Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fortana: Vini Delle Sabbie from the Bosco Eliceo Appellation

Emilia Romagna boasts many important grape varietals, including the family of Lambruschi, and Sangiovese. The region also boasts many lesser varietals, and one of the more interesting (for me) is Fortana, a red varietal that has been grown in the sandy coastal zones of the Provinces of Ferrara and Ravenna for centuries -- some say since the XI century, while others say it was introduced by Renèe of France when she married Alfonso D'Este in 1500, and indeed it is also called Uva D'Oro, after Burgundy's Còte D'Or.

And it may at some point have resembled Burgundy's varietals, though the effort needed to adapt to its new surroundings has had a profound impact upon it. Because the Bosco Eliceo is one of the more extreme Italian terrioirs, sandy coastal areas with saline breezes, thick mists, and brackish groundwater that feeds the vines. The soils are also extremely poor, and -- another unique aspect -- inhospitable to the phylloxera bug, so the vines are on native stock rather than grafts.

The Bosco Eliceo Appellation allows the use of a number of varietals, including Fortana and Merlot for reds, and Trebbiano and Sauvignon for whites, but I chose to concentrate on Fortana since it is unique to the appellation. Wines labeled Bosco Eliceo Fortana DOC must be at least 85% Fortana (15% complementary varietals are allowed), and be at least 10.5% alcohol (more on this below). In terms of yields, the DOC allows a maximum of 150 Quintals per hectare, though I doubt many wineries approach that.

Three wineries were presenting Fortana at Vinitaly; they all make it in both sweeter and drier versions, and also in more or less sparkling versions. All share lively acidities -- Fortana is the wine of choice to accompany the eels from nearby Comacchio, and also cold cuts and fried dishes -- and all tend to be low in alcohol, by modern standards: 11-12%

This combination of low alcohol content and brisk acidity makes Fortana a perfect summer wine, to be enjoyed at cookouts, or with fried meats and fish, and also with cold cuts and other cool dishes, for example Vitello tonnato, or even rich vegetable frittatas. In the winter months it will instead be perfect with Ferrara's Salama da Sugo, a rich well-seasoned salami that is simmered for hours, and then served with mashed potatoes. The combination is delightful!

The Wines:

Tenuta Garusola

Tenuta Garusola Rosa delle Sabbie Spumante da Fortana
Non Vintage. Pale onionskin with fine perlage. The bouquet is fairly rich, with clean minerality and bright berry fruit; the overall impression is quite fresh. On the palate it's full and creamy with bright savory minerality supported by peppery accents from the sparkle and by acidity, which carries at length as the sparkle fades, taking on sea salt accents as well. It will be pleasant as an aperitif - it's quite distinct from other sparkling wines, with intriguing savory notes that reflect the sea salt of the region. It will also be nice a tutto pasto, with a variety of dishes, from cold cuts to cheesy stuffed pasta. 11.5%
2 stars

Tenuta Garusola Fortana del Bosco Eliceo DOC Frizzante 2009
Deep violet ruby with black reflections and purple foam that rises and settles. The bouquet is moderately intense, with floral accents and violets mingled with spice and some graphite shavings, and is fresh in a saucy sort of way. On the palate it's drier than some of the others, with dry rather tannic berry fruit supported by the sparkle, which confers a certain zest. I would have liked a little more richness overtones the fruit, and don't think I would drink it by the glass. On the other hand, its dry tannins make it a great bet with rich cold cuts (including porchetta), or with meat-filled pasta dishes. Expect it to go quickly (lightly chilled) in the proper setting. 11%
1 star

Tenuta Garusola Rosso Garusola Emilia IGT 2009
This is an IGT because it's from a vineyard planted on alluvial river sands (rather than marine sands) just west of the Bosco Eliceo Appellation. It's pale brick ruby with white rim, and has a muted bouquet (it was just bottled) that reveals, with swishing, minerality, spice, and cedar from grapes. On the palate it's ample and quite smooth, with fairly rich berry fruit supported by brisk acidity and smooth sweet tannins that are less dry than those of some of the other Fortane, and flow into a clean savory finish with tart mineral acidity and slight sandalwood accents. By comparison with the other wines it is more polished; it's pleasant and quite approachable, though in a tart key, and will be a good introduction to Fortana for those new to it. It will work quite well with lesser grilled meats or hearty pasta dishes, and will go quickly. 11%.
2 stars

