On my recent trip to the Piemonte region in northeast Italy, I had dinner one evening in Asti with wine publicist Daniele Becchi, wine writer Fiammetta Mussio, and winemaker Cecilia Zucca of Poggio Ridente, an organic wine producer in nearby Coconato. Poggio Ridente literally means “smiling hill,” a reference to the hilltop vineyard that these family winemakers believe is particularly blessed in aspect to the sun, in climate, in drainage, and in that special quality of the land one needs to make quality wine. The land is over 450 meters (1400 feet) in elevation. Nine hectares (twenty-two acres) are dedicated to the vine, and this is surrounded by woods and hedges, an idyllic setting indeed. “We use traditional methods in a manner very similar to biodynamics,” Cecilia tells me, “giving us the ability to create a charming wine that is the direct expression of the earth from where it was born.” The Azienda Agricola Poggio Ridente is certified organic by ICEA. Copper and sulfur are the only chemicals used. At the table that evening, I tasted (and thoroughly enjoyed) all five of the unique Poggio Ridente offerings.
The Poggio Ridenta Vino Bianco, non-vintage, is a blend of three typically Piemontese white grapes: Cortese, Moscato, and Bussanello, produced biodynamically. The wine is a delicate straw color, with aromas of lemon peel, grapefruit and white flowers. Refreshing and dry in the mouth, with flavors of ripe lemon and white pear. Finishes very clean. This is a well-balanced effort. I enjoyed it in December, but it seemed to me to crave summer, perhaps a warm evening after a long day of playing hard, or even working hard.
The Poggio Ridente Albarossa Piemonte DOC 2013 is the product of an experiment first conducted in 1948: a crossing between Nebbiolo and
Barbera. Poggio Ridenta grows a single hectare of two different clones of Albarossa. Traditional vinification lasts ten to fifteen days. The tannic, full-bodied wine then ages in used oak barriques for twelve months. Very dark, with scents of black cherry and raspberry. You can chew on the tannins, which I enjoy, and there is plenty of fruit extract. I find this more of a New World style than old, reminiscent of a Barossa Valley Shiraz.
The Poggio Ridente Ruchè di Castagnole DOC “San Marziano” 2012 is the product of Poggio’s half hectare of
Ruchè vines. Four thousand bottles are produced annually. Medium ruby in color with orange highlights, violet and rose on the nose, with excellent extract, strawberry and black cherry flavors. At 14% alcohol, typical for much Ruchè, it finishes a little warm, with a nice touch of dried cherry on the finale.
The Poggio Ridente Barbera d’Asti DOCG “Vallia” 2012 is fermented in steel tanks over an eight to ten day period using only naturally occurring yeasts. A very deep red in color with aromas of red berries, flavors of red plum, almonds and dried cherry, full-bodied with nicely integrated tannins and acidity. The fruit lasts into a lengthy finish.
The Poggio Ridente Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG “San Sebastiano” 2011 is the product of a selective manual harvest and natural yeast fermentation. The wine is 14.5% alcohol, a deep purple in color, with a nose of red fruit and vanilla, flavors of well-extracted blackberry, dried cherry and vanilla, sassy acidity, and a warm patient finish.
Poggio Ridente website.