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DAY ONE: L’Erudito – The Lorenzo Galli Wine Scholarship 2011

17 Jan

Who says it’s too early to drink wine before 9am?

Clearly if you want to be involved in this Galli Scholarship you better get your act together!

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Prince Wine Store Tasting: Tre Bicchieri Winners & A Few Favourites!

4 Jan

Well it has taken me an awful long time to get around to this but finally I can rave about a tasting I went to in December 2010 with Michael McNamara at the Prince Wine Store in Bank St, South Melbourne. All the wines are available there. After the free oyster and French Chablis tasting in the store, you could pay $35 and go into the Pod to try Italian goodies! You’d be silly not to, right?

Apparently only six other older gentlemen agreed with my logic.

One lady…many men

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Tenute Cisa Asinari Dei Marchesi di Gresy & Alberto

30 Dec

I consider myself very lucky because life gave me, almost for fun, the chance to live an uncommon ‘agricultural’ experience.” – Alberto Cisa Asinari di Gresy, in Piemonte…noblewoman of wine by Andrea Zanfi

Alberto Cisa Asinari di Gresy by his very lovely Porsche

Photograph by Gio’ Martorana, Piemonte…noblewoman of wine

Today I recalled a beautiful moment after bottling some La Spinetta Ca di Pian 2006 at work one day in 2008, when the cellarmaster Stefano took me to see Martinenga vineyard at the Marchesi di Gresy winery in Barbaresco as we knew Alberto the proprietor would be there to show us around. Stefano used to work there for a great number of years before moving to La Spinetta so it’s not like he needed to be ‘shown around’, but hey, it had been more for my sake anyway. Continue reading

Jealous much?

23 Dec

How’s this. A few days ago my mamma Italiana: Ornella Bonifacio from Alba, Piemonte, sent me an email. Within it, she merely wished me a merry christmas, asked when I am next visiting her in Alba, then sent me these photos immediately after…

Spigola with tartufi
Tortelli with tartufi bianchi

Why would she be so cruel? Tis the season of the truffle…and she felt the need to use something…any sort of enticement to get me back!

PDB Langhe Nebbiolo 2008

8 Dec

May be a young wine still, but it drank a beauty last night. Mature fruit, less savoury but still Italianate because of the style, and really, really approachable tannins. Drank with Matt Harrop and wife Tamara once the kids had gone to bed. The 2008 is now sold out and the 2009 is out in store. Ha ha I got to drink the last one!

Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2008

Available from Enoteca Sileno, 920 Lygon Street, North Carlton

The Plight of Cannubi

4 Dec

by David Berry Green

Nebbiolo – not for the fainthearted by Tim White

27 Nov

Nebbiolo – not for the fainthearted

Beppe Rinaldi

28 Oct

© All Rights Reserved. By [scara] Andrea, May 12, 2010

Sentenzioso, il vino scende nel bicchiere. In quasi tutti i salotti la bottiglie è coricata, stappata, pronta. Lo si assaggia mentalmente dandogli del “lei”, perché il rito non contempla un’obbrobriosa fraternità.
Dagli Abbona ai Rinaldi, dai Borgogno ai Mascarello, dai Pira ai Veglia, i “signori” del vino regale giocano a differenziarsi ma è un confronto di specchi, l’uno rimanda all’altro vertiginosamente.

(G. Arpino)

Back with the La Spinetta gang and the Pilates experience

22 Dec
This afternoon I finally made my way to the Castagnole delle Lanze winery where the La Spinetta gang are based to catch up with everyone else that I missed on Saturday evening. I took the train over from Alba and Pinuccio the agronomist picked me up in his beasty Fiat 4×4 and we had a brief but lovely chat on the ascent up the hill before he dropped me off.
On entrance into the winery I gradually ran into, hugged, kissed and talked with Gianni (only a little because he’s always quiet in general!), Salvatore (sono stata attacato a lui per un po’ parlando delle cose – a me lui e’ molto simpatico), Stefano (non ha detto tanto purtroppo, neanche all’inizio piu’ di ‘ciao’ e un bacio), Zwonko (con chi si parla delle cose piu’ vere e giuste nella vita, mi sembra comunque)m e Natalia (a lei ho detto sinceramente, ‘ma non hai cambiato per niente, sei ancora bella!’ e mi ha dato un bacio e un sorriso e ha detto ‘tu mi manchi’ con gli occhi blu (finto). Manuela came down and we all eventually went into the tasting room and had a bollicino to drink. Andrea finally arrived and we had some more. He doesn’t talk that much but Andrea has such a lovely presence it’s difficult not to smile when you look at him in all his lankiness!
Natalia wanted me to stay instead of going off with Manuela to Alba to do Pilates, but I informed them that Manuela is my passagio(ride) back to Alba so I have to go, despite Natalia’s suggestion that we do Pilates here at the winery all together! She wants me to work for them, they’d all heard I was going to be hired, then wasn’t, but still got work in Toscana. So they’re up with it!
Too soon it was time for me to go and I left with a kiss to them all wishing them all the best for the new year and festive season! Manuela and I did pilates for an hour. Manuela explained to the instructor that I’m keen to try out the class before committing in January, so it turned out to be free! Score!
It was only the two of us in this peaceful room and I followed the lady’s movements considerably well, taking into account it was my first time – the ol’ Pilates virgin hey! It was calming to focus on breathing for so long and working on all the core muscles starting from the legs to the trunk to the arms then stretching yourself out. There was only one time where I was struggling to do a certain pose on my knees and stomach so the lady came and sat behind me and was repeating what I had to do and I was concentrating so hard,finally I clicked that she wanted me to open my knees, raise my feet with my toes pointed outwards while holding my core…then I had to crush her hand she’d placed in-between my thighs (don’t get excited boys) as I breathed out and lowered my legs. Believe me, it wasn’t easy! I did it though in the end and overall she was impressed!
After farewelling Manuela I returned to Ornella’s place and she’d prepared a lovely salad with tuna and eggs. Back upstairs I prepared my bags for the train tomorrow as I am finally off to Sauze d’Oulx to see Lisa and Liana in the mountains after so long!

