Barbaresco Tasting

February 27, 2007

Vino and I Trulli’s Newsletter Expands

As you may have noticed, Vino and I Trulli’s e-letter is undergoing some major changes. In this week’s edition, you’ll find the first of a series of food-and-wine travel pieces by Michele and Charles Scicolone. This week they take us to Napoli where they share some of their favorite pizzerias with us along with a recipe from their book Pizza Any Way You Slice It.

Last week, Charles gave us the first of a new series of in-depth wine features. The first, in case you missed it, was on Brunello di Montalcino. Look for more articles from Charles in the weeks to come.

We’ve also expanded our editorial staff. Operations Manager Jim Hutchinson will be writing on the art and science of winemaking and other contributors will be reporting on a wide range of subjects, from Italian wine and civilization and news from the world of Italian wine to unusual and hard-to-find local culinary traditions and foods.

Buona lettura e buon appetito!

* * *

Barbaresco Tasting at Vino / March 5 Dinner at I Trulli

The staff at Vino will be pouring five Barbarescos at the Friday (5:30-7:30) and Saturday (4:30-6:30) tastings, including the Bricco Faset 1996 La Spinona.

And speaking of Barbaresco, there are only a few places left for the March 5 Vertical Produttori del Barbaresco dinner at I Trulli, so reserve now by sending an email to events@vinosite.com.

Vertical Produttori del Barbaresco Dinner
with Wine Director Charles Scicolone
Monday, March 5, 7:30 p.m.
Ristorante I Trulli
122 East 27th St.
$250.00 (inclusive)
Limited seating
To reserve, please send an email
to events@vinosite.com.

The flight:*
Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2004
Produttori del Barbaresco 2002
Produttori del Barbaresco Pora 1999
Produttori del Barbaresco 1995
Produttori del Barbaresco Asili 1999
Produttori del Barbaresco Asili 1989
Produttori del Barbaresco Rio Sordo 1978

*Wines and menu items subject to change depending on availability.

* * *

Featured Class: Italian Food, Italian Wine

Italian Food, Italian Wine
Saturday, March 10, 1:30pm

To register, please send an email to register@vinosite.com.

It happens all the time: many of our clients will return from Italy and tell us, “While I was there, I ate in a small trattoria in the countryside where they served such-and-such dish together with so-and-so wine. The combination was amazing!” Whether it’s bistecca fiorentina and Chianti from Toscana, lasagne alla bolognese and Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna, cavatelli with broccoli rabe and Malvasia bianca from Puglia, the foods and wines of Italy complement each other by bringing out each other’s flavors and aromas. In Toscana, the mellow tannins of the Chianti cut through the fat of the marbled steak. In Emilia-Romagna, the rich flavors of the besciamella, Parmigiano, and meat sauce are matched by the lightness, fruit, and bubbles of the Lambrusco. The bitter broccoli rabe needs the bright acidity of the Malvasia. For their Italian Food, Italian Wine seminar, Michele and Charles Scicolone, together with I Trulli’s chef Patrick Nuti, lead participants on a virtual geographic-culinary tour of Italy as they reveal some of the secrets behind Italy’s classic food and wine pairings.

The menu for the March 10 food and wine pairings class (to register for the class, please email register@vinosite.com), includes the following:*

Sauteed Prawn
Malvasia 2005 Ronco dei Tassi

Wild Boar Prosciutto
Lambrusco Mantovano 2005 Medici

Spinach and Ricotta Raviolo with Tomato Sauce
Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2001 Bagnolo

Grilled Shell Steak
Barbaresco Riserva 1997 La Spinona

Sottocenere and Gorgonzola
Amarone 2001 Capitel Eugenio

Cantucci
Vin Santo del Chianti Rufina 1994 Travignoli

Advertisements

Centovini: Travel + Leisure‘s Best Restaurant Design of 2007

February 21, 2007

We are pleased to announce that Travel & Leisure magazine has awarded Centovini its “Best New Restaurant Design” award for 2006. The following is an excerpt from the “Design Awards” issue of the magazine:

Clean-lined and unpretentious, Centovini is a modern take on the Italian wine bar — it combines a casual restaurant and bar with a smartly integrated adjacent wine shop, on view behind expansive plate glass. The interiors all make dazzling use of bottles and glasses as visual elements. Designed by Moss (center, with his business partners, Nicola Marzovilla and Franklin Getchell), whose namesake accessories shop is around the corner, the intimate restaurant features playful light fixtures and chandeliers, and every detail, from the bar stools to the silverware, is subtle and thoughtfully conceived.

