Saturday, August 11, 2007

Racking the Ruché

Since I have been in the Piedmont I have been trying a little known wine called Ruché (roo-kay) grown in our area for at least the last 100 years. There are two stories about the origins of the Ruché grape; one says the varietal is indigenous to the hills northwest of Asti and another says that the grape is a local variation of a grape imported from France. Either way we are lucky to have it here in the Northern Piedmont.
Ruché has only recently been marketed and consumed outside of the immediate vicinity of its production. In the 70’s and 80’s most Ruché plants were torn up to make room for the more profitable Barbera, but lately, thanks to a handful of producers and a DOC denomination Ruché is gaining in popularity and price.
The Ruché grape is tricky though. It changes radically in it’s production and some wine makers like Marco Crivelli don’t even smell the wine in the first three months because after fermentation its aromas go up and down like a roller coaster. “one day it has a “bella parfuma” then a month later… nothing!” says Marco. I can see in his face that it is frustrating for him, but patients has brought him many rewards.
The Ruché grape is grown in other areas of Italy but “Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato” was granted DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status in 1987 and is considered the finest zone for Ruché. One of the lowest production varietals in Italy, the current DOC recognized area of production covers about 40 hectares or 100 acres around the villages of Castagnole Monferrato, Grana, Montemagno, Portacomaro, Refrancore, Scurzolengo and Viarigi. To be labeled Ruché, the wine must be at least 90% Ruché and can be 10% Barbera or Brachetto. Minimum total alcohol by volume: 12% vol. but it often reaches 14%-14.5%.
At it’s best Ruché is a very graceful wine, brilliant ruby red with a just a touch of purple, quite translucent, with an elegant, floral perfume with a touch of violets and hints of wildflowers, cassis and cherry, the layers of flavors releasing over time as you drink it. It is more refined than the big Barberas and more approachable and fruity and friendly than the noble Nebbiolo. It reminds one of a Moulin a Vent from Beaujolais or a Chinon from the Loire.
Ruché is made to be drunk young and is a perfect with salumi, Bresaola, roasted veal and gamebird dishes and hard, aged cheeses.


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