EDITOR’S NOTE—Vines without Borders

This past April, in Ribera del Duero, I visited Javier Zaccagnini at Aalto, a winery focused on old vines that he runs with Mariano García. As we tasted his reds, he mentioned another old-vine project he had recently started, Ossian, from pre-phylloxera, ungrafted, organically farmed verdejo in southern Rueda.
     By chance, I got to drink Ossian that same night. Of all the wines I tasted that week in Ribera del Duero, Ossian stayed front and center in my mind. Zaccagnini had mentioned he made it with Pierre Millemann, a consultant from Burgundy—the idea of making wine from these ancient vines had captured Millemann’s imagination. Curiously, the wine didn’t remind me of Burgundy in any way. Rather, it brought to mind the old-vine rabigato Dirk Niepoort makes from high-elevation vineyards in the Douro.
     There’s been a lot of cross-border talk between the Douro and Ribera del Duero, as some of the top producers have joined forces to promote the red wines of their shared river valley. But little has ever been said about cross-border whites. Albariño in Rías Baixas and alvarinho in Monção or Melgaço share a river; their producers share a Celtic heritage and a propensity to shush their s’s. Yet the most I’d ever heard about their shared culture came out of a story Ray Isle wrote for this magazine seven years ago. Now wines from Galicia’s Ribeira are making a splash in this market, with treixadura that isn’t too far from Vinho Verde’s trajadura, both genetically and geographically. I thought about these Iberian whites when reading Patricio Tapia’s story on Galician empanadas (p. 36) and while interviewing David Leite, whose recent book, The New Portuguese Table, is filled with great recipes to match Portuguese wines. Both Leite and Niepoort feature prominently in our story on northern Portugal’s white wine scene (p. 16).
     I also thought about cultures crossing borders while editing the two main features for this issue. Silvestro Silvestori closes his cooking school in Lecce, The Awaiting Table, to bicycle in southern Italy for a month every year. This year, he biked Mt. Etna, a region that has attracted our attention for some remarkably elegant red wines. His story on the emerging crus of Mt. Etna shares the same sensibility as Tara Q. Thomas’s travel back to the Byzantine city of Monemvasia, and the wine that city had once made famous, its vineyards now buried under olive trees. Each story confronts a Mediterranean mystery. They make good summer reading with the sea never far from the vines.