In other news…

The staff at Vino will be pouring two Rosso di Montalcinos and three Brunellos at the Friday (5:30-7:30) and Saturday (4:30-6:30) tastings. See Charles’ article on Brunello di Montalcino below.

Errata Corrige

In last week’s e-letter, we erroneously reported that Le Macchiole’s Paleo is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Sharp-eyed reader Paul Rose wrote us from L.A. to point out that the wine is now actually 100% Cabernet Franc, and we’d just like to thank him for the correction. We look forward to hearing more from our readers (even — and especially — if it’s to tell us we’re wrong), so please write us at editor@vinosite.com.

* * *

Vertical Produttori del Barbaresco Dinner
with Wine Director Charles Scicolone
Monday, March 5, 7:30 p.m.
Ristorante I Trulli

122 East 27th St.
$250.00 (inclusive)
Limited seating
To reserve, please send an email
to events@vinosite.com.

Like the appellation itself, the Produttori del Barbaresco winery is one of the world’s greatest, yet also one of the most misunderstood. When vinified in the traditional manner (long maceration followed by aging in large, old oak barrels), Barbaresco can take 20 and even 30 years (for exceptional vintages) to reach its peak potential. While many Barbaresco producers have turned to new oak and concentration to create wines drinkable at an earlier age, Produttori has refused to change its approach to and philosophy of winemaking.

Thanks to our relationship with the winery and its importer, we have obtained a lot of old Produttori del Barbaresco going back to 1978.

The flight:*
Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2004
Produttori del Barbaresco 2002
Produttori del Barbaresco Pora 1999
Produttori del Barbaresco 1995
Produttori del Barbaresco Asili 1999
Produttori del Barbaresco Asili 1989
Produttori del Barbaresco Rio Sordo 1978

The menu:*
Manzo all’Albese, porcini, e tartufo bianco
Piemontese Carpaccio with Porcini and White Truffles

Tajarin al fagiano di Castelmagno
Taglierini with Castelmagno Pheasant Ragu

Stracotto al Barolo
Piemontese Veal Braised in Barolo

Formaggi
Assorted Cow’s Milk Cheeses

Baci di dama
Traditional Piemontese cookies

* * *

Featured Class
Southern Italy: Ancient Grapes, Hidden Gems
Wednesday, February 28, 6:30 p.m.

To register, please send an email to register@vinosite.com

“Nunc est bibendum.” (“Now is the time for drinking.”). This famous line by Latin poet Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-68 BCE) was probably inspired by the Aglianico del Vulture that he drank in his youth in Basilicata (the region that forms the insole of Italy’s boot). Indeed, he grew up in the shadow of Mt. Vulture where the volcanic subsoil of the highlands is ideal for creating mineral-driven, complex, structured red wine. From Pliny and Columella’s writings we discover that southern Italy abounded in grape varieties and sophisticated vine-growing techniques. Indeed, when the Greeks began to colonize Italy in the fourth and third centuries BCE, they were so impressed with the Etruscan viticulture they found there that they called the Italic peninsula Oenotria, the “land of wine.” Today, winemakers in the south have “re-discovered” many of the ancient varieties through careful grafting of DNA culled from Roman ruins with modern-day rootstock. Vino and I Trulli’s Operations Manager Jim Hutchinson leads participants through a guided tasting of southern Italy’s ancient grape varietals.

