Busy! With Good News

Great news for our friend Suzanne!  Labor of Love is now to be found in Mario Batali’s Eataly stores.  That is awesome, and we are very excited about more people having the chance to read this wonderful story.

So it’s been light blogging here lately, as we’ve been quite swept away with preparations for fall tours and also some Piemonte related excitement.

We can now announce that the Labor of Love Piemonte Wine Tour, in conjunction with Under Discovered Publishing, is now live!  That’s the good news.  The bad news is the first iteration is already sold out; but do not despair, we’re taking reservations now for Fall 2017’s trip.  This is the best way to get a feel for the most important wine region in Italy–having an author who’s spent a decade and a half getting to know the Piemontese wine families intimately giving you a personal introduction.  Follow Wine Families of the World on Facebook for future updates!  We will definitely accept your name now for the 2017 waitlist if you’ve been hoping for a chance to really experience Piemonte.  Inquire for details!

Why Bother with Italian Bubbles?

It has been entertaining watching winebloggers discover Italian whites, both sparkling and otherwise, in recent years. I can only add “where y’all been?”

Mark Twain famously quipped travel was fatal to bigotry, prejudice, and ignorance. It is also quite the potent remedy for bias against Italian whites, bubbly and otherwise.

And wait til they discover the less heralded but equally wonderful spumante metodo classico coming from Piemonte.

the drunken cyclist

What really is the point of Italian sparkling wine? I mean that sincerely. What is the point? As you all know, I am a self-admitted bubble hound (after all my motto is “If it doesn’t sparkle it doesn’t matter”), but I have never really understood why anyone in the entire country of Italy even bothers to try to capture bubbles in a bottle.wine-stain1-3

I would guess that many of the sommeliers who read this blog (wait, are there any somms reading this?), are all up in arms since Franciacorta is nearly every somm’s darling go-to sparkler. Those irrepressible wine professionals love to foist the latest, the “greatest,” and above all “obscure” wines upon their hapless horde. Until relatively recently, almost everyone in the United States had never heard of Franciacorta (and even fewer could actually pronounce it).

The same is essentially true for the other region that produces traditional method wines…

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Dinner with Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow

Sounds like a fantastic exploration of various regions and perfect pairings.

Charles Scicolone on Wine

It is always a pleasure to be invited to dinner at the home of Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow. Tom is a well-known wine writer and both he http://www.ubriaco.wordpress.com and Diane http://www.dianescookbooks.wordpress.com have their own blogs. Together they have written a number of books on Italian food.

Tom always starts with something sparkling. This time it was Prosecco Brut “Rustico” NVNino Franco (Veneto) 100% Glera from the classic production area, hillside vineyards situated at medium altitude. Pressing, destemming, then cooling of the must and fermentation is in steel tanks at controlled temperature. The second fermentation is in cuvee close (autoclave). The wine has nice bubbles, and it is fruity and flowery with a hint of pear.img_1120

It was a perfect combination with open faced smoked salmon sandwiches on dark bread, topped with either pickled ginger. capers and ginger.img_1121

Greco di Tufo 2014Ag Agr Benito Ferrara (Campania) 100% Greco from a 4.65 hectare vineyard…

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Breaking news: Nebbiolo power brokers agree to create Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC

This is a tough one. On the one hand that Nebbiolo cultivation is a somewhat exclusive affair replete with the rules, traditions, and regulatory nosiness you’d expect for any noble standard bearer of the Italian wine industry is to be expected. The Piemontese are proud of what the name Nebbiolo stands for, and with good reason. They should want to avoid having it watered down with lesser quality wines sneaking in under the radar and riding the coattails of what’s really the best red wine in the world that you can drink regularly for $15-35.

On the other, given the difficulties and economic realities facing vignaioli in Piemonte of late (see earlier rants about the Vietti sale), I can see why some relaxation and expansion in what bottles the label Nebbiolo can be slapped upon might well be inevitable. Who really owns the name “Nebbiolo” anyway?

Do Bianchi

nebbiolo-grapes-docAbove: Nebbiolo grapes ripening this week in an appellation that lies outside the hallowed Langhe Hills. If approved, new Piedmont appellation regulations would allow growers across the region to label their Nebbiolo as “Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC.” Currently, only growers in select townships can use the grape name in labeling.

