Papal State, 15th century. Banners bearing the ‘green boughs’ of the House of Ordelaffi from Forli waved in the cool breeze blowing through the hills of Romagna. Covered in gleaming steel mesh, the soldiers of the Lordship of Forlì were moving to the border of Ravenna to the north, to scan the horizon for the establishment of their increasingly rich, increasingly powerful new neighbours: the Venetians of the Republic. The House of Da Polenta, who had given birth to the beautiful Francesca of Dantesque memory, was no more. The last descendants exiled across the waters to the east at the behest of the Venetians. On the horizon, the lion of St Mark’s drew its deep breath.
The knights of the Ordelaffi, with their steel armour adorned in green and yellow cloth, led their steeds through rows of yellow and green grapes with the aroma of Muscat pervading the air. From these grapes, a few months later, they would drink a wine that would become famous in the following centuries. Today, this grape, despite some trials of cultivation on the plains, has recaptured the steeper areas of the Romagna countryside and has over 200 hectares of vines.
In the late Middle Ages, the first traces appear of a grape variety known as Rambella, according to recent research a direct blood heir of the Termarina Nera which we have already discussed in another article. The oldest texts refer to Rambella as a grape used ‘fresh’ at the end of a meal, often even dried, as it cleanses and leaves a fruity aroma in the mouth.
When vinified it is often used to blend more anonymous varieties such as Albana, as is traditional, but it also retains its identity as a still or sparkling single-varietal wine. Although it remains a fresh wine and not as intense as Moscato, it has regained body and identity since it was brought back to the hills, although the real question that arises is why on earth they took it away from there to grow it on the plains Rambella accompanied Romagna’s tables for centuries only to be, as in so many other cases, buried by more widely marketed varieties. In the mouth, the wine obtained from it has scents reminiscent of hawthorn, linden blossom, citrus and sage notes, characteristics that make it a magnificent accompaniment to tortelloni and stuffed pasta.