Jim will pour 10 wines for the February 28 southern Italian wine class (to register for the class, please email register@vinosite.com), including the following:*

* * *

Brunello: Just the Facts

Please join us this Friday (5:30-7:30) and Saturday (4:30-6:30) for our FREE weekly tastings. This week the Vino staff will be pouring two bottlings of Rosso di Montalcino and three Brunellos.

For more information on this and other events at Vino, please email events@vinosite.com.

Two weeks ago, I was privileged to speak for the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino vintage tasting at I Trulli. There were members of the press and also representatives from a number of Brunello houses. We tasted a wide variety of wines (all Brunello, of course), from 1997 back to 1979. They were all four- and five-star-rated vintages. The wines were all showing very well and it goes to prove my point that Sangiovese can last a very long time.

The town of Montalcino sits on a hilltop overlooking the vineyards. It is 1,850 feet above sea level. It gets its name from the holm oak or holly, known as ilice or leccio in Italian and ilex in Latin, a tree commonly found in the hills around the township. (Montalcino = “monte” + “ilice”, or “mountain of holly”.) The holm oak is the symbol of Consorzio. It is also the symbol found on the city’s crest. Montalcino and the surrounding area is a rural area, with woody hills, very quiet, and is found about 40 minutes south of Siena.

The production zone lies within the hilly region of the Chianti Senese district south of Siena. The climate is Mediterranean and it is hotter and drier than the Chianti Classico area. The lower slopes where the grapes grow are made of clayey soil and marl. The higher slopes where the better grapes are grown are made up of a combination of limestone, marl, and galestro, the classic yellowish stone of Toscana. The grapes ripen ten days later in the area around the town of Montalcino than they do in the area around Sant’Angelo in Colle and Sant’Angelo Scalo.

Brunello is synonymous with the name Biondi Santi, who first produced the wine in 1888. In Montalcino, 150 years ago, the typical wine was white and the most revered wine was Moscadello dessert wine made from Moscato grapes. Most white wine then was a mixture of different grapes and they used the governo method the same way they did in Chianti (in other words, they added roughly 10% dried-grape wine must back into the wine during vinification). Brunello is thus called because of the color of the grape, which is brownish (brunello is a diminutive of bruno in Italian, meaning “brown”). The wine has become known as Brunello and the grape has become known as Sangiovese Grosso. While the Biondi family and then the Biondi Santi family (after inter-marriage) were making wine from Brunello during the nineteenth century, it was not until Ferruccio Biondi Santi started not only to bottle the wine on a regular basis but to make it just from Sangiovese Grosso that Brunello was truly born. There are still bottles of his 1888 and 1891 Brunellos in the cellar at the Biondi Santi estate. Up until the 1960s, there was almost nobody who was bottling Brunello and certainly no one who was keeping the older vintages. In the 1970s, there were roughly 25 producers in Brunello. In 1978, an American company, Banfi, which is the largest continuous land-holder in Italy, bought property in Montalcino. Today, there are more than 200 producers of Brunello.

In the beginning, following Ferruccio’s lead, when the DOC law was passed in the 1960s, Brunello had to be aged for four years in cask before being bottled. That went down to three and a half years, then three years, and now two years. In other words, a regular Brunello has to be aged for two years in cask and four months minimum in bottle by law. According to regulations, the wine must not be released before January 1 after the harvest: so, for example, the 2002 was released in January of 2007. The Riserva must also be aged at least two years in cask and six months in bottle but cannot be released for five years. The 2001 Riserva, for example, was released in January of 2007. Brunello can only be released in a Bordeaux-type bottle.

There are many producers in Brunello now and a lot of them are not in the best places. Some of them are on lower slopes where the soil is very clayey and does not really produce good wine. Franco Biondi Santi was the last member to join the Consorzio. The Brunello Consorzio is the only consorzio in Italy with 100% membership. Franco, who makes wine exactly the same way his grandfather Ferruccio and his father Tancredi did, is, of course, a traditionalist. He went along with them having only two years in cask but now thinks it may have been a mistake since some of the members want to limit it to one year in cask and introduce other varietals. We, like Franco, hope this does not happen.

