|Photo: Hoke Harden|
Let us speak with fondness and respect of Ruché. Or to be correct and giving due credit, Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato, an altogether delightful and charming red wine, unpretentious yet satisfying, amiable and accommodating, either as a sipper or a dinner companion.
Ruché (pronounced roo-kay) also allows me to trumpet my sincere belief that this is the best time in history for wine drinkers, as there is more wine from more regions encompassing more styles from more places around the world than ever before, and most of it is available in a wine store near you.
Ruché is only recently available---possibly because it is one of Italy’s smallest production wines (it got as low as a total of 125 acres before the end of the century), exists in one place only (the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy), was always obscure and depended almost entirely on local consumption. It is also recently available because of the surge in demand for ever-more-esoteric and “undiscovered” wines. Fortunately, the growers in Piedmont were dedicated enough to their homeboy grape they began expanding and improving production early enough to satisfy the demand for what they dub “The Prince of Piedmont Reds” (the undisputed King being Nebbiolo).
One of those foresighted producers, Vigneti é Cantine EnricoMorando, expanded the plantings of Ruché significantly.
It’s a “rustic” style---which means to say, not glamorous, the kind of wine that never fetches high prices or the notice of the wine critic cognoscenti, the kind of wine that provides great pleasure but is not ravishing, full of bravado and bombast, epiphanetic.
I say you take your epiphanies where you find them.
|Ruché /Vigneti Enrico Morando|
Ruché is that rare creature, often sought, rarely found, an almost extinct autochthonous variety (I could have said indigenous or even local, but I like saying and writing ‘autochthonous’ because it’s a neat word). Or perhaps not; there are arguments that it comes from Bourgogne, but really, who cares all that much anyway? Fact is, it exists only in the Piedmont, and there only in two small provinces and a spare handful of villages. Any way you look at it, it’s rare, virtually unknown, and only now emerging into a quite crowded marketplace of wine.
Which means, of course, that you should pounce on it. I say that, mind you, with great ambivalence, fully aware that if you take the advice and buy Ruché and come to love it as I have, it will seriously deplete the already minor amount of this lovely wine for me to consume.
The pictured wine, most recently consumed subject of this article, was Ruché de Castagnole Monferrato DOCG by Enrico Morando, 2011. It was consumed at Coppio in Portland with some terrific pasta. Coppio’s wine list cooed that the Ruché was “one of the coolest wines we’ve ever served! Perfumed, dry, earthy, complex”.
It was all those things, and more.
Lightly dusted with fresh, fine ground black pepper, and mouth-watering tart berry fruit just underneath, with the lean, focused fruit acidity providing structure without resorting to tannins which are light. There’s an explosion of fruit on the first sip, mingled with some intriguing herbal notes, almost but not quite like Provencal ‘garrigue’, hot and dusty and ever-so-slightly resinous, the perfume of rose petals and fragrant dried flowers, mixed in with a solid core of spiciness to add yet another taste and texture layer. Think marinated spiced sour cherries and you wouldn’t be far off.
The Ruché made a profound first impression, but became amazing when exposed to the foods, a wide-ranging array of Italian-Piedmontese pastas, rich with mushrooms and olive and herbs.
|Photo: Vigneti Enrico Morando|
More than most wines, the Ruché has a curious ability to adapt its texture as well as its flavor to the food. Pillows of gnocchi, flat wide ribbons of chewy meaty pappardelle, delicate purses of spicy agnolotti---the Ruché handled them all, and fitted itself to all, with surpassing ease. It accompanied and accommodated even a firm herbed whitefish without any difficulty.
It is a chameleon of a red wine; lean, medium-bodied, tart, fruity, herbal, spicy, and most of all, precisely balanced in all its facets.
|Photo: Vigneti Enrico Morando|
Good luck. If you find some, make sure you get there before I do, or it won’t be there anymore. If ever there were a dependable, reliable, easily affordable house red that over-delivers in every way, Ruché de Castagnole Monferrato is that wine.