Within the community of people who proselytize the Good Word of Italian wine and culture in this country, few are passionate as Gianluca Legrottaglie of 54 Mint in San Francisco. Gianluca is the palate behind the restaurant’s inspired Italian wine list, laser-focused on promoting the autochthonous wines of Italy.
According to Gianluca, in his restaurant there’s no need to drink anything but authentic Italian wines. He has a point- Italy is home to over 2,000 grape varieties. The wines are out there, it just takes a patient and committed wine director to wade through the sea of anonymous Vino Italiano and find those jewels of authenticity.
One such lovely specimen of traditional Italian origin is the Antica Tenuta del Nanfro Frappato Gianluca was pouring this week. Frappatois an ancient grape variety, most famous for its part in the DOCG blend Cerasuolo di Vittoria, where its delicacy and perfume is matched with the brawn of Nero d’Avola. Frappato has been vinified as a single varietal forever by local winemakers in Sicily, but it isn’t commonly exported or found on wine lists in the US.
The Antica Tenuta Nanfro Frappato is a beautiful and unusual expression of Frappato. This is a grape variety that can give a thin, almost rosato-style wine. Nanfro’s version however, is extracted in color- brilliant violet with pretty magenta reflection. The aromatics are perfumed with drying carnations, blackberry brambles and a spicy, rusty earthiness.
On the palate the wine was initially all cherries, blackberries and a lovely, mouth-watering acidity that makes you beg for a piece of cheese or a slice of salumi. Underneath this initial showy fruitiness, the wine has a savory side, and a reductive quality- like a veal stock or a mushroom consommé. Super fun, geeky wine that you can taste for next to nothing, accompanied by some of the city’s most authentic Italian food. What more can you ask for?
54 Mint’s Claudio Ricciolini, Nicola della Morte and Gianluca Legrottaglie (far right).
Gianluca Legrottaglie is an example of those few Italian cultural ambassadors we are fortunate to have in the US. He is not content to feed you a passable meatball, or the usual semi-Italian Fettucine “Alfredo”, and he won’t be pouring any bland Pinot Grigio down your throat. This man cares that you experience Italy the way he does- with a careful attention to detail, subtle regional inflections, and above all, authenticity.