Neighbor to the North, Roero.

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Here in the Langhe we talk a lot about Barolo and Barbaresco and the Langhe wines in general. What is Roero, where is Roero, and for an English sake how do you say Roero? The saying of Roero is pretty simple, especially if you grew up watching Scooby-Doo. RUH ROH. Ro-e-Ro you say? The Roero is located north of the Langhe on the Right side of the river Tanaro. Here in Roero the soils are much younger containing much more sandy soil than what you would find the the Langhe.  Also many times when the wineries are working in the vineyards they will find sea shells, and also fossils. Cool, nè? Many places when you go to visit will want to show of their findings and it is pretty amazing to see life that was here over 4 million years ago. The Roero was forever better known for its fruit production, peaches, apricots, strawberries, cherries, asparagus, and of course my beloved Arneis grapes. Today Roero is becoming more popular for it’s Nebbiolo growth as well and is making some wonderful world class wines from it too.

Let’s take a minute to talk about this crazy grape they call Arneis. Arneis was once known as Nebbiolo Bianco or Barolo Bianco, some say because it is a genetic mutation of Nebbiolo or if it was cultivated alongside Nebbiolo as a way to deter the birds. The Arneis would ripen quicker and would be much sweeter to the nose so the birds to flock to those grapes first, and by the time the Nebbiolo was ready for harvest the birds were long gone to it could ripen in peace. Anyways once people of this area started to vinify this grape they changed it’s name to Arneis. A word in the Piemonteis dialect meaning menace.  When I tell this to people they either laugh or are horrified that I used the word Menace to describe a grape. The reason for this is because once people started to vinify this grape they realized that it was very fussy in the cellar and needed much attention to make a light, mineral driven white wine.

Today you can find Arneis in many different styles of wine from sparkling, to still, to no skin contact, to maceration up to 30 days. There are also many high quality producers working with the Arneis grape today and the better examples of this wine are coming from the Roero region.

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One producer that I recently went to visit for the first time I would like to take a minute and let you know about them. It really was an amazing visit and the wines were even better than I had remembered. Giovanni Almondo is the name of the winery and they are well known in this area for their Arneis coming from the cru Bricco dell Ciliegie.  In this vineyard Stefano spoke to us about the families older vines and that have been in their family for generations. As a matter of fact his father was born in the small house that is on the top of this vineyard so there is much meaning and importance to this family for the Bricco dell Ciliegie vineyard. Arneis is a grape that grows well in sandier soils as it is easier for the grapes roots to grow in these types of soils and does not stress the vines to much. The Bricco dell Ciliegie is mostly made up of sandy soil but has some veins of clay and also limestone which help to give this wine more of its wonderful mineralic characteristics. When we were there Stefano explained to us that we were tasting from their last tank and it was the last bottling they will make for the 2016 vintage.  He said for him the tank that stays the most time in contact with the fine lees makes the wine much more interesting, and more complex. I would have to agree, this was was smooth, notes of stone fruits and pears, with a salty finish.

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I would highly recommend a visit to this wonderful estate and make sure to try their Arneis as well as their Nebbiolo based wines. You can find them at:

http://giovannialmondo.com

Via San Rocco 26 - 12046 Montà (CN)

Thinking to visit the vineyards in Piemonte, Italy? Why wait!!

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There are plenty of things to see and do and who wouldn’t want to take a visit to a Barolo or Barbaresco vineyard?

I mean the wine is what brought me to Piemonte. The finesse of Nebbiolo, the vineyards of Barolo and Barbesco all seemed so magical. I came to visit to see and taste the wines and meet the winemakers. Then I fell in love. One with the rolling hills covered with vineyards in Langa and two with a charming Italian man. (Ladies watch out for those Italians). I came to Piemonte because I was driven by my passion for the wine and the food. I was given the opportunity to work first hand in a vineyard to help out with the year’s production of Nebbiolo to make Barbaresco. I loved it, there was something about working with the grapes and making the wine and talking to people about what I was doing. There were so many visitors who would come to take a winery tour, come to taste the wines. They would want me to take them on the winemaking journey, to tour with them in the winery talking about what is going on, what we were doing and learn something new. The winery tour and vineyard tour was my favorite part, taking a walk on a crisp autumn morning when the vineyard leaves were beginning to change color. You can tell the grape varietal by the color the leaves change “Gianni one day said to me”, as we were taking a walk in one of the vineyards located in the Asti area.

