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Ligurian labor of love: the Rossese di Dolceacqua of Giuseppina Tornatore

by Claudio Celio

It took only a handful of vintages for Giuseppina Tornatore’s Rossese di Dolceacqua to become a highly sought-after wine among fans of the Ligurian varietal. With her husband, Nuccio, Giuseppina purchased just one hectare under vine in Dolceacqua in 1984; actually, that hectare is split into halves on two distinct slopes, two of the historic local “nomeranze,” what the French call crus – the top-quality vineyards: Armetta and Tramontina.

The vines are over 50 years old and have never yielded any very large crops; in fact, says Giuseppina Tornatore, production has decreased over the past few years: “Not because the vines yield less, merely because my husband and I have grown older. When you get to be over 70, it’s really hard to tend these vines, which are physically very demanding and require strictly manual work. We've gone from 6,000 bottles a few years ago to little over 2,000 today,” though Giuseppina is quick to point out that to her family, “wine has never been actual work, something to make money, rather a passion we nurtured almost in private.”

Production is therefore as craftsmanlike as it gets, while also painstakingly attentive both in the vineyard and in the winery: an attention to detail that translates into the glass, so that once tasted, Giuseppina Tornatore’s Rossese is very hard to forget.

The 2014 vintage (a good one for Rossese, albeit with a rather early harvest due to the grapes’ precocious ripening) is intensely fragrant, with irresistible rose nuances blossoming in the glass, alternating with distinct briny notes confirmed on the palate. Here, delicate hints of wild strawberries catch up with the rose and sea notes and would have you think of a light-bodied Rossese – which is not the case at all, for there’s a salty, structured core to the wine radiating on the palate in a very long finish.

Velvety and firm-textured while also lively and vertical, here is an utterly delectable all-around meal red that, thanks to its good, solid body, is well up to more complex pairings like Liguria’s traditional fish dishes with tomato sauce and Genoa-style stockfish.