Mangia Krystina, mangia!

20 Dec

Whilst the ex-boss and wife and child were still sleeping I got up and had breakfast on my own in the kitchen and dressed for lunch as they informed me we were going to the ristorante Bovio in Ceretto Langhe with Ornella also in attendance. Together we rugged ourselves up and braved the chilly winter air and sat down to a wonderful lunch. We ordered and pretty much were all having an antipasto and a secondo but then the restaurant chef who knows Giorgio well ended up bringing us an antipasto on top of our other orders which consisted of carne crudo di vitello in small balls on bread, a spoon of insalata russa and grissini…the child of Anja and Giorgio, Lidia, is two years old and eats like an adult. In fact she ate more of the antipasti than everybody else. On top of that she also ended up eating an adult sized primo of agnolotti, then a smaller sized steak. Hungry kid.

My choices were coniglio then polpo caramellata. I brought Giorgio Meletti-Cavallari’s 2006 Impronte red wine for lunch. First we had a Spumante that was lovely, followed by a Vermentino done by Antinori which was terribly simple and bland. Then we had the Bolgheri rosso, which Giorgio said he liked but Anja wasn’t so keen on. We talked a little about the wine and how La Spinetta’s going etc. The coniglio was delicious in an involtini-style dish cut into slices with an orange-coloured sauce alongside. They followed up with a surprise primo of beetroot-coloured gnocchi with lobster sauce. Again delicious but rich and thankfully portioned well. Giorgio ordered another red wine blind as he wanted to be surprised and it tasted really good and ended up being the 2005 Sezzana (La Spinetta’s reserve Tuscan label) that he would like to put down for another 10 years even. I was really impressed with that one. I also came to learn that the reason for him drinking so much Vermentino of late is because La Spinetta Toscana are doing a Vermentino, 2009 being the first vintage from bought grapes.
My secondo of caramelized polpo (octupus tentacle) was ordered by Ornella and Giorgio also, and was too sweet and the balsamic darkness of the sauce overpowered the freshness or any polpo taste you were hoping to get! It was on a lovely bed of polenta but the sweetness dominated and ruined the dish overall. I mean, it wasn’t horrible, it just could could have been much fresher for fish, y’know?
Afterwards we had said no to dessert and they still brought us coffee cups of tiramisu, probably the best tiramisu I’ve tasted with a yellow-creamy topping, not white, so I wasn’t disappointed they brought us this, but we were trying to eat light! Che ridere! Amazing dessert.
Anja, Ornella and I went for over an hours walk after lunch up the hills to attempt to work it off and chatted about everything. I mentioned how I am going to start studying again and how I’m interested to learn the business side of things also. Anja was interested in that and I think in the new year we will see what we can work out, whether there can be some sort of arrangement. Can’t really say anything just yet.
Later on I went back to Alba with Ornella to her place and we reheated her pipes with a hairdryer to get water as it had frozen. The joys of living where there falls snow. It worked anyway, no matter how funny it looked blowdrying a box. We then went for a walk together and got an espresso in the centre of town before heading back. At 7pm Manuela Rivetti and her boyfriend Simone passed by the house and picked me up and together we had an aperativo first at Piazza Duomo in Alba with rockclimbing friends of Simone, then had dinner at ‘Il Corsiero’ in Cinzano with his group of rock-climbing buddies. The night was spent chatting away with Manuela about old times. Good times, good times.

Oh how I missed you, Piemonte!

19 Dec

This morning I grabbed my bags (plus 6 bottles of wine of Giorgio’s to pass on) and we drove to Cecina and had breakfast at the Principe Cafe. They took me to the station and I asked for a train ticket from here to Alba…the man behind the counter laughed and gave me the most doubtful look. Why? Perchè ha riso?

It’s snowing here still a little but they have had a surprise dump last night so trains that were leaving this morning from Firenze, or from the north have been delayed an hour, or two, or three. He suggests I leave tomorrow or try my luck anyway but anticipates I will run into problems in Genova. I call Anja (I am headed to Piemonte fyi to stay with the La Spinetta gang for whom I worked last year) and tell her I am going to try my luck! I will just buy my ticket to Pisa Centrale for now then we will see what they say there. Giorgio tells me if there is no trains, to use the same ticket to come back and try tomorrow. Anyway! With all this negativity about my subsequent journey I decide to give it a go nevertheless. Also because Anja informed me that tonight there will be a surprise birthday party for my old boss Andrea which means it will be a great opportunity to see everyone again.

