The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Go-to-Wine Tuesday: Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium Ruscum 2011

Posted on | April 14, 2015 | Written by David Bertot | No Comments

WH1911-2There’s no question that wine and religion share a common history. Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, fertility, and theatre, had a literal cult following, and Bacchus, the Roman version of the same god, had likewise. The Catholic Church was pivotal to the quality and development of viticulture and viniculture, and it’s apparent all over winemaking. For example, Clos du Vougeot owes its start to the hard work of Cistercian monks, evident in the wine’s precision and quality. Pope Charlemagne in the ninth century reportedly so loved the red wines made in his land that his long white beard was stained red by the wine; his wife ripped out the red grapes to plant white grape varietals instead, thus creating one of the best Chardonnay vineyards in France—Corton Charlemagne—or so goes the legend. It’s likely not true, but it’s nice to think it is.

One connection between religion and wine that’s absolutely true is the estate Monastero Suore, run the nuns of the Cistercian order in Vitorchiano, about 90 miles north of Rome in Lazio. The estate is overseen by Giampiero Bea, the son of Umbria’s eminent artisanal producer Paolo Bea, who are both well known proponents of the Italian school of non-interventionist winemaking. Monastero Suore’s wine is evidence of that influence; its eighty Cistercian sisters work the vineyards and orchards organically in this beautiful, pristine, and quiet outpost.

A gorgeous amber-orange in the glass, Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium Ruscum 2011 is an intriguing wine. The wine gracefully demonstrates a vivacious acidity, with subtle notes of mango, passion fruit, eucalyptus, and almonds on the mid-palate, culminating in a gorgeous mineral streak on the finish. It has a strong yet barely detectable backbone, a quality that stems from a meticulously made organic white wine. A blend of 45% Trebbiano, 35% Malvasia, and 20% Verdicchio, Ruscum is balanced, precise, and surprising. Only 4,000 bottles of this wine were made in 2011, and it delivers a massive value at less than $27.

bertot ruscum photoAlthough this food-friendly, skin-contact wine will complement lots of food, this ’11 Ruscum paired beautifully well with a mushroom risotto my wife and I enjoyed on Friday night. I used morel and royal trumpet mushrooms, along with tiny cubes of Jamon Iberico Pata Negra de Bellota, and of course plenty of aged Parmigiano Reggiano in this recipe. This was a mind-bending pairing that I didn’t want to end.

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