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Essential Winemakers of Italy ©Opening a Bottle

Varigotti, Liguria

Primary Grapes: Pigato, Rossese, Lumassina

Primary Appellations: Riviera Ligure di Ponente DOC, Colline Savonesi IGT

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American Importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants



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Why Punta Crena is Essential

Liguria is a place of ceaseless vacation fantasy: steep mountains plunging to the sea, secret and not-so-secret beaches, and of course, colorful villages that can make even the worst photographer look decent. This rugged terrain has kept Liguria’s contribution to Italian agriculture small. The land is unforgivingly steep and producing much of anything to scale — whether it is olive oil or lemons or wine — can be difficult. But for Italian wine lovers, that means discovering Liguria’s profound wines can feel more intimate and rewarding.

Punta Crena embodies two of the traits that best define Ligurian wine: viticulture on small plots with impossible steepness, and hyper-local grapes of surprising uniqueness. Together, these attributes add up to an endeavor that seems quite improbable. Imagine a business plan whose Executive Summary started by saying “we plan to cultivate and farm a precipitous slope with grape varieties few have heard of and sell the wines internationally.” The modern world would never tolerate such a start-up, but thankfully we have the Ruffino family, whose lineage to grape-growing on this stretch of coastline goes back 500 years.

Their wines are of uncompromising purity and personality. Most recognizable is the Pigato and Vermentino, the two closely related white-grape varieties that define much of what Liguria exports. But its their work with lesser-known varieties — Barbarossa, Cruvin, Lumassina- and Mataòssu — that will keep you on your toes. Piedmont, Tuscany and Sicily might captivate our wine interests the most, but it is in stories like that of the Ruffino family in which Italian wine transcends into something far more powerful: an enduring grace that only the bonds of family could preserve.

Wines to Seek Out

Punta Crena’s largest vineyard holding is a 2 hectare plot of Pigato. Beyond that, they are working with several micro-vineyards which give rise to a wide spectrum of unusual wines, including a Cruvin and Mataòssu — likely the only two examples of wines from such grapes (unfortunately, I have not tried either). The upshot: these wines are extremely rare and require quite a bit of hunting. Importer Kermit Lynch’s website is a good place to start.

Punta Crena Lumassina Colline Savonesi Frizzante

Can we all agree that wine is, first and foremost, about pleasure? And secondly, can we also agree that satisfaction comes in many different forms? Since no one can disagree with that (I mean really: who would argue?), let me just say that Punta Crena’s frizzante Lumassina could be one of Italy’s top wines if we only scaled wine on the Fun-o-Meter. A sea-kissed blast of grapey fruit and floral fragrance, it exudes the kind of unpretentious pleasure that often goes uncelebrated by the wine media.

Punta Crena “Vigneto Ca’ da Rena” Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato

The seafood-and pesto-centric cuisine of Liguria has largely elevated Vermentino, but a clonal variant called Pigato, which takes over in Western Liguria, can be richly rewarding. “Vigneto Ca’ da Rena” is the best Pigato I’ve come across, striking a chord with its pleasant aromas and purity of texture, recalling melons, pineapples and white flowers on its rounded frame. Best of all: a slight salinity to the finish that acts as an invitation for more.

Punta Crena “Vigneto Isasco” Riviera Ligure di Ponente Rossese

Talk about sticking to your guns: winemaker Tommaso Ruffino’s Rossese is a fascinating wine of eccentricity. Not for one second does it stray into “radio friendly” territory to offer wine lover’s what they are used to in a red wine. Tannins? Have some minerality instead. Cherries and berries? Sorry, the chef prefers pomegranate. Graphite? Vanilla? Anything grounding and familiar? Have a basket of flowers. It is as though a Gewürztraminer decided to play the role of a red wine, only to discover it prefers being a red wine. Its confident in its singularity, and that is part of the charm. Ruffino has made a red wine that says “here I am, take it or leave it,” and even after a second — then a third — glass, I opted to take it.

Visiting Punta Crena

Punta Crena is a very small, family-owned and operated enterprise. Contact them ahead if you would like to schedule a visit outside the harvest season (August through October).


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