Arriving into Pisa it’s a bit of a brothel. People everywhere in the main foyer, a queue a mile long to buy tickets from the teller, and the main screen is blacked out because perhaps there’s no point with so many delays. The smaller screens in the station list only those trains from this morning that are hours behind so there is no space to write the new trains on arrival. All one can do is wait! I decide to buy my ticket from the machine – stuff having human contact – and wait patiently at platform 4 in the bitter cold with others for our IC510 train to Torino Porta Nuova. We’re all hoping there’s no delay, it seems that only trains from this morning are really late. Otherwise, others have arrived a maximum of 20minutes late. Finally at 12:30pm the screen lights up to indicate our train exists! Woohoo! But will it arrive punctually? That is the question my friends! Everytime the screen goes black for some changeover we all expect to read that it has been cancelled or to read how many minutes ‘in ritardo’ it will be. Fortuunately my stars were well-aligned and the train arrived and we departed a measly 10minutes behind. Che fortuna!

The coastal landscape we took was beautiful and interesting as it was like winter in Pisa, spring in La Spezia, and winter again with snow in Genova. Overall, no problems and we arrived on time! My next train at Asti I took to Castagnole delle Lanze. Ahh…memories! Here at 17:30pm Anja with Giorgio and Lidia in the back picked me up and whisked me away from this cold, bitter chill in the Piemontese air. -1C outside it said. Brilliant.

I learn that Giorgio has lost his licence for drink-driving, and Lidia has grown and says my name and sings ‘Tanti aduuuri Andrea’ the whole way as we drive up Via Annunziata to the Castagnole delle Lanze winery of La Spinetta. I haven’t told any of the gang here that I am coming – only Clara knows as it was her organising the surprise party for her 30-year old son Andrea. When I get out of the car my old Italian mamma Emiliana was there and trying to see who it was so I said, ‘Ciaooo Emiliannaaaa’, and she got a shock and after a bit of ,’O Dio‘ (Oh God) I passed cautiously over the icy pacement and gave her a big hug and recollected what I am doing here, etc. Then I saw Clara and France, the other mums who live above the winery, and did the same. They haven’t changed, though France cut her hair short so she’s cute!

I grabbed a bottle of Impronte to give to Andrea as a birthday gift then went inside to the new degustation area they’ve finished. Impressive room! Eventually the parents of Andrea’s partner Noemi arrived and I chatted with the mum for awhile, she remember me from the Tuscany party last year. I went into the bathroom and when I came out I gave a surprise to Ele and Manuela, the girls I lived with for three months. Manu has cut her hair short and is a little pixie! We were speaking in Italian and she congratulated me on how well I speak. But then it was strange for her to be speaking Italian with me as last year all we spoke was English. I also met her boyfriend Simone who is very handsome and lovely and on meeting me said, ‘Ah, si si, Krystina Menegazzo, ma non sei in Turchia?’ Strange that he knew my last name and they’ve all seen my Turkey photos from Facebook!

Andrea finally arrived and was a little surprised, he also had his new baby boy Giulio with him too. Andrea had a big smile when he saw me. Stefano wouldnt be coming tonight which is a shame, I would have liked to see him too! Clara had made everything herself so we ate delicious Piemontese food. I tried a morsel of most things, insalata russa, carne crude di vitello, etc, everything bar the cheese and salami. Giorgio was doing the right thing and made sure I always had something in my glass as did his son Andrea, showing me the next vintage of La Spinetta Campe’ Barolo 2006…just like old times…vini vini vini! Turned out to be a superb evening seeing most of the crew, but I will try come back on the weekday to see everybody else properly too.

Thank you to the 17 very wise German men

22 Nov

Twas my final night in Alba before departing for the Veneto and I was hanging with my mamma Italiana, Ornella. As her and I were wandering the antiquated streets arm in arm we ran into the 17 German men she had done a wine tasting for the night before!

They asked us if we would like to drink some Gaja with them…

So we said, ‘Why not?!’

We drank the 2004 Sperss Langhe red retailing at some significant amount but it was 17 wealthy German men in a fabulous mood who didn’t care for money. We chatted with them for a bit then thanked them quickly before going to another bar to see another friend. Thank you lads for the drink!

Fratelli Cigliuti

21 Nov

I don’t have several vineyards in different zones, which would mean that at the end of the year I could obtain a certain number of bottles. No, all of mine are here around the house, and if the weather suddenly changes for the worse and it begins to rain or hail, it’s all up for me: I throw away a whole year’s work. When at last I see the big black clouds with their load of torrential rain move away in the sky above my vineyards I breathe a sigh of relief…How many sighs of relief I too breathe when I see that bank of cloud passing on! In all these years, though much has changed, my approach to the weather hasn’t. When I get up in the morning I look at the sky.

This constant uncertainty prevents me from relaxing completely, maybe the only uncertainty in my life with which I am very happy and satisfied, because in all these years I have built up something that may be small, but it functions.”

