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Like a lot of common wine-tasting terms, "rustic" is less than precise. It's wine language for poets, not for scientists, as its meaning shifts in ways that laboratory equipment can't measure. Indeed, my "rustic" might be your "urbane."
Still, "rustic" turns up fairly frequently in winespeak, and frankly, once explained, it translates into a wine of nostalgic pleasure for me.
Like the Country Mouse of childhood fable, as I wrote in a 2002 article on this wine-vocabulary term, a wine that's "rustic" lacks the smooth veneer of urban sophistication.
I noted then that the term was either too recent or too obscure to earn listing as a separate entry in the basic wine encyclopedias, an omission that remains un-filled in the most recent Third Edition of Jancis Robinson's comprehensive "Oxford Companion to Wine."
But it's clearly in modern use, as quick searches on Google - or through my own tasting reports on WineLoversPage.com - will quickly reveal: A quick search on "Rustic Wine Descriptor" brings up 854 Google hits.
So what is it? A "rustic" wine is hearty, earthy, perhaps even a bit rough. It's a wine that gives the impression of the good old days, before technology and a changing market inspired the production of "squeaky clean" wines that forswear earthy character in favor of pure, clean fruit.
For a fine example, consider today's tasting report, a red blend of 80 percent Sangiovese and 20 percent indigenous Ciliegiolo from Tuscany's coastal mountains, Massa Marittima. Then we ran into another fine rustic wine last night, Altos 2006 "Los Hormigas" Mendoza Malbec. More about that another day.
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I Campetti 2005 "Castruccio" Monteregio di Massa Marittima ($12.99)
Dark reddish-violet with a clear edge. Black cherries and spice in the foreground with hints of smoke and earthy "barnyard" lurking behind them. Flavors consistent, earthy black fruit built on tart, mouth-watering acidity, with dark fruit and pleasant barnyard in the finish. Definitely "rustic," but pleasantly so; an appealing, old-style wine and a fine red-meat match. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Mason, Ohio; a Marc de Grazia Selection. (Oct. 20, 2007)
FOOD MATCH: Grass-fed local rib eye steak, pepper-crusted and pan-seared medium-rare.
VALUE: This earthy, "rustic" style, like fruit bombs at the other end of the spectrum, has its fans and its foes. If you like the style, as do I, then it's a fine bargain in the lower teens.
WHEN TO DRINK: No rush to drink it more quickly than the next year or two, but the chances are that it won't evolve appreciably with cellar time.
Here's a producer fact sheet on the exporter's page, where you'll find links to specs on the 2005 Castruccio and many other I Campetti wines:
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