“Either give me more wine or leave me alone” – Rumi
In the northwestern region of Italy lies one of the most important wine producing areas in the world, Piedmont. Some have compared Piedmont to Burgundy in that both favor small and meticulously cared for estates and focus on single varietals rather than blends. Nearly all of Piedmont’s best vineyards are located in the warmer areas of the south, especially along the two southeastern ranges known as the Lange and Monferrato.
Barolo and Barbaresco are sometimes described as being too powerful. These big, almost black-red wines are meant to be drunk with the regions substantial meats, hearty pastas and rich risottos. They are made from the highly tannic Nebbiolo grape, and until recently were almost unpalatable unless aged ten to fifteen years. Modern technology, introduced in the 1980’s, with temperature controlled fermentation and small barrel aging, allowed winemakers to create wonderfully powerful wines which became much more accessible at a younger age.
Barbera is the every day red wine of Piedmont. In many ways the opposite of Barolo, Barbera is a softer, magenta wine, which doesn’t require a lot of aging. It used to be produced in large quantities without much thought to quality, but in recent decades many producers have been making delicious, zippy food wines with mouth-filling cherry, fig, and chocolate notes.
The other major red produced in Piedmont is Dolcetto. Sometimes called Italy’s Beaujolais, it is light with firm grapey-spicy fruit. It has relatively little acid or tannin, and is made to be easy drinking.
There are two major white wines produced in Piedmont. Gavi is made from the Cortese grape, and at its best is bone dry and crisp, with citrus and mineral notes. Arneis, which means rascal in the local dialect, is dry, lively and fairly full bodied with light pear and apricot flavors.
Asti is an aromatic semisweet sparkling wine made from the moscato grape. This frothy sparkler has lots of fruit, with peach and apricot notes and a little muskiness, and is made using the Charmat method.
One of my favorite sparkling wines is also made in Piedmont, Moscato di Asti. Usually produced in small batches, it’s delicate, lightly sweet, and wonderfully fruity. Moscato is just a bit frizzante (fizzy) and is the perfect complement to a wide range of desserts.
I hope I’ve piqued your interest in exploring the wines of Piedmont!
Our February wines of the month are both produced by the Italian Winery, La Fiera. The white wine is Soave, 2013, from the Veneto, 80% Garganega, 10%Trebbiano and 10% Chardonnay, it has a straw yellow color, with bright pear and apple aromas, nice minerality and a clean finish. The red wine is Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, 2013, from the region due east of Rome. It’s 100% Montepulciano, a deep ruby red color, full bodied, with violet notes, and nice acidity. Both wines will retail at $10.
Wine club members please come in early to pick up your wines. We are planning some great wine tastings, and will be adding some additional wine by the glass offerings in the Market. I look forward to seeing you soon.