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BARBARESCO: An exquisite wine region!

October 21st, 2019

Always enjoy a visit to the vineyards in the Barbaresco area of Italy which includes that wonderful village plus Neive & Treiso. They are still so uniquely quaint when compared with the always increasing in size Alba and much busier Barolo region. In fact they posted a sign on the main road of Barbaresco “No cars beyond this point” on Tuesday October 8, 2019 saying “The Nebbiolo Harvest is happening now”. What a total community effort saying “You are welcome to walk and watch”. Got to like that. The last 2 weeks before harvest were perfect for nebbiolo ripening with cool mornings, warm afternoons, and cool nights. Encouraging. So many small wineries but being led by the quality for price Produttori del Barbaresco and the iconic Gaja. Visited both for updates this month and continue to be very impressed with their outstanding wines.

PRODUTTORI Del BARBARESCO: Spent most of October 7 (the day before their 2019 harvest of nebbiolo commenced) with the incomparable so knowledgeable Aldo Vacca including a tour of their 2 wineries & vineyards, a wine tasting, and a tarajin tartufo bianco d’Alba lunch at next door Antica Torre. Aldo spent 4 years at Gaja but now 25 at PdB bringing them to their elite status. Unbelievable how he has brought all 54 members farming 110 hectares onto the same page focusing on what is best for overall quality of the coop including reliable flagship Barbaresco. Their 9 single-cru Riservas launched in 1967 are now sensational at showing the terroir differences in those vineyards. They range from powerful full “Barolo of Barbaresco” Montestefano, austere sharper finish Montefico, bright high acid affected by northern winds and closest to Tanaro river Paje – improving by global climate change, softer more approachable Pora & Rio Sordo, and highest at 320 metres where the 15% & 24% calcium soils meet for the most complete elegant Rabaja (not easy to appreciate young). PdB has larger holding in lively Ovello and Aldo says they could increase the cru bottling by 6 times there while in Paje not much land owned so most of it goes into that cru. Good to know as this makes Ovello perhaps most reliable in difficult vintages by their best selection. The coop elects 9 members to a Board for 3 year terms and appoint a president with meetings held monthly. Interesting decision how in 2010 (a great Barolo vintage) no crus were declared because more rain and wet soil in Barbaresco. Some members had excellent quality grapes and were paid accordingly but that improved the 2010 Barbaresco. 2014 was the reverse with Barbaresco enjoying better weather than Barolo (who had more August & September rain) with a smaller resulting production but turned out better than consumers realize. They are presently available at BC LDB stores at relative value of $70.99 Canadian a bottle (with mags of Montestefano, Ovello, and Rabaja at $145.99). Aldo has been mentoring Luca one of the family members for the last 5 years and eventually hopes to step aside to find time to ride his bicycle more and perhaps remain in a role as reception room host. Your scribe also elicted from Aldo on this trip seven more learned gems:

1. Overall quality of nebbiolo vines has improved now as all clonal selection used since 1995 must come from University of Torino research on low yielding fruit best aromatics virus free 12 dozen mother plants propagated supplied by the nursey.

2. Better weather plus old clones with vine age and these choice new plants are resulting in the best nebbiolo wines ever produced.

3. Dolcetto now a tendency to get too ripe or being picked too early so some being replanted with nebbiolo.

4. Alcohol levels go by .5 degrees so where it says 14.5 on the label it actually could be anywhere from 14.1 to 14.9.

5. 2018 is good but perhaps not complex enough. Keep separate now but may blend later. Like 2010 may be too much on the light side.

6. 2015 is a fantastic vintage mellow and very ripe while 2016 also exciting being very bright.

7. Regulations allow both Barolo & Barbaresco to use screw cap closures. Might be a good marketing opportunity for some producer to try.

