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The Erbaluce Grape

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About Erbaluce

(Synonyms: Alba Lucenti, Albaluce, Albe Lucenti, Ambra, Bianc Rousti, Bianchera, Bianco Rusti, Erba Luce, Erbaluce Bianca, Erbalucente, Erbalucente Bianca, Erbalus, Erbcalon, Greco Novarese, Repcalon, Trebbiano Gentile, Trebbiano Perugino, Trebbiano Verde dell'Umbria, Uva Rustia, Uva Rustica, Vernazza di Gattinara.)


Map showing the Piedmont region of Italy

Erbaluce is a white-wine grape originating in the Piedmont region of Italy, probably as far back as ancient Roman times. Today, it is produced only in the small Caluso area, and is very widely referred to as "Erbaluce di Caluso". (It is said that there are only 15 producers of this varietal.) Besides dry table wines, the grape is also much used for notable sweet and speakling wines (which are outside our ambit).

Erbaluce is very much a high-acid grape, and when vinified as table wine thus wants a lot of fruit or it will come out thin and astringent. When the fruit is ample, the wines have a distinctly apple-y quality in node and flavor; but high acidity is the variety's calling card. Like many high-acid whites, it ages well in the bottle.

Factoid: Erbaluce wines are moving up in quality as the region tries to compete with some of Italy's better-established quality whites.

Some Descriptions of Erbaluce Wines

Some Erbaluces to Try

(About this list.)

As is commonly remarked, Erbaluce is not—not yet, anyway—well known outside its small home region, and so specimens are not easy to come by; moreover, of those available, several are above our self-imposed $20 limit. In the end, we found only a couple that fit our requirements.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Ferrando "La Torrazza" Erbaluce
(Do not confuse the still table wine with the similarly named "Spumante" sparkling wine.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

It has a deep golden color and the nose is floral with a little apple cider. The slight bit of nuttyness (almond?) is kept in check by the high viscosity, which is surprising at first, giving it a sense of richness that doesn’t come across as terribly heavy. I get industrial flavors, petroleum or plastic (not a bad thing) for a second and then it goes to fruit and a little talc or chalk. The alcohol is low enough that it makes a fine sipping wine but I want it with food. . . I don’t want to do stars or ratings. I liked this wine and recommend it, but you have my notes.

Mr. Ferrando is a bit of a cult producer when it comes to [Erbaluce], a flowery but dry white that's native to the region. It has a lovely aroma and a terrific acidity that makes it a first-rate companion with food.

The exceptionally saturated, golden color kicks off some substantial legs upon swirling. While undelineated and essentially closed aromatically, the forceful, viscous texture kicks in the second this juice touches the palate. The texture is oily, yet lively, as flavors of flowers, kiwi, green apple peel, quince paste and honeysuckle power their way from cheek to cheek, leaving an almost fuzzy feel on the back of the tongue. Still in its infancy, this rich yet balanced white will be a fun one to watch as it evolves in the bottle, 91+ points.

This is unique white wine that is both dry and light, as well as very poised and graceful in it's delivery. It has a nice medium body, with a nice gradual finish. While I initially detected a little bit of vanilla scents upon opening the bottle, but I would swear that it's offset with the slightest nuance of nutmeg. As I was gabbing on the phone while drinking this, I didn't realize that near the end of the conversation, I had drunk all but one glass; this wine is light enough so that it doesn't give you headaches or a hangover of any type, and the grape is neutral enough that it can probably be easily paired with seafood and lighter fare, up to poultry, both domestic and wild game types.

Creamy, oak on nose and in flavors. Vanilla and mineral going on. Find it, buy it. Has to be excellent value.

Nice acidity and minerality. Brisk. Kind of like the weather in San Francisco.

[Google-translated from Itaian:] Deep yellow color, almost golden, uniform and without glare. Perfumes and fine net. After the attack, fruity and floral emerge a mineral note and stony. Among all stand pear, apricot and citrus. The taste is fantastic, just exuberant and gritty. Sign acid, pulpy, flavorful, with a great flavor. Still intact and extremely compact despite 4 years. In the final high heels and long persistence mineral that combines the flesh is very sweet with a hint of minerals slightly and pleasantly bitter. Truly an exceptional wine, which confirms the excellent results of Ferrando in the vineyard and in the cellar. And to think that this is not even the best crus.

