From €9.90, $?, £19.99Find the dry Italian Petit Manseng
Find the sweet Clos Uroulat Jurançon
Who would have thought it? Here's a really satisfying dry white made from an indigenous Basque variety grown just north of Rome. I choose it not to denigrate any of the hundreds of interesting indigenous Italian grape varieties, but to demonstrate just how well Petit Manseng travels. Of course it reaches its apogee in the best Jurançons, but we have come across interesting and highly respectable examples which share the particular firm tanginess of this distinctive variety such as Linden's in Virginia, Churton's in New Zealand, William Downie's in Australia, Malhadinha Nova's in Portugal and Julia has added no fewer than three notes on Tiger Mountain's Georgian Petit Manseng but this is the first Italian example I have encountered.
I'm not surprised it was from this estate, set up in terra incognita for the vine south of Rome in 1967 by the Santarelli family who have been determined to experiment with unusual imported varieties – or at least varieties that were unusual for this part of the world when they planted them. I visited there 10 or so years ago and was impressed by their viticultural standards. Then they were particularly proud of an exotic variety they were growing called Viognier.
To produce Casale del Giglio Petit Manseng 2012 IGT Lazio the Petit Manseng berries with their thick skins are kept on the vine until well after most other grapes have been picked and, as in Jurançon vineyards, are encouraged to shrivel. Petit Manseng (rather nobler than the Gros Manseng that is now widely planted in Gascony to add interest to inexpensive white blends made there) keeps its acidity particularly well so this wine is much nervier than one would expect for the latitude. The grapes are given a bit of skin contact before spontaneous fermentations and the wine aged for a few months on the lees before bottling. It is still delightfully fresh and really offers some substance to chew on. I mean flavour – somehow attractively reminiscent of furniture polish – rather than astringency.
The winery's UK importer Eurowines sent me in the direction of two retailers, Dalle Terra of London WC2 and Tivoli Wines of Cheltenham, but they don’t actually have it in stock, however keenly they assure me they would order it in. I did find it however listed online by simplywinesdirect.com.
Winesearcher.com lists only retailers in Italy but Casale del Giglio have provided this list (below) of US distributors, with the states they cover. I do hope you can find this wine if you are interested to taste this great grape variety in purezza. Otherwise, head for a fine Jurançon such as the sweet but beautifully tangy Clos Uroulat Moelleux 2011 Jurançon which I tasted last year and absolutely loved. It is much more widely available throughout Europe and in both UK and the US, and in Hong Kong. Prices vary from the equivalent of about £11/$19 and £24/$40 a bottle.
Masciarelli Wine Company – 144 Moore Road, Weymouth, MA 02189, States: MA-FL-IL-CO-PA-RI-VT
BelVino – 31300 Bainbridge Road, Solon, Ohio 44139, States: OH
Cavatappi Distribuzione – 4121 1st Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98134, States: OR-WA
Siema Wines – 7721 D Fullerton Road, Springfield, Virginia 22153, States: VA-WDC-MD
Siena Imports – 1295 Evans Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94124, States: CA-NV
Soilair Selection – 1120 Sixth Avenue, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10036, States: NYC-NJ-CT