Principe Pallavicini 2020 Malvasia Puntinata Roma
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This is a fabulous wine made from the rare and very exciting Malvasia Puntinata, named after the tiny dark spots on the ripe grapes. Pallavicini makes this wine with little skin contact and ageing on the lees which makes it both rich and complex
The Wine Region
Whilst the rest of Italy is surging forward, making distinctive and authentic wines, Lazio has been left behind a little bit. It perhaps suffers from its legacy of Frascati and the, quite frankly, 'nothing' wine that is Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone (nice story - shame about the wine), which have justifiably poor reputations, since the vast majority of the former is shipped in bulk for bottling in other parts of the country. Elsewhere, there are few DOCs which have any reputation or significance on the international market, but just like anywhere else, you can find little gems every now and again.
Having just besmirched Frascati, there is in fact another side to this story. This is a remarkably beautiful DOC perched on an ancient volcano, Monte Albano which last erupted around 5000 BC, with a cooler, elevated exposition overlooking Rome. The number of estate wines produced here are few and far between, but amongst them, there is some quality to be found, with around half a dozen or so producing wines that are worthy of interest. The wines are normally a blend of varieties, mostly Malvasia Bianca, Malvasia di Lazio (AKA Malvasia Puntinata) with smatterings of Greco and Trebbiano Toscano. We follow the producer, Principe Pallavicini, who is also known for its wine from the DOC of Roma, made entirely from Malvasia Puntinata (despite its name it is not a 'true' Malvasia), and quite a remarkable wine it is too.
The history of the Pallavicini family, which has owned land in the Lazio for hundreds of years, is entwined with that of popes, cardinals, generals and princes. The Palazzo Pallavicini-Rospigliosi on the Quirinal Hill in Rome is a clear testament to this remarkable ancestry. Among their proprieties is the Tenuta di Colonna in the Castelli Romani area southeast of Rome, which has around 60 hectares under vine, of which about 50 are white varieties planted at an altitude of 200 metres above sea level on a mixture of volcanic soils and calcareous clays and sand. The history of this area is even older than the Pallavicini family: the legend says the Cretans arrived in the Castelli Romani and built the first hilltop villages after being displaced by the Mycenaeans around 1200 BC. The winery is built over a Roman cistern and aqueduct and Roman artefacts and remains are to be found everywhere on the estate.
In this historically rich context, winemaker Marco Cerqua employs modern techniques to produce wines that are clean and vibrant to highlight the characters of the indigenous varieties. The Frascati is made from a typical blend of Malvasia di Candia and Malvasia del Lazio along with other varieties such as Trebbiano Toscano and Greco. After crushing and gentle pressing, a classic white wine vinification ensures that the fresh and delicate floral profile is perfectly preserved in the wine. The white Roma DOC is made from 100% Malvasia del Lazio, also known as Malvasia Puntinata. After crushing at 8°C in order to preserve freshness, there is a short maceration on skins followed by pressing and fermentation at 12°C. It is then kept on its lees for four to five months before bottling.
More Like This
The major factors that influence how a wine tastes are its grape variety, climate and the human factors of winemaking and viticulture, but it all begins with the soil, the dirt from which the vine is nourished. Varying soil types, their fertility, water retain capacity and mineral content all play a part in the wine's quality and style.
The world of wine is dotted with little pockets of volcanic regions, whether active or long extinct, and these soils impart their own distinctive character in the resulting wines. Generally speaking, volcanic regions are low in fertility, which is great for grapevines as this encourages the vine to produce sweeter and richer berries. The wines from these regions certainly do echo the drama of volcanoes and many wine drinkers seek out the wines for their distinctive minerality, and crisp acidity.
For further reading, we thoroughly recommend John Szabo's comprehensive book on the topic, Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power.