From: Ligura, Italy
Taste: "We import Vermentinos from all over Mediterranean France and Italy, but this is the only Pigato—Vermentino’s speckled twin—we import. A specialty of Liguria, Pigato often yields bianchi with a little more heft and texture, traits embodied by Punta Crena’s 2021 rendition. Zesty and faintly saline, this medium-bodied beauty is begging to be opened the next time you make shrimp tacos or spaghetti alle vongole." —Tom Wolf
Aromatic, elegant, and fresh. Citrus and apple skin meet notes of honeysuckle, white pear, quince, and a lovely hint of sea spray minerality. Highly recommend if you love varietals that span a textural range from Chenin Blanc to Northern Rhone Viognier, Petite Arvine to Alsatian whites. More inclined to identify with regions? Not to worry. Try this if you already love cool-climate Italian (Alto Adige, Alto Piemonte, Vallee d’Aosta) and French white wines (Chablis, Sancerre, Vouvray, Vin de Savoie), Albariño from Rias Baixas, etc.
Pairing: Go for regional fare with this wine! The region of Liguria, home to the Cinque Terre, Portofino and Genoa, boasts some of the best food in Italy—including pesto genovese, minestrone and focaccia. Because Liguria is on the coast, seafood and fish are a big part of the diet here, and many of the region’s famous foods and recipes were first invented, or eaten, on ships or by fishermen. We especially recommend pairing this Pigato with any of the dishes in bold below (check out this recipe for Ravioli alla Burrata With Pistachio Pesto to pair with this wine), and especially the ravioli dolci with bone marrow if you can find it.
Not a big seafood fan? Don’t worry! The sea breezes and mineral-rich soils mean that the region is also famous for its herbs (especially basil and rosemary), wine, olive oil, pine nuts, porcini mushrooms, and other delicious foods.
Focaccia: Ah, focaccia! This Ligurian bread has made its way around the world, and it’s no surprise: It’s delicious either on its own, dipped in sauce, or with a spread. A flattened bread (like a pizza without tomato sauce), it’s meant to be eaten hot from the oven. It might be flavored with anything from just olive oil and salt to cheese and sausage. And it’s a street food, so don’t feel as if you have to be sitting down at a restaurant to enjoy it.
Paniccia: Paniccia is made from chickpea flour and served hot. But it’s softer, more like a polenta.
Farinata: Another Ligurian street food, farinata is a bread made from chickpea flour. As with focaccia, of course, olive oil and other flavorings (often rosemary or onion) are added in. It’s also best eaten piping-hot and fresh out of the oven.
Cappon magro: This dish looks like a salad… but it’s much more complicated! Hard-tack biscuits (yes, a holdover from Liguria’s seafaring times) are soaked in olive oil and salt water. They’re layered on top in a pyramid (something that takes a fair amount of artistry, and balance, to pull off!) with a mixture of fish, shellfish, olives, and eggs, and dressed with a sauce flavored with anchovies and capers. It’s a traditional dish to eat on Christmas Eve.
Ravioli: Ravioli, or stuffed pasta, are said to have been invented here in Liguria—in the town of Novi LIugre, in particular. It’s unclear how true this is, but we do know that ravioli was served to sailors. That’s because, at the end of a meal on board, anything left over would be chopped and mixed altogether, stuffed into envelopes of pasta… and served at the next meal.
Ravioli alla genovese: Just one kind of ravioli you’ll find in Liguria, this “Genovese ravioli” is stuffed with veal, egg, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, chard, nutmeg… and sweetbreads, udder, and brains! It’s all a part of Liguria’s cucina povera, in which no part of anything would go to waste.
Pesto alla genovese: In short, while there are lots of kinds of pesto in Italy (“pesto” can refer to any paste of herbs that’s mashed up with a mortar and pestle), pesto alla genovese is the most famous. It’s D.O.P. protected, meaning it can only be made in a very precise way, with specific ingredients (including D.O.P. basil from Genoa), to be considered the “real thing.” The ingredients themselves are simple–basil, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, garlic, salt, and olive oil—and when it’s done properly, it’s absolutely delicious over penne or another pasta!
Tocco di funghi: Fresh porcini mushrooms (abundant in Liguria) are cooked with garlic, rosemary, butter, oil, and the ever-ubiquitous pine nuts. It’s usually served with risotto or pasta.
Torta pasqualina: If you like some pastry with your greens, you’ll love this dish. Pastry is layered with a mix of green chard, parmesan, ricotta, and other herbs, and the filling is indented with eggs and butter. The pastry layers are supposed to number 33. Sound random? Each one is for a year of Christ’s life—this dish actually got its start as an Easter tradition, although many people eat it year-round now.
Ravioli dolci: Like ravioli, but not! These “sweet ravioli” are envelopes of sweet egg dough, filled with a pesto of citrus peel, candied squash, citron, and beef marrow.
Punta Crena via KLWM. The tiny village of Varigotti sits on the Mediterranean, just a few rows of houses and restaurants on a pristine beach, with its back against steep hills. Climb up into the hills and you will discover neatly terraced vineyards on the slopes and in hidden clearings further up on the peaks. The Ruffino family has been tending these vineyards for over 500 years, hardly changing a thing as they pass their knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next. Today the estate is run by four siblings: Tommaso, the eldest, is the winemaker; Paolo is the salesman; Anna handles logistics; and Nicola helps out in the vineyards and winery. Their mother, Libera, was a strong businesswoman who revolutionized sales by dealing directly with clients rather than working with the merchants who controlled the market at the time; but today she stays in the background, happily cooking for the constant flow of guests and tending the home-grown vegetable stand in the courtyard as her numerous grandchildren scamper around her. These unpretentious people are firmly rooted in Varigotti, and the wines they craft are infused with local tradition and character.
Ask Paolo if the family follows organic methods in the vineyards and he’ll laugh. We’re not “organic,” he says as if you had asked about some crazy new technology. We just do everything the same way our ancestors have for hundreds of years. They even build their stone terraces by hand, using the method established here three thousand years ago.
The vineyards of Punta Crena (which is named for a large promontory jutting into the sea at the edge of the village) are all within 1200 meters of the water and enjoy sea breezes that help keep the grapes healthy and happy. The Ruffinos are proud to work almost exclusively with local varietals, but they don’t have much company. Mataòssu, which once reigned supreme in this zone, was gradually ripped out because it has such a difficult vegetative balance; Crovino gives such low yields that no one else will grow it.
As a result, several of Punta Crena’s wines are one of a kind: the Mataòssu and Cruvin are entirely unique (two other producers make wines labeled Mataòssu, but in fact their vines are the related Lumassina), and the Barbarossa is the only one produced in Italy (a local grape of Emilia-Romagna has the same name but is unrelated). They believe that their only job after the harvest is simply to avoid ruining their lovely fruit as it turns to wine. These are light, fun wines with no pretension. Every bottling from this estate marries beautifully with the local cuisine of fresh vegetables, fritto misto, and anchovies prepared every way imaginable, and we at KLWM are constantly finding more pairings where they taste just as good.
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