The second tasting of our recent trip to the Riviera saw us heading up another steep hillside, this time on the Italian side of the border and high above the medieval town of Dolceacqua. Altavia Vineyard has been going for eight years, producing the local wine, Rossese di Dolceacqua, and experimenting with grapes from further afield very successfully.
We had tasted the Rossese di Dolceacqua at home in the 2009 vintage and you can see my post on that wine here
. In situ, we tried the 2010 which was much lighter in body and our charming and knowledgable host, Chiara, told us about the local dish of rabbit, coniglio
in Italian, cooked with Rossese wine. We wished we could have stopped in the restaurant she recommended down in the town which had this speciality on the menu, but we had to give in to a most persuasive argument from our children who favoured the pizzeria nextdoor. Hopefully there will be a next time.
We loved Altavia’s white wine, Noname 2013, so called because they simply couldn’t come up with a name for it. It’s an exciting blend of the widely-grown local Vermentino grape, and the meatier Rhône grape, Viognier. With herby, aromatic and citrus flavours from the former and an added floral, zingy dimension from the French grape, the resulting wine is ideal for pairing with punchy seafood dishes, perhaps featuring a hint of chilli and spice.
Amongst the reds, we were intrigued by the recently-bottled Touriga Nacional, a grape associated with Portugal and port wine with its propensity to add structure and concentrated flavour and this 2005 single varietal is proof in point. Big, bold, black fruit dominates, but the tannins have softened sufficiently to make it just the thing to go with a hearty winter casserole or roast, preferably in January and not too far from a roaring log fire.
The tasting room at Altavia looks out over the valley with the same idyllic views as can be witnessed from two stone holiday villas on the property which are available for summer rentals. Located in the olive groves with vines on all sides and sharing a swimming pool, they offer true get-away-from-it-all stuff. For more information, check out the Altavia website.
Some of the Altavia wine range is available to buy in the UK at Red Squirrel Wines and the vineyard has an online shop. I was keen to buy some bottles from the cellar door and, despite much muttering from my husband about having to leave a child behind on the Riviera, I did squeeze a case selection into our boot together with some of the property’s extra virgin olive oil made from their own taggiasca olives. Now being tasted in Dorset!
The wines of Liguria are little known beyond its boundaries but local grapes like Rosesse (red) and Pigato (white and related to Vermentino) are well worth hunting out. Picking up on a recent tweet from wine critic, Jamie Goode, who had tasted some Ligurian wines on sale in the UK, I was straight onto Red Squirrel Wine’s website to check out their range. Not long afterwards, my order of Ligurian wines arrived here in Dorset, and very promptly too I might add – great service!
The Azienda Agricola Altavia is based in Dolceacqua in Western Liguria, a medieval village in the hills above Ventimiglia. Tonight’s wine is their Rossese di Dolceacqua Superiore 2009. Rosesse has been grown in this area since it arrived from Provence, just over the border to the west. It is grown almost nowhere else in the world, and is now thought of as the red grape of Liguria, giving wines that are deeply coloured and sometimes compared to Languedoc reds such as Minervois or Fitou. In a region that is dominated by aromatic, fresh white wines, it was good to try something a bit different – I can’t remember when I last drank a Ligurian red wine. Maybe this is my first (of many I hope)?
The Altavia Rossese is bold, earthy and blackcurranty with bags of Mediterranean herb flavours and a savoury edge that worked well with our mushroom-based pasta supper. The recipe for Tocco di Funghi, a mushroom sauce with a base of pine nuts, garlic and rosemary crushed in a mortar and pestle, from Fred Plotkin’s book ‘Recipes from Paradise’ was genuinely perfect for this unusual and distinctive wine. Can’t wait to try Rosesse in situ when we visit the area in August. Salute!
Altavia Rossese di Dolceacqua Superiore 2009
We bought ours at Red Squirrel Wines – £14.99
The Azienda also has an online shop