When many people think of Italian wine, Chianti most commonly comes to mind. I do enjoy a good Chianti, I very much enjoy the wines of Valpolicella, and for something a bit more rustic, Nero d’Avola and Nerello Masclaese from Sicily are great. But for my palate, there’s nothing quite like the wines of Piedmont. I’ve been a lover of Piemonte reds for some time, and recently I found a white that I enjoyed quite a bit.
Piedmont, in the northwestern part of Italy, is home to the prestigious Barolo and Barbaresco wines made of the Nebbiolo grape (from the word nebbia, Italian for fog, which descends upon the Langhe area during harvest time), where the Nebbiolo grapes are planted on the south sides of the slopes for warmth. Nebbiolo wines are generally quite tannic when young, and if allowed to age under proper conditions, become velvety smooth with a multitude of aromas and flavors, and a brick orange color.
The most recent Barbaresco I tasted was at a favorite Long Island restaurant, Casa Rustica, with a filet mignon wrapped in pancetta with a Barolo sauce. The wine was lovely - a fairly young Barbaresco, the 2005 Beni di Batasiolo - it was fairly deep in color which was the first indication of its youthfulness as it had not yet turned the brick orange color, yet had a rim leaning toward orange. The characteristics were of oak, dried flowers, tar, earth, and dark fruits and berries. The tannins were very much present, completely drying the palate, also an indication of just how long the wine should continue to age, followed by a very long finish. I liked this wine very much, particularly paired with that dish, and would be happy to try it again after it’s been let to age some time.
A Barolo I tried a few months back at Patsy’s in New York City was the 2005 Andrea Oberto Barolo Vigneto Albarella. This wine I paired with veal rollatini Marsala and mushrooms, and I was very happy with the pairing. The wine is a fairly dark red with a lighter rim leaning toward the expected brick orange, dry, with notes of both red and black fruits, oak and spice, and earthiness, and while the tannins had a presence, they were clearly softening as the wine is aging, and the finish is long. In addition to veal Marsala, I would enjoy this wine with meats or game bird.
It’s true that many Barolo and Barbaresco wines can be a bit expensive, but both of these wines are regularly priced between $40US and $50US and are very lovely at a fairly reasonable price.
My most recent discovery from the Piedmont region is a white wine, a Cortese di Gavi produced from Cortese grapes. The wine I tried was the 2003 Pio Cesare Cortese di Gavi, which I paired with shrimp scampi. The wine is very pale in color, with characteristics of lemon, green apple, grass, and a bit of damp earth, it is crisp and clean with a long finish. When tasting this wine, I tried to liken it to other whites, but it really isn’t like any other grape type and while I think it can be a good alternative to Pinot Grigio, it is unique has has its own identity and is worth trying, at only around $20US.
|2003 Pio Cesare Cortese di Gavi|
So the next time you’re looking for Italian wines, instead of reaching for the usual Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese, try the Cortese di Gavi and the Nebbiolo wines.