GAJA: What can you say about this historic family. So great. What leadership with a continuing emphasis on quality that they have provided for the whole Piedmont region. From 1961 only using their own grapes. Great history lesson again at the winery from the always personable Sonia Franco but they normally don’t take visitors. Lots of old botti including #1. Wood can dry out during hot summers so spray to keep humidity up. Enjoyed time again with Gaia Gaja who is following her father Angelo. She spent 2 years in San Franciso before coming back and we reminisced about the Mondavis and the Napa wine scene. She tried from their own cellar recently a Carneros Pinot Noir from the seventies that was still very good. Also that her last visit to Vancouver for a wine event was held on the unusual site of the Canucks ice hockey rink floor. Gaia feels the 2015 is very good for them with healthy grapes, good acidity and lots of finesse too – an impressive Barolo Sperss. 2016 is vibrant & fresh as shown by oldest vines Costa Russi, higher up Sori Tildin & richer complex Sori San Lorenzo all opened at 8:30 for a noon tasting. Aged 1999 Barbaresco so elegant with a remarkable mature bouquet of true tar & roses combining power & delicacy. Surprise was how fresh the 2006 chardonnay remained with complex pineapple and pears. Nothing but admiration for Gaja.

So much fun just walking through the vineyards and spending time trying to understand their uniqueness better. A 11K jaunt to Neive round trip was super and found there a new high quality wine inventory store Vinoland with free tasting run by young enthusiast Vincenzo Nicotra from Sicily. Also check out Bottega Dei Grandi Vini di Treiso Enoteca Comunale and amazing culinary treats and vast cellar at La Ciau del Tornavento. In Barbaresco the new keen to excel Campamac restaurant and informal fun Koki wine bar are a must. Highest recommendation to stay right in the town at Casa Boffo Camere with Carlo & Laura for comfort & tremendous hospitality.


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Ask Sid: Where was the first sparkling wine in the world produced?

October 16th, 2019
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where was champagne invented?

Question: Where was the first sparkling wine made?

Answer: Many people think immediately of Champagne and Dom Perignon or the recently proclaimed early fizz in England all during the 1600s. However the historians now believe it was produced first around the city of Limoux in SW France by Saint-Hilaire monks in the 1500s (around 1531). Those ancient bubbles now are 3 AOC wines of Blanquette de Limoux. Blanquette method ancestrale, and Cremant de Limoux.

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Best Coffee in Italy

October 14th, 2019

Living in North America your scribe does not usually imbibe in the morning coffee routine enjoyed by so many. Find the beans and methods used are too often resulting in very high acidity with less mellow flavours plus finishing bitterness all not really desired. Usually opt instead for green tea. However when ever visiting Italy a morning coffee is a must treat. IMHO Italy has definitely the know how, the water, the best beans, the best roasting and the best crafting of this beverage in the world. Sort of like comparing drinking a plonk wine against cherishing a Grand Cru.

Discovered so many delightful coffee treasure locations over the years that have become must return visits. Mentioned in an earlier blog how the large Cappuccino at Caffe Rosana in Firenze is a real must. Just discovered another one in Turin that has to be added to my top 5 list. It is ORSO Laboratorie Caffe Via Berthollet 30g ( embarked on a specialty coffee concept since 2014. Their focus on quality and diversity to suit your preferred taste is most commendable. The result is real coffee of amazing mellowness and complexity that finishes so pure and long that lingers on your palate for some time without bitterness. So balanced. A good thing! Highly recommend you check it out.

Do you have a coffee place you would share with us?


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Ask Sid: Determine by the Italian wine label whether hillside grapes are used in the wine?

October 9th, 2019
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Question: Can you determine by the wine label whether or not the grapes in an Italian wine come from a hillside site?

Answer: If only it was that easy. You can’t. However there are clues you should look for especially in Piedmont where you see those “top of the hill” indicative words like BRICCO (as in Barolo Bricco Boschis from Cavallotto), BRIC (as in Barolo Bric del Fiasc from Paulo Scavino) or SORI (plus a southern exposure as in Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo from Gaja).

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Bologna: Underrated Food Adventures

October 7th, 2019

bologna italy food wine restaurants travel

One of our favourite cities for a holiday is Bologna Italy. It is the most populated city of the Emilia-Romagna region (ahead of Parma & Modena) but much more. A lively rather small university town that is so perfect for covered walking with overhead protection from sun, rain, snow, wind and other weather elements. In fact there are some 40 kilometres of these unique porticos including the 666 arches of the invigorating uphill walk from the Cathedral of Bologna to the hillside Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca. Lots of historic sites and tourist attractions to keep you busy. However the main draw for us is the continual exploration of their still underrated but special food scene. Long known particularly for their salty salumi cured meats like mortadella and salami (including more coarsely ground sopressata) change is definitely coming. Pasta especially Tagliatelle with Bolognese meat sauce is still prominent and delicious but newer exciting menu ideas are emerging too.

