Wines of the Nervia Valley
The Rossese grape is not well known but has been grown locally for hundreds of years and is still cultivated and processed by hand, using only Copper Sulphate to control pests.
Gordon Home, an English traveller writing in 1908, commented on the ‘songs and laughter’ at harvest time, the ‘baskets full of luscious purple grapes’ carried into the village of apricale and the wonderful fruits and changing colours to be experienced on the hillsides in autumn.
Many local families still have a little vineyard and a cantina in which to store their home produce. The most skilled make some lovely wine for family consumption and distil good grappa too. Gordon Home recommended tasting as the only way to distinguish poor quality from ‘truly wonderful’, so not much has changed! Price is not necessarily the best guide. More and more family vineyards are selling wine commercially.
Napoleon was reputed to admire the red wine of the area. It’s reputation is steadily being revived by visitor interest and the efforts of local entrepreneurs.
Our current favourite, right beside Terra Biance is a small one man and his mother operation with wine to rival their bigger neighbour’s. This wine is fermented in wooden barrels without yeast or additives in the cantina from which the wine is sold in Dolce Aqua. To taste and buy find the store room to the right the tourist information or follow the little signs saying Testalonga which point to the back street and cantina where the wine is made. If in doubt ask the locals, they will point you in the right direction.This traditional organic Rossese with distinctive brown paper label has a delicious deceptively light but earthy quality and Doc registration.Mother and son also produce a coloured Vermintino typical of the Nervia area, which takes around 4 years to mature. Very good, but with no doc registration because of the off white colour produced by fermenting over the grape skins. Price 10 euros from the cantina, more if you buy in local shops.
Located in Soldano which is not in the valley Nervia but his vines are to be found on the eastern slopes of the valley. The wine is sold from a cantina below Enzo’s home in this village just above Vallecrosia, on the road to Perinaldo. Enzo produces two qualities of rather black current flavoured Rossese, a bargain at 6 and 7.50 euros.Soldano producers such as Guliami are reputed to have rescued the Rossese grape from the European wine lake years and begun the process of re-establishing it’s reputation. Guliami’s wine is also available in good restaurants such as Delio in apricale.
One of the larger producers, by local standards, using grapes from a variety of local vinyards. You can see the large cantina in the valley on the left hand side of the road up to Pigna. Gajaudo produce good red and white Doc wines from local grapes which are sold from the cantina and in shops and restaurants around the area. Two qualities of fresh, clean, berry flavoured and tawny coloured Rossese wine are available at reasonable prices.
This is a smaller commercial producer, again using local grapes from various producers, conveniently located between Dolceaqua and Camporosso on the main road. Like Gajaudo, Foresti make a typically light and not quite red wine from locally grown Rossese grapes. Foresti has a clean, astringent quality which blends well with local dishes and is available in the better restaurants.
This beautiful vineyard commands fabulous views over the valley (to find it take the left turn from the Rocchetta road towards La Colla). Two generations have produced wine commercially in this lovely spot using traditional methods.Only copper sulphate, the distinctive blue Bordeaux Mix is used in cultivation. This family now grow a range of grapes and are making a several good Doc status wines which you can taste if you visit: a smooth and rich Rossese, a rich deep wine which is Rossese mixed with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and a range of whites. In all sixty thousand litres per year are produced. Vineyard prices start from 11 euros (top of the local price range but worth it).