I rarely offer wine wine from Liguria, mainly because there’s so little wine made here and almost never red wine. If you’ve been to Cinque Terre or the other famous cluster of towns just up the coast from there culminating in Portofino then on to Genoa where the Riviera di Ponente begins in earnest, you’ve almost certainly had the local Vermentino and Pigato white wines grown here. If you keep going southwest along the coast towards France the wine tends to get a little more interesting. Rossese begins to appear around Albenga just west of Savona where the southeast facing hills produce a pretty but very light version of Rossese. Another 45 minutes or so just past San Remo towards Ventimiglia and the French border, really less than an hour from Monaco, and we find the Rossese di Dolceacqua DOC (also the name of the grape) hard up against the French border. This region of steep hills, situated much like Piedmont’s Langhe zone with valleys running north-south, perpendicular to the Maritime Alps, produces the most serious Rossese. From the astonishing variety of distinctive indigenous varietals in Italy, Rossese is surely one of the most distinctive. Often compared to red Burgundy, Rossese does share the weight and red fruited aromatics of cool climate pinot noir, but with it's sandalwood and spice laden red fruit, this is unmistakably Italian.
The Rossese di Dolceacqua DOC is situated in the Maritime Alps, the most southern of the range, and is one of the most dramatically rugged terrains in the world of wine. There are just about 90 hectares of views in the entire DOC, down from around 3,000 before the phylloxera crisis. With slopes up to 60% in grade, the vines are typically planted on dry stone-walled terraces. Tenuta Anfosso is made up of 5.5 hectares here and 6th generation Alessandro Anfosso and wife Marisa Perrotti are now in charge of farming and winemaking, taking advantage of incredible raw material with some of the vines dating back to the mid 1800's (!). This Rossese di Dolceacqua is from relatively juvenile 30 year old vines which are sourced from youngest vines on the estates ancient vineyards. Farming is done by hand as machinery would be impossible to use here and yields are very low producing the most concentrated Rossese I've ever tasted.
Wines like these demand great food and with this one it’s the local rabbit, or coniglio, a frequent victim of wine country appetites all over Italy. This is the dish found on every trattoria menu in this part of the country and made with the local wild rabbits, olives, olive oil and of course a splash of Rossese.
Coniglio alle Ligure
Rabbit, ligurian style
In a wide and heavy pan or cocotte, heat the olive oil on medium and sweat the vegetables until the onion is translucent but not brown. Salt and pepper the rabbit or chicken pieces and add to the pan making sure they get to the bottom. Saute until just starting to turn a little golden in color without browning any of the vegetables. Splash in the wine and deglaze the pan. Add just enough water to come about halfway up the rabbit pieces and then add the herbs. turn the heat down, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the olives and pine nuts and finish cooking, about another 5 minutes. The sauce should reduce a bit, check for seasoning and serve as a great, easy second course with the Rossese.