All posts filed under: Piedmont

A little Dolcetto at lunch

The Dolcetto d’Alba  Vignevillej from Brovia at Trullo restaurant in Islington. Dolcetto is a fantastic lunch wine, and a good one should be able to step in when the (Barolo) boss is away and do a decent job. This Dolcetto d’Alba Vignevillej from Brovia does this and more – it has all the easy satisfaction of a lunch wine and a pretty violet colour, but can cut through a beef shin ragu, particularly the one at Trullo restaurant in Islington that has been cooked so long the meat has an incredible creamy texture.

The Mystery of Monfortino Barolo

A vertical of Giacomo Conterno is a prime piece of classic Barolo-ology to get the teeth into… to uncover the mystery of Monfortino Barolo. Turning up on a sunny Spring morning at the Corney & Barrow offices near the Tower of London, around the same time as Antonio Galloni was in town for his Giacomo Conterno dinner (and I, without a spare £1500 for a ticket) this was a dreamlike vertical. Sadly I arrived too early to meet Roberto Conterno. If I had met him, I had a lot to ask, especially about some of the ideas his father had about style and also some facts that seem to be different everywhere I search. Giovanni was quite demanding from all accounts – many vintages, which were good enough for most, were not deemed good enough to carry the label of Conterno and sold sfuso. The aromas produced by these wines, especially Monfortino, are understated and robust and the younger vintages flicker with seduction. They draw the taster in with elegant and classic flavours only to hint at …

Back to Barolo School with Berry Bros & Rudd

The fine wine flavour of the month – of the year – is Barolo 2010. You would think this would make me happy. Instead, what I see is a missed opportunity to introduce more people to these great wines. Take Burgundy-level vineyard complexity plus Italian labels multiply by long cellaring time to the power of Italian wine laws. Copy and paste into an old Bordeaux en primeur spreadsheet. The result? A wine wrapped in more of a disorientating fog for customers than a drive in a minibus around hairpin bends in the Italian Alps in winter. Time to get back to basics. Time to go back to Wine School! You can never know too much when it comes to Barolo. So when I saw a Berry Bros & Rudd Wine School tasting of 2009 Barolo and Barbaresco at their cellars in St James’s Street, I put my hand up. Hosted by David Berry Green (DBG), who moved to Barolo in 2009. He lives and breathes nebbiolo. He can make the subject come to life with little tidbits …

Piedmont Report: 2009, 2008, 2007 Nebbiolo

With 2008 and 2009 in the market now, I dug up my 45 notes tasted in Serralunga d’Alba in 2011 and have included notes where re-tasted since then. I had always learned Nebbiolo derived from the word, “Nebbia”, meaning “fog”, alluding to the fog that sets in on the hills in Piemonte during harvest. The true meaning I am told, by every winemaker I met from Piedmont, is that Nebbiolo was named after the Piemontese word “Nebieu” meaning Noble. This may be the case, but these great wines made from Nebbiolo grape in Piemonte seem to be shrouded in fog – the fog of Italian classification laws. “We are very complicated in Piemonte,” said Pietro Ratti at the Symposium after the Nebbiolo Nobile tasting, almost as an apology. Most know Barolo and Barbaresco, some may even know they are made from Nebbiolo, but there are also other wines: Nebbiolo d’Alba, Nebbiolo from Roero and Nebbiolo Langhe. They are made from the same grape but are different classifications of Nebbiolo, some that cross over the same territories, even the same …

Mario Cordero (Vietti) talks Moscato d’Asti

Here I talk to Mario Cordero of the brilliant Vietti winery in Piemonte when he came to visit Bibendum Wine in London. Vietti are well known for their serious single cru Barolo, so I ask him, how do you like to have your Moscato d’Asti? This has to be one of the most fun wines in the world and truly lights up the room when it is opened. As my friend said after seeing this video, Mario should get the award for World’s Best Dad.

Breakfast wine: Moscato d’Asti on Sundays

It is not often you find a wine with a sense of humour, but this lightly sparkling, lightly sweet wine is the vinous equivalent of being overpowered by tickling. Logic says, don’t give in, but the frizzante, well – it is hardly bubbles, and 5.5% alcohol is hardly wine, and it is as sweet and light as a hazelnut meringue or biting into a fresh mille–feuille pastry on a first time visit to Paris. Something monumental is born from the entirely fun and frivolous. Oscar Wilde once said, “Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast”, and most times I agree wholeheartedly with this statement, which is why Moscato d’Asti is the perfect antidote for lazy Sunday breakfasts.

A Tale of Two Vineyards: Giacomo Conterno dinner at Zucca

When one of the oldest Barolo house changes guard, it is worth sitting up and taking notice. Cantina Giacomo Conterno is a great name in Barolo wines and was established in 1908. With the passing away of the formidable Giovanni Conterno in 2004, his son Roberto took the helm. There have been a few changes since then, which is why I was pleased to have an informal dinner at Zucca Restaurant in London to taste the latest releases. 

