Tag Archives: Piemonte

The Massa Effect

20 Aug

Some months ago I was in raptures during a meeting in Piemonte where I came face to face with a wine figure I admire greatly. He was softly spoken with gorgeous, blue-eyes. His name was Walter and he had me at ‘Ciao’.

Walter Massa

Walter Massa of Vigneti Massa

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The wine tasting: Massolino wine masterclass- Rionda, Rhonda, Wanda…Eh?!

6 Sep

Massolino of Serralunga d'Alba

Massolino, also known as Azienda Agricola Vigna Rionda, is the name of one of the small grape grower/wine bottling families in the Serralunga valley whose business is named after their most famed and popular vineyard, Vigna Rionda. The business began with Giovanni Massolino creating the estate in 1896, followed by his son Giuseppe subsequently building the cellar a number of years later. Today, the winery is still in the hands of the Massolino family with brothers Roberto and Franco Massolino along with Giovanni Angeli acting as winemakers for the estate.

Back in August 2011, the Australian wine importers for Massolino, Bibendum Wine Co., held a long-awaited masterclass to highlight the producers various vineyards. The event was held at the gloriously spacious and sea-view aligned restaurant The Stokehouse in St Kilda. Just to heighten the opportunity to make someone green with envy, see the menu below for what delights were in store:

The well-dressed Italian representative (because there always has to be at least one good-looking Italian at these events) was none other than winemaker Giovanni Angeli. Softly spoken, but groomed within 007 standards, he acted as our amiable host along with head of Bibendum, Robert Walters.

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Il coraggioso Matteo Correggia e il Roero

12 Apr

The late Matteo Correggia - Photograph by Matthew Molchen


The wine world lost one of its greats back in 2001 when the driven and ardent Roero vine dresser Matteo was taken unexpectedly in an accident in the vineyard. Prior to his death, Matteo had worked fervently to establish the sandy soils and the vines of the Roero as fruit that could one day be held next to the great Langhe vines. His dedication to his craft meant he gradually bought the vineyards that he knew ripened the best and had the best exposures and sold off those he knew he would rather do without. When at last the world took notice to his beautiful wines, it was all be taken away from him and the estate was left in his wife Ornella’s capable hands. The wines are now made under the direction of enologist Luca Rostagno – the man Matteo wanted to make the wine in his cellar.


Matteo Correggia’s estate is based on the northern side of the Tanaro river in Piemonte in the area known as the Roero (rather than the more southerly and well-known Langhe wine region). It is an area long-renowned for the native white grape Arneis, a wine that is usually unoaked and consumed when young and is a beautiful accompaniment to fish dishes. It is the reds though that are commanding due attention, with a classic Roero rosso like Matteo Correggia’s La Val dei Preti or earlier maturing Roero made from 100% Nebbiolo in the Canale d’Alba region of the Roero hills. These wines tend to be lower in price also due to a lower demand with the majority of people going for the more publicised Langhe wine region. So I say, scoop up a bargain, put your feelers out there, and the next time you come across a wine with Roero on the label, well apart from knowing a little more about the area now, you can feel confident that it is an area producing reputable, delicious wines worthy of the purchase! Trust me!

Roero and the Langhe wine regions: courtesy of Chevsky

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For the Baroliste: I present to ye, Signor Luciano Sandrone!

17 Mar

The bottles of Luciano Sandrone - Photograph La Donna del Vino

Ah yes, twas yet again another fantastic session at the Prince Wine Store in Bank Street, South Melbourne.

They held a tasting of eight wines from the meticulous producer Luciano Sandrone in Piemonte. His are wines I have yet to look at in a back-vintage line-up so I was super keen to do this Masterclass with a group of randoms to see what we would be looking at.

The last time I’d seen Sandrone’s wines was back in 2008 at ‘The Greatest Tasting of my Life‘ and more recently in January at the ‘2011 Lorenzo Galli Wine Scholarship-Day 1 Tasting‘. Both times I have looked at his Cannubi Boschis Barolo, which was interesting for me to realise and compare notes back. Either way, he is seemingly an excellent producer and the ability to understand the story behind his production, gradual collection of vineyards and philosophy behind his wines was truly a beautiful opportunity to be able to share.

All in all we were a group of about fifteen…yet again, I was the only female. Why aren’t other women onto this? There’s not that many places you can hang out and drink with just men and not get teased for it!? Meh! Maybe I’ll just keep it my little secret…shhhh 😛

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The Moscato d’Asti ferment – “Bubble bubble boil and trouble”

1 Mar

Have you ever thought about the risk involved in making a joyful beverage like Moscato d’Asti? Surprisingly for such an easy-drinking wine, it is one with a fair amount of winemaking technique involved. Ladies and gentlemen, Moscato d’Asti is not your standard, sweet, fizzy drink. This is a more serious matter. The trouble only just begins with the bubbles…

La Spinetta Moscato d’Asti Bricco Quaglia

As a means of providing a brief introduction, Moscato d’Asti is a low-alcohol sweet white wine made from the Moscato grape (grown in the Asti province in Piedmont of northern Italy). The sweetness does not come from adding sugar. Instead, it is provided by the natural sugars remaining from halting the fermentation. I prefer not to get overly technical, so here is a short tale from the 2008 vintage when I worked in a small town called Castagnole delle Lanze at La Spinetta winery.

