It was way back in 2006 that then New York Times dining editor Frank Bruni brought a bottle of Pelaverga to Eric Asimov’s Thanksgiving tasting panel.
“Among the reds,” wrote Eric at the time, “Frank, naturally, brought the most arcane wine of the meal, a 2004 Verduno Basadone from Castello di Verduno, made from the Pelaverga Piccolo grape, which is obscure even in its home territory in the Piedmont region of Italy.”
In the wake of that piece, Pelaverga seemed to explode in the Italian wine scene in the U.S.
American wine cognoscenti have a quenchless thirst for “arcane,” highly localized Italian grape varieties. And Pelaverga, with its distinctive white pepper note and purported aphrodisiacal properties, really hit the spot (and paired exceedingly well with Thanksgiving turkey!).
Today, Pelaverga from legacy estates like Castello di Verduno and Burlotto are sine qua non for any self-respecting Italian wine lover.
In the light of this, there’s no doubt in my mind that American wine professionals are going to be eager to taste a new-old Pelaverga clone that just found its way to our shores. The wine comes from a farm called Cascina Melognis in Saluzzo township in far-western Piedmont at the source of the Po River.
Full disclosure: the wife and husband, Vanina and Michele, who grow and vinify these wines are our good friends. And Michele is also technically my boss: he is the director of the master’s programs in food and wine communication at the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences in Bra (Piedmont) where I have been teaching for the last three years and where I’ll be returning again for the 2018-19 session.
When Michele told me that Kevin Pike of Schatzi Wines had decided to import their organically farmed and spontaneously fermented wines, I couldn’t have been more thrilled for their family. Arguably one of the most scholarly among wine purveyors in the U.S., Kevin is one of the brightest rising stars in our industry imho.
The Schatzi producer page devoted to Cascina Melognis is some of the finest wine writing on the internets today. And I’ll leave it to Kevin to tell the story of the clones, soils, and unique climatic conditions of Revello hamlet where Vanina and Michele farm.
“Pelaverga Grosso (distinct from the Pelaverga Piccolo variety of Verduno),” writes Kevin, “is characteristic of the area around Saluzzo. Here it was long a staple in blends, but its importance shrank over time, until it nearly vanished in the 1970s. Today, careful site selection and pruning are bringing about a small and welcome renaissance for the grape. Its peppery, high-toned freshness, and delicate floral and herbaceous notes are quintessentially Alpine. It is still rare to find monovarietal Pelaverga from anywhere in the Piedmont, let alone the Colline Saluzzesi.”
I know this wine is going to be a big hit among Italian wine lovers. It has everything going for it.
But my favorite wine in their lineup is the Ardy, a lip-smacking blend of Barbera and Chatus grapes.
Chatus, you ask? Click the link to read Kevin’s excellent write-up.
Vanina and Michele’s wines are vibrant, electric, wholesome, and delicious. They are the children of their deep knowledge of grape growing, winemaking, and aesthetics.
Mazel tov, Vanina and Michele, for your new relationship with Schatzi! And chapeau bas, Kevin, for bringing these extraordinary wine to our country and our dinner tables!