Venturing into the lesser-known Italian red wines, Lacrima – Italian for “tear” – is a dark-skinned, blue-black grape grown in the Marche region. It’s name describes both the grape’s shape, as well as the fact that it releases teardrops of juice when it’s ripe. Though many believe this grape to have been around since the 12th century when it was more widely planted and grown, it risked extinction as recently as the 1980s! However, it’s now protected by farming laws, and the growers are more in tune with its slightly more finicky nature – this grape prefers a temperate climate, and is susceptible to bad weather.
The Marche region is found in central Italy, comprised of hills and the Apennines mountains, with many rivers running through the land. Today, this grape is almost entirely grown in Italy’s D.O.C. of Lacrima di Morro d’Alba.
Following a recent wine tasting event, I asked one of the knowledgeable staff at Thief Wine if he could recommend a more obscure red wine for me to try. First, the look of elation on his face when I asked was absolutely priceless. He was almost giddy with excitement that he could share some of his favorite quirky wines with a patron, and he immediately took me to this beauty:
Personally, I can’t think of anything but a super hero driving an Italian race car. Not a bad image to have in mind when popping this wine open. Turns out, this wine is made by Mario Lucchetti, and is somewhat of a family affair, with his wife, son and daughter-in-law assisting in the process. Wine.com offers an inviting description of the wine:
Deep violet in color, the wine explodes out of the glass with an extremely intense and heady bouquet of exotic Eastern flowers and wild strawberries and pomegranate. Once past the intriguing nose, the palate features wild berry compote, hints of roses, violets and geranium, a note of pink peppercorn and finishes very fresh with limited tannins. An utterly unique experience featuring outstanding balance and concentration.
The 2015 Lucchetti Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, with 13.5% ABV, can be found for around $16. The bottle also indicates that it’s a limited edition:
I’m not quite sure what this marks a quarter century for – I couldn’t even find anything from the family vineyard’s website (which I had to translate, thanks Google!). But what I did find is a greater explanation of how this family vineyard came to be. Many of the vines still in production today were planted in the 1980s, which, by some definitions, makes this an ‘old vine’ operation. The Lacrima grapes are typically harvested within the first week and a half of September, and, according to this website, ‘vinified in the traditional method’. Overall, this vineyard produces fewer than 10,000 cases of Lacrima each year.
Onto the tasting:
Appearance: Deep ruby color, darkening all the way to the edges of the glass (when you tipped the glass, the color didn’t fade even as you got closer to the glass).
Nose: This wine was super fragrant, with plum and violets. But it also released a smell that I could only describe as a bit sour, or tangy. Even on the second day, it was still very fragrant, giving off more of a dried plum note, and still a bit sour. As my mom put it, perhaps a bit vinegar-like.
Taste: This wine tasted rich with purple fruits like blackberry and plum, and actually had higher levels of tannin and acidity. Similar to the smell, it almost tasted a bit tangy. On the next day, the taste still had some bitterness/tang to it, perhaps a bit vinegary, and a slight chalky aftertaste.
Overall: I’m not sure I’d drink this one again. Sure, it was quirky and obscure, but because Lacrima isn’t like cabernet sauvignon – where we expect a range of flavors depending on where the grapes are grown, I wouldn’t expect a ton of variability. Since it’s only grown in one region, I’m just not sure I’d find something more palatable. I suppose I should give it the benefit of the doubt, since the vinegar smell could have been an indicator of a potential flaw in the wine, volatile acidity.
If you’re interested, you can get a closer, more detailed look at the Marche region, and other regions, of Italy in this beautiful Wine Folly map.
Since there are so many other Italian varietals to try, I’d say I’ve checked this one off my list, and I’m ready to move on to the next.