Thursday, 22 March 2012

A Great Place To SITT

Due to the usual nonsense that is work, my recent attempt to leave the office at twelve was thwarted until nearer two o’clock. Still an early finish you might say, but I was heading to the Specialist Importers Trade Tasting (SITT) where there were forty or fifty exhibitors all of whom were desperate for me to try their wares and all of whom were only there until four o’clock. Hence my muttering, mumbling and occasional disregard for the speed limit all the way into the centre of Manchester.

As it was, I only got to try about half of the wines that I had earmarked in the catalogue, although that wasn’t too bad given the length of my list and the mere two hours that I had to work through it. Mostly it was a nice chance to catch up with people who I only tend to see at SITT each year, but there were one or two things that really stood out. A very fine table full of Austrian wines offered by Clark Foyster had some extremely good Grüner Veltliners, but was most notable for its reds. In spite of its reputation for white wine, I do have a serious soft spot for Austrian reds and the 2010 Moric Blaufrankisch was a belter.

Distilleria Gualco,
Grappa Di
Dolcetto D’Ovada
My discovery of the day, however, was Distilleria Gualco, an artisan grappa producer based in Piemonte shown by Compass Spirits. Giorgio Soldatini, the current scion of the family who founded the business back in 1870, was on hand to present a selection of his grappe, aromatised grappe and liqueur grappe. I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to grappa, so the aromatised and liqueur offerings weren’t particularly up my street, but the “regular” versions were nothing short of brilliant.

The unoaked Grappa Di Dolcetto D’Ovada was bright, fresh and grapey, redolent of the vinacce it was made from and with a peppery, spicy character.

Distilleria Gualco,
Grappa Senza Nome
Next came the Grappa Senza Nome (“Without Name”), a golden coloured elixir distilled from Barbera grapes and aged for five years in oak barriques. This was sweeter and richer than the unwooded Dolcetto, a little fierier too. There was a definite oak character, but again the fresh grapiness of first-rate vinacce had not been lost.

Distilleria Gualco,
Grappa Rubinia
The final two were really quite different, even amongst the relatively small number of barrel-aged grappe one generally encounters. Grappa Rubinia, a Moscato grappa aged for six years in 200 litre acacia casks, was a beautiful amber colour. It had a woody yet obviously Moscato nose, warming yes but fruity, complex and with a lovely, wooded roundness to the palate.

Distilleria Gualco,
Grappa Rosina
Finally came the Grappa Rosina, another Dolcetto-derived grappa but this time aged in acacia casks for nine years and bottled at 56% ABV rather than the 42% ABV of the preceeding three. More bronze than amber, this had a sweet, earthy, coffee nose, with definite hints of gianduja. Similar flavours were carried through to the palate where, despite the substantial influence of the alcohol and acacia, there was again a brightness at its heart that shone out. A truly exceptional grappa by any standards.

Needless to say, reader, I promptly ordered a collection of Gualco’s finest and I await a suitable occasion to pull some of their corks.

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