New Wines for a New Year: Wine Pairing Weekend Welcomes 2017 (#winePW)

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I’m really excited about this episode of Wine Pairing Weekend:  all of us will be writing about wines we haven’t tried before.  That might mean trying a grape variety we’ve just learned about, or sampling a wine from an emerging region.  Gosh, it could be both!  Take a look at what has inspired our group of food and wine writers this month:

You can join the conversation about new wine and food pairings to go with it! Our live #winePW Twitter Chat will take place this Saturday, January 14, at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. Just tune into the #winePW hashtag between 11 and noon ET that day. Check out past and upcoming Wine Pairing Weekend events here.

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What in the World Is Lacrima di Morro d’Alba?

Lacrima di Morro d’Alba is a DOC in Italy, but from a region you might not suspect.  I’ll give you a hint:  it’s not from the Piemonte region, famous for its Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco made outside the town of Alba.  And it bears no relation to the red Lacryma Chrysti wines of Campania, which derive from the grapes Piedirosso and Sciascinoso.  No, this beauty of a grape hails from the Marche region, on central Italy’s Adriatic coast, specifically a small town in the province of Ancona known as Morro d’Alba.  DOC regulations require that wines be made from at least 85% Lacrima, with the balance contributed by other non-aromatic red grapes.  The best producers don’t bother with them though, choosing to craft 100% varietal wines that make the most of Lacrima’s distinct aromatic character.

The name of the grape, Lacrima, means “tear” in Italian.  There are two theories on how it came by its name:  first, the clusters of grapes form an elongated, teardrop shape; second, as the grapes ripen, their extremely thin skins are prone to rupture, releasing tears of juice.  These thin skins also make the berries highly susceptible to pests and disease.  As if that weren’t challenging enough, Lacrima vines have trouble grafting onto many American rootstocks which, you’ll remember, make vinifera vine cultivation possible wherever phylloxera has left its mark.  In many cases, the callus that forms at the grafting point grows larger and thicker over time, eventually cutting off the flow of nutrients to the vine and strangling it to death.  Small wonder that Lacrima was almost relegated to extinction thirty years ago.

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Frederick I

Thanks to the attention and dedication of several farmers whose families have grown the grape for generations, plantings of Lacrima have increased from a total of 7 hectares in 1985, to over 200 hectares today.  I, for one, am truly grateful to these protectors of the vine for rescuing this grape: after all, it’s responsible for the most beautifully aromatic red wine I’ve ever tried.  Apparently there have been other Lacrima fans over the years, most notably Frederick I, also known as Frederick Barbarossa, who was Holy Roman Emperor from 1155 until his death.

 

Brunori Alborada Lacrima

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Learn more . . .

In 1956, Mario Brunori established his winery west of Ancona, in a small village called Contrada San Nicolò.  He formalized a family tradition of grape growing by beginning to bottle and sell his wines, based on local grapes such as Verdicchio, Montepulciano, Sangiovese and, of course, Lacrima.  The family tradition continues today, with his children at the helm: son Giorgio runs the business, daughter Cristina manages the office, and son Carlo is the enologist.  Production of their Lacrima wine is extremely low – just 5,000 bottles each year.  The Brunoris are committed to organic viticulture, a practice made easier by winds that keep the vineyards dry and free from disease – a necessity when growing a grape like Lacrima.  Native plants fill the rows between the vines, harboring helpful insects and retaining the soil.

The 2015 Brunori Alborada Lacrima di Morro d’Alba ($17 retail) is dark black cherry in color, and releases wafts of intense perfume with nary a swirl of the glass.  The first thing I smell is rose – the delicate yet insistent fragrance of a wild rose at the peak of its bloom:

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Aromas of rose petal are common to Lacrima wines

Then there is a little woodsy violet, a dash of cinnamon, and just a hint of dirt to keep those profuse aromas in balance.  On the palate, it’s all dark cherry and strawberry, with refined tannins and bright acidity.  The long finish, with notes of nutmeg and other spices, makes me think of a warm kitchen on a cold day, redolent of tasty treats in the oven.  This wine is 100% Lacrima and was fermented in stainless steel vats.  As with many aromatic varieties, oak is rarely used during the winemaking process, not even as a “condiment.”

The Pairing

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Broccoli Rabe Lasagna (The New York Times)

The outright audacious aromatics of this wine gave me pause when it came to possible food pairings.  What do you do with all that rose perfume?  I decided not to overthink it, and went with a broccoli rabe lasagna, itself a simple dish with earthy, comforting flavors.  (See the full recipe from the New York Times here.)  The acidity of the Lacrima was a great complement to the richness of the lasagna, with its creamy béchamel and cheese.  And the dark cherry and strawberry flavors of the wine rounded out the bitter notes of the broccoli rabe without being overpowered by it.  I’d rate the pairing as a success.  That said, I look forward to trying a more adventurous match with a Lacrima wine in the future.  Maybe a Persian dish made with a dash of rosewater?  I’m not sure, but you can bet I will try this wine again – and again, and again!  (If I can get my hands on a few bottles.  This wine is in frustratingly short supply.  Moore Brothers New Jersey, where I bought six of the Brunori Lacrima, has sold out.)

21 thoughts on “New Wines for a New Year: Wine Pairing Weekend Welcomes 2017 (#winePW)

    1. I’ve discovered some wonderful Italian varieties this year and look forward to sampling a few more in 2017. There are so many to try – makes for a thrilling wine adventure! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Martin. Have a great weekend!

      Like

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