Monday, March 16, 2009

New Grape of the Month: Cortese

I'm continuing to explore the Italian wine region of Piedmont this month, and today I have a new grape: Cortese.

Cortese is a grape indigenous to the Piedmont that makes bright, refreshing white wines. If you want to know more, follow the link to AbleGrape where (as the founder so rightly reminded me!) there is lots of information available.

Like many Italian whites, Cortese is lean and acidic--a far cry from the fruit-bombs many of us are used to drinking. As such it represents a delightful change of pace and gives your palate a good spring cleaning.

Recently I tried the 2006 Tenuta Merlassino Gavi, a very good QPR example of the grape. ($16.84, Garagiste; available elsewhere for around $20) Though the label here is for the 2005, we drank the 2006 and the label was identical. There were characteristic aromas of oily minerals, apple, and bitter almond. These aromas were followed up with flavors of apple and stony mineral water (Vitel was my pick) which were rounded up with a bitter aftertaste. The texture of the wine was slightly spritzy on first opening, then it smoothed out into a wine with a medium-bodied mouthfeel.

Fish is the typical food pairing for a Cortese, but I wanted to pick out the oily mineral notes and so made orecchiette with fresh tomatoes and an almond-pecorino pesto. The almonds did just what I hoped they would--they picked out the mineral and turned them nutty. And the wine's bracing acidity stood up nicely to the tomates and the basil.

If you like Italian whites--Pinot Grigio, Vermentino, Verdecchio, Garganega--I think you'll like Cortese. Give it a try if you see it on the shelf.

No comments: