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Selvadolce Pigato, a crisp northern wine that echoes the sea

by Claudio Celio

I discovered Pigato by chance. Production of the wine is small and it's hard to find in the wine shops; nor does it generally come cheap. I discovered Pigato at a fair of artisanal wines. It was Selvadolce's version and I fell in love with it. Their Pigato struck me as a ‘northern' wine, with a very crisp and zesty profile that nonetheless abounds with briny sea notes.

How could it be otherwise, considering the proprietary Selvadolce vineyards overlook the sea of western Liguria, a stone's throw from the French border: a total of seven hectares under Vermentino, Rossese and Pigato vine in one of the most scenic areas of the Bordighera heights. Rucantu, Selvadolce's pure Pigato variety, also comes from these slopes, from a vineyard planted in the 1970s and framed by bougainvilleas and dry-stone walls overlooking the sea.

The producer and proprietor is Aris Blancardi, whose goal is to make quality wine in an absolutely natural manner.

“My encounter with biodynamics was quite fortuitous, in 2004,” Aris says in a lovely video where he tells the story of Selvapiana, “when I enrolled in a horticultural course held in a small village in the Langhe hills. I had no idea what biodynamics was, but the name intrigued me. I returned home with a single certainty: Selvadolce would become a biodynamic winery.”

Based on this philosophy, Aris makes a range of four distinctly territorial wines: a Vermentino, two versions of Pigato and a Rossese.

Rucantu is a selection of Pigato from choice, hand-picked grapes. These briefly macerate and undergo spontaneous fermentation in wood prior to maturation on the fine lees for no less than 8 months. After a further 6 months in the bottle, Rucantu is released.

When enjoyed young, the wine recalls Riesling-like notes combined with very decided sea nuances, reminiscent of brine and algae. The palate is lively and vibrant in a saline, savory, almost spicy style that pervades every phase of tasting right through the finish. Another interesting aspect of this variety is its longevity, evolving beautifully in the cellar and taking on ripe notes of peanuts and butterfat without diminishing persistence in the least.

This is a very versatile wine: in its youth, it's a fine pairing with fish but after a few years' cellaring, it can easily match even the most flavorful cheeses.