Monday, January 2, 2012

A Rare Red Wine

Recently, I visited a vineyard that makes some of Italy’s rarest wine. Vernaccia di Serrapetrona, a bubbly red, is produced in a tight geographic area within the province of Macerata. This wine is not to be confused with Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a still white wine from Tuscany.

Vernaccia di Serapetrona is an ancient wine mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy.

On the day I visited the winery, we drove through the vineyards after lunch. Signore Lanfranco Quacquarini, the owner, met us and took us into a large shed where bunches of grapes were hanging on racks and trellises; he explained the process to us.

Vernaccia Nera grapes drying
at Lanfranco Quacquarini winery
Following an ancient production method, the wine ferments three times. The grapes are harvested from mid-October to the beginning of November. Half the grapes are placed in traditional fermentation, but the other half is hung to dry until the end of February.

At that point, the dried grapes, now resembling raisins, are added to the mixture, and it ferments again. After a few months, the wine is transferred to pressurized steel tanks where it undergoes final fermentation before bottling.

Vernaccia di Serapetrona holds the highest classification of Italian wine: D.O.C.G, which means that the production and labeling is rigorously controled by law. Wine carrying this designation is tested and tasted by government-trained inspectors before it is bottled. To prevent adulteration, a numbered seal is affixed to the wine neck capsule.

This wine is produced in one of the smallest designated areas in Italy on the lower slopes of the Apennines. The government requires that the wine be made from at least 85 percent from a grape called Vernaccia Nera.

The Lanfranco Quacquarini vineyard, one of a few producing this wine, occupies 45 hectars at 400 meters (1300 feet), and uses 100 percent Vernaccia Nera. It’s annual production of both sweet and dry Vernaccia di Serapetrona is about 40,000 bottles. It is distributed only in the regions of the Marche and Tuscany, although I have seen some for sale on the internet from the UK. The winery makes only this wine and a grappa distilled from the residue leftover from the wine production.

If you are lucky enough to sample this wine, enjoy the dry with a local salami called ciauscolo, a spreadable salami. The sweet is good with biscotti.

I had the pleasure.


E. B. Davis said...

Oh Patricia, our tastes in wines must be very different. My main character, Abby, is a champagne and sparkling wine supplier for weddings. In doing research (it was such a chore!) for my WIP, I read about and tasted many sparkling wines. The Italian ones were always too sweet for me. I wonder if the dry ones are really dry. Most that are labeled "dry" are still too sweet for me, although I realize that champagne historically was meant to be very sweet. I'm thankful that benchmark changed. Red sparkling wines I've tasted were not my cuppa either. I'm glad you liked it, and I enjoyed hearing about your tour. So much to learn, so little time.

Patricia Winton said...

It is an acquired taste. I prefer dryer wines for general drinking, but with a really sweet dessert, I think a sweet wine is a good match.

Ramona said...

This sounds like a lovely way to research, Patricia!

Patricia Winton said...

Ah, Ramoa, you've found out my secret plan.

Una Tiers said...

This was very informative. Thank you. I love sweet wines icy cold.

Patricia Winton said...

I'm glad you found this interesting. The production method is the thing that distinguishes this wine with half the grapes dried before being added to the mix. And there is a dry version, as well.