According to a person familiar with their discussions, the Barolo-Barbaresco-Alba-Langhe-Dogliani Consortium and the Barbera d’Asti-Wines of Monferrato Consortium have agreed this week to move forward with the creation of a Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the agreement have not yet been made public.

After the Asti-Monferrato Consortium circulated proposed language for a new Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC among its members in August, vice presidents of the Barolo-Barbaresco-Alba-Langhe-Dogliani Consortium Pietro Ratti and Aldo Vacca publicly shared their opposition.

“It’s obvious that the big producers have caught a whiff of a good bargain,” said Vacca…

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Dining at Tarallucci and Vino, NYC

Surprised there is not another zero behind the price (at a nice restaurant, no less!) of that 62 Marchesi di Barolo.

Charles Scicolone on Wine

Tarallucci and Vino just opened a new location at 44 East 28 Street and I couldn’t be happier. Michele and I attended a “soft opening” dinner last night and it was terrific. First of all, it is a great looking place with a large outdoor area, spacious bar room and comfortable dining room. The owner Luca Di Pietro greeted us and immediately offered us glasses of Pecorino, which was very welcome and refreshing on a hot night.

Luca and Lorenzo Luca and Lorenzo

Lorenzo Baricca, the wine director, whom we had met on a wine trip several years ago, is a partner. He proudly showed us his impressive collection of older wines going back to the 1960’s.IMG_0962

We began our meal with some appetizers. Burrata cheese with roasted baby eggplant for Michele and grilled octopus with potatoes, celery and caperberries for me.IMG_0961

There was also an appealing list of small plates for sharing…

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Kaskal–Sparkling Nebbiolo!

We were among the first Americans to get to try this sparkling version of nebbiolo that Rivetto said was already sold out (sorry, none of it was available here in the US…guess we’ll have to go to Piemonte and get more) last year.  Hopefully some of this years batch will still be available when we’re wine buying our way through the Langhe next month.  Can’t wait to see what he’s done with it.

For more on the lovely Sinio and a feel for how awesome a visit a trip to Rivetto is, see here:

Fun with Wine and Google, Abbona Edition

So the other night we had the pleasure of savoring our dinner with Anna Maria Abbona’s lovely “Sori dij But” Dolcetto (that’s Piemontese dialect for sunny hills near Butti, the hamlet near Dogliani where they live and produce).  Fantastic stuff; we love pairing Dolcetto with savory dishes.  Break out the truffles, folks!  So where does this wine hail from? We of course take to Google and investigate…

From high altitude Google Maps orients us slightly east of south from Torino in the more southerly part of the Langhe; the Abbona azienda forms an isosceles triangle with Bra and Alba.

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Descending with a couple clicks shows us Azienda Agricola Abbona just south of Dogliani (as in the appellation, Dolcetto di Dogliani), close to Monforte D’Alba, and about 20mi south of Barolo proper.  I see also the name of the impressive Grinzane Cavour castello appearing further north.  Getting a feel for where this is.

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Another click lower and the contours of the colline undulate (rolling hills) the Langhe is synonymous with start coming into focus.  You can see what efficient viticulture use is made of this precious land.  Forza Nebbiolo, Barbera, e Dolcetto!  I know we’ve been through this neck of the woods, but have spent no meaningful time here.  Time to change that, I can already tell.

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At what looks like middling jetliner altitude, we get a good feel for the southwesterly exposure the Abbona folks enjoy; tightly packed hills full of magical fruit and an impressive compound come into view.

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Finally, clicking down to the bird’s eye view:

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It’s so green, so lush, and so full of the land-loving-respectful-of-the-craft character Piemonte is so widely known for.  You could spend days wandering these hills eating and drinking and not getting bored for a moment…

Time to go visit.  Indeed, after reading about the Abbona winery in Suzanne Hoffman’s magical Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte book, the Abbona operation has been high on our list to explore.  We’ll be checking out more of Piemonte doing some exploration on behalf of our clients in a few weeks, and will have more to write up.  The camera shutter trigger finger itches, and the wine palate jumps up and down in excitement.

Ci vediamo a presto in Piemonte!