Majolini’s Ruc di Gnoc, Curtefranca Rosso
When I visit Franciacorta, that lovely part of Lombardy that makes Italy’s finest sparkling wine, I also enjoy the still red and white wines made there, called Curtefranca. Majolini’s Ruc di Gnoc Rosso is one of the very best examples.
Making red and white table wines have a long history, far longer than the fizz. Sparkling Franciacorta only came along in the early 1960’s, though it has now eclipsed all else. Meanwhile, the quality of Curtefranca ranges from good to excellent. Sadly, these wines are not well known in Italy outside Lombardy, let alone in Britain.
Until 2008 they were called Terre di Franciacorta, but in 2008 the name changed to Curtefranca DOC, to distinguish them from Franciacorta fizz. Under their DOC rules, the Bianco allows only Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. The Rosso can blend Cabernet Franc (which in some cases has been discovered to be Carmenére), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Nebbiolo and Barbera. Pinot Nero, grown for the sparkling wines, is not allowed. As ever in Italy, some wines are made that don’t meet these rules. Those are labelled as IGT Sebino instead.
Curtefranca wines are an unexpected pleasure, often overlooked by all those wine critics obsessed with famous names, regions and Parker scores. They deserve better. Ruc di Gnoc is super-stylish, being a blend of all the allowable red grapes. Usually, the Cabernets account for 30%, with Merlot 30% and Nebbiolo and Barbera 20% each. Aged for a year before release, six months of which is in old oak barrels, there are 40,000 bottles made in good years.
Majolini is also one of the brightest stars in a crowded Franciacorta firmament. They produce a superb range of sparkling wines plus olive oil and grappa. They are in Ome, a village found in the northeast of the region. It’s a particularly attractive hilly area of limestone swathed in woods, quite different from the other parts of Franciacorta, which is much flatter and founded on glacial moraines.
Valentino Majolini established the business in the mid-sixties, starting out with the Ruc di Gnoc vineyard. It’s on steep hillsides of a great hill that overlooks the village; on terraces, called gradoni. It has a significant bearing on wine quality and character. Today, his son, Ezio and nephew, Simone run the estate’s 24 hectares and are now undertaking organic conversion.
Ruc di Gnoc impresses immediately. The fragrant nose is down to Cabernet and Nebbiolo, an intriguing mix of rose petals and cassis. On the palate, there’s damson and plum, with softness from Merlot and an undertow of Cabernet blackberry. Barbera adds lightness and fresh acidity. The blend is seamless, with a long slow fade which reminds me of pomegranate. What impresses is how balanced, subtle and elegant it is.
This 2011 is drinking beautifully now and can keep for perhaps 4-5 years. Gambero Rosso awards it 2 out of 3 Glasses. That’s good, but personally, I think they’re mean and have told them so!
Enjoy Ruc di Gnoc with all the typical Italian meat, cheese and fungi suspects. It’s a superb foil for the local pasta speciality called Casoncelli, or Casoncéi in the Lombardy dialect. Both Brescia and Bergamo claim it as their local dish. It’s semicircular pasta a little like giant ravioli, filled with beef or salami, or, in the autumn, with pumpkin. All you need is to add a lake of melted butter and fried sage leaves, with a sprinkling of Grana Padano cheese.
Ruc di Gnoc is my red of choice when in Lombardy. It is available in the UK at Bat and Bottle, priced at £12.10.
It tastes just as beautiful in the British wet winter as it does in the Italian sunshine. A bottle of wine to return to, again and again.
Via Manzoni, 3 (Loc. Valle)