After my recent (and completely unsubstantiated, I hasten to add, your honour) comments about dullness of the average Pinot Grigio I felt a reminder was due about how exciting Italian wine can be. This is probably less a reminder to you, gentle reader, than it is to myself and my co-Rambler Julian - after all we both were traumatised by a youth of cheap and dull Pinot Grigio. The therapeutic antidote I am going to serve today is Manzoni Bianco, an Italian grape variety I discovered earlier this year at a natural wine fair. I was instantly impressed by it; and how could I not: it is a cross of Riesling and Pinot Bianco/Blanc, two of my absolute favourite grape varieties.
The wines I tried at the fair mostly impressed me by their freshness and minerality - elegant, light and clean. The first specimen I got into the scientific Wine Rambler tasting labs is a slightly different creature, a bolder and more substantial wine that easily rates as one of the most exciting discoveries of the year.
Manzoni Bianco is not an easy to track down wine. If you look hard enough you may find some in Switzerland but most is grown in Italy, in particular in Veneto or Trentino, where the Foradori estate is based. The winery was founded over a hundred years ago and the estate has been owned by the Foradoris for some 80 years now. Elisabetta took over in 1985 at the age of just 20 years and has since focused on local varieties and also on biodynamic winemaking. She grows Manzoni Bianco on some 3 hectares of land in the hills above Trento, on calcareous clay soil. The grapes are macerated for about a week in cement and then aged for a year in large acacia casks.
The wine that results from this process has a colour that I'd like to describe as cloudy amber, but when the cloudiness clears up for a while it looks like dehydrated pee - in a kind of pretty way. More important than the looks is the bouquet though and that's very exciting. There is a savoury note that almost makes you want to eat and not just drink the wine. I could go into individual aromas here - earthy mineral, oxidised banana skin, lovely pear, cocoa seed, subtle ash, flavoursome flowers, light caramel, oily furniture polish - but the bouquet really has to be experienced as a lovely balanced whole full of character and substance but also elegance that just brings all these aromas together.
What is striking about both the flavours and textures/taste is that the Manzoni is substantial enough that in a blind tasting you could easily confuse it with a red, especially when served at room temperature, and yet it keeps some of the freshness I crave from whites with higher acidity. On the tongue it is a great blend of fresh and savoury with just enough zing in the finish and a great texture. It is round, quite dry, has a bit of tannin and an echo of the wooden barrels but despite the oxidised character is also bursting with flavour. A wine that is very interesting and at the same time also a joy to drink. A balance that is not easy to strike. It does remind me a little of a good Lopez wine in its accomplished style.
Had my early wine drinking featured more of these wines and less dull Pinot Grigio the Wine Rambler may very we'll have become a more Italian venture.