seeds easily falling apart, where as others still maintained a tart, green edge.
Living with a white wine drinker, I have a whole collection of red wines I never drink. They’re usually too heavy, dense, or “meaty” as he likes to say. But on a recent date night to New York’s Maialino, I thought I’d make a push for something we might both enjoy, given the chill in the air. I gave sommelier Erik Lombardo my challenge: help us find a light-bodied, acid-driven red that even a white wine drinker could love. He came back with a grape I’d never heard of—Rossesse from Liguria, the thin-strip of land in northwestern Italy that hugs the Ligurian sea and best known for playing host to Genoa, the capital city for pesto-lovers everywhere. Lombardo described the wine as having a briny acidity, and I was immediately intrigued. Continue reading