Rossese: the wine of the rocks

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Rossese? It doesn’t exist. Or it should be named differently: Roccese.

Like a historical joke, an oenological tongue-twister, the wine of Dolceacqua and above all its surroundings (the town which produces the most and where you find the most famous businesses is Soldano) changed its name. It became something more ‘wine-like’, exactly like the coloured “Rossese”, but perhaps less real and genuine. Its old name, “Roccese”, gave away the real secret of this grape variety: grown in hard soil made up of rocks.

Grown in hard soil made up of rocks

vigne vitigni rossese roccese dolceacquaFollowing this old name, perhaps hidden due to a hint of shame, helps us to discover this lovely and harsh land, where for centuries there has been a constant struggle against the difficulties of a wild land. Arriving in Dolceacqua, a crib-like town made up of pieces of history, getting to Camporosso and travelling down until Soldano where the Guglielmi, Anfosso, Giuncheo and Cane families continue to battle with nature and the rocks as their great-great grandfathers did centuries ago, you understand why the Rossese-Roccese is something unique in the world.

Great personalities for a great wine

It’s inevitable that a man like Napoleon Bonaparte savoured its flavour: he was a born fighter, therefore sentimentally close to the grape growers of this valley. It was during a visit to the ancient Doria family that the emperor fell in love with this jewel of a drink: so much so that he had several barrels sent to Paris as well as to accompany his military campaigns in Italy. He wasn’t the only one. Little less than three centuries earlier than him Pope Paul III Farnese, who had the religious merit to convoke the Council of Trent and the artistic merit to commission Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgement’, believed in his old age that Roccese restored vigour and used it ”to make soup when the north wind was blowing”.

It’s worth leaving prejudices and preconceptions behind to discover, maybe around the time of the grape harvest, what the real Roccese-Rossese is: the fruit of man’s labour, of the peasant who breaks the rocks and plants life, often growing them from saplings, as Mediterranean tradition would like. During summertime, the foliage of the plant overshadows its foot and therefore its roots, protecting them from the suns rays during the heat of the day. The result? That which Paolo Massobrio, journalist and food expert as well as a fan of the riviera’s wine, simply described as:

A great red Italian wine which I like very much. I like it because in the best bottles I find the typical Ligurian tastiness, and it’s a wine which goes well with the dishes of the Terre Intemelie: not just meat, but also fish. I think of baccalà and stockfish for example, which are the basis of many applause-worthy dishes here

For those most interested and most curious, some addresses are invaluable:

Tenuta Giuncheo a Camporosso
Ph. +39 0184 288639

Giobatta Mandino Cane a Dolceacqua

Ph. +39 0184 206120

Terre Bianche a Dolceacqua
Ph. +39 0184 31426

Poggi Dell’elmo a Soldano

Ph. +39 0184 289148

Tenuta Anfosso a Soldano
Ph. +39 0184 289906

Kà Manciné a Soldano
Ph. +39 0184 289089

Me and Liguria: a beautiful story. I like to see it, travel through it in a rush or…

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