The Rapture of Sollucchero Cherry Wine
Filed under: Food Pairing, Journal, Liquors, Wine - Sweet
One of the things I love about Italy are the diverse, highly localized flavors and tastes one finds while exploring this ancient peninsula. In Italy there is no such thing as “Italian food,” all dishes are highly localized.
Remarkably, you will find differences within a province or even between nearby towns. Of course, wines vary dramatically up and down the peninsula, but what has delighted me in my search for unique, artisanal products is the variety of local liquors and sweet wines you will find. I make a point to bring back something truly local to the region I’m visiting, perhaps a bitter-sweet aperativo or an herby digestivo.
Enter Monte Valentino, a tiny boutique dessert wine producer nestled up in the rugged mountains of Umbria. On a winter wine scouting trip with Arnaldo Rossi, my Sommelier buddy in Cortona, he told me about this molto particolare (very unusual) red sweet wine that is infused with the fruit of the visciolo tree.
So began my trek to a remote post deep in the heart of Umbria.
Making the Trek
“You won’t make it up the hill. We’ll have to pick you up at the train station,” says Fabrizia Gargano, the co-proprietor of Monte Valentino, an exquisite little agriturismo (an Italian B&B) that produces the wonderful sweet Visciole cherry wine called Sollucchero, which translates literally as “I become enraptured”. Once you taste Sollucchero, you’ll understand why.
Monte Valentino is a 300+ year old borgo nestled in the verdant Umbrian hills just north of Perugia. But in late January, we’re greeted with a blanket of snow that highlights the dormant cherry trees as Nicola Polchi, Fabrizia’s husband, navigates his Land Rover up the steep single lane road from the valley below. I’m glad I’m not driving. The views are stunning on the way up, but enjoying the scenery while driving could prove fatal.
With roots dating back to the days of the Dukes of Urbino, Fabrizia and Nicola restored this small borgo in 1996 with an eye toward living a life immersed in the beauty of a natural and wild Umbria. In addition to producing Sollucchero wine, each year they open their home to travelers looking to experience a region rich with history yet a bit off the beaten track.
While Nicola spends much of his time in the winter months finely crafting handsome furniture made from oak and walnut from the nearby forests, he is always ready to describe the process of making Sollucchero and take you on a tour of the cantina.
“Fabrizia and I hand collect the Visciole cherries at their peak of sugar production, which is in early July when the cherry skins just start to wrinkle.” Nicola is quick to tell us that they macerate the bitter cherries and blend with a base of Rosso Orvietano wine the same day to ensure the rich, spicy essence of the visciole cherry is captured by the wine. The wine spends several months in cold fermentation and is finally filtered and blended with a bit of alcohol and a touch of sugar to offset the bitterness of the Visciole.
“We then bottle the wine and let it age for 9 months before releasing it,” says Nicola. “The wine never touches oak, but this year we will be experimenting with aging some of the Sollucchero production in oak casks to see what it can offer to the wine.”
Visciole cherries are unlike anything we Americans are used to. Not quite a pie cherry, and certainly not like the sweet cherries we eat by the fistful in the late spring, Visciole cherries are quite small and exceptionally tart. The Visciola cherry tree grows wild and its cultivation was a favorite of the Italian contadini, or rural peasant farmers of the past. Fabrizia and Nicola have taken the wonderful wild, spicy Visciole to a new level with their exquisite Sollucchero.
Tasting Notes: Monte Valentino Sollucchero
Sollucchero has a lovely ruby red color with highlights of purple, both clear and bright. The nose is delightful with jammy black fruits, wild strawberry, dried rose flowers and a pronounced pie-cherry scent from the Visciole cherries. On the palate the sweetness is lighter than many typical dessert wines.
The fruits found on the nose come through intensely on the palate; blackberry and black cherry, dried flowers and toasted almond with a nice acidity that balances with the sweetness. The flavors persist with a long, pleasant finish. While Sollucchero has 16 degrees of alcohol, it is not overpowering or ‘hot’ in the mouth. The nose and flavors close down when it’s served cold, so Sollucchero s best served at room temperature.
Food Pairing with Sollucchero
Sollucchero is heavenly by itself as a dessert wine shared with friends at the end of a long meal, but its sweet spiciness goes particularly well with blue-veined cheeses like gorgonzola, stilton or the wonderful Crater Lake Blue from The Rogue Creamery. Sollucchero is also out of this world with dark chocolate and wonderful drizzled on vanilla gelato.
You can read more about the origins of Monte Valentino Sollucchero on Nicola and Fabrizia’s website here.
Where to buy Sollucchero
Fabrizia and Nicola have been kind enough to allow me to bring this gorgeous red dessert wine to the States to share with you. You will find Sollucchero in our Online Store and at many retailers. Just click here for more information.
