‘E’ Wine of the Week
By Bruce Cochran
This week let’s go to Tuscany, a place where a lot of us are probably planning to visit — maybe this year, maybe some year in the future. But even if you’ve been there before, only the more adventurous have seen the Maremma, a fascinating, and less touristy part of Tuscany, famous for the Etruscans for which Tuscany was named.
This month’s Wine 102 topic is an overview of Lake County, “next to Napa.” Wine 102, now in its seventh year, is distributed free to the public via the countertops of wine retailers around the state. Go to brucecochran.com for a complete list or where to find it.
Try a new wine this week!
Rocca di Montemassi Vermentino
A lot of Americans go to Tuscany each year, but relatively few venture to the southern Tuscan region called the Maremma. This relatively undiscovered region has great food and wine, ancient cities like Volterra and their many Etruscan artifacts and far fewer tourists than northern Tuscany. The Etruscans were the somewhat mysterious people for which Tuscany was named. Many stone tombs exist, but few homes, which were often made of wood.
The Maremma is beginning to be discovered, partly because of their excellent wines, like Tenuta Ornellaia and Sassicaia, near the northern coastal parts of the region. For you travelers, it’s called the Bolgheri coast, near Cecina. Over the past two or three decades, these and other wines have drawn some of the world’s most notable winemaking families, including Antinori, Fescobaldi, Gaja and Mondavi. These now-famous wines are expensive, as is the land.
Now the movement has spread south. Southern Maremma has become one of the world’s most rapidly expanding wine regions. Not bad for a former salt marsh that was drained to get rid of malaria-causing mosquitoes!
Morellino di Scansano is the name to know for reds. It’s the name for the local strain of the Sangiovese grape, upon which most traditional Tuscan reds are based. It can be a real bargain because it’s not a widely known name.
A wine I recently discovered in my home base of Little Rock was even more exciting. One of my favorite seafood wines is Tuscan Vermentino, and it’s not always been easy to find. After experiencing a great Vermentino years ago at one of Tuscany’s many fine seafood restaurants, I’ve been looking to recreate that experience. Now, I’ve found the wine.
Rocca di Montemassi Vermentino, from southern Tuscany’s Maremma is crisp, lively, balanced and delicious. It’s the seafood wine that I’ve been waiting for and it’s a great joy to have found it. If you like sauvignon blanc, or perhaps Spain’s albarino, you’ll like this, too. Retail $15-$20.