Where does it come from:
The origin of Altesse has been the subject of some debate. It has been suggested that it's identical to Furmint, the noble Hungarian variety used to make the great sweet wine Tokaij. However others suspect that it is indigenous to the hills of Savoie. Today there are fewer than 1,000 acres under cultivation, mostly in France, though there is a small quantity in Switzerland.
What's it like for the farmer:
Altesse needs gentle care, as it is quite to susceptible to the most common forms of grape rot.
Contrada Salandra, Piedirosso, Campi Flegrei, Campania, 2010
Distributor: David Bowler Wine, 119 W. 23rd St, New York, NY, 10011
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As the temperature spikes, our minds at Blue Ribbon turn to chilled red wine. We like bright crunchy reds that can quench our endless thirst and still seem dense and satisfying alongside dinner. These wines can come from anywhere from the Loire Valley and Sicily to the Canary Islands and the Sierra Foothills but this week's Wine of the Week originates in Campania, just ouside the city of Naples.
Naples is best known for glorious rustic food, crazy drivers and as a hotbed of thermal volcanic activity. Perhaps the best known wine in the region is Taurasi, the famously long-lived red made from Aglianico. Piedirosso is a very different drinking experience than Taurasi, but the roots of its character are found in the same volcanic soils.
Contrada Solandra is an organic wine estate and bee farm that stands out in the landscape, as it is sandwiched into the hillside among pricy seaside vacation houses. It was purchased by the father of its current owner, Giuseppe Fortunato, in 1980. Giuseppe is committed to maintaining a healthy, ecologically diverse environment (hence the bees), so as to reduce the impact of grape-growing on the surrounding landscape.
His Piedirosso is a class act. It's full of fresh red fruit and gains depth from some compelling savory notes of bergamot and roses. The tannins are quite fine and unobtrusive and there is plenty of acidity. But what really makes an impression is a smoky quality that seems to come right up from the active volcanic soils underneath this corner of Italy. It makes for a truly compelling experience. Why not come over this week and try some?
Wine Director, Blue Ribbon Restaurants