Renato Cigliuti, in Piemonte…noblewoman of wine by Andrea Zanfi

Renato, Dina and the daughters Claudia and Silvia Cigliuti

Photograph by Gio’ Martorana, Piemonte…noblewoman of wine

It was my last day at La Spinetta winery and I played my final game of Gin with Stefano in the lunchroom. I won, and as my gift he took me to his car and gave me a red long-shaped box. A wine box. I opened it to find a Marchesi di Gresy ‘Gaiun’ 1986 Barbaresco. What a beautiful thought.

At the end of our shift Stefano and I left for Neive where we went up to Serraboella to the winery Fratelli Cigliuti to meet with Stefano’s respected friend Mr Renato Cigliuti. He took us for a quick tour through the winery and to the barrel hall where we tried the 2007 Vigne Erte Barbaresco that had finished MLF but was still left with a bit of sugar unfortunately. We tried it but it seems dry enough, so hopefully it doesn’t lead to some problems down the track.

Afterwards he took a bottle of 2005 Serraboella Barbaresco to drink in their home and we sat around eating hazelnuts and sipping this delicious wine. His wife Dina came in and we talked about what I’m doing and about studying in schools today for children from Italy or Australia. She also showed me some hilarious photos of my boss Giorgio Rivetti back in the 80’s when he had a handsome mop of hair!

Eventually it was time to leave for dinner and I asked to purchase a bottle of the ’05 wine we’d just tried and she brought it to me and told me it was a gift and that I did not have to pay anything. Normally it is about 40-50 Euro…so I felt so grateful to them for the evening they had just shared with me.

Stefano and I then drove another 5 minutes up the rode to Mango to the trattoria I’d been to once before with a group of Czech Republicans. Here we were having our end of vintage festa! There were 14 of us all together and we went through all the typical Piemontese cuisines over about ten courses! What did we drink?


2007 Riesling Trocken, Germany by Doohaus… – Crisp acidity and fine minerality and not overpowering citrus flavours, mouth-coating texture, from Stefano.

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend by Frank Haas from Alto-Adige. Simple flavours, medium-weighted but not overly Cabernet like (no green vegetal flavours thankfully), so appealing as a simple table wine. Initially thought it might be an old Barbera…brought by Manuela.

2001 Barbaresco Starderi by La Spinetta. Typically Starderi, lots of smooth but firm tannin structure, fresh nose and well-translated palate flavours.

1990 Paolo Scavino Barolo ‘Rocca di Annunziata’. Very old nose, no sign of advancement or oxidation, textured, smooth, savoury palate with tannins that glide across your mouth and linger until the next sip!

2005 Barbaresco Serraboella by Fratelli Cigliuti. Will be interesting to see how this looks in 2015! Can she hold on??…

The greatest tasting of my life: Torno al Vento – Barolo e Barbaresco … dieci anni dopo

19 Nov

Vintage work at the La Spinetta winery has been quietening down a lot lately, which means I made the right decision to leave on Monday to continue my travels around Italy. The cellarmaster and my co-worker Stefano Mazzei grabbed me at work and asked me if I would like to go with him to a tasting that was on tonight at the fancy schmancy restaurant in Treiso ‘La Ciau del Tornavento‘ for the degustation of the 1998 Barolo and Barbaresco’s. They hold it every year for the producers in Piemonte to address the vintage ‘Ten years on’. Did I go? That’s a really really stupid question.

When we arrived together we saw our friends Geoff Chilcott and Alberto Gresy from Martinenga Marchesi di Gresy so we sat next to them and tried the 28 wines together, making notes and discussing them. Stefano is amazing and in one of the three-wine brackets in which we conducted the tasting, he said to me he thought the first wine was from the producer Sandrone and the third from Paolo Scavino…he was right! He told me, ‘Tu sei in gamba‘ (You’re on the ball) when I said that I thought there were two wines in the line-up that had flavours akin to Pinot Noir in them and he agreed too, thinking these were ones where a small percentage had been added back in the day. Sneaky boys.

After the tasting (to which I will post notes below), the dinner commenced at 10pm. The meal was delicious and as expected, totally Piemontese. We had fantastic, fresh carne crudo di vitello, insalata russa, pepperoncini, roast beef that was left a little raw (salivate) and for main it was sage and butter ravioli. Dessert was an orange rind and sultana moist cake.

We all drank:  *** equals favourites

1998 Fratelli Cigliuti Serraboella Barbaresco, Neive – Brick red hue, softened strawberry nose mixed with bottle-aged character, fine grain tannins give good legnth in flavour, lacking body though ***

1998 Vietti Barolo Rocche, Castiglione Falletto – Brick red hue, stronger bottle age, slightly Cabernet-like nose, more body, firmer and grippier tannins, tighter acidity, dryer flavours, more forward/advanceed. Salami on the nose, a little reduced character.