Castagnole delle Lanze – Photograph by La Donna del Vino 2008

It was the beginning of September and the Moscato vineyards were almost ready. La Spinetta has been making Moscato d’Asti since the late 1970’s, when Giorgio Rivetti took control of his father Pin’s grapes and purchased more from other vineyards to create what was to become one of Italy’s most celebrated Moscato d’Asti wines.

The first week patiently waiting passed by with ease with the team’s attendance at a party in Tuscany to celebrate the opening of their winery in the typically Italian named town of Casanova. Upon completion, we herded the team back to Piedmont where we began the harvest, or la vendemmia as the Italians call it.

The harvest – Photograph courtesy of La Spinetta

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Battista Rinaldi – “Barolo is a wine worth devoting yourself to”

8 Feb

Allow me to present Giuseppe Rinaldi and his wines of Barolo in Piemonte, Italy.

To his friends, he is simply known as Beppe.

Giuseppe (Beppe) Rinaldi – Photograph by Gio’ Martorana

“I could tell you a whole lot of things, since I belong to a complex generation that lived through a historical period of great ideals and upheavals which cast doubt on everything, including the ways of interpreting the countryside and agriculture. A generation which with great effort carried the burden of older generations on its shoulders. I still recall the greyness and destitution of the postwar years…

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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

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.

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.

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!


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.

A glorious night out with the Czech Republic!

4 Oct

Tonight we had a great time. Gianni, Andrea, Stefano and myself drove to Mango to a low-key trattoria where Stefano’s friend, Geoff Chilcott of New Zealand had friends over from the Czech Republic. We were a group of 18 in total. Geoff works for the Gresy family winery in Barbaresco and has been living here for the last twenty years or so. We all had to bring a covered bottle of wine…or two. Hence about 24 wines in total! What a festa!

All the bottles at the end of the night…

So the dinner party started after 9pm. Classic. To kick off the evening in case we didn’t think we would be drinking enough wine that night, we had an aperativo of Champagne. Philippounat I believe. From there flowed the wine continuously with options games taking place.

Five antipasto dishes (including prosciutto with puff pastry, salami, insalata russa, carne crudo di vitello, which I love, tripe and tripe soup with fagioli beans). Primi was next with ravioli in sage and butter sauce, a classic Piemontese pasta dish which I have become a bit of a wiz at. Several secondi were put in front of us which I gladly consumed, including cinghiale with polenta and guinea fowl.

Fratelli Cigliuti’s Serraboella vineyard Barbaresco 1989

At about 1pm or a bit after the nocciola ice cream and pineapple tart dessert arrived and 24 bottles of wine were polished off. I had brought with me the One Eye Shadowfax 2005 Shiraz, which looked quite good, but so not European so it stood out amongst everything else.

Go the ‘Fax!


Brut Champagne by Gobillar (50% Chardonnay, 25% each PN & PM). Wonderful lees characters, refreshing and balanced.

2003 Bouin Muscat di Frontignac from Macedonia. Seemed like a Sauvignon Blanc, still fresh, but quite simple.

2005 Langhe Sauvignon Blanc by Parusso – Montforte d’Alba

1998 Langhe Chardonnay by Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy – Martinenga. Opened up beautifully with time in the glass, still fresh with a lot of oak influence which did not dominate though. Overall impressive.

2006 Arneis by Malvira – Rodera. Simple but admittedly a good example of this Piemontese variety.

2006 Pinot Nero by Boheme in Czech Republic. Seemed like a Gamay but was actually a Pinot Noir.

2007 Suche’ Neronet by Esterka in Czech Republic di Moldavia. Wine with a dark colour, high pH, sweet palate, is a native grape.

2001 Valpolicella Superiore di Veneto. I thought it was Grenache, Stefano guessed Nebbiolo. Damn.

2007 Rose d’Austria using Blaufrankish.

2005 Shiraz ‘One Eye’ by Shadowfax – Heathcote. After sampling Italian wines with high acidity and less obvious fruit, this Aussie Shiraz stood out like a sort thumb. Most people guessed it and they thought it was quite a big wine, which is true especially in relation to its alcohol content.