Piedmont Report: Langhe Nebbiolo & Nebbiolo d’Alba

I had always learned Nebbiolo derived from the word, “Nebbia”, meaning “fog”, alluding to the fog that sets in on the hills in Piemonte during harvest. But no, I stand humbly corrected. The true meaning I am told, by every winemaker I met while I was there, is that Nebbiolo was named after the Piemontese word “Nebieu” meaning Noble. This may be the case, but these great wines made from Nebbiolo grape in Piemonte seem to be shrouded in fog – the fog of Italian classification laws. “We are very complicated in Piemonte,” said Pietro Ratti at the Symposium after the Nebbiolo Nobile tasting, almost as an apology. Does it have to be this way? Some may know Barolo and Barbaresco, some may even know they are made from Nebbiolo, but there are also other wines: Nebbiolo d’Alba, Nebbiolo from Roero and Nebbiolo Langhe. They are made from the same grape but are different classifications of Nebbiolo, some that cross over the same territories, even the same vineyards, as Barolo and Barbaresco (see map above).  They …

Drawing the Line: Barolo, Barbaresco & Langhe Nebbiolo

  Barolo may be the wine everyone knows, but the grape that makes Barolo – Nebbiolo – is the chalk line that draws the character of Piemonte. This line has its moments of frustration. Particularly when Nebbiolo is only recognised by winelovers and winemakers alike as the King and Queen of Piemonte, Barolo and Barbaresco.However, like any character who hopes for a continuous line, there is good news for Langhe: a distinct picture is emerging.

New Italian wines at The Wine Society: bella figura!

The concept of ‘bella figura’ or good image is important to Italians. Bella figura is more than dressing well. It extends to the aura you project too – i.e. confidence, style, demeanour, etc. (From Italy – Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette) The Wine Society UK has found its Members wines that not only speak of the place but also have an extra flourish of bella figura. You’ll find nearly all of The Wine Society’s Italian wines for Spring have personality and speak of its place and history; in particular, the white wines. At these prices, and in these quantities, that is quite an achievement. Here is the line up for Spring: 

New Italian Wine range at Marks & Spencer

“What is it? Why does he have to shout? Why!” The Queen turned to say to noone in particular at the G20 Conference in 2009. The collective groan could be heard all the way from Italy after President Berlusconi shouted across The Throne Room in Buckingham Palace to introduce himself to the new US President Obbammmmaaa. Which brings me to the Marks & Spencer Spring Tasting. One word came to me while walking away:

Go a little crazy Arneis

In local Langhe-Piedmont dialect, the name of the white grape Arneis means “crazy, weird, introverted, whimsical, bizarre”. But what’s really crazy here is that Arneis is not more well-known as a white wine. In a similar way to Viognier, its individuality was once blended away into red wines and production was limited to a small parcel of land. Reminiscent of Viognier with its hint of apricot, good Arneis has an unmistakeable note of delicate white flowers and great Italian texture on the palate. Good humoured, light and original, I won’t say I have never seen crazy-as-in-psychotic examples of Arneis before

Marks & Spencer Barbera d’Asti

Warning: the label says Barbera d’Asti but there is nothing much Barbera nor Asti about this wine from Marks & Spencer. The natural acidity of the Barbera grape jars with the American oak (yes, I said American oak) which gives the wine as much pleasure as chewing on tin foil while watching good food being thrown away.

How to do the new austere: a baby Barbaresco

La Maggiorina Le Piane 2009 (Colline Novaresi DOC, Piedmont) from Lea & Sandeman, £12.95 pb This is how to do the new austere well: with a light, baby Barbaresco style wine from a near-abandoned region in Piedmont. Beautiful perfumes and tight tannins somehow make austere seem rich. A fabulous wine yet with an honest country heart: violet, roses after rain, stewed cherry, and fresh-smelling wet forest twigs and gun shop, the expansive feeling of the perfume slowed down by refined tannins, like stopping on a mountain path to take photos of a richly-coloured sunset with a super-sharp lens. From a once thriving wine-region 1-hour drive North-West of Milan, vineyards deserted in the 1950s for the textile industry, the Colline Novaresi DOC is in the highest and most eastern part of Piedmont. This is made near the town of Boca from the Nebbiolo grape which gives the wine a beautiful pale colour and perfume, also seen in expensive Barolo and Barbaresco, but contains up to 30% Croatina grape, a local variety which gives a violet colour and tannic …

The One That Got Away

This wine had the place smelling like Christmas for a week. Can I give you a tasting note from broken bottle? At around £120 – £140 per bottle, I have to at least try… I was down on my hands and knees licking the floor. Risking shards of glass in my tongue just to have a taste.

Controversial Freisa: why this is an important wine variety

“They can be fussy, unreconstructed; most of them don’t want to go along to get along. They have an attitude, an edge.” – Randall Grahm, Preface to Wines of Italy, Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology There comes an evolution in the taste buds when tasting wine and that can be summed up in one word: bitterness. Bitterness is an acquired taste. A five year old does not like bitterness. Did you ever mistake a cold bottle of Indian Tonic Water with Schweppes Lemonade on a hot summers day as a child? Ha! It is a shock. That is perhaps why Freisa d’Asti from Piedmonte in North-West Italy divided the critics. Hugh Johnson described Freisa d’Asti as being “immensely appetizing” to Robert M Parker Jr described Freisa as producing “totally repugnant wines”. But I defy you to come to a firm conclusion on it from a simple sip-and-spit basis. This is never going to be a mainstream wine. Not because it’s not a good wine, it is an excellent wine, but because it does sophisticated things …

How to do the new austere: a baby Barbaresco

This is how to do the new austere well: with a light, baby Barbaresco style wine from a near-abandoned region in Piedmont. A fabulous wine yet with an honest country heart: violet, roses after rain, stewed cherry, and fresh-smelling wet forest twigs and gun shop, the expansive feeling of the perfume slowed down by refined tannins, like stopping on a mountain path to take photos of a richly-coloured sunset with a super-sharp lens.