1998 Damilano Barolo Liste, Barolo – Cork affected (not TCA, but advanced), dry in mouth, lacking flavour but hints of what it was like,

1998 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy Gaiun, Barbaresco – Richer, vibrant brick red hue, nose a little volatile, mouth-coating flavour, hot finish, fine length, mid-palate weight and persistent flavours on palate ***

1998 Nada cru Rombone Barbaresco, Treiso – Dirtier brick red/brown hude, riper joobier fruits on nose, firm, stripping tannins but softened, a little unbalanced flavour forward, tannins in dietro, hollow middle

1998 La Spinetta Starderi Barbaresco, Neive – Bright fresher fruits than previous, concentrated mid palate but good balance with acid brightness and tannin length and fruit flavour still showing through. Great body, elegant wine. ***

1998 Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra, Monforte – Mellowed, closed nose, shorter palate weight, nutty flavours, advanced a little , drying.

1998 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito, Castiglione Falletto – Soft but evidence of sour fruits, Pinot-like, femininity suggests Barbaresco but everything is soft and elegant. Perhaps from La Morra or Barolo? Bow bow ***

1998 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy Camp Gros Martinenga, Barbaresco – Bright autumnal hue, fresh and aged nose, molto savoury, fine tannins, good acidity and flavour, typical. Think it’s Barbaresco, elegant and lengthy. Woo hoo! ***

1998 Piero Busso Barbaresco Vigna Borgese, Neive – Brown, aged hue, cooked, dry, horrible, like fortified with nutty characters.

1998 Rocche Dei Manzoni Barolo Vigna Cappella, S. Stefano – Nose volatile and hints of parmesano (rustic much?), sporco (dirty), flavour in dietro della bocca, hollow

1998 Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato, Serralunga d’Alba – Bright red ruby hue, nose a little cheesy but also alike to Cabernet (Bordeaux). Palate completely different, soft strawberry red fruits and a salty finish. ***

1998 Albino Rocca Barbaresco Riserva Vigneto Brich Ronchi, Barbaresco – Dusty red hue, oaky nose, soft fruits on nose too, lots of bottle age, length is good, fine and elegant. Think it’s Barbaresco.

1998 Bruno Rocca Barbaresco Rabaja – Heavier style, more body, thicker and grainier tannins, flavour a little subdued, think it’s Barolo.

1998 Armando Parusso Barolo Bussia Vigna Rocche, Castiglione Falletto – Duty red hue, soft elegant red fruit nose, palate akin to the nose, savoury and salty flavours, fine length, Barbaresco? ***

1998 Sottimano Barbaresco Pajore, Barbaresco – Brick red, piu’ corpo, un po’ chiuso e un po’ short on the finish, olive, kalamata nose

1998 Moccagatta Barbaresco Vigneto Cole – Oaky nose, lacking fruit weight to account for the fine tannins.

1998 Azelia Barolo San Rocco, Castiglione Falletto – A little cheesy, lacking freshness (svinat0), salty flavour, fine grain tannins.

1998 Moccagatta Barbaresco Bric Balin – Stinky socks, old nose, but palate flavour thin carried by tannins, wood on back palate

1998 E. Pira e Figli Cannubi, Barolo – Closed nose, softer coating fruit on palate, richer flavour, great length. ***

1998 Sandrone Barolo Cannubi – Rounded nose, fruits open but detect high alcohol, a little soft and Pinot-like flavours, very suspicious

1998 Albino Rocca Vigneto Loreto, Barbaresco – Bottled aged and slightly cheesy nose, tart start, fruit weight lacking a little for the high acidity and little body.

1998 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc, Castiglione Falleto – Rich, ripe and fresh nose, jooby, palate the same; juicy and like a Pinot, but with long length and great structure. ***

1998 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Brunate, La Morra – Nose seems old, hot, Cabernet-like, short on palate, dry, no flavour, black licorice notes, currants.

1998 Giorgio E Luigi Pelissero Barbaresco Vanotu, Barbaresco – evidence of lively soft fruit flavours, well-rounded but on nose it’s dirty.

1998 Conterno Fantino Barolo Vigna del Gris, Monforte – Well-balanced wine, everything in it’s place; tannin structure, fresher fruit flavours, length etc. Che bello. ***

1998 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Rocche – Cabernet-like, currants, darker fruits, good length, fine but very firm tannins.

All roads lead to … Liechtenstein?

15 Nov

Andrea, Stefano and myself met at 5am at the winery this fresh Saturday morning and left for Liechtenstein where we were to conduct a degustazione (wine tasting). We weren’t the only ones of course participating. On the way we stopped in Neive and picked up Claudia Cigliuti who is one of the two daughters who work at Fratelli Cigliuti of Serraboella and Vigne Erte fame. The other vehicle we went with had Chiara Boschis of E. Pira e Figli stunning Barolo wines, the dude from Prunotto and Alberto Gresy of Barbaresco and the owner of the famed Gaiun and Martinenga crus. Claudia and I shared the 4-hour journey together in the back seat through Piemonte, Milano, Switzerland and finally into Vaduz, Liechtenstein. The scenery along the way was gorgeous with the towering Alps around us and already there was snow on top of the caps.


The national language of Liechtenstein is Deutsch but they can usually speak alright English and some of them Italian or French. So between the three of us La Spinetta crew we had it covered (Andrea – Italian only, Stefano (French and Italian) and myself (English and some Italian).