Brunello, in my opinion, is, of course, one of the great wines of the world. It can last for 30 years or longer. Franco Biondi Santi recommends that when you drink his 1997 that you open it at least four days before you drink the wine. It is a wine that needs to be aged. In fact, it is the only wine that seems to get more depth of flavor and body as it gets older. Personally, I would not look at a bottle of Brunello unless it was at least ten years old. I would look at it but that doesn’t mean I would drink it! It is a wine that is ruby-red in color when young. It has good acidity, good fruit, and tannins, which will make it last a long time.
–Charles Scicolone, Wine Director, I Trulli and Vino

Charles would love to hear from you. Please email him at charles@vinosite.com


Montecucco Pecorino

February 14, 2007

Italian Wine News: Dispatch from Montalcino

Wine Director Charles Scicolone is on vacation this week but look for his piece on Brunello next week.

Vino and I Trulli’s Operation Manager Jim Hutchinson and Marketing Director Jeremy Parzen have been traveling in Italy talking to producers, tasting recent vintages, and sourcing new wines (old and young).

After a quick stop in Firenze for lunch, where they ate at the Cibreo Teatro del Sale (the “Theater of Salt,” a hybrid of a performance space and restaurant, where classics of Fiorentina cuisine are paried with a side of “living theater,” see address and tel. below), they went to visit winemakers Bartolini-Badelli (Chianti Colli Fiorentini), Villa di Vetrice (Chianti Rufina), and Travignoli (Chianti Rufina).

At Travignoli (see photo above), they tasted the recently bottled 2004 Chianti Rufina and spoke to winemaker Count Giovanni Busi about the vintage. “The combination of good weather with cool temperatures,” said Giovanni, “allowed the fruit in Chianti Rufina to ripen slowly and powerfully. The result was one of the best vintages of my wines in the last ten years.” Although the wine has been in bottle only a few weeks, all agreed that it is already drinking wonderfully.

From Chianti Rufina, they traveled to Chianti Classico where they tasted Carobbio (look for more on Carobbio in the weeks to come) and ate the famed Tuscan trattoria “La Padellina” where the colorful and often foul-mouthed proprietor is known for his ability to quote from Dante’s Commedia extemporaneously. On the menu? Penne with Pheasant Ragu and Antica Fornacina, a classic dish of the Chiantigiana — veal stewed in red wine and tomato until melt-in-your-mouth tender (see address and tel. below(.

Next on the itinerary was Montalcino, known for its production of long-lived Brunello. Besides tasting and meeting with producers, they made a visit to nearby Montecucco where Prosciutto di Cinghiale (wild boar Prosciutto) and artisanal Pecorino were gladfully sampled.

See Jim’s piece on Pecorino and accompanying photograph below and look for more news from their trip in upcoming issues of the Vino and I Trulli Newsletter.

Teatro del Sale is located in downtown Firenze, a few blocks from the Arno, tel. 055 2001492, Via dei Macci 118R. Please note that non-residents need to buy a 5 Euro membership fee. The meal costs 15 Euro and is served family style (wine included).

La Padellina is located in Strada in Chianti (FI), tel. 011 39 055 858388, Corso del Popolo 54.

Comments? Please email the editor at editor@vinosite.com.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

* * *

Come join us at Vino this Friday (5:30-7:30) and Saturday (4:30-6:30) for our FREE weekly tasting. This week we’re featuring wines from the Italian coast.

Charles and the Vino staff will be pouring the following wines (among others):*

* * *

A Visit to Caseificio Codispoti (Montecucco)

Antonio and his son Nicola Codispoti work a small farm and sheep’s milk dairy in a shallow, narrow valley in Montecucco, southeast of Montalcino in Tuscany. Their specialty is the local pecorino, which they make in the basement of their house on a hill above their family’s land. Their property sits in a grove at the end of a long dirt track, their endeavor announced by a hand-painted sign out on the road. According to Antonio, who is in his eighties, the recipe for good pecorino is simple. You raise good sheep on good land, feed them properly with a combination of forage and grain, milk them regularly and let that milk, with as little intervention as possible, become great cheese.

