Ciao Amores. This week, we traveled to Piedmont to imbibe on some classic Italian vino. But this isn't your everyday sipping wine. From bubbly to Barolo, Piedmont offers a cornucopia of wines.
THE BACK STORY
Italians have been making (and drinking) wine for a loooong time. It’s a huge part of their culture and tradition. ‘Nuf said about that.
Piedmont has a unique climate: a confluence of the cool, crisp air of the Alps and the warmer Mediterranean. This allows for cooler nights and warmer days. Perfect for high-quality grape-growing. Ironically, the most beautiful, well-known grapes aren’t grown next to the serene beauty of the Alps, but in the southern portion of Piedmont in a series of lumpy little hills called the Appenines. There, the morning fog blankets grapes and allows for a longer growing season and more complexity in its fruit.
So, to recap: northern Piedmont = higher-acid, lighter-style wines, and southern Piedmont = richer, deeper wines, like Nebbiolo, which is this region’s claim to fame.
THE RULES: DOCG vs. DOC
Italians aren’t big on rules. Fitting of their culture, wine regulations didn’t come about until 1980. There’s two main classifications: DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita,) and DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata.) The main difference? DOCG wines have gone through a tasting panel and have been deemed tasty! Typically, there are also additional aging requirements for DOCG wines. One thing to note: white wines have it a bit easier when it comes to achieving DOCG status.
The sub-region of Asti is known for its bubbly wines. Muscato is the typical varietal used. It tends to be left slightly sweet, and often pairs well with desserts.
Beni Batasiolo Spumante DOCG Asti (2016) | $19, Haskell’s haskells.com
Tasting notes: Light straw yellow with fine and thin “pelage” bubbles. Intense aromas of apples, peaches, floral notes. Sweetness is a bit overpowering.
Our takeaway: too sweet for this crowd. Not our “cup of bubbly.”
This varietal can be a good bang for your buck. Typically un-oaked and left on the crisper side, it makes for a great food pairing wine. Wines from the Gavi region are the best examples of this varietal.
Beni Bastiolo Gavi, DOCG Gavi (2015) | $10, Haskell’s haskells.com
Tasting notes: “Green,” clear and bright. Fresh, floral, sub-notes of almonds. Not a big finish, but satisfying nonetheless.
Idlewild Wines Cortese, “Fox Hill Vineyard,” Mendocino County, California | $40, Idlewildwines.com
Tasting notes: Throwing in a New World version here. Much more care and attention given to this wine compared to its Italian counterpart. 25% of the wine was perfected on the skins, giving a more viscous texture and mouthfeel. Depths of an orange wine, but drink more like a white. On the nose, chamomile, cardamon, baking spices and citrus peel. We could call the mouthfeel “saline.” A touch of tannin is matched with good acidity, making this a bit more fuller-bodied.
Our takeaway: Crowd-pleasing, we could definitely tell the difference in quality between the lower-pricepoint Cortese and the $40 American version. We liked both, but agreed that the Idlewild Cortese would blow a crowd away, and would be the preferred to take to a party. Beni Bastiolo wine a better “weekday” wine.
NEBIOLLO: BARBARESCO VS. BAROLO
You're either a Barbaresco person or a Barolo person. Separated only by a river, these two wine regions offer quite different examples of the same varietal. Barbaresco tends to be softer and more “feminine,” while Barolo tends to give lots of tannins and is often more age-worthy (and expensive!)
Moccagatta Barbaresco 2012, DOCG Barbaresco, Piemonte | $30, Domacin Wine Shop wineshop.domacinwinebar.com
Tasting notes: Dried cherries. The balance of fresh and dried fruit is good. Iron. Good, balanced acidity with some softer, rounded tannins. One year in oak means integration without prominent oakiness. Can imagine all kinds of amazing food pairings. Pasta pasta pasta!
Mauro Molino Barolo 2012, DOCG Barolo, Piemonte | $40, Domacin Wine Shop wineshop.domacinwinebar.com
Tasting Notes: A bit “stinkier” on the nose, yet not unpleasant. Cherry cola. More perceived alcohol, but lots of structure as well. Strawberries, floral notes (dried roses.) More of a layered, linear style of tannins. Good, age-worthy Barolo.
Our takeaway: We were divided as to preference, but we all agreed that we liked Nebiolo. Like, a lot. Piedmont, we’re sold! Next, to compare the two most famous Italian wines: Barolo vs. Brunello. Stay tuned.