The Piedmont region of northwestern Italy is primarily known for the powerful reds Barolo and Barbaresco, made from the Nebbiolo grape; however, there are still some white wines grown here also. Erbaluce (urb-buh-loo-chay) is an indigenous white grape variety to this area. The earliest mentions of the grape date back to the early 17th century. It is commonly grown at higher elevations in the foothills of the Alps. The grape is highly acidic and the wines it’s used to make can range from dry to sweet depending on the choices of the winemaker. If sweet, the grapes are left on the vine to harvest later or they are dried/raisined. The first process allows more sugar to accumulate in the grapes before harvest. During fermentation, the winemaker stops the fermentation process early to retain the higher sugar content. If the latter process is implemented, the sugar and acid concentrate and again during fermentation, some of the sugar is reserved. The acid this grape is known for helps counterbalance this sweetness, decreasing the perception of sugar on the palate. It can also be made into a sparkling wine, again the acidity would be an important factor in balancing any additional steps used to increase the body in these wines. It gets its name because Erbe is Italian for grass or herbs and the grape is notable for having green or vegetal character. There are both DOC and DOCG areas designated to grow Erbaluce, but the total amount of hectares is limited, between 300-400 total in Italy.
The bottle I drank this week was a 2019 Rovellotti Vitigno Innominabile Il Criccone from the Colline Novaresi DOC. It was a bright pale lemon color with watery legs and no petulance. The aromas of marzipan, lemon pith, gardenia, dill, and fresh grass all needed to be coaxed from the glass. When I took a mouthful, I was taken aback by how much body this wine was considering it had a moderate level of alcohol and high acid. The acid was like a taut guitar string that continued to reverberate long after being strummed. There were flavors of honey, lemon pith, garden fresh herbs, and an earthiness from the minerality. The acidity also accentuated the white gummy bear/pineapple flavor, which was a welcomed bonus. This wine was nicely balanced and unexpected. This wine would pair wonderfully with a light fish dish, antipasta, or an herb roasted chicken. I was quite pleasantly surprised by the character this wine possessed and look forward to having more!