We met him one afternoon as he chugged up the hill from his lower pastures on an old tractor. Nicola had said that his father had gone down the hill to fetch a newborn lamb. As Antonio made his way up the steep incline, followed by a shifting column of sheep, one animal in particular kept particularly close. As the tractor passed, mama sheep bleating and skittery, we noticed the lamb, hanging by its bound front legs from the back of the machine. The tractor stopped, Nicola’s wife untied the lamb and took it to the barn, its mother retreated, and we went about our way.

Nicola took us to the small cheese-making facility, three rooms, two for production and one for aging. He had fifteen wheels resting on boards. The younger were the color of milk fat, slightly yellow and gave easily to slight pressure from the thumb. The mature wheels, some as old as ten months had formed a grey crust and were hard to the touch. We were told that the production cycle ran from December through August with the richest cheeses produced in the spring when the grass is new and the fields are full of flowers.

After touring the cheese-making plant we headed to Nicola’s apartment to taste. Before a crackling fire we sampled young and old. Used to Pecorino Toscano with piquancy, we were surprised at how sweet the cheese was. Nicola explained, as his father did, that their style was a fortuitous combination of land, animal and skill.

We had been invited to visit Montecucco by a young Ligurian transplant named Mattia. Our initial interest had been in tasting the local wines in hopes of finding something interesting for export. Montecucco is a sprawling, crescent-shaped collection of low hills in the province of Grossetto, southwest of Montalcino. Its main variety is Sangiovese but, as is the case in much of Italy, the non-native Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are widely used. While there were some interesting bottles, our survey was unsuccessful. We were lucky however that Mattia had other interests as well.
–Jim Hutchinson, Operations Manager, Vino and I Trulli

To read more about Caseificio Codispoti, please visit www.saporisemplici.it.

Comments? Jim would love to hear from you. Please email him at jim@dvmimports.com.


Amarone by Le Ragose Featured in NYTimes

February 7, 2007

Eric Asimov Features Le Ragose Amarone in “The Pour”

Click here to purchase Amarone (Le Ragose) 2001 Sant’Eugenio (or click on the image, right).

The following is an excerpt from Wine Director Charles Scicolone’s recent “Wine Opinion” about Amarone (“An Amarone Is an Amarone Is an Amarone…”):

Amarone (Le Ragose) 2001 Sant'EugenioOne year at the [Vinitaly wine fair in Verona], we were very pleased with the wines from Le Ragose, a winery that makes excellent Amarone and Valpolicella Classico. Unfortunately, they were being brought into the United States by another company. After some negotiations, they agreed to make our own private label using their family name, Galli. All went well and the wines were on our shelves and selling. Then one day, out of the blue, Nicola received a letter from an attorney representing the Gallo winery of California. The letter stated that the name Galli was “too close” to the name Gallo and, therefore, it stated, that Nicola had to “cease and desist” selling the wine. Not wanting to endure the wrath of the great wine company of the west, Nicola decided to contact the Galli family and tell them the problem. They responded by making a new label and now the wine is called Capitel Sant’Eugenio. It’s named after a lovely small chapel, devoted to Sant’Eugenio (St. Eugene), which lies on the Galli family estate.

Even though the wines have gone through three different labels, they are great wines, having all the characteristics of Amarone and Valpolicella Classico. These are traditional-style aged in large botti, the old oak casks that we at Vino prefer over new barrique. The botti give you all the big luscious flavor or Amarone but at the same time you still have the good acidity and a wine that can go with food. Last year, we drank Capitel Sant’Eugenio Amarone by the Galli family for Thanksgiving.

In the immortal words of the great bard Shakespeare, who, although he never traveled to Italy, knew it well and loved the country: “an Amarone by any other name…” But don’t tell the Gallo family.

