The last few weeks have been a disaster as following a brief trip to the UK I returned with a cold that robbed me of my senses of taste and smell. I don’t particularly blame the UK nor my fellow airline passengers but I feel much safer here. It was only last week that I managed to fully appreciate what I had been missing as I tucked into a plate of spaghetti amatriciana/arrabiata and savoured the fantastic Ca del Baio Langhe Riesling for lunch. Tea was a monkfish and prawn curry with a lightly oaked Francone “i Patriarchi” Langhe Chardonnay 2011: slowly but surely. HO is cooking Asian rabbit and pork which we will wash down with some old Bordeaux for some local Italian producer friends. Always saves a competition developing between them if you serve something “foreign”.
Speaking of Francone reminds me of a tasting I had there fairly recently. I had kind of avoided their wine in recent years, not because it was bad but there was always something else I preferred. Then I tasted their Brut and Rosé Spumante a while ago,ordering the latter for my niece’s wedding. Another classic reason to avoid average champagnes that command higher prices. Further prompted by my German partner in crime, Clemens, I have visited the cantina a couple of times in the last few months and have had to find some space for their Barbaresco in particular. In my opinion the quality of their wine has improved substantially and the prices, like most around here, are very reasonable. The cantina is on the right as you make the final ascent to Neive from the Tanaro and part of it is set out like a wine museum, albeit a workplace. I would urge you to stop and try their wines if you are passing and in Fabrizio you will discover a perfect host if you have a few words of Italian.
As I have mentioned before our favourite local restaurant is probably Ristorante Al Castello, Grinzane Cavour and that in turn led us to Abbona in Dogliani after we drank their “Cinerino” Viognier at a lunch. A quick email and we had an appointment at the cantina. I hadn’t realised the scale of their operation but the wine was in no sense “industrial”. Now we are nicely stocked up on the latest vintage (2012) despite paying more than usual for a local white wine (almost €14!) but compared to similar quality French Viognier that’s cheap. Full on fruity floral nose, pear drops, creamy length, serious. The Dogliani Dolcetto “Papa Celso” 2012 regularly wins prizes and only sees stainless steel and is racked often. Wild cherry nose reminiscent of those close to the vines. Spicy cherry/toffee. The Barbera d’Alba 2011 (Loc.Rinaldi) was a 15% old fatso and got us talking about sausages and wild boar. The Nebbiolo d’Alba 2022 was a young raspberry jam classic. We also liked the rich, beautifully balanced Barolo “Pressenda 2009 without too much oak. We left discussing the superb 2001 Ravera Barolo that was opened as we were obviously enjoying ourselves.
At the other end of the scale we were enjoying dinner at our neighbours’ Christian and Gigi a few months ago and as usual they opened something “different”. It certainly was and we would never have guessed the grape but it was light on the palate but with a lot going on, pineapple fruity and light tannins and at apparently €5 was worth was worth a hunting trip. Off we set to Sala Monferrato and pulled up outside the village store that fronts the operation of Crova Massimo. Around the back Dad makes the salami, Mum gets up at 5am at the weekends to light the antique wood oven to make famous bread that attracts customers from a wide area, and beneath, the son focuses on the 10,00 bottles of wine that adds to the family income. The wine we had come for was Lo Sfizioso made from 100% Aleatico; yes Aleatico a grape more commonly grown in Elba and the south. This is going to be a fun summer evening barbecue wine served cool and probably blind! We also added a few bottles of the Barbera del Monforte Superiore 2010 “Dal Notu” that is aged for 7 months in french barrique, warming , lingering cherry chocolate. A fun excursion.
In an idle moment I have been reflecting on my current wine store and how long I could go without repeating a bottle. Even on the basis of 2 days a week without wine, I reckon a year is not an issue. To encourage diversity and avoid developing a narrow habit the 30 bottles of red in the lounge are all different as are the 20 odd bottles of white in the fridge.