Cortese Days 09/19/11
As I’ve mentioned time and again, both here on the blog and through my exploits on Twitter, I love lesser-known grape varietals. The “Big 8” – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Pinot Noir – make some excellent wines, sure, and they’re no doubt popular for a reason; but when I walk into a store that has only these eight on the shelves, it fills me with a deep, vaguely smug sadness. There are thousands of unique grapes out there, and while it may be impossible to try them all, could you really live with yourself if you didn’t even try a couple dozen? If you didn’t even try to try them?
The grape of the day is Cortese, suggested by the sagacious @PNrieslingfan on Twitter, a fellow member of the #Bteam mafia, whose experience with rare varietals utterly dwarfs my own. If you’re curious about our little syndicate, there’s not much to explain: every week or two, we pick an underappreciated grape (a member of the “B-team,” if you will) and try to find a wine produced from it. Then we drink this wine, and tweet about it. Of course, some grapes are easier to hunt down than others, and as fate would have it, this week I was the only mafioso participating. And with my usual companions on the sidelines, whom better to share my varietal adventure with than all of you?
Pronounced kor-TAY-zuh, Cortese is a grape grown primarily in the Piedmont region of Italy, best known for being my favorite wine region ever. Even so, looking at the name, one can’t help but be reminded of Hernán Cortés, the infamous Spanish conquistador who in the early 16th century wrought death and devastation upon the hapless Aztec Empire – possibly while drinking Cortese. We may never know for sure.
But now the wine. The one I came across (by a stroke of delectable luck) was the La Scolca Oro 2010 Gavi Cortese, “La Scolca” being the winery, “Oro” a name the folks at La Scolca came up with for this wine at some point, “2010” the vintage year, “Gavi” the denomination within Piedmont where the wine comes from, and “Cortese” you should know by now.
This cost me $13 (pre-tax, so really around $15) – one of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s Chairman’s Selections, supposedly marked down from $25. But Google tells me the wine is only going for about $10, so I guess the joke was on me.
In the glass, the Cortese was a tawny yellow hue, but still transparent. The nose at first presented pretty pure pear notes, but after some breathing time the most prominent aroma was honeydew. On the second day I drank the wine, the honeydew was even stronger, now alongside a faint hint of mint, which rhymed. Crisp and dry on the palate, the wine’s strongest notes were citrus – mostly lime. There was a little more melon, along with some peppery spice on the finish, but on the whole, this didn’t have as much complexity as I was hoping for.
A good wine, but without all that much to it, the La Scolca Oro earns thumbs up.