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For years we’ve been hoping to taste a Vermentino from Liguria that we thought competed with Lambruschi Vermentino for saline, mineral-driven and distinctive wine. Lambruschi has always been in short supply, and, as Vermentino goes, is also very expensive at $50+. And while the farming there is good, it’s not as far on the natural side as we’d prefer. So it’s been exciting to find La Bettigna, which comes from a small, walled single-vineyard of organically farmed Vermentino vines (by coincidence just yards from the Lambruschi winery). Nicola Lazzone and Emilio Facinelli are old friends and serious wine lovers who discovered the quasi-abandoned vines; total production can reach 450-500 cases a year (it was closer to 300 cases in 2014), so they are keeping their day jobs.
La Bettigna is on the Ligurian side of the Colli di Luni DOC, which overlaps Liguria and Tuscany by the coast – the vines are just a couple of miles from the sea, and not far north of the marble quarries at Carrara, in Tuscany. It hasn't been that long (in geological terms) since the Colli di Luni was under the sea, which accounts for the limestone and marine sediments in the soil – and for the famous marble (the autostrada through the region is lined with impressive stone-yards). The sea has retreated further in more recent times – the former Roman port City of Luni is now about half-way between La Bettigna and the coast.
Colli di Luni Vermentino generally has good extract and is fairly full-bodied (and often correspondingly high in alcohol); La Bettigna doesn’t lack intensity, but the 12° alcohol is one of the things I love about the wine. Obviously well-suited for fish, pesto, or other Ligurian-type food, and surprisingly harmonious with tomato ('tis the season), we are drinking this at home with a pretty wide range of food (last night: mezze) and always with great pleasure. Jamie Wolff
From biodynamically grown Vermentino, the wine is made in stainless steel using indigenous yeasts; it spends 2 days on the skins, which may add a little structure but not a hint of ‘orange wine’. It’s not fined or filtered, and a small amount of sulfur is used at bottling (the wine has a final so2 of 40mm). The proximity of the sea is suggested in the wine’s pronounced salinity – first on the nose, along with nuts and light herbs and hay, all of which follow-through on the palate, supported by bracing citrusy acidity and fresh chalky minerality. There’s a really clear sense that this is a true wine – true to variety, true to place, transparent and compelling. Savory, medium-bodied, with excellent persistence, it’s a really versatile food match and is proving a crowd-pleaser with guests. We don’t have air-conditioning and La Bettigna is helping to lighten the mood and cool us down in the sweltering heat. 12° alcohol! Jamie Wolff