Monday, April 10, 2006

Manzoni, a discovery from Vinitaly

Mention Manzoni to most Italians and they'll think of Alessandro, the great 19th century novelist. However, in the Bergamasca they may remember that it's a white grape, a cross between Riesling Renano and Pinot Binaco that the farmers used to grow in their vineyards, but is now largely abandoned.

This may change, however, because the Produttori Riuniti Cantina Sociale Bergamasca, the local cooperative winery, has begun making it again, and I was much impressed.

The 2005 Manzoni Bianco IGT (a prerelease sample) is brassy gold with green reflections and brassy highlights, and has an intense bouquet with bright floral accents mingled with honeysuckle and slight petroleum (from the Riesling parent) that adds freshness and definition. Quite elegant, and very pleasant to sniff. On the palate it's intriguing, with bright tart white grape fruit -- it brings Moscato laced with lemon to mind -- supported by lively fairly mineral acidity that flows into a long clean fruit laced finish with deft acidity and further hints of petroleum that may sound odd, but work very well.

It will be very nice as an aperitif, with creamy delicate risotti, or with flavorful not too fatty white fish.

Bottom line: I think they've got a winner. The next step will be for the other producers of the Valcalepio region, whose white (Valcalepio Bianco) is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco, to follow the Cooperativa's lead, and help reestablish the gem they're fortunate enough to have.

For now, to taste it you'll have to visit Bergamo, a city many people see on their way from the Veneto to Milano or Piemonte. It's quite beautiful, and Manzoni Bianco is yet another reason to turn off the highway and spend a day or two exploring it.

The Cantina Sociale Bergamasca

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