Friday, October 18, 2013

The Partridge Eye

~ The Ancient Abbey at Badia a Coltibuono ~

I've adored Vin Santo for years and have written about it many times on these pages.  Traditional Vin Santo is made from white grapes that are air dried by hanging, or by laying the grapes on straw mats.  Aging takes place in small barrels of various wooden origin and can last many years allowing the wine to develop it's nutty, caramelly complexity. 
But there's another rare form of Vin Santo that may be unfamiliar to many called Occhio di Pernice, The Partridge Eye.

~ A Red Legged Partridge ~
Occhio di Pernice takes it's name from the characteristic orangey/red coloration that surrounds the center pupil of the Partridge eye.  But if Vin Santo is made from white grapes, how does Occhio di Pernice obtain it's color?  The answer is actually a combination of two things.  First, what makes Occhio di Pernice unique is that it's made not from white grapes, but from Sangiovese! 
That fact, coupled with even longer barrel maturation - typically 10 years at a minimum, creates a wine with a rose colored orangey hue to the traditionally deep caramel color of Vin Santo.  The example I was fortunate enough to taste, was the 1985 Badia a Coltibuono.
Presented in a tiny glass, the aromas were still noticeable. There are intensely fragrant exotic spices, candied fruit, orange peel, and honey.  On the palate, the wine is a lovely presentation of ripe nectar.  Honey, brown sugar, caramel, dried fruits, nuts and spices all combine harmoniously. This is truly special and a unique tasting experience. It's got plenty of acidity to remain fresh, and the sweetness is well balanced with no fear of becoming cloying.  Wonderful effort for an almost 30 year old wine.  93 points.  Retail is about $50 for a 375ml.  This taste was purchased by the glass at a restaurant.

~ 1985 Occhio di Pernice from Badia a Coltibuono:  Note the slight orangey redness to the color of the wine - it's a shade or two darker than a traditional Vin Santo would appear ~

Here's a stock label of the 2003 sent to me from the winery.  I should have asked the Sommelier in the restaurant to show me the bottle, but I was too busy enjoying the wine! 

~ Occhio di Pernice ~


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