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.
"Teso" from La Zorra in Sierra de Salamanca
Distributor: T. Edward Wines, 66 W Broadway Suite 406, New York, NY 10007 - (212) 233-1504
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As I've mentioned here in the past, we occasionally come across wines for which we have no real frame of reference. The wine world has expanded rapidly over the last fifteen years and at a faster rate than any wine professional can keep up with. It seems that new appellations pop up every month and that varieties that nobody has ever heard of appear in the market regularly. This is due in large part to the surges made in viticultural and oenological technology. Advances in cleanliness, temperature control and vineyard practices allow growers to minimize some of the risks of that winegrowers have been subject to in the past and produce wines that are finer, more precise and higher in quality.
This has been especially true in Spain, where once-unknown regions now produce an incredible range of delicious wines. Case in point: our Wine of the Week, the "Teso" from La Zorra in Sierra de Salamanca. Never heard of it? Don't worry, neither had we! It's made from 100% Rufete. Never heard of Rufete? Ditto. It's a variety found in Portugal in Douro and in the southern part of Castilla y Leon, where we lay our scene this week. In this case the vines actually lie within the borders of the UNESCO Natural Park of Sierra de Francia-Batuecas. This is a biosphere reserve, protected by UNESCO in recognition of its unique geological and biological diversity. This forces growers to work as delicately as possible in the vineyards without any products that might be harmful, to ensure the preservation of the surroundings. So there are no chemicals, herbicides or fungicides that might encroach upon the surrounding flora and fauna.
This seems to have paid off in spades however, for the "Teso" is a delicious wine. It's in the profile of a red from the Southern Rhone valley, with dark red fruit, baking spice and dried herbs. But it also has some lift, an ethereal floating quality that ensures the wine never sits too heavily on one's palate. This lends a sense of elegance to a wine that might otherwise seem a little too rustic. Come discover something new this week at Blue Ribbon. You'll never again have to admit you've never tasted Rufete!
Wine Director, Blue Ribbon Restaurants