+39 3481663798 evan@piemontemio.com

The panettones are almost finished, the diary is (relatively) empty and the scales are creaking so the diet starts in earnest today. It has been a very enjoyable festive season but excess has been on the menu almost every day. The challenge now is to shed the kilos that have attached themselves to and camouflaged my athletic frame.

One of the problems here is that fixed menus are not always adequately explained so as each course arrives that you particularly like you ignore the possibilities of what might arrive next. The week before Christmas we attended an extraordinary tasting with our friends Pieter and Romy at the Vinoteca Centro Storico, in Serralunga d’Alba, one of the Barolo villages. Extraordinary because only Champagne was served and we had no real idea what to expect in the way of food. The most wonderful Tuscan cured ham was served with the champagne aperitivo and as an antipasto with anchovies in salsa verde. These were accompanied by too much bread and followed by cotechino (a kind of pork sausage) served with lentils, a lovely baked pasta and then a Gran Bollito misto (Piemontese speciality boiled meats). The ubiquitous panettone, mandarins and nuts completed the stuffing! All this with 8 different champagnes including: Ulysse Collin Blancs de Blancs, David Leclapart l’Artiste, Georges Laval 2004, Bollinger Grand Annee 2000 (star of the evening), Billecart-Salmon 98 and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 98 all for €120.

This was the day after an excellent fish dinner with Claudio Rapalino prepared by Lorenzo his commercial manager. As we left Eugenio and Caterina who were also there, unexpectedly presented us with a box full of chocolates and other goodies. To return the compliment we dropped off a bottle of Chateau Giscours 2004 a couple of days later at Torres but this only served to escalate the situation and we left after lunch there with a Barbaresco and Barbera. It is one of the delights/dangers of living here. We usually keep vaguely ahead of the game with regular egg distributions as despite the colder weather we are still getting about 8 a day.

On Christmas Eve I got a call from Simonetta from the bar “I Due Santi” (our weekly meeting point at Thursday’s market in Castagnole delle Lanze) to inform me that I had won a prize in the raffle: 3 litres of bollecine (bubbles), Contardi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut. Just the job for New Year’s Eve.

For Christmas lunch we cooked a 5 kilo fore-rib on the BBQ. We are Weber kettle converts and after 2 1/2 -3 hours of indirect heat we had perfect rare beef. Excellent champagne brought by our neighbours Christian and Gigi, Segreto Barbera brought by Pieter and Romy, followed by our first crack at the 2005 Bordeaux vintage and an excellent Dow 77.

Guests since have meant a trio of tastings at Roberto Sarotto, Franco Rocca and Fontanabianca (I sat next to Aldo Pola at the Champagne dinner), and I have to say again that they all produce fantastic value wines that have consequently found new fans in the UK:  Roberto’s Primopasso at €5, to his Barbera Currà 2006 and Bricco BergeraBarolo 2005 at €14 are everyday priced. Franco’s unusual assemblagio of Freisa and Barbera-  L’Opera d’Arte at €7.50 grows on me and his straightforward Ombranera Barbera 2007 (€7.50), Bricco Starpone Superiore 2006 (€10.50) and Barbaresco Albesani 2006 (€21) tick all the boxes. I  have also had to find  space for Aldo’s Langhe Nebbiolo 2008 (€8.50)and Barbaresco Sorì Burdin 2006 (€24). More cheese, salami, gifts and fantastic hospitality.

After a riotous evening of eating, drinking and dancing at Torres on New Year’s Eve the final “coup de grace” was a blow-out Sunday lunch at Fiore di Pesco in Bricco, the best value anywhere.  8 or 9 home-cooked dishes with Cinzia Bordino’s own wine for €20 and always an argument over the tip which is not expected here.

Apple for breakfast but (un)fortunately dinner with some locals this evening so wish us luck. More tastings (without swallowing) soon.