Gems from Northern Italy
Even though I was raised by a Francophile and a Hispanist, it never occurred to me to visit Italy before this September. I don’t know what took me so long; Italy seemed to me like a marriage of France and Spain along with its own unique character. I spent a week in Piedmont and was delighted to find that the wines are just as excellent as the food, scenery, people, architecture, cars, style . . . The list goes on.
During the week, Barbera D’Abla was what received the majority of my attention. These cherryish reds seemed a perfect match for whatever we happened to be eating (lots of Vitello Tonatto, veal tartare, Salsicca Cruda, and ravioli with butter and sage). The Barberas were also perfect for the warm autumn weather.
The real highlight of the trip was a visit to Silvano Bolmida’s winery, nestled inconspicuously in the steep hills of the Langhe. It would be impossible to do justice to Silvano in just one blog post. Suffice it to say that he’s an incredibly meticulous winemaker with a strong DIY ethic and, above all, a focus on making wine that is pleasurable to drink. “There’s no point in making Organic wine if it doesn’t deliver a pleasant sensation.” This was a familiar refrain over the 2 hours I spent with Silvano.
And it’s impossible to deny his success in making wonderful, enjoyable wine. Silvano’s Barolo and Barbera are both fantastic, but his Frales, a blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes, is worthy of individual attention. Both grape varieties are vinified together with 15% of the bunches left unpressed, so carbonic maceration
takes place at the same time as alcoholic fermentation. This process lasts between 3 and 4 weeks, after which the wine spends a year in oak and is bottled unfiltered.
The resulting wine is rich and velvety in texture with plenty of dark fruit flavours like plum and cherry. Frales has an exceptional lingering finish with some subtle, savoury leather and cedar hints at the end. This wine has the body and strength to stand up to the substantial umami of a wild mushroom risotto or roasted game birds.
While you could be forgiven for letting the reds monopolise your attention (and I can understand why, because they certainly grabbed mine!), there are plenty of whites that deserve to be enjoyed. The Castellari Bergaglio Gavi Salluvii has an incredible nose with fragrances of banana, jasmine and spun sugar. The palate echoes those fruity and floral scents with additional citrus notes that sing cleanly, clearly just as the Cortese grape should.
This particular Gavi is made by Marco Bergaglio at Castellari Bergaglio, about 20km east of Silvano Bolmida’s winery. And like Silvano’s Nebbiolo and Barbera vines, Marco’s Cortese vines receive plenty of sunshine, as well as a balance of Mediterranean and Alpine influences that bring ripeness and aromatics to the fruit. Marco Bergaglio’s Gavi Salluvii goes well with olives, tapenade, and savoury dishes including mint or sage.
If you’re like me and feel like you’ve neglected Italy, then these 2 wines should provide ample incentive to get to know the country. And if you’re already familiar with Northern Italian wines, you know there’s a treat in store.
Call into our shops in Arnotts or Mullingar from Tuesday, October 31th (because Monday is a bank holiday!) and have a taste of either of these bottles.