Monday, January 28, 2008

Grape Variety #91: Ruche

Ruche is one of those great Italian varietals of unknown origin that has been a local favorite for a long time and has recently been "discovered" by the rest of the world. Usually, this happens only after most of the vines of said grape have been ripped out to make room for some more familiar variety (like Cabernet). Today, between 30 and 40 producers in the hills near Asti in the Piedmont region of Italy grow enough Ruche to make about 10,000 cases of red wine. A fraction of that production goes into making a sweet, dessert version of Ruche using the passito method in which grapes are dried in the sun to concentrate their sugar before fermentation.

Enter Randall Grahm, the man behind Bonny Doon. For the past few years--before he started selling off chunks of the business to focus on biodynamic viticulture--he's been importing Piedmont wines made by Luca Ferraris and selling them with Bonny Doon labels. Ferraris provided a number of wines to Bonny Doon, including a red table wine made from Ruche, Barbera, and Syrah (check out Smells Like Grape's tasting notes on this wine), and one of the region's Ruche passito wines.

The 2005 Bonny Doon Vineyard Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato Passito Ferraris was one of the best dessert wines I've had from Bonny Doon. I paid around $19 for this through the wine club, but it's on sale for $22.00/375 ml, direct from the winery. Often I find their dessert wines so sweet they are downright undrinkable (the botrytized Roussanne is an exception). This wine reminded me of port in its sweetness and flavor palate, but it was lighter in texture and felt less heavy on the tongue. Where this wine really stood out, however, was in its aromas of roses and raspberries. They were so clear and distinct that it was easy to track those flavors as the wine slid over your tongue. It was perfect on its own, and equally delicious with a piece of dark chocolate cake.

Italy continues to amaze me with these indigenous varietals that have so much character, and are so infrequently seen on US wine store shelves. Based on my experiences so far, I have to recommend that if you see an Italian wine made from a grape you've never heard of, you should definitely try it. There are some great grapes out there, and the wines are often very good value.

1 comment:

Taster B said...

Thanks for the link Dr. Debs! We love the Ferraris. Incidentally, I don't think there is another image that would better represent the wine in the bottle than the one they have on the label.