Last week I was in Italy, near Bologna, to tour some vineyards with Sarah, an old schoolfriend who lives in the area. I was keen to taste some wines typical of the Emilia Romagna region and Sarah planned a varied programme of appointments with producers making wines not commonly seen in the UK, such as Pignoletto, Albana di Romagna Passito and Bursôn.
After driving round the Romagna countryside inland from Ravenna with the almost impossible task of finding our destination, we eventually rolled up in the little Panda hire car at Daniele Longanesi’s vineyard just outside the beautiful small town of Bagnacavallo. Here they make red wine from the Longanesi grape which gives big, beefy wines that demand hearty dishes. Although this grape variety is thought to have been growing here for centuries, there is nothing documented to prove that it was ever used for winemaking until more recent times. Daniele’s family planted the first known Longanesi vineyard in 1956 after his grandfather found a single vine growing round an oak tree and decided to take cuttings. The vine was later named after him and wine is now being made from the Longanesi grape by sixteen producers around Bagnacavallo. The bottled wine is known as Bursôn and is marketed under the Ravenna IGP classification.
The charming Daniele is president of the Consorzio Il Bagnacavallo which promotes typical products from the area around the town, including wine, vinegar, grappa and confectionary.
We tried three of Daniele’s Longanesi wines. The first, Bursôn Etichetta Blu 2011 (blue label) is matured in oak for twelve months. It has bold, cherry flavours and packs a powerful punch. I thought it would be perfect with barbecued red meat, ragu or baked, meaty pasta dishes. Next up was the Bursôn Etichetta Nero 2008 (black label) which has a feel of Amarone about it as 50% of the grapes are partially dried giving an intense raisiny palate to this full-bodied wine. It spends 24 months in barrel with a further six months’ ageing in bottle prior to release. This is a wine that would be well-suited to venison casserole, slow-cooked beef ribs or gorgonzola picante.
The third wine was called Anemo which is the old name for the local Lamone river. A red passito, it is sweet and unctuous, made with 90% Longanesi grapes and 10% Balsamina, also known as Marzemino. It is matured in 500 litre barrels for sixteen months with a further six-month bottle ageing before release. No vintage is given on the label despite the fact that the grapes are from the 2010 vintage and the wine is labelled as Vina da Uve Passito. An ideal pairing for strong, hard cheeses such as aged parmesan or cheddar and chocolate was also mentioned as being a fantastic match.
Along with several other fine examples of Emilia Romagna wines, I managed to pack a bottle of each of the Bursôn wines into my hold baggage to try again at home. On taking my damp suitcase off the carousel at Gatwick, I felt sure one or more bottles must have broken and the thought of the ensuing mess was more than I could bear. On further inspection, however, it seems that my bag had been left on the tarmac in a heavy rain shower and all nine, meticulously bubble-wrapped bottles had survived the rigours of both the Bologna and Gatwick baggage handlers. I’m looking forward to the food matching experiments already.