The quest to discover new varieties or an interesting wine is at the heart of every wine writer. It goes hand in hand with the pursuit of increasing one’s knowledge of wine. Italy with its long history of growing and producing wine propagates the largest number of indigenous grapes. Today Italy cultivates well over 2000 different varieties. Recently at a luncheon at Café Del Rey with LA Wine Writers featuring the wines of Montalbera, we experienced wines from the Ruché grape.
The history of the Ruché grape appears to be vague. Some think the grape originated in Piedmont, while others feel Ruché came from Burgundy. Some say the variety arrived from vineyards in Haute-Savoie, France, but today its home is Monferrato in Piedmont.
The rebirth of the Ruché grape occurred in the 1970s when Don Giacomo Cauda, a parish priest, discovered a vineyard in Castagnole Monferrato bearing this fruit. In addition to his cultivation of this grape thereby, he inspired a new interest in this grape. In 1987 Ruché obtained its DOC designation, and in 2010 it received the DOCG classification.
Today Ruché is produced predominantly in the southern portion of Piedmont, primarily in Castagnole Monferrato. Montalbera produces about 60% of all the Ruché distributed worldwide.
Montalbera, a winery in the Piedmont region of Italy, specializes in producing both Ruché and Barbera. Although the Morando family cultivated grapes as a hobby for six generations in Monferrato and Langhe, Enrico Riccardo Morando expanded his vineyards to approximately 400 acres and established the winery in 1980. For over 70 years, the family produced Italian dog, cat, and horse food. Furthermore, Enrico’s fascination with Ruché wine helped launch its notoriety today.
Winery production began with Barbera. Starting in 2003, Montalbera focused on Ruché, which in turn became their flagship wine and also the winner of Gambero Rosso Tri Bicchieri, a first for this variety.
Laura Donadoni presented the Montalbera wines to a small group of LA Wine Writers. Our luncheon started with the Cuvee Blanche, an extra dry sparkling wine created from the Barbera grape. This impressive sparkling wine I consider bright and refreshing on the mouth yet fruity and dry.
La Tradizione 2015 Ruché Di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG: La Tradizione means the traditional and describes the style of this Ruché. This wine ages in stainless steel and exhibits floral aromas and flavors of dried fruit, almonds, and honey. One of my favorites at this wine tasting, I understand completely why Montalbera produces Ruché as their flagship wine. The wine transitions to a summer wine easily and pairs well with barbecues or served slightly chilled.
Café Del Rey’s chef, David Vilchez, paired this wine with a Cream Leek Pizza, Brussels Sprout Leaves, Corn, and Dried Plum Vinaigrette. In my case, due to allergies, a marvelous Gluten Free Pasta Brussels Sprout Leaves, Corn, and Bacon accompanied the wine. This course was a hit with all writers, including myself.
Laccento 2015 Runché Di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG: This wine sees no oak. A unique wine, which I describe as Amarone, meets Ruché because some grapes are picked overripe while a portion is air-dried directly in the vineyard. The wine is complex and fruity, especially with wild berries and hints of a spicy finish.
Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes, Salami, and Burrata accompanied this wine.
Limpronta Ruché Di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG: This wine is bigger and bolder than the other Ruchés we sampled. This wine ages 12 to 15 months in oak, after which the wine returns to stainless steel tanks for one month.
Lequilibrio 2014 Barbera D’ Asti DOCG: Exhibiting high acidity, this wine is nicely balanced with spice on the finish. A complex wine with tobacco and leather aromas, the wine ages 12 to 15 months in primarily new oak.
Nuda Barbera D’Asti Superiore DOCG: This wine is softer on the palate as well as in texture and considered Enrico’s signature wine.
Grilled New Zealand Lamb Chops with Grilled Fennel and Summer Squash Risotto paired with both the Barberas.
I departed this luncheon knowing this would not be the last time I sipped Ruché. Wine enthusiasts interested in expanding their knowledge of grape varieties should definitely explore Ruché