Click here to read Eric Asimov’s article in today’s New York Times.


Piemonte Blends, Collecting Italian Wines Seminar

February 6, 2007

Is Global Warming Changing the Landscape of Italian Wine?
–The president of the Vini Veri movement speaks out on the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“Perhaps there is too much alarmism in the scenarios hypothesized” in recent reports, says Teobaldo Cappellano, president of the Vini Veri (Natural Wines) movement. “But one thing is certain: I’ve read that 2006 was the warmest year in the last 130 years and I know that 130 years ago, Barolo was better than it is today.” At the same rate, says Cappellano, the warm weather has also had a positive effect. “It’s been months since it has rained here. More direct exposure to stronger solar rays accelerates the ripening of the grapes and it gives the fruit stronger flavors.” The recent string of great vintages in the Langhe seems to be evidence of this phenomenon. Hopefully, says Cappellano, it’s not too late to change the course of global warming. “Besides Barolo, I want to leave my children a land that continues to thrive. Not a land that has been desertified.”

Look for more “News from the World of Italian Wine” in upcoming issues of the Vino/I Trulli newsletter.

Comments? Please write us at editor@vinosite.com.

Upcoming Events at Vino and I Trulli

Piemonte Blends
Fri. (5:30-7:30) & Sat. (4:30-6:30)
February 9 and 10
at Vino
FREE

See details below.

Meet Winemaker Serena Palazzolo
of Ronco del Gnemiz (Friuli)
and Taste Her Wines
Thursday, Feb. 8, 5:30-7:30
at Vino
FREE

Taste Serena’s blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, “Bianco di Jacopo,” and her rare bottling of Schioppettino (among other wines).

To register, please send an email to events@vinosite.com.

Produttori del Barbaresco
Vertical Dinner
with Charles Scicolone
Monday, March 5
at I Trulli
$250 (inclusive)

A seven-course dinner paired with Produttori del Barbaresco going back to the late 1970s. Moderated by Wine Director Charles Scicolone.

To register and for more information, please send an email to events@vinosite.com.

Puglia dinner
with Michele and Charles Scicolone
Weds., April 18
at I Trulli

Details TBA.

To register and for more information, please send an email to events@vinosite.com.

* * *

This Week’s Tasting: Piemonte Blends

Come join us at Vino this Friday (5:30-7:30) and Saturday (4:30-6:30) for our FREE weekly tasting. This week we’re featuring Piemonte Blends.

Charles and the Vino staff will be pouring the following wines (among others):*

  • Vareij 2004 Hilberg, $21
    Hilberg’s Vareij is a highly unusual wine made from a blend of Barbera and Brachetto (the latter is almost exclusively vinified as a sparkling, sweet dessert wine). The name Vareij means “variation” in Piedmontese dialect and is inspired by the fact that no one on record has blended these two grapes together.
  • Bricco Manzoni 1999 Manzoni, $16
    In the old days, winemakers used to put a little bit of Barbera in the Nebbiolo to make the wine more approachable at a younger age. Rocche dei Manzoni’s Bricco Manzoni (named after the hilltop where the grapes come from) hilltop where the grapes are sourced) is a wonderful expression of Nebbiolo that does not require the aging needed for the Barolos (sometimes 15-20 years).
  • Canavese Acini Sparsi 2004 Orsolani, $17
    This blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Uvarara is one of our most popular wines, thanks to its approachability and its great price. Orsolani calls it Acini Sparsi or “scattered grapes” because the winery sources the fruit for this Canavese from different estate-owned vineyards “scattered” across the appellation. While the Nebbiolo gives the wine structure and rich aromas, the Barbera and Uvarara help to soften the Nebbiolo’s tannin and add nice acidity, making this wine an excellent food wine. A classic expression of the appellation.

* * *

Vintage Italy: Collecting Italian Wines
Wednesday, March 7, 6:30 p.m.

