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.
Ameztoi, "Stimatum," Txakolina Getariako,
Basque Country, Spain, 2013
Distributor: T. Edward Wines, 66 W Broadway Suite 406, New York, NY 10007
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Seem like deja vu? Yes we did recently feature a Txakoli from Ameztoi as our Wine of the Week at Blue Ribbon Restaurants. But that was a white wine. This is red and there is not a whole lot of it around. Red Txakolina is a rare bird. Made from an indigenous variety known as Hondarribi Beltza, its scarcity is due partly to the increasing development in the region, as growers have determined that their land can deliver more income by building condos than tending vines.
Ameztoi has decided to take a stand against this trend by planting some new acres of Hondaribbi Beltza and we are glad they have. This can be an expressive variety, reminiscent of Cabernet Franc, with its pronounced herbal and bell pepper notes and an ability to translate mineral flavors from the soil. Stimatum doesn't have the depth of the few older-vine versions of this grape that one finds in the market, but it's full of brambly red and blue fruit, crunchy acidity and that freshness so particular to seaside wines. It's full of energy and immensely drinkable.
We would be fans of this wine even if it weren't quite as good as it is. At Blue Ribbon, we want to support growers who are going that extra mile, who do the work required to produce something transportive. What Ameztoi is doing to preserve a piece of tradition deserves respect and the best way to show that respect is to join us this week for a glass of Stimatum... Or two, or a bottle. We'll leave that decision up to you.
Wine Director, Blue Ribbon Restaurants