Italy Wine Report

DSC00438 (1280x281)Because we missed our flight out of Munich, we didn’t arrive in Piedmont until 4:20am.  Needless to say, the owners of the small B&B we stayed at weren’t thrilled to be woken up in the middle of the night.

The B&B was attached to a small winery (patio view above) and was quite charming. The two old dogs there spent the heat of the day walking from one spot of shade to another, sometimes veering towards a guest for some attention.   There were some cats and kittens that enjoyed attacking your feet in the dark.

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Piemonte wines are primarily made from Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto.  The last one is light like a Pinot Noir without as much structure and be very refreshing.  The Dolcetto is downplayed as a cheap table wine but we found a few gems that were really lovely (see info on Erba Luna below).  Barbera is known for its deep color and high acid, so is often used as a blending grape.  The exception is of course the great Barbera d’ Asti which is produced about 30 km from where we were staying.

Nebbiolo is the monster grape behind the famous wines of Barolo and Barbaresco but each region has its own name for the wine produced from it (Nebbiolo di Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo, etc).  In its youth, the strong tannins derived from the tradition of cold maceration on the grape skins of up to 30 days can make this wine tough to appreciate.  Even at 8 years of age, these wines can taste a bit like chewing on the bark of an oak tree.  The people in the region are able to see how each wine will evolve over time but it was difficult for us to appreciate.

We set up several appointments prior to arriving, mostly at the larger wineries because they responded more readily to email requests.  In addition, we chose a couple of the place because we served their wines at our rehearsal dinner.  These places were close to three small charming rustic Italian towns (Barolo, La Mora and Langhe) nestled between rolling hills.

By and large, the big houses were a touristy disappointment.  FontanaFredda was an exception to this because they are one of the older wineries in the region, provided a great tour of their ancient and old caves, are in the process of becoming fully organic and were recently bought by Oscar Farinetti (the guy who founded Eataly).  They do an outstanding job of marketing themselves and are producing wine in a much more modern style.

Another exception was a generous free vertical tasting offered by Damilano in the town of Barolo.  They poured us 7 high quality wines spanning 8 years.  Unfortunately, they all tasted a bit too tanic for us so we passed.  Here’s a picture of Kate barely containing her excitement for a free tasting.

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In our second day of tasting we decided to avoid the large houses and asked our B&B for recommendations on places to tasted.  They suggested that we visit ErbaLuna, a small organic wine producer in the town of Fra’Annunziata, just outside of La Morra.    We tasted with the wine maker, Andrea Oberto, one of the few certified organic wine makers in Italy.  Andrea’s grandfather moved to La Morra in 1928 founded the winery in 1958.  Andrea took over in 1985 and switched to organic in 1992, but otherwise stays true to the wine making styles of the region.  They produce about 70,000 bottles a year.

For the wine club we decided to buy two bottles at Erba Luna because the value was excellent and the wines were closer to being ready to drink than many others we tried.  The 2009 Barolo was delicate with a long finish, well integrated tannins and a bit of a barnyard nose.  Flavor was extracted from the skin during an extended cold maceration and it was aged in Slovenian wood.  This wine will continue to improve over the next 4-5 years but if you drink it sooner you should decant for a good 45 minutes.  It would be excellent with a steak because of the red fruit and spicy tannins.

We also purchased the Dolcetto, which was a incredible bargain and a easy to drinking now.  Most of the Dolcettos we tasted in Italy were of poor quality and considered cheap table wine but this was the exception.  This wine is great on its own with a little chill (but not as cold as a white wine).  We also tasted (and bought a bottle) of his chinato, a digestif, which is sweet with added herbs and spice.  Below you can see how excited we were with these finds!

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Andrea’s brother used to help at the winery but now runs a organic wine shop in La Morra.  We stopped by there after our tasting for some antipasti and a couple cool glasses of white wine.  We liked the Alto Aldige so much that we actually decided to purchase a bottle.   Yum!

The food in Piedmont was spectacular and classic in nature.  It is home to the white truffle and is considered by many to be the gastronomic capital of Italy.  Here’s are a couple pics to make your mouth water.

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In Piedmont, the humidity seems to seep into the air and surround from every direction.  As proof, every evening there was a beautiful haze that hung on the nearby hills and created gorgeous sunsets for picture taking.  I couldn’t tell which picture I liked more…decide for yourself.

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As you can plainly see, Piedmont had great scenery and great food but we left excited to get to the Jura and drink less tannic wines.

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