Italian. Wine. Intoxicating. Sexy. All of these words can easily be synonymous – but hardly imitable. Italian winemakers, men for the most part, tend to craft their wines into their ideal mistresses as Gepetto had made Pinocchio into his ideal son. Hence the floral aromas and and the full throttle flavours that often leave you moaning in delight. This is a country that does not make wines that you will make you want to pop Joan Baez into the CD player. Make room on your playlist for classical music that drives the fittest conductors to heart attack, stripped down rock and roll music and Jazz recorded in the dark places of artistic passion.
Italy has done a decent job of convincing international consumers to look beyond Tuscany when they think of Italian wines. The intrigue of the other regions, the creativity of good winemakers and a loyal distribution channel has served Italy well. Although sheer history dictates “Up and coming” cannot describe any region of Italy, it can be said that certain regions are now showing up more on the radar screen of many wine drinkers. Piemonte has always been revered for its high-end wines, with names like Gaja practically holding apostle status for many vino-fanatics. Geographically, its area dominates the upper left hand side of the ‘boot’ of Italy – its largest city is Torino (Turin).
Barbera D’Alba DOC Bricco Nessumo 2007 is a Red made from 100% Barbera Grapes that comes with its own horn section, thumping electric bass and primal screams that can lead you to believe instead of Jesus Christ’s face, the face on the shroud of Turin might start looking more like James Brown. Come to think of it JB did have a pretty Italian flare for fashion back in the day. The same winemaker Ca’ Du Rabaja’s Barbaresco DOCG Rabaja’ 2007 100% Nebbolio has the same roots but the results are more refined longer lasting notes that tend to linger like John Coltrane’s Blue Train. Lorenzo Alutto from Ca’ Du Rabaja’ suggested this wine was closer to Louis Armstrong, but Coltrane’s ability to let the sound of his instrument do the work as opposed working his instrument like Armstrong reminded me of this end of the evening de-compressor.
Let’s jump to another wine producer in Piemonte, Tenuta Olim Bauda. Another 100% Barbera, this one is Barbera D’asti DOCG Nizza 2006 and has nothing to do with James Brown or Coltrane, this one is pure Verdi’s Otello. The voice is controlled. Emotions are high. Its plot line is complexly Shakespeare. And legend has it that Francesca Tamagno, who actually sung in the debut performance of Verdi’s Otello, was one of the original owners of the Vineyard now owned by the Bertolino family. I encourage people to leave comments below to prove/disprove this claim. BTW, you can actually hear Tamagno sign the role if you search for him on Wikipedia. I’ll drink to that.
Balance: Rosé, Sparkling and White.
Ca’ Dei Mandorli offers two wines that attempt to carve out the ideal feminine beauty of Venus, using strong hands. I sampled their Brut Rosata 2008 and their flagship Brachetto D’aqui DOCG Le Donne Dei Boschi 2008. They are both Rosé in colour, with Brut coming in decidedly more bubbly. These can be great alternates to any Muscat variations that crowd the shelves of your local wine stores during the warmer months of the year. The Brachetto grape is typically less sweet than the better known Muscat, but the winemakers there have created wines that are surprisingly more complex than you would imagine. The Brut has wonderful floral notes and a strawberry taste. Ideal for some picnic music like the Palm Court Orchestra. The Le Donne Dei sweeps you off your feet like the prettiest looking girl at the dance asking you to join her for a waltz. Even though you know she is only trying to make her date jealous, the moment is great. Cherry, cassis, strawberry, and clover honey sparkle in the sequin of her dress. I can’t help but to think of my surprise over Nicole Kidman’s unexpectd and seductive vocal performance in Moulin Rouge – feminine yes, appealing to the beast called man: certainly. If you want to throw a brunch, forget the ‘Punch’ and share this with your friends and family.
By way of comparison the Moscato D’asti Moncucco DOCG 2008 is a Moscato Bianco (White Muscat) is a quintessential dessert wine. Less polyvalent than the Brachetto, winemarkers are generally manage the amount of time muscat grapes age to effect the outcome. Being a young muscat it had not developed any complex tones that would liken this chilled wine Miles Davis on Sketches of Spain level of Chill. Make no mistake this is a fine wine, that is reminiscent of Norah Jones’ debut album. Come Away With Me. Sweet, surprisingly mature for its age, full of talented and ready to fill your evening with promise.
Enjoy the music. Enjoy the wine.