E Wine of the Week
By Bruce Cochran
Costa Firoita Pinot Noir
Italy has many quiet corners, but few more beautiful than where the regions of Piedmont, Lombardia and Emilia-Romagna join. This is northwestern Italy, a diverse area bounded by the Alps on the north, the Apeninnes to the south, and the mighty Po River and its tributaries in between. As usual, the best wines are from the hills. These are the foothills of the Apennine Mountains, which traverse the peninsula from south to north. The cooler north slopes near Piacenza face the Alps, across the Po.
Long ago this area was owned by the French, first by the Bourbons, then by Napoleon, and the local dialect is said to reflect this, though my Italian isn’t good enough to detect it myself. I have noticed that the cooking there does show a certain refinement that I don’t always see in other areas. This is particularly true of their sauces, whether on a plate of filled pastas (tortelli from here to Parma and Reggio-Emilia, with tortellini and tortelloni more popular in Bologna).
Parts of the region are cool enough for pinot noir grapes to thrive. You may remember that the pinot family of grapes (pinot noir, pinot grigio-also called pinot gris-and pinot blanc all thrive in cooler climates). The style here is deep in color, rich in fruit, but not heavy, overripe and overly alcoholic as is sometimes seen in warmer places, particularly in some parts of California.
The rocky vineyards provide good drainage and low yields, both very important for quality grapes, the cool climate preserves crisp fruit acids, and the limestone contributes minerals that make for a clean finish.
From my favorite restaurant, La Rocca, I was introduced to the many wonderful wines produced in the area, and some of the winemakers. My favorite is Massimo Perini, who makes Costa Fiorita Pinot Noir. I was an immediate fan of its balance between deep color and refined fruit, palate-cleansing acidity and minerality on the finish. Fruit is emphasized over oak. It retails for $10-$12.