Tenuta Garusola Fortana del Bosco Eliceo DOC Frizzante Dolce 2009
This is 9% alcohol, which means there is still a fair amount of sugar. It's pale violet ruby with fine perlage that foams and settles.The bouquet is fairly rich, with jammy berry fruit supported by savory spice and a certain airiness and lemony acidity. Zesty. On the palate it's full and sweet, with rich cherry fruit supported by dusky tannins and sweetness, and by lively lemony acidity that flows into a clean bright finish, while the sparkle confers fullness and a creamy aspect. Nice, and will drink quite well at poolside or with simple cakes or cookies, or a crostata with fresh fruit.
2 stars

Azienda Agricola Corte Madonnina

Corte Madonnina Fortana del Bosco Eliceo DOC Frizzante 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with fine perlage that bubbles up and settles back. The bouquet is fairly intense, with savory balsamic accents and some underbrush, also spice from the grapes that has slight cumin overtones. Very interesting. On the palate it's fairly light, and dry, with moderately intense cherry and forest berry fruit supported by savory accents and tannins that have a sandalwood-cedar underpinning from the grapes, and flow into a clean bitter finish. It's graceful in a fairly light and is softer than some of the other Emilian sparklers -- less pressure makes for a creamier feel -- and quite welcoming. It will be nice with cold cuts, stuffed pasta that's not too rich, and will also be nice with simple grilled meats. Considerable character, and it will go quickly. 11.5%
2 stars

Corte Madonnina Fortana del Bosco Eliceo DOC 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black cherry rim paling to white. The bouquet is delicate, with berry fruit laced with sandalwood and savory spice. Quite fresh. On the palate it's medium bodied with fairly bright mineral-laced berry fruit supported by dry tannins and mineral acidity that flow into a clean bright mineral finish with some tannic underbrush that fades into lasting mineral acidity. A pleasant light food wine that will drink well with simple grilled meats or light stews, and will go very fast. Because of the dryness of the tannins it will also work well with fattier grilled meats, e.g. pork spare ribs seasoned with salt, pepper, and chopped rosemary in the Italian way. 11.5%
2 stars


Mattarelli Fortana Bosco Eliceo DOC 2008
Deep violet ruby with rich cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with berry fruit laced with sandalwood from grapes and some savory accents; the overall impression is harmonious and nicely balanced. On the palate it's light, and deft, with fairly bright berry fruit supported by lively mineral acidity and smooth cedar-laced tannins that flow into a clean fresh mineral-laced berry fruit finish with dry tannic underpinning. A very pleasant wine for pasta with meat stuffings, quickly grilled meats, and will also be nice in the summer months as a cookout wine. If you seek the smooth softness of a merlot it won't work for you, but if you like brasher more tannic wines it will. 11.5%
2 stars

Mattarelli Fortana Frizzante Bosco Eliceo DOC 2009
Deep violet ruby with violet rim, and violet foam that rises and settles. The bouquet is fresh and rich with violets supported by berry fruit and brambly bitterness mingled with dusky shade with hints of sweetness too. Pleasant, harmonious, and rather haunting. On the palate it's light, deft, and quite dry, with moderate berry fruit supported by spice and savory accents, and by tannins that have a pronounced burr that rakes over the tongue flowing into a rather bitter fruit laced finish. It will be nice as a cookout wine (lightly chilled) and will also be nice indoors with quickly cooked summer foods. It will be perfect in the proper situation, and grilled peppers and grilled chicken come to mind. 11%
1 star

Mattarelli Fortana Bosco Eliceo Frizzante Dolce DOC 2009
This is 7% alcohol, about that of a Brachetto or a Moscato D'Asti. It's lively cherry ruby with black highlights and foam that bubbles up and fades. The bouquet is bright, with rich berry fruit supported by sweetness and some dusky accents with considerable sandalwood spice. On the palate it's full, soft, and sweet, with rich cherry fruit supported by moderate berry fruit acidity and sparkle, while the tannins are smooth and almost candied. It's softer and more lascivious than the Tenuta Garusola, in part because it has more sugar -- 7% alcohol as opposed to 9% means that much more unfermented sugar. It's quite approachable, and will drink very well at poolside or in other occasions in which one might drink a sparkling Moscato. If you prefer softer sweet wines you will like this interpretation of Fortana Dolce, and if you would rather a little more direction you will prefer the Garusola,
2 stars

Bottom Line: Fortana is an interesting, and extremely approachable wine will be quite nice in the summer months, or with rich winter dishes along the lines of Salama or Zampone. It will age well for at least a year following the harvest, and perhaps two, though i don't think I would keep it for longer, because its freshness is one of its strong points.

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