Sons Of A Lesser God – Sparkling Wines From Almost Unknown Native Grapes: Bianchetta Genovese

10th March 2023

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There are a lot of native grapes with good characteristics for the production of fine sparkling wines!

Let’s travel to Italy, to the beautiful region of Liguria, which lies between Tuscany and France, on the Mediterranean Sea. It is a hilly region and the viticulture is called “heroic” because all the work in the vineyards are manually done. The production of sparkling wines has grown in recent years, with good appreciation by consumers.

In the surroundings of Genoa, the most important city of Liguria, the wineries carry out a centuries old tradition of winemaking: in the XVI century the pleasant Agostino Pindemonte found near the Pernecco river, an inscribed Roman Copper Tablet (Tavola Bronzea – 117 b.C.) in which emerges the evidence that wine was used as a coin by the local population.

One of the most traditional grapes of Valpolcevera DOC is Bianchetta Genovese, a white variety, known also as Albarola in the far east of the region, on the Tuscan border.

It is an early ripe variety, suitable for cold climates, performing also if exposed to the salty winds from the sea. The bunch is medium size, greenish yellow, with two wings and the skin is covered by pruine.

Valpolcevera Spumante Brut Doc Janua, Andrea Bruzzone Winery, is a special classic method sparkling wine from Bianchetta Genovese. The grapes are cultivated on clayey soil on the Fegino and Sant’Olcese hills, manually harvested; the second fermentation lasts 18 months and the disgorgement is done “ à la volée”.

The idea of making a sparkling wine occurred in 2014, when bad weather conditions, on the top of the hills, generated high acidity harvested grapes: they were perfect for a new experience in the cellar.

The wine has a lemon green color, numerous and fine bubbles. Primary olfactory notes of floral (hawthorn, acacia) and citrus fruits; medium plus acidity, medium alcohol, medium body, creamy mousse and medium flavor intensity and finish. Perfect pairing with raw seafood and fish, vegetable pie (Torta Pasqualina), pesto sauce spaghetti.

Janua was the ancient name of Genoa; someone refers to the name as Janus divinity, who had two faces, one to see the future, the other turned to the past.

Janua is also the name of the cellar and wine shop, opened in 2020, in a beautiful corner of the historical Genoa city center, in front of the gothic church of San Donato: Andrea Bruzzone created a little but interesting wine museum, with a lot of tools and machines for winemaking used by the locals in the past. Not only sparkling wines but fine dry red and white wines and spirits! It is worth the visit.

Spumante Brut Axillo is a refreshing refermented in the bottle of sparkling wine from Bianchetta Genovese and a small percentage of Vermentino: the perfect choice for a summer aperitif. It has an intense, soft and creamy mousse, stone and citrus fruits, herbal and bread aromas: the bubbles are created by the second fermentation that takes place right in the bottle. You can turn the bottle upside down to put the lees in suspension or not, if you want to drink it clear.

Axillo is a pretty nice dialect term that indicates a person who has a positive drive toward life and activation. Love at first sip, obviously.

Andrea Bruzzone followed in 1985 the footprints of his father Eugenio, a very passionate winegrower who produced wines from the native grapes for his restaurant. Believing in the territory, he promoted the valorization of the Valpolcevera wines until 1999, when the denomination of appellation (DOC) was established. It is certainly thanks to his great job that viticulture has survived in that zone.

Olga Sofia Schiaffino

Winelover, Sommelier, wine blogger WSET Level 3 passed with distinction. Sparkling wine addict.