I came to Piedmont, and specifically Barolo, to get a better understanding of the wines. The first Nebbiolo I recall that made an impression on me was a Barbaresco Riserva 1974 from a producer called Gemma, if I remember correctly. That was 20 years ago, in Hamburg, Germany.
Over the years I have enjoyed Barolo and Barbaresco from time to time, and even purchased a few here and there. But now it’s time to kick it up a notch.
The system of crus reminds me of Burgundy and the soils are similar, with limestone and clay forming the marls that predominate in the area. Generally speaking, it’s almost like the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits: On one side of the zone you have the Tortonian soils (La Morra and Barolo), which render perfumed wines that mature earlier; on the other you have Helvetian soils (Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba), which produce more structured wines that take longer to develop. There are other villages in the zone, but these are the major players.
From the time I arrived last Friday evening until Sunday morning, it was foggy and raining. Sunday dawned clear and sunny, with the typical fog settling in the valleys. I got in the car and started driving.
The soils and concept of individual terroirs may be similar to Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, but that’s where it ends. In Barolo, there are vineyards everywhere, on all available hillsides worth cultivating the vine. They are interspersed with woods and other crops. The best sites face south, southeast and southwest.
The villages command a series of hilltops, usually with a fortified castle or church occupying the highest point. It’s a pretty impressive view, looking across the valley from La Morra, at roughly 1,650 feet, to Castiglione Falletto, Monforte d’Alba and Barolo.
Still, it’s difficult to get a handle on the landscape. There are a lot of vines, but not all are designated as top crus. Oh well, it’s only been one day driving around the area.
I also learned that Sunday is not a good day to eat out. It seems like everyone in the Langhe has the same idea. After several phone calls, Bruno found me a table at Il Vigneto, near the village of Roddi.
It was there I had my first truffle of the trip, shaved over tagliolini “trentatretuorli” al burro. For those of you who don’t speak Italian (a group that includes me), 33 egg yolks are mixed per kilo of flour to make the pasta.
The maitre d’ told me that the quality of the truffles is good now, better than in October, as he shaved the valuable tuber over my dish at 4,800 euros per kilo. With the current exchange rate, that’s a little more than $3,200 a pound.
James R Biddle — Dayton, OH — November 27, 2007 1:36pm ET
Chris Buddress — November 27, 2007 10:00pm ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — December 3, 2007 3:29pm ET
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