We would wake up early every morning to be greeted in the cellar by a tractor full of grapes ready for the crush. All of these ruby colored grapes filling every single red plastic crate. When you hold up the Nebbiolo grapes to the sun you can see through them the skins of the Nebbiolo take almost a Rose’ color and in light become transparent.   The Nebbiolo is the king of the grapes here in Piemonte and in all of Italy. The essence of Nebbiolo is like no other, it is elegante, complex, and can sometimes be quite powerful. There is no other grape to compare it to. It is also one grape that does not ever show as wonderful when planted outside of it’s Piemontese home. Even in Piemonte the Nebbiolo grape is quite finicky, it really does not like to go too far away. Just like most Italians, their home is beautiful, their culture is wonderful, and it is hard to find another place in the world as wonderful as Italy.

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As the harvest started to come to an end, Gianni and I would take his fast car to the mountains to have a traditional Piemontese mountain meal. We would drive for hours on these windy streets to arrive to a restaurant that looked more like someone’s home and would be welcomed in to have an amazing meal. We would eat Polenta with cheese, braised meats (my favorite was always the wild boar), have a couple of bottles of Piemontese wine and enjoy hours of laughs amongst us as well as the warm and charming mountain people who were feeding us this wonderful meal. We would then finish the meal with some Genepy or some Amaro from the area. Then head off to some quite grassy spot and take a nap. With the wind blowing in our hair and the sounds of the leaves shaking and the slight kiss of the sun amongst our faces. This was heaven.  I will never forget these times, and this was what made understanding the simplicities of life and how it should be.

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It was hard to return to the states, the flat, same old, East Coast that I have always known. Now I knew something different. A new way of life, one for living.

Even to this day when we go to take a trip even if it is a couple of days, I miss the rolling hills of the Langhe. The picturesque views of the Alps, the windy vineyard lined streets of Piemonte. I am glad that I decided to live here, and I love being able to share with people the wonderful experiences that I have had over the years of life in Langhe. I am glad to be able to tour with people to have more wine tour experience in Piemonte. To get to know much better the area’s of Barolo and Barbaresco and to get to know well the people the families who are behind such breathtaking wines. I now get to know their stories, and can see and feel their passion. But not only for just the wine, but the land, the work that goes into it, their family traditions that have been passed down to them over the years. They like the vines are really attached to the soil, the land, the history. It is amazing to find these things, to be able to share these things with my guests, with you, this is what I love.

Looking to Bring Back Wine from Piedmont, Italy or Beyond? Take it back on the plane.

International travelers returning home who want to fly back with a taste of our region can bring back some wine with them. There are a number of practical reasons to do this.

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* You will unavoidably discover small, family run wineries, which don’t export to your part of the world.

* Even if the producer can be found at home, there are specific vintages that may not be available.

* Alcohol shipping laws are restrictive and it is illegal to ship to many countries without an alcohol import license, making the process complicated.

* Shipping costs are high and parting with your wine opens you up to other risks, like temperature fluctuations during transport, long shipping durations, and potential damage.

Transporting wine with you on the plane is a great alternative. Here is what you have to know to do this:

In general, you may take wine on the airplane providing it’s checked (as hold baggage). This is because liquids in carry-on (cabin) luggage are prohibited unless they’re in containers with a capacity of less than 100 ml; hence full size wine bottles are a no-no.

Watch Your Weight

Standard airline weight limits will apply, which is typically 23 kg (50 lbs) per baggage for international travelers. A typical bottle of wine weighs between 1.2 and 1.8 kg (2.5 and 4 lbs). Consider grabbing one of these useful portable luggage scales to know the weight of your suitcase before you head out to the airport and avoid excess baggage fees.

Duty-Free and Duty

Each country has a duty-free limit for alcohol, and may charge duty when you bring more than this duty-free limit. When travelling between two E.U. countries each traveller can take up to 90 litres of wine duty-free if it’s for personal consumption. The U.S., for example, has a duty-free limit of 2 bottles. If you bring more, you technically face duty of only $0.35 to $2 per bottle, but because this is such a small amount duty officers rarely bother to charge you and simply wave you through. See this travelling with wine and alcohol guide and check the details for your country. 