This was a very refreshing, dry white. Stylistically like a good Sancerre or Chablis, this wine had great minerality and refreshing dry fruit.

Orsolani "La Rustia" Erbaluce
(The "La Rustia" is Orsolani's more upmarket bottling.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Since the Middle Ages this area has been noted for sweet, golden Passito wines. It has only been in recent years, with the application of careful control in the winery and restricted yields in the vineyard that the Orsolanis have shown it is possible to excel with dry versions — of real finesse — with their La Rustia Erbaluce di Caluso. The Erbaluce “La Rustia” takes its name from the roseate coppery color, which the grapes take on as they ripen and the “roasted slopes” — the source of the ripest, most concentrated fruit. Sandy clay soils on a gravel base combine with cool Alpine influences to give a good structure of acidity to balance the fragrant aromatics of the Erbaluce grape. Delicate hints of wildflowers and honey in the bouquet (reminiscent of the great dry Chenin Blancs of the Loire) make this rare, dry white truly distinctive and memorable among Italy’s white wines. “La Rustia” is medium-bodied with flavors that burst on the palate. It is capable of aging for several years. The fine acid balance and fruit intensity of La Rustia make it a wonderfully versatile wine at the table.

Lightly straw-colored with soft light yellow nuances backing the olive leaf tonality. The well defined scents mix sage and essential oil perfumes together with laurel, rosemary and lavender flavors which tend to a balsamic one, kept light at the end by the elegance of hawthorn and yellow flowers.

♣ Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri ("Three Glasses", top rating) award

Erbaluce grapes deliver a classic dry white wine with the mellifluous name of Erbaluce di Caluso (ehr bah loo’ chay di kah loo’ so) that is known for its high acidity, floral aromas and intense fruit flavors. The Orsolani winery is one of only a small number of producers of Erbaluce di Caluso and Orsolani's “La Rustia” is one of the best examples of this varietal wine. “La Rustia” means the “roasted” slopes in the local Piemontese dialect, a reference to the vineyard’s ideal location for maximum sun exposure. Vinified in stainless steel, the wine is pale yellow in color with delicate floral aromas and savory fruit flavors evocative of peaches and melons with a hint of grapefruit and other citrus fruits on the finish. It is relatively complex and the floral and fruity sensations are complemented by a bracing acidity. This dry, vibrant white wine is easy to enjoy and a perfect match for appetizers and fish and simple chicken dishes.

The wine shows a brilliant greenish yellow color and nuances of greenish yellow, very transparent. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of pear, litchi and honey followed by aromas of apple, peach, hawthorn, pineapple, broom, lemon and hints of mineral. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a crisp attack and however balanced by alcohol, delicate, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of peach, pear and lemon. A small part of this wine ferments in cask.

2009 vintage: Nice smell, full, soft, good tension, showing lots of ripe notes, rounded, fine dry finale, enough tension and length.
2010 vintage: Spicy aroma, fresh, spicy, floral tones, pear, green apple, full of flavor, energetic, good acidity, length and grip, fine bitters, complete wine, very successful.

Crisp and clean, but at the same time an aromatic change of pace, this is a wonderful, affordable white that shows real regional character.

[Google-translated from Itaian:] Straw yellow color with light green reflections and a beautiful clarity. The nose is floral with a hint of herbaceous, slightly fruity green apple and lime zest. On the palate it is fresh, fruity and mineral, quite fruity with almond aftertaste. Fairly long and altogether enjoyable. You can safely keep in the cellar for three or four years, so the wine shows its complexity and structure bringing out mineral notes and tertiary very interesting.

Orsolani’s “La Rustia” is incredibly refreshing, offering a high level of bracing citric-lime acidity complemented by a balancing smoothness. Floral and hay-like on the nose its mellow flavors call to mind apricots, peaches, tropical melon, and even grapefruit. There’s a creamy background of honey without the expected sweetness.

For a Splurge

This is yet another case where there seem no bottlings nontrivially better than the ones in the list above. For a splurge, buy 'em both.





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