Seven hours later with very sort feet we retired to the dining room with the other winemakers and and shared a delicious, intimate dinner on a long table and drank the leftover wines, chatted and acted a little silly. The song ‘Tintarella di Luna’ came on and I surprised Andrea when I sang the first verse correctly. I was seated next to Alberto Gresy who is very well spoken and explained his entire family history to me. His cellarmaster of the winery he owns is Geoff Chilcott who I’d met previously a number of times so I think I’ll make the effort to stop in and visit their winery when I get the chance.

We drank:

2007 Gelbert Muskateller Clos Domaine by Domane Wilfersdorf, Austria for Hofkellerei, Liechtenstein. Overly sweet fruit flavours like Gewurztraminer but not actually a sweet style of wine. Interesting though, but pretty simple.

2007 Riesling Clos Domaine by Domane Wilfersdorf. Simple wine yet again.

2007 Sauvignon Blanc Clos Domaine by Domane Wilfersforf. Not overly fruity but less textural than the Italian styles.

2007 Vaduzer Pinot Noir Herawingert AOC by Domane Vaduz, Liechtenstein. Tank wine, simple, rose’-like, blah.

2006 Vaduzer Pinot Noir Selection AOC by Domane Vaduz, Liechtenstein. Barrel fermented, overly oaky, no marriage. Bowbow…

2007 Verdicchio by Pignocco DOC, Le Marche by Santa Barbara. Delicious example!

2007 Chardonnay from Langhe DOC by Brangero. More typically Chardonnay with greater fruit weight and classic peach flavours with more obvious oak use. Picked later style.

2004 Nebbiolo Barolo ‘Mariondino’ DOCG by Armando Parusso in Montforte d’Alba. A decent standard, lots of body. Chewy.

2004 Nebbiolo Barolo ‘Bussia’ DOCG by Prunotto. Great barolo! Better than the previous, more harmonious and balanced.

1999 Barolo ‘Bussia’ 10 years Riserva by Prunotto. Oxidised and buggered.

2007 Dolcetto d’Alba DOC by Conterno Fantino in Montforte d’Alba. Actually the best Dolcetto I have tasted so far. I was pleasantly surprised. Great body for a Dolcetto.

2007 Barbera d’Alba ‘Vignota’ DOC by Conterno Fantino. Well made, good fruit concentration and not overly tannic.

2006 Monpra’ Rosso del Piemonte DOC by Conterno Fantino. Basic red blend, quite simple, a little touch of Cabernet Sauvignon.

2004 Nebbiolo Barolo ‘Vigne del Gris’ DOCG by Conterno Fantino. A wine with a hell of a lot of body, still needs time in the bottle, little off on the nose but palate overpowered by the strength of the tannins.

2005 Nebbiolo Barolo Sori Ginestra by Conterno Fantino. Just bottled four months ago so like the previous one was overly tannic with too much body and needs time in bottle.

2006 Barbera d’Alba ‘Campass’ DOC by Fratelli Cigliuti. A decent example but not overly impressive. Lacking in body and concentration of flavour.

2004 Nebbiolo Barbaresco Vigne Erte by Fratelli Cigliuti. Light style, savoury flavours in balance with a lighter body and salty (?) finish.

2004 Nebbiolo Barbaresco ‘Serraboella’ DOCG. Better than Vigne Erte, older vines, so concentration of flavour is higher, well balanced acidity to flavour and body all in one. Delicious!

2004 Nebbiolo Barbaresco ‘Camp Gros’ Martinenga by Tenuta Cisa Asinari di Gresy. Lots of body in the wine, needs time but will eventually sing.

2000 Nebbiolo Barbaresco ‘Camp Gros’ Martinenga by TCAdG. Better after time in the bottle, ready to be drunk. from south-facing vineyards, balanced but with some real guts, more masculine.

2000 Barbaresco ‘Gaiun’ Martinenga by TCAdG. Elegant and a more feminine style of wine, in my opinion more approachable and more attractive in flavour profile.

1996 Nebbiolo Barolo ‘Cannubi’ DOCG by E.Pira e Figli. Drying tannins, mouth-coating bottle-age characters. The low pH and high acidity are apparently typical of the ’96 vintage. What a wine.

Dinner with i ragazzi!

30 Oct

Tonight was to be a night of hanging with the La Spinetta boys. After Gianni picked me up from work we went to Andrea’s house where we had a superb dinner with Stefano and un amico Alberto. We had little hot plates in front of us on the main table and cooked different sorts of meat all night, from salsicce, to beef, to chicken and veal. Can you imagine what these guys would have done if they’d had to put up with a vegetarian? Pfft!

The night wore on until 2am and I was so exhausted, but it was an enjoyable evening and isn’t this what it’s all about? Eating and drinking with friends?

We Drank:

1993 Scarzello Barolo 13.5%, lightly coloured, fine tannins, savoury flavour, smooth and balanced.

1997 Riesling from Alsace, France, by Meyer-Fonne’ Kaefferhopf (that doesn’t sound French, does it?). A little bit sweet, so smooth and delicious!

1995 La Spinetta Barbaresco Gallina. First year vintage for Gallina for La Spinetta, stronger colour than Barolo, looking fresh, and smooth to the finish.