Those who approach the art of collecting Italian wines are faced with the age-old conundrum: how do I know what to collect if I’ve never tasted old wines? How will I know how to invest my capital, whether I’m collecting for personal consumption or for profit? Vino and I Trulli’s Wine Director Charles Scicolone began collecting Italian wines in the 1970s, when few American collectors were paying much attention to Piemonte and Toscana. Vino’s “Collecting Italian Wines” guided tasting includes older and current vintages of some of Charles’ favorite wines. This seminar represents a unique opportunity to sample older Piemonte and Toscana side-by-side with current vintages of the same grapes and appellations. Charles’ selection offers participants the chance to sample wines otherwise prohibitively expensive and he shares his insights into what wines and which vintages to collect. A must for the would-be collector of Italian wines.

To register for the class, please email register@vinosite.com.

* * *

Wine Opinion: A Dog, a Truffle, and a Wine

Please join us this Friday (5:30-7:30) and Saturday (4:30-6:30) for our FREE weekly tastings. This week, Charles and the Vino staff will be pouring Piemontese blends.

For more information on this and other events at Vino, please email events@vinosite.com.

Charles Scicolone, Wine DirectorWhen one thinks of the wines of Piemonte, one often thinks of single varieties: Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, and Barbera, not to mention Freisa, Bracchetto, Ruche, and Pelaverga, all of which are grapes traditionally vinified as “mono-varietal” wines. However, in the past, Piemontese wines were often made with more than one grape. Even the noble Barolo had some Barbera in it, a practice that Angelo Gaja has brought back. Therefore, it comes as no surprise today to see the number of blends coming out of Piemonte, both those which use traditional grapes and those which add international varieties. These wines are sometimes less expensive than, let us say, a Barolo or Barbaresco.

Some of these blends are very traditional and use grapes that are indigenous to Piemonte and fall under the various Italian appellations. In other words, they are traditional wines made from local grapes and have some historic significance. Canavese is a wonderful example of this, a wine that few know in the United States. It is made in the township of Canavese, which lies to the northeast of the Langhe (home of Barolo and Barbaresco), not far from Carema, where they make 100% Nebbiolo. This wine is much lighter in body than wines made from 100% Nebbiolo because of the addition of grapes such as Barbera, Bonarda, Freisa, and/or Neretto. The wine retains its flavor but can be drunk much younger and costs less.

Other wines are made using a blend of local grapes and international grapes. One of the most unusual is Le Grive, which is a combination of Pinot Nero and Barbera. This combination seems strange at first but once you taste the wine you can see that it really works.

Another interesting Piemontese blend that we carry in the store is the Policalpo, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Barbera made in Asti. The producer is one of my favorite producers of Barbera, Cascina Castle’t. I was first introduced to Maria Borio of Cascina Castle’t at Barbetta restaurant in Manhattan at a Piemontese dinner for Les Dames d’Escoffier. The highlight of the event was a Piemontese truffle hunter and his dog in the garden of the restaurant where the truffle hunter buried the truffle and set the dog loose to find it. The dog was let loose inside the restaurant and immediately ran outside and in just a few minutes, it found the truffle. The dog, however, would not give the truffle up and ran around the garden and into the restaurant under the tables being chased by his owner, the wait staff, and whoever felt so inclined. To better understand the scene, you must know that Barbetta is and always has been one of Manhattan’s top Italian and most fashionable restaurants. Many years ago, the great opera singer Enrico Caruso used to eat there and the inimitable Laura Maioglio still runs it with great panache (it is the only Italian restaurant in the United State listed in the Locali Storici d’Italia or Historic Sites of Italy registry). While this was all going on, I was calmly drinking my Policalpo as I enjoyed a dish of bagna cauda. The dog was finally cornered and gave up the truffle, not without a fight however. Even though the dog had the truffle in his mouth, no one that night refused truffles at the dinner. Needless to say, it was a very memorable night as was the wine.
–Charles Scicolone, Wine Director, I Trulli and Vino

Charles would love to hear from you: please email him at charles@vinosite.com.