Enjoyed an 11 night stay this September in Bologna and impressed again at the amazing quality of the restaurants and the still outstanding values for both meals and wines with top service included. Share a Top Ten of some highlights for you:

1. Traditional style places with bargain prices:

(a) Trattoria Anna Maria – Check out Tortellini en brodo but use the smallest worst wine glasses ever.
(b) Osteria Dell’Orso – Popular student hangout crowded for cheap pasta Bolognese.
(c) E’Cucina – Excellent for meat, fish or veg plus included water, vino, bread & coffee.
(d) Sfoglia Rina – Good Lasagne verde & Grimigna pasta with sausage at Community table.
(e) Tamburini – Right in downtown centre cool deli for lunch buffet with octopus salad.
(f) Pasta Naldi – via del Pratello 69 for freshly made pasta take away
(g) Pizza MozzaBello – via del Pratello 65 daily specials.

2. Places to be among the stylish crowds include the many food shops between Le Due Torri & Piazza Maggiore especially on Via Orefici & Via Pescherie Vecchie. Check out Eataly nearby.

3. Fico Eataly World – a newer Italian immense free agri-food supermarket/food fair on outskirts easily reached by Bus #7 for 7 euros return. There are processing factories, restaurants, markets, outdoor animals and lots to see and learn about but no one is there.

4. Great coffee – Caffe Terzi, Forno Brisa, and Forno e Risto Pallotti breakfast.

5. Outstanding gelato – Fav chocolate best ever at Cremeria Cavour, plus Santo Stefano, Galliera 49 (delicious intense nocciola), Il Gelatauro and of course Grom.

6. Market produce – Mercato Delle Erbe 25 via Ugo Bassi. Two useful lunch spots Banco 32 with posted website daily changing fish menu & Altro with change of pace fresh market cooked vegetables.

7. Super Grocery Store – PAM on via G. Marconi & Riva Di Reno.

8. Bologna is on major rail lines for day excursions to Modena, Parma (take bus 23 to last stop Parceggio Est and tour the Parmigiano Reggiano dairy followed by their tasty lunch at Caseificio Ugolotti), and Firenze – Must have world’s best Grand Cappuccino at Caffe Rosana, visit Mercato Centrale, wood fired pizza at Gustapizza, and two best gelato places of treasured Vivoli (best chocolate orange) and Neri (best passion fruit).

9. LA TRECCOLA via Mascarella 75. Newly opened but so impressed with quality ingredients and cooking talents plus ideas of Chef Di Matteo and Maitre d/Sommelier Paulo that we dined there for 2 dinners. Innovative Maltagliati pasta with pumpkin, Linguine with dried salted cod baccala, delicate light gnocchi, fresh fish, and their own home made digestif of limoncella, basil, or fav one rich chocolate. Smart wine buying too included remarkably fresh lovely bottle of 2018 Falanghina white from Puglia (not from the usual Campania region) for a steal at 17 euros and local Romagna Sangiovese red from Nicolucci for only 16 plus their excellent 2018 Tre Rocche Sangiovese Superior with some wood aging for 19. Wow! A place to monitor for deserved future recognition. Go now.

10. TRATTORIA VIA SERRA via Luigi Serra 9 (behind central Train Station). Outstanding lunch enticed us back for a dinner as well. A must as Chef Tommaso Maio & Manager Flavio Benassi are doing fantastic culinary adventures here. Wonderful dishes like salted cod with cauliflower, succulent stuffed thigh of guinea fowl, tortellone di ricotta with butter-sage, cylindrical shaped caciotta with fresh porcini mushrooms. Value 2016 Aglianico Campania for only 22.50 euros. Delightful charming service by Emmanuella. What a fantastic Trattoria!

Have you been to Bologna or do you have another food destination in Italy you would share?


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