As you may have read, Bobby Stuckey, Randy Lewis and I were visiting wineries in Italy’s beautiful Piedmont region last week, and we tried to kidnap our fellow wine lover and Wine Spectator editor Bruce Sanderson. (Read his blog about our experience.) He was wise to resist, as one of those razor clams he spoke of got the best of me.
I know that we, like Bruce, enjoyed the full bounty of the region, including the beautiful rolling hills bathed in fog, lots of fresh pasta, piles of white truffles and rivers of Barbera, Barbaresco, and Barolo to wash it all down. One of the things I found most impressive was how good all of the wines of Piedmont are these days. In fact, I would say that the number of world-class producers and wines has never been greater and there has never been a better time for drinking the wines of Piedmont.
This is happening after years of heated debate about “new school” vs. “old-school” wines in the region, and who was “right” in their approach to making the reds of Barolo and Barbaresco. Should the wines be soft, round, fruity and oaky as the new school offered? Or, should the wines respect tradition and their intense sense of place, where they often took years to unfold and show the ethereal roses, tar and anise found in the best old-school examples.
The new-school producers looked to adopt more modern practices of winemaking—such as roto-fermenting, shorter macerations and the use of new French barriques—in an effort to make their wines more approachable and, to some palates, more international in style. Meanwhile, the old-school producers eschewed the use of new oak, stuck to more lengthy macerations and continued to produce wines that required long aging to soften their sometimes fierce structure and to unveil the true beauty that could speak only of one place: Piedmont.
Now I most certainly have a style that I prefer, purchase and collect. But I am also very interested in tasting objectively—this is part of my job as a sommelier and my passion as a wine lover. I want to continually taste everything that I can to better understand what is happening in the greater world of wine and how I can make sense of it, both for myself and for my guests in the restaurant.
On this trip and three others that I have taken through the region in the last 12 months, I have tasted myriad wines that run the gamut in style. We tasted at Giacomo Conterno, Gaja, Cigliutti, G.D. Vajra, Altare and La Spinetta. We also drank bottles from Aldo Conterno, Clerico, Bartolo Mascarello, Guiseppe Mascarello, Pira (young and old), Francesco and Guiseppe Rinaldi, Giacosa, Scavino and Sandrone, among others.
Not all of these wines tugged at the strings of my heart. (Personally, I much prefer the traditionalists, and the wines of Roberto Conterno at Giacomo Conterno have no equal.) But I can say that I came away really believing in the quality of what everyone is doing—not just one camp or the other. Recognizing the high level of quality being achieved by all of these producers and many others reminds me that, even if the debate continues (as it surely will), all of these wines are deserving of our attention.
Mark Fornatale — NY NY — December 12, 2007 12:41pm ET
John Miller — Windsor, CA — December 12, 2007 6:06pm ET
Apj Powers — Dallas, TX — December 13, 2007 2:55am ET
Ashley Potter — LA, — December 13, 2007 5:51am ET
Paul Rakovich — Las Vegas — December 15, 2007 8:33pm ET
Anthony Clapcich — new york — December 18, 2007 9:50pm ET
Richard Betts — denver airport at present — December 19, 2007 11:54am ET
Brian — costa mesa, ca — December 19, 2007 3:25pm ET
Anthony Clapcich — new york — December 20, 2007 10:10pm ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — December 21, 2007 9:50am ET
Richard Betts — denver airport at present — December 21, 2007 11:03am ET
Anthony Clapcich — new york — December 21, 2007 3:34pm ET
Julie Mushett — Miami, Fl — December 27, 2007 9:09am ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions