Come join me on another our occasional excursions down the wine roads less taken, as we enjoy a quick look at Ruché ("Roo-kay"), an Italian red grape so obscure that it's only grown in a few small villages in the Castagnole Monferrato hills northeast of Asti in Piemonte.
It's such a rustic oddity, indeed, that the Italian Trade Commission's informative ItalianMade.com Website declares that almost nothing is known about the grape's history, which was never written down but exists only as an oral tradition.
Even the name of the grape is under debate. I've read that it comes from a dialect word for "rock," but this may reflect confusion with the French Roche. ItalianMade.com speculates that the Piemontese name boasts of the vine's resistance to roncet, a local term for "a degenerative infection of viral origin to which the variety is more resistant than others cultivated in the district, particularly Barbera and Grignolino."
Whatever it means, it makes a wine with a memorable aroma and flavor profile that offers a significant change of pace from the usual suspects. Put Ruché in your glass, and you certainly won't mistake it for Merlot. Pinot Noir, maybe.
I've reported previously on an excellent example from the importer John Given, Cantine Sant'Agata "Na Vita" Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato. Today's tasting features an import from the colorfully labeled "Il Circo" line of unusual Italian varieties from Bonny Doon Vineyards.
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Bonny Doon 2003 "Il Circo" Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato ($18.99)
This is a very dark purple wine with a bright reddish-violet edge. Luscious aromas offer a benchmark example of Ruché with a heady, rosy floral scent accented with warm brown spice. Rich and full in flavor, tart red fruit and spice, mouth-filling and plushy on first impression, but a firm core of acidity carries it into a clean, medium-long finish, with an unusual, intriguing hint of caraway seed and light tannic bitterness lingering. U.S. importer: Bonny Doon Vineyard, Santa Cruz, Calif. (July 16, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: It went very well with a light summer dinner of spaghetti with salsa cruda, hot pasta tossed with chopped fresh garden tomatoes, sweet onions, diced fresh whole-milk mozzarella and basil.
VALUE: I'd like to see it closer to the middle teens, but considering the strength of the Euro and the wine's artisanal status and flavor interest, it's certainly justifiable at this price, if only to add Ruché to your life list.
WHEN TO DRINK: Ruché is a wine made to drink young and fresh, and it will lose flavor interest as its fruit fades with time. It should be safe to drink it through the next year or so, though.
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Harvest begins this week at Château Palmer
Want to follow the harvest of 2005 with a close-up virtual visit to one of the great properties of Bordeaux? Château Palmer has launched its new blog-like journal, "The Daily Palmer," just in time to provide daily updates on the latest harvest information:
What's more, Château Palmer's main site is now online with a complete redesign. The stylish new site is easier to read, and it has expanded its most popular features, assuring quick access to tasting notes, online reservations for Château visits, and information about finding Château Palmer and Alter Ego wines in auctions, restaurants and wine stores around the world.
There's way too much to see in a single visit. Click now to start browsing:
California Wine Club:
Biggest Sale Event of the Year is Going on Now!
The Prices Falling Autumn Wine Sale, the California Wine Club's biggest Sale Event of the year, is now under way. Over 100 award-winning wines discounted at up to 58 percent. Premier Club wines are just $99/Case! International Selections and even the highly reviewed, rare wines in the upper level club, Signature Series, are also available at incredible savings. Stock your cellar today! 1-800-77-4443 or
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Schaefer on Wine: Zaca Mesa pursues the elegant course
Reports from our Readers: A visit to Château de Malle
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: How many countries are represented in your cellar?
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Another angle on 2003 - Beaujolais (Sept. 16, 2005)
Trade tasting (Sept. 14, 2005)
Oak or noak? (Sept. 12, 2005)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Butter (Sept. 15, 2005)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Sept. 19, 2005