2002 Az. Agr. Valentini “Cerasuolo” Rosato, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy

A few wineries around the world can credibly claim that the family has been making wine in the same spot for more than 300 years. Winegrowing, after all, is traditionally a family affair, and people inevitably take grandpa’s advice when it comes to hanging on to plots of land. They ain’t making any more of it, didn’t ya know?

Far fewer than even these storied wine producers, are those who can credibly claim that not only have they been making wine for more than 300 years, that they have been making wine the exactly the same way for centuries.

Edoardo Valentini and his son Francesco, who now runs Azienda Agricola Valentini since his father’s death in 2006, can reasonably make that claim. There’s just one problem, however: no one knows if its true. Edoardo Valentini, known affectionately by his friends as “lord of the vines” was as close to a hermit winemaker as he could possibly get, living as he did next to the main town square in Loreto Aprutino, a small olive oil producing town in Abruzzo on Italy’s southeastern coast.

Valentini shunned all contact with the media, critics, and the wine establishment. Though he didn’t necessarily avoid other local winemakers, he was famously tight lipped, even secretive, about how he made his wine. Though his son Francesco has now taken his place, the curtains of secrecy have not necessarily been drawn aside.

According to family records, the Valentini family has been making wines in Abruzzo since the mid 1600s, and the public records demonstrate that as far back as the early 1800s the family has been producing notable wines from the local Trebbiano grape, a feat which still continues to amaze and confound pretty much everyone, since most renditions of wine from this grape are, to put it politely, less than profound.

Valentini is certainly renown for its Trebbiano even today (a recent vintage won the coveted Tre Bicchieri award from the Gambero Rosso guide), but has garnered equal acclaim for its rosés, which are made in such small quantities that they are very difficult to locate outside of Italy.

In light of Valentini’s secrecy, we only know from observation and tasting that this wine was aged in oak for some time before bottling, and is not released for at least 18 months after harvest. It is most likely made from the juice of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes which had only minimal contact with the skins before being bled off to complete fermentation on its own. I’m not familiar enough with the DOC regulations of Abruzzo to know what other grape varieties (if any) might be allowed into a rosé, so I can’t be entirely certain of its composition.

This is widely considered to be one of Italy’s best rosés.

Tasting Notes:
A bright coral pink color in the glass with orange highlights, this wine has an alluring nose of shifting aromas, at times smelling vaguely of maple syrup and rose petals, at others like orange rind and wet rocks. In the mouth it is smooth and round, hanging thickly on the tongue with a body that reminds me more of a red wine than a pink one. Pretty well balanced, perhaps with a touch less acidity than I might like in a rosé, this wine offers a tantalizing combination of flavors that dance between minerally rainwater, roses, and candied orange rind, all wrapped in faint whispers of red fruits (cherry?). Pretty much unlike any rosé I have ever had, and quite compelling at that. An odd, yet extraordinary wine.

Food Pairing:
I had this wine at lunch at a French bistro and it went well with everything, from my salad, to an order of fried sweetbreads, and even my cassoulet. If I had to choose one thing to serve it with, I might try it with a duck confit salad.

Overall Score: 9.5

How Much?: $80

This particular vintage is tough to find, but more recent vintages of this wine are available for purchase online.