NOVEMBER DIRT: Ligura – Rarity and Tradition on the Mediterranean

This month I learned a few things about Paolo Ruffino of Punta Crena. First of all, he does not speak any English…at all. Second, he loves children, as he himself has seven, it was not surprising to see him coo in Italian to a baby at our Italian Winemaker Dinner a couple of weeks ago. Paolo is one of four siblings who run and operate Punta Crena, his brother Tommaso is the winemaker and Paolo is the salesman. He is energetic and friendly and a true traditionalist. When asked if the estate farms organically he’ll laugh and say (in Italian of course) “We’re not “organic”. We just do everything the same way our ancestors have for hundreds of years.”

Punta Crena rests in the tiny village of Varigotti. It’s perched in the steep hills (100-300 meters in altitude) around the Mediterranean just 1.2km from the sea. The neatly terraced vineyards are home to some truly unique grapes. Punta Crena is one of the only producers who are working almost exclusively with local varietals. Mataòssu and Crovino are entirely unique to Punta Crena. If you try to search for examples of those grapes elsewhere you will not find them. The wines are rarities and it’s truly a unique experience to taste them. They are not only incredibly delicious and food-friendly but they are thought provoking and perfect examples of the importance of preserving history through wine. The speak terroir truly and without apology.


Punta Crena Mataossu 2015 – $29.99/BTL

The vines for the Mataossu are over 80 years old. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and left on the lees for four months. The grape is similar to Vermentino with all the wild, snappy, coastal scrub and saline aromas and flavors. The wine perfumes the glass with notes of pear cobbler, crab apple, sea mist and smoke. It’s on the low end of medium-bodied with very balanced acidity, not too sharp, just enough to balance the fruit. Notes of Bosc pear, oranges and a saline finish, it’s clean and the texture is silky smooth on the tongue. Though this wine is truly a beautiful match with all things seafood, I also like it for Thanksgiving. Try it with a Salt-Roasted Turkey with lemon and oregano.


Punta Crena Cruvin 2015 – $34.99/BTL

The Cruvin is made from the Crovino grape. It is a very rare, dark-skinned varietal that’s name in the local dialect means ‘to fall’ as the grapes have a tendency to drop from the vine when ripe. Yields for the grape are naturally low as well, so it has fallen out of favor with the winemakers in the area, all but one that is.

This wine is a deep violet color in the glass. It offers notes of raspberry, strawberry, incense, and violets. There’s a slight prickle in the mouth on entry that fades away to showcase red fruits and moderate structure from both acidity and tannin. It finishes savory with notes of wild herbs and licorice. Put a bit of a chill on this and serve it with Spaghetti with Octopus Braised in Red Wine. If you’re fresh out of octopus, this wine would be wonderful with wild game birds such as pheasant, quail, or duck.