This Charmat rosé from the Marche region (central Italy) is surely in pole position for the award of most extravagant sparkling wine of my summer. A wine that’s strange in every way: the grapes used are the Vernaccia Nera di Serrapetrona and the color, scent and flavor are strange too. Yet, once tasted, it proved intriguing both for myself and for those who had the pleasure of enjoying it with me.
I’m not a fan of Charmat sparkling wines, I much prefer classic method ones. I was encouraged to try this by the surprising pleasantness of a still rosé wine produced with the same grapes by the same winery, Tenuta Colli di Serrapetrona, the Marche Rosato Serrarosa 2011, about which I wrote on Il Cucchiaio d’argento.
I’m intrigued by the versatility of the mysterious Vernaccia Nera grape, from which comes the only red Italian sparkling wine, which undergoes three successive fermentations. It’s been grown locally since ancient Roman times and was celebrated in 1893 in the Vine-growing and Enology Annual as the best red berry grape of the Marche region.
So, while waiting for cooler temperatures and the chance to try their red wines - the Sommo, Robbione and Collequanto, all made from Vernaccia Nera grapes - I decided to try this peculiar rosé sparkling wine. It’s an Igt (typical geographical indication) Marche rosato Brut sparkling wine, labeled Blink. It's been produced since 2007 from Vernaccia Nera grapes grown in the Vigna Serra vineyard in Serrapetrona. The grapes are Guyot-trained and grow at an altitude varying between 450 and 550m (1476 to 1804 ft), yielding about 8 tons (8.8 short tons) a year.
The grapes are picked in the last 10 days of September and then vinified by lying on the skins for between four and five hours, fermenting for a fortnight in steel vats and foaming in autoclave for sixty days.
It’s a rather difficult wine to describe. The color is atypical: it reminds me of pigeon blood rather than onion skin, with a ruby, pink grapefruit nuance. The perlage is nice and thin and the nose is fruity, evoking slightly candied cherries, citrus fruit, melon, with notes of redcurrant, pineapple, tropical fruit, dried papaya and honey, creating a complex, lively and decidedly personal ensemble.
With a nose like this you’d expect a soft, fruity, juicy taste. But instead this wine wrong-foots you - something I liked, as it added to the interest. It’s very dry to start off with, fresh, mineral, pared-down (typical of the land it comes from, as I’d already found out with the Serrarosa rosé). It possesses a wonderful acidity and a convincing vigor and has a slightly almondy ending, enough to set off even the richest foods it can be combined with.
What should you combine it with? I think it’d make a surprising aperitif, or the base for a cocktail mixed with tropical fruit, lime and pineapple. The producer suggests seafood and raw fish. The person who tasted the wine with me, who’s an expert in international cuisine, much more so than poor provincial me, claims the ideal combination is with a legendary crustacean, the King Crab or Kamchatka crab. It comes from the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia and it’s the most majestic of the cold sea crabs, a frightening beast - see the picture - with a 1.3-1.5m (4.2-4.9 ft) diameter and flesh so delicate and sweet it would, she says, marry magnificently with this Vernaccia Nera sparkling wine from Marche.
With such a combination, even the mythical Kama-sutra "joining of the crab" would become easier and more intriguing…
Tenuta Colli di Serrapetrona
Address: Via Colli 7/8
62020 Serrapetrona, MC, Italy
Tel. +39 0733 908329