In Rapture for Sweet Wines?
Want to share your favorite dessert wine from Italy? Looking for pointers on how to locate other special Italian wines and spirits? Join the conversation and don’t be bashful, we’d love to hear your thoughts and questions. If you have a question about Italian wine, food or travel, ask away. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.
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Where can I find Solluchero? I have checked Pasta Works and they don’t have it. I must have it!
Hi Anne, thanks for the follow-up. I’m glad you like the wine, it is fascinating and very popular. Unfortunately, Sollucchero is out of stock right now and I am looking at when we might be able to get more in from Nicola and Fabrizia. Their production is tiny and they try to distribute the wine over multiple countries, so the allocation for the US is going to be small. I’ll post a follow-up on the status after we’ve worked out the logistics of another shipment.
Hi Anne — I’m working on a new shipment, demand is strong. I expect to have some bottles available in early February 2011. I’ll keep you posted.
Ciao everyone — Sollucchero is back in stock! You’ll find it in many retail shops, or you can order it here online.
Hi Michael — my name is Kamy, and I did try for first time Sollucchero di Monte Valentino; it was great when I lived in Oregon. Where and how can I order this wine now?
Ciao Kamy — it’s a fantastic wine and sooo many friends of Dall’Uva ordered the wine over the years. Unfortunately thought, currently Sollucchero is not available in the US. You can check in with Nicola and Fabrizia at Monte Valentino (http://www.montevalentino.it/) and see if they are still producing the wine and where it may be available.
Hi, and thanks for a great “virtual trip” to Italy (can’t wait till we go back for real!) Can you please tell me how i can buy some Sollucchero?
I have heard my friend dream about it for some time now, and neither of us are sure it exists.
Hi John — I’m working with Fabrizia and Nicola to arrange a new shipment of Sollucchero, we’ve been out of stock for a while but should have plenty in 2011. Right now we’re targeting a small shipment likely to arrive before Valentines day 2011. I’ll keep you posted.
Please let us know when you get it in. It would be selfish to offer to buy up all of your stock, but we are willing to ‘stockpile’ enough to last through the next drought!
Hi David — I’m working with Fabrizia and Nicola to arrange a new shipment of Sollucchero, with a small shipment likely to arrive before Valentines day 2011. I’ll follow-up with you and the other subscribers in the coming weeks on availability and price.
Michael, I’m so excited to be able to purchase this wine again. Where will we be able to buy it when it becomes available?
Hi Sandy – I’m coordinating a shipment now that probably won’t be here until early March, but I’m also planning to pick up a few cases from Nicola and Fabrizia while I’m in Cortona at the end of January. I will send out an update in the coming weeks when I have a better estimate of arrival time — be sure to register for our email updates from our site.
Any news on the availability is Sollucchero?
Hi Anne — thanks for following up, I had a good chat with the producer a while back and we’re coordinating the shipment. Part of the delay is around new licensing I’m securing from the State of California so that Dall’Uva can do direct sales to wine lovers, as well as distributing through the retail shops as we have traditionally. The States aren’t always the fastest when it comes to alcohol licenses, but we’re making progress with them. I’ll keep you posted, and thanks for your patience!
I was listening to an interview with cbc radio edmonton describing a refreshing spritz drink drank in afternoon in Italy. Could you please send me the ingredients as it sounded lovely
Ciao Alison — you’re thinking of the Aperol “Spritz” that came out of Venice in the 1950’s. It used to be that you found it only in the hot summer months, and in the Northeast part of Italy, but these days it can be found throughout Italy (I had several on my trip last month to Vinitaly and the Cinque Terre!). The Spritz is made from Aperol, a bitter liqueur that is kinda tough to find here in the States, but you can also make a Spritz out of Campari which is a bit more common.
The recipe is simple: 2 oz Aperol (or Campari), 4 oz Prosecco (or any sparkling, dry white wine), and an ounce or 2 of soda water. It’s served on the rocks and usually comes with half an orange slice (half moon) on the bottom.
Spritz is remarkably refreshing and a great aperativo before dinner.
If you want to know more about Aperol, check out their website here.
Any news on availability of Sollucchero? I look for it everywhere and can’t find it.
Hi Anne — great news, I have some stock and we’ll be making it available for sale in the coming weeks. We’re rolling out the new website and online store, and setting up the shipping distribution center.
You can get added to the Waiting List for Sollucchero and you’ll get notified when the stock is available for shipping. Just go to the Sollucchero Product Page and click on “Add to Waitlist.”
Hi guys — I have some limited stock available right now, with an upcoming shipment this fall. If you want to pick up a bottle, you can find it here in our online store:
Quantities are very limited, so we’re keeping it to 1-bottle-per-person until the next order comes in. More will come!