Its terraced vineyards clinging to precipitous cliffs, pictures of Cinque Terre are breathtaking; the truth is somewhat more perilous. Cinque Terre is not an easy place to grow grapes, which is why so many of the small estates have jumped ship. However difficult it is to navigate its seaside cliffs, Cinque Terre has the natural advantages of sea air, stony soil, lots of sun, and millennia of tradition. Pierluigi Lugano saw these cliffs punctuated by crumbling stone walls, drank the wines made from the vineyards, and got to know the indigenous grapes that grew there. He saw a site made for the reclamation--and celebration--of Cinque Terre wine. He created his Bisson estate to make his dreams a reality.
I've chosen to shine a spotlight on Bisson Bianco Marea Cinque Terre 2012 today. At first glance, it might seem odd to put a sea-swept white front and center in the belly of winter, a time we usually gravitate toward reds. But this is no lightweight quaffer. Pierluigi lets this wine sit on its lees for months, making it a heavyweight white that, like the whites from Umbria's Paolo Bea or Friuli's Josko Gravner, drinks more like a red. The Bianco Marea also has this nice salty vein that makes food sing; it's simply delicious--even though it's not at all simple.
Along with this unusual Cinque Terre white, I'm delighted to offer two undeniable winter reds--Fontodi Flaccianello 2010 and Ferrari Il Barone 1954. Flaccianello is a full-throttle exquisite powerhouse in any year, but in 2010 it thrums like a Moto Guzzi. This wine is an undeniable winner. And how often do you get a chance to drink a wine that's sixty years old for under $130? Almost never, and the Il Barone is a wine that'll make your head swim. It's flat-out gorgeous.
Best of all? I'm happy to offer the Bisson Bianco Marea and the Il Barone at the best prices you'll find anywhere--and the Flaccianello at extremely competitive pricing. Great wine with perfect provenance at great pricing, what's better than that?