One of the finds during our Wine Century Club quest (see here) was this wine: the 2010 Osél Ruchè di Castagnole Monferato, a red wine in the highest Italian qualification tier: the DOCG. It is also one of the newest DOCGs, only having been induced in 2010.
It was Nina’s birthday (as I seem to have informed about everyone multiple times by now…sorry about that), and she wanted something low-key, so I decided to make her the best burgers ever, and I mean ever. I had gotten great hamburger meat from our local butcher, I stopped using the colored cardboard they sell at the supermarkets pretty much immediately after I first arrived in the US, and I had gotten the buns Nina loves. I found ripe avocados (a true feat in Michigan!), so I was going to make my own guacamole. The right lettuce would top things off, add in our variety of mustards. We’re both no big fans of pickles, so those were out. Then I added bacon to the mix. A good burger needs bacon. And then, in a whim, I decided to buy big Portobello mushroom heads, trim them to medium thick slices and roast them in the bacon grease as the bottom layer on the bun, under the patties. The burgers were bbqed on our grill out in the snow. I also made homemade sweet potato fries with a mayo-kochujang dip.
Sorry, no photos of the burgers…
Why am I telling you this? Because, to pair with wine, this is a total nightmare: Greasiness from the meat and bacon, heartiness from the meat. Sweetness from the ketchup, heat from the chilis in the guacamole and the mustard. Sourness from the lime in the guacamole. And again sweetness in the buns. Bitterness from the lettuce and roasted onions (which I forgot to mention)…you see where I am headed? It’s a nightmare. There is a reason why people drink beer with burgers. But, it was our Wine Century Club quest anniversary, so there had to be wine. (And I dislike beer).
So I did my thinking, I did my research. I didn’t want a Zinfandel, I didn’t want a Cabernet Sauvignon. It would have been best to find a grape variety we had not had. I settled on a few wine types that I could imagine going with this dish: Barbera and Nero d’Avola were my first choices. But then I decided to just head over to a small, local grocery store right across the street, which has a pretty decent wine collection. I imagined this was the moment were it would be great to talk to their wine guy and get his recommendations.
I ventured over, and, in what seemed like a total first, the wine guy was nowhere to be found. Ugh, that sucked. I know people need not be at work all the time, but I needed him! Well, I just started checking what they had. I appreciate their small selection because it is less overwhelming. So I kept looking at this wine and at that, I think I read pretty much every label. There was no Barbera and no Nero d’Avola. I was growing a bit restless (which usually doesn’t happen to me in a wine shop) and then this one caught my eye: A Ruchè. I had no clue about it. And I don’t own a smartphone, so no way to check. The heck. It said it was good for meat and spice and Asian foods…so that kinda sealed the deal.
Once home, I looked it up: Ruchè is a grape grown in Italy’s Piedmont region. Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato is one of the smallest DOCGs in Italy, with only about 40 hectares (100 acres) under vine. It is said to have similarities to Nebbiolo and the wines are said to have slightly bitter aftertaste.
The wine is sold under the label Osél, which is produced by Siema Wines, an importer and distributor into the US. They have currently over 500 wines in their portfolio. According to the website, it was produced by grapes from one farmer in the region. Apparently, David McIntyre liked this wine in the past, saying it is cheaper than most Ruchès and an “extra-good value” (I paid around $15). It is wholly made from Ruchè grapes and has 13.5% ABV.
It poured in a lighter red with some hints of brick. The nose was floral and perfumy with cherry and jammy notes. Rather enticing. The flavor profile of this light to medium bodied wine was very intense, with again cherry and some earthy aromas. There was noticeable residual sugar, maybe a tad too sweet. It had a peppery and slightly bitter finish that was rather short.
I liked this wine a lot, especially in its pairing with the burgers. It worked. It stood up to the food, but did not overpower the burger, and it held its own against all those crazy assaults from left and right. I was quite amazed how well it worked.I am not sure this would work on its own, though. But if you can find a bottle, give it a try!
Hahaha, I wrote about Ruche. It’s a fantastic autochthon variety, hardly known outside Italy :) And since I’m a big fan of the Piedmontese viticulture, I’m happy you liked it!
It works also with cheese, and in Italy I served it even to ‘Kartoffelpuffer mit Steinpilzsauce’ ;)
Oh my, Kartoffelpuffer mit Steinpilzsauce? That alone would make me a totally happy man…
I realized today that I had missed this post of yours! Funny that you have come across such not-so-very-well-known wine and grape variety! I am glad you liked it – I had only one bottle of Ruche’ a couple of years ago (different producer) and, while my memories of it (I didn’t take notes back then) are on the same page as your tasting notes (medium-bodied, not much structure, pretty flowery and fruity) I have to say I was not overly impressed with it… Maybe if I come across another bottle with no effort on my end ;-) I may give it another shot based on your review.
Thank you for sharing your always excellent notes, Oliver, where I also very much appreciated your reasoning behind the pairing with those delicious burgers! :-)
Thank you so much, Stefano! I was definitely intimidated by the burgers, and as I said, I think this was fine as a food pairing wine, not necessarily by itself…:) As always, thanks for stopping by and sharing. I very much appreciate it!
Oliver, first, while belated, Happy Birthday to Nina!
Very interesting wine you had. I can only tell you that the Ruche I had (2009 Montalbera Laccento Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato) was very big and full bodied wines, which sounds very different from the wine you had… Glad your wine worked with the burger too!
Thanks, Anatoli, I will pass it on! And very interesting that your version was a full and big wine. Mine definitely was not…gee, so many different styles. It’s what keeps drinking interesting.
Nice review Oliver. I’ve never had a Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG. In my opinion there are just too many DOCGs and especially DOCs in certain regions like Piedmont or Tuscany. I want to try one now :) Usually I find the Piedmontese wines a little bit too acid though…
Well, I did not perceive this one as very acidic, so you might actually be alright! :)
First of all, I’m sitting here without lunch now ravishingly hungry for burgers after your description. Second, now I want to have a burger with this wine for supper tonight. Do you and Nina mind company?! And happy birthday to her, by the way! :)
We never mind company, we’re married after all…:D You should drop by. I’ll head to the butcher right away…