2004 Pinot Nero from Valais, Switzerland. I could tell it was distinctly Pinot Noir but wrongly assumed it was a nice Burgundy. My first wine ever from here! And I am impressed! The acidity is higher in these wines than Burgundies too.

2007 Nebbiolo Langhe by Gresy, Martinenga in Barbaresco. For a wine this young it was surprisingly drinkable now!

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Aglianico blend by Montevetrano in Campagna.

2001 Sagrantino by Montefarco in Umbria. Was a tired, problematic wine.

2003 red grape by Pallavo- Sicilia. Corked.

1998 La Spinetta Valeirano Barbaresco. Looking tired with loss of fruit, cork’s fault!

2003 Chapoutier’s Chateauneuf du Pape in the Rhone. Lovely wine.

2005 Bourjeoes Cru Bordeaux in Medoc

2003 Merlot da solo by Gresy, Martinenga in Barbaresco.

1989 Fratelli Cigliuti Barbaresco Serraboella. Stood up to the test and was a lovely wine, old age bottle characters, still juicy fruit, firm tannins. Superb.

1998 Malvira Roero Superiore. Quite a robust wine, not tired at all.

2007 Moscato d’Asti by Goergis, Mango in Piemonte.

Bonding with the boys

25 Sep

Today I was la regina di riempire le barrique (the queen of filling barrels). I did not spill anything which winemaking Andrea Rivetti informed me was a first for a person who is here for only vintage. After work someone pulled out some bottles.

The barrique hall at Castagnole delle Lanze

Myself and the boys drank: 2001 La Spinetta Pin Monferatto Rosso – I thought the 2001 had some real Bordeaux-like characters, which understandable once I was told some Cabernet Sauvignon was added in that year to the Nebbiolo and Barbera blend.

We continued drinking and then my mamma Emiliana arrived with some gorgonzola so we migrated to the degustation room and ate until 7:30pm when I realised my dinner was probably ready upstairs so I left the lads and ran to eat some trout. Afterwards, I decided it would be more beneficial to my Italian and to my reputation with my alcohol-loving boss Andrea if I went back downstairs after dinner to drink some more vino with them…so I did.

We had Franciacorta’s and Valentino’s and whilst the men sang, shouted and teased, I took it all it. I did get the chance to ask Andrea if he was happy with how I am working so far to which he said yes, definitely, which was a relief to hear. We were a little inebriated so I think he would have said something positive whatever I asked!

Drank: Cuvee Valentino sparkling from Piemonte, Riserva Spumante. Dangerous on an empty stomach!

I stumbled back to bed at 11pm and fell into dreams with my head spinning like it never has before!

Under Stefano’s wing

23 Sep

The last two days have been fantastic with work. The cellarmaster Stefano has taken me under his wing and I’m actually in the winery a lot more now and doing all things with him. This is such a huge change from the way they treat the other ragazza Danila. She has not shown any initiative or extra sort of physical capabilities and is happy to help Gianni do orders, so is delegated to that part of the winery instead of the exciting cellar during vintage! Go figure…

Winemaker at work, Stefano Mazzetti

At the end of the day Giorgio came into the winery and we went and tasted the 2008 Barbera they’d just pressed and put into tank to see if it was still sweet. It was, just. He was saying how this vintage 2008 reminds him of 1996. A good vintage for Barbera, Nebbiolo, Moscato, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but not for Dolcetto. The reason being that the hot days and cold nights are great normally, but one really cold night will completely stop the maturation of a dolcetto grape. Risky business.

Tonight drank: 2000 La Spinetta Gallina Barbera d’Alba – great nose, good lenth and structure.

Conto Rosso and the Bianco Notte

20 Sep

Can you tell I have been too busy to write? We’ve processed a large proportion of the Moscato d’Asti already, which has been tiring seeing as we start at 5:30am in the morning. But the smell as the grapes are crushed is divine. Do you know it smells just like the resultant wine? The yeast we use too smells just like fresh nectarines and peaches as we’re making the starter culture! So many good smells in the winery! For someone like me with a manic-sniffing nose, that sort of thing puts a smile on my face regardless of the task I am doing.

After an exhausting day of work today I went out to dinner with my flatmate Manuela and her sister Ele to a restaurant in Alba called Conto Rosso. It was quite busy in the town centre because it was the first festival day in tartufo (truffle) season. The night was called Bianco Notte (white night).

Manuela ed Ele – sono sorelle

For dinner I ate a delicious antipasto of carne crudo di vitello (raw veal) with lemon dressing. For main I had a ravioli del Phin in a rabbit sugo. For dessert, gelato!

We drank: 2006 Elio Grasso Barbera d’Alba. Disappointing, weak nose, unbalanced acidity, weak structure. Shame…


14 Sep

Drank: 1997 La Spinetta ‘Lidia’ Chardonnay. Lovely complex and textured palate, lacking on the nose but still in good condition.