1998 La Spinetta Barbera Superiore (Bionzo). Fabulous colour, flavour and concentration.

1995 La Spinetta Monferrato Rosso Pin. Alive and well, full of a conglomerate of flavours and still driving through to a strong finish.

1961 Borgogno Barolo Riserva 13.5%. Vegemite-like nose (I was clearly the only person in the room to ‘get’ that descriptor), lots of sediment, old Cabernet-like nose, great smooth tannins, great length, flavour is concentrated in the middle and back palate and the weight is still there too! A-mazing.

Dinner at Andrea Rivetti’s

26 Oct

Drank: 1998 Sottimana Barbaresco Cotta’. Smooth tannins, great colour still, ready to drink now, delicious with pollo!

2001 Matteo Correggia Roero Arneis. Fresh flavours still, Chardonnay-like texture, but with a minerality to its flavous  that suggests Arneis. Good ageing potential…something that surprised me.

2006 Gancia Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Barbera and Nebbiolo. Colour very young, rich ruby red, fresh fruitier style, nice blend!


25 Oct


Today was speciale, magnifico e troppo buono. I had been planning on attending the Salone del Gusto festival all week and last night Manuela tells me that Giorgio has asked her and I to accompany him to the awards ceremony for Tre Bicchieri in Torino. Phwoarrr!

Tre Bicchieri is part of the Slow Food festival (a global organisation promoting healthy living and eating) and gives out awards (maximum of two per producer) to wines that are outstanding in all of Italy. There were 331 wine awards and two of them went to La Spinetta, the winery I’ve been working for the last few months. One award was for the 2006 Monferrato Rosso Pin and the other for the 2005 Barbaresco Starderi. La Spinetta have a really strong export component with their brand, especially in the United States where their modern styles appeal to a large number of palates. It has helped them reign in the status of a winery that ranks second to Gaja in terms of the Tre Bicchieri awards.

After the awards ceremony, there is always a tasting that takes place on alternate levels of all the wines involved in the Tre Bicchieri program. Considering time constraints and the fact we also had to work, Manuela and I determined we would have to swap shifts between manning the La Spinetta table and assisting with the tasting. Manuela, the dear, took the first stint behind the table, leaving me ample time to wind my way around the circular structure, glass in hand, trying Elio Grasso, Bruno Giacosa, Gaja, Giacomo Conterno, and so many more Nebbiolo wines. Piemonte was first on the list, you see. Well it was for me anyway. Call me lazy, but this event was so ideal in my view because instead of going around to visit all these wineries, I could taste the best wines of what they offer right here.

I also ventured downstairs and tried a range of Tuscan wines, as well as other reds to the likes of Amarone della Valpolicella and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, before having to return to give Manuela a break.

At the start of the day Manuela and I had joked that I should pretend to be some famous Aussie journalist as we wove our way around the room. Thinking it was a ridiculous idea but persisting with the joke nevertheless, I said, ‘How about Jane Faulkner?’ It turns out I couldn’t pretend because she was there! I recognised her immediately when she first stumbled across the La Spinetta table as she had been a judge at the 2007 Rutherglen Wine Show that I stewarded at. I got such a shock at seeing her, especially after our comments from the morning, so before I knew it, ‘Jane Faulkner!’ in full Aussie fervour and excitement had blurted out of my mouth in her direction at the table.

She looked up at me with such a shocked face and muttered, ‘Oh no’.

I laughed, ‘Hey, you’re a celebrity!

After introducing myself we had a quick chat and she commented that she would be hosting a tasting of Australian & New Zealand wines the following night with my friend Geoff Chilcott from Marchesi di Gresy. Such a small world! She asked me to join them, but I was unable to attend as I had been invited to winemaker Andrea Rivetti’s house for a special dinner with the family.

As the day progressed, I ran into the crew from Vietti as they veered towards our table. My friend who used to work at Shadowfax, Eddie McDougall, worked the vintage there this year and I had seen his photos so knew who Luca Currado was from that. Luca is the winemaker and was so lovely. It was clear why Eddie did not pick up any Italian when that whole crew spoke extremely good English.

Tre Bicchieri Highlights:

2006 Brancaia Il Blu – Toscana. Peppery start, mid-weighted, lacking finish but has decent flavours to make up for that.

2005 Cepparello by Isole e Olena in Toscana. Closed nosed but with slight hint of sweetened fruits. Very savoury and tight on the palate but nicely balanced acidity.

2005 Flaccianello delle Pieve by Tenuta Fontodi – Toscana. Closed nose, lacking fruit weight on palate, thin tannins.

2005 Colline Luchesi Tenuta di Valgiano – Toscana. Great smooth texture, fine length, flavour a little lacking.

2005 Sammarco by Castello dei Rampolla in Toscana. Sour cherries and fine tannins.

2005 Tignanello by Marchesi Antinori in Toscana. Nose like a good parmesan cheese, salty characters but great texture and very intriguing.

2006 Terodego Armilo by Bolognani. High alcohol, hot fruit, lacking length.

2003 Amarone della Valpolicella by Marion. Smoky bacon-like nose, textured and flavoured palate, lacking substantial structure to hold out much longer. Hot finish.

