Saturday, October 27, 2007

In Praise of Sciacchetra

Now back in London, Gary and Lorraine share their new affection for one of Italy's rarest wines.

Been to Tuscany? Probably. If you have, you’re certainly no stranger to that wonderful fortified dessert wine served after most meals, Vino santo (or often, vin’ santo). A lighter and more mellow digestif than a heavy port or thick sauternes, vin’ santo is the perfect finish for a typical 6 course Tuscan repast.

But wait—there is something better! From the salt-washed hillsides of the Cinqueterre comes a truly astounding experience, which is simply not available anywhere else in the world. Sciacchetera (pronounced shock-a-TRA) is the result of leaving three local varieties of grapes on the vine until they are literally raisins, and then fermenting that intensely concentrated fruit using a unique method handed down through the generations. The only place it is produced is in the AOC of the Cinqueterre, those 5 towns dotted along the Ligurian Sea, each with a year round population of less than 1000. Vines are grown on the steep hillsides facing the sea and the sunset, giving them what are arguably the best views of grapes anywhere in the world. Vineyards are perched on these terraces, held back by thousands of miles of dry stone walls (more stonework than in the Great Wall of China).

This late harvest method creates intense flavours of honey and herbs with just a hint of tartness in a wine that is typically light amber to peach in colour. Try it with the local gorgonzola and you will be in heaven, or go all the way to the sweet side and dip your cantuccini (dried sweet almond cake) in it, just as the Tuscans do with their vin’ Santo. At 18% alcohol, Scciacchetera is not something to take lightly—you’ll enjoy it more if you have a walk, rather than a drive home afterwards. And of course, don’t be surprised at the price. Highly concentrated late harvest wine created with an ancient artisanal method on steep hillsides has its price—you’ll seldom get away at under €10 for a glass at a restaurant, and buying a small (500 ml) bottle of the aged stuff at the local enoteca could easily set you back €100 or more.

No comments:

Post a Comment