2004 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico by Allegrini. Nose a little more vegetal and capiscum-like flavours. Funnily enough that vegetal character is translated well onto the palate, mouth-coating flavours, well-weighted.

2004 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano by Fratelli Speri. Has a stinkier nose, still quite vegetal and herbaceous, well-developed flavours and a firm finish. Balanced really, really well.

2006 Colli Piacentini Cabernet Sauvignon Luna Selvatica by La Tosa. Soft cheese nose, soft tannins, lack of flavour overall and mid-length palate.

1998 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo by Emidio Pepe. Smells just like the feet of a man gone camping and stinky gorgonzola, gritty tannins, firm finish and good palate weight.

2005 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Marina Cvetic by Masciarelli. Not as strong of a stinky cheese nose but still there and will probably develop into something much more appealing (?) with time. At least it has good weight and textural aspects.

2006 Montevetrano. Herbaceous but clean, tight and firm palate. Still a bit too young.

2006 Terra di Lavoro by Galardi. Like a Cabernet Sauvignon, similar vegetal characters, firm tannins with a long, persistent finish.

2004 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva. Lightly coloured, stinky cheesy nose, cooked cherry, strong powerful palate, delicate balance between the fruit with great acidity and firmness of tannins.

2004 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto, Neive. Highly appealing nose, savoury on the palate, tight, quite acidic but evenly balanced with the flavour and weight.

2004 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Gaiun. Nose like a Pinot Noir, sweeter fruits, newer world style, heavier fruit on palate but still with tight acidity and sourness on finish. Mid-weighted, needs more time in the bottle.

2004 Fratelli Cigliuti Barbaresco Vigne Erte. Savoury, delicious and has superb length.

2006 Barbera d’Asti Bricco della Bigotta by Braida. Quite a nice Barbera, a little lacing in flavour but plenty of acidity, maybe needs more time to open up…I got in early.

2004 Silvio Grasso Barolo Bricco Luciani. Firm tannins, chalky actually, perfumed nose a pleasant surprise, a little ordinary though overall.

2004 Barolo Enrivo VI by Montalletto – Cordero di Montezemolo. Weak flavours but good length and fine texture, so promising.

2004 Elio Grasso Barolo Ginestra Vigna Casa Mate’. Perfumed elegant nose, clean, vibrant acidity and really nice length. A delight!

2004 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito. Good concentration of fruit and drives through for a persistent finish. What a star.

2004 Aldo Conterno Barolo Romirasco. Nose like thistle, flavour quite thin, tart finish, acid acid acid.

2001 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva. Poor colour for a 2001, parmesan-cheese like nose (Brett.?), savoury and smoother tannins, salty-like sensation.

2004 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia. Musty and old nose but quite intriguing, savoury on palate but smooth, good length and totally delicious. I love how these wines continually surprise me.

2004 Giacomo Brezza e Figli Barolo Sarmassa. Still young, needs more time in bottle, tannins mouth-puckeringly harsh.

2007 Ca’ Viola Dolcetto d’Alba Barturot. Wish I’d tried more Dolcetto’s in my time here to really understand the variety better.

2004 Giancarlo Travaglini Gattinara Tre Vigne. Cheesy nose (what’s with all the cheese today people?!), firm tannins give a lovely mouthfeel they do not overpower.

2005 Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Costa Russi. The Barbaresco-savoury nose but not sour on palate, fine tannins and elegant.

2004 Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Sperss. The Barolo-firmer tannins, good fine length and acidity. Prefer the Barbaresco…





24 Oct
The entrance to the Grinzane Cavour winery ‘Gallo’

I have been working at the winery in Grinzane Cavour called Gallo for a while now. The last of the Barolo has already been pressed off and we’ve also put the Barbera d’Alba from the Gallina vineyard into barriques. It’s a stunning small winery this one compared to the one at Castagnole delle Lanze, which has to accommodate the Moscato, the Barbera d’Asti and Barbaresco fruit. But it’s a very ‘designed’ winery, and there for its looks and not necessarily for its functionality.

The barrels at Grinzane Cavour. Super clean

“Lasciate mi cantare”

13 Oct

Last night Manuela, Ele and I went to Grinzane Cavour for dinner with Anja and Giorgio’s friends to celebrate their daughter Lidia’s first birthday. The party was held in the degustation room above the winery and when we arrived we received a glass of Champagne from Andrea: Philippounat Imperial-sized!

The degustation room at Grinzane Cavour

The night commenced with appetisers cooked by some Californian appretice chef dude who thought he was awesome. But he did make some crazy dish of prune wrapped in prosciutto and oven baked. I commend you for that sir, but not your ego I’m afraid!

After that Giorgio and some other vecchio competed with cooking their two pieces of capretto to see who’s was best. They were judged to be equal but in my opinions , Giorgio’s was lacking in a little flavour. Scusa!

There was plenty of La Spinetta wine ot be drunk and by the end of the meals a guitar was pulled out and a gentleman sang songs in Italian for the next few hours. A couple of English ones were thrown in too and it was so much fun singing songs that I actually knew in Italian so I could join in with everyone, like ‘Marina’, ‘A sole mio’, ‘Rosa Rosa per te’, ‘Lasciate mi cantare’, etc.