Always Use Protection

It’s critical to ensure that your wine bottles are well protected in your suitcase to avoid any unpleasant surprises at the end of the trip. If wrapping your wine bottles in clothes is not worth the risk, there are a number of products that will give you peace of mind. Remember it’s not just the bottles you may lose if they break, but your suitcase’s contents as well. For one or two bottles there are bottle protection sleeves, some of which use bubble wrap type technology, while others inflate around your bottle to protect them. You can use a Styrofoam bottle protector, which comes in a variety of sizes for different numbers of bottles.

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For those wanting to bring back a larger number of bottles, it’s worth investing in the Lazenne’s Wine Check luggage. This easy-to-transport, airline approved carrier features wheels and a handy strap, and can carry 12 or 15 bottles of wine depending on the model chosen. With the bottles packed, the carrier still meets the airline’s international checked-bag weight limit of 23 kg (50lbs).

You can order the abovementioned wine travel products and more from European online retailer Lazenne. They can ship directly to your hotel throughout Italy and Europe.

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Malvira’ Roero 2004 Superiore Trinita’

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Thanks to the great reputation Malvira’ has given to the Roero region. Today we are going to talk a little bit about a region not so well known. Roero is the region located on the left side of the river Tanaro where the Langhe is on the right. As history has it the Roero used to be more famous for it’s fruit and nut production than its wines. Here the soil is much younger than the Langhe and as a matter of fact when the Langhe was under water about 10 million years ago Roero was its sandy beach. Today things have changed and tasting some of the Malvira’ wines you understand the importance Roero plays not only for the white grape Arneis but also for the Nebbiolo grape.

Malvira’ is a 3 generation family run winery located in Canale the heart of Roero. The two brothers Massimo and Roberto are the main force behind the Malvira’ winery and are doing a fantastic job. They have the winery, a restaurant, and a hotel all nestled in their vineyards. Their vineyards Trinita’ is composed of 14 hectare facing south southwest, of which they grown several different grape varietals. The vineyard name has derived from a small church located on the property SS. Trinita’.

The vintage 2004 for many critics, enthusiasts, and journalists was a life-changing vintage. Very “classic” a wine that is best to be aged. However after talking with Massimo about the vintage he had mentioned that in the Roero a lot of their vineyards were struck by hail all except the Trinita’. And a relief at that, this wine was wonderful, it had a lot of elegance to it the tannins from this wine remained soft and subtle. There were the classic notes of Nebbiolo fresh red cherries, licorice, and mint. This wine for me was showing wonderful but also said that it could age another 10 years easily. If you have not had the chance to taste a Nebbiolo from Roero I highly recommend doing so. Also a note: that the Roero wines you can drink a bit younger because that sandy soils help to make more elegant right from the start. Enjoy!

Visiting Piedmont the Rough Guide

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First things first! You must realize that there is so much to see and do in Piedmont that it could literally take a lifetime to see, eat, drink, and do it all. From the history, to the food, and the wine (I’m talking like hundreds if not thousands of wineries to visit and the amount of great restaurants is endless. I mean I have been here for 5 years and still have a list a mile long.) It can be daunting and if you are in a rush to see and do as much as humanly possible I would consider looking into hiring a private guide.

This is good, why?

  1. Having a driver for the day who knows the area, this way you can relax, enjoy, and maybe eat and drink a little more than if you were driving.

  2. Someone who will be able to give you an full day education of the history, the traditional foods and the culture

  3. Someone who will can give you the breakdown between the beloved Barolo and Barbaresco regions

  4. English is seldom spoken here so to have someone who speaks English and can communicate with the locals for you is a big help.

  5. If you are planning to buy wine at the wineries and Enoteche your guide will be able to help you with shipping the wine back home for you.

If you are a wine lover and coming to explore the Nebbiolo grape I would consider spending at least one day to visit the region Barbaresco and at least one if not two days in Barolo. Make sure to do some homework and chose a few wineries beforehand to visit from a couple of the different towns. Keep in mind not to pack tight you schedule and to leave plenty of time in-between to take pictures, getting lost, and if you are really jiving with the winemaker that the tasting might take longer than anticipated. Like they might invite you to have lunch at their house. With that said normally a winery visit is about 1.5 hours or longer and no one is open during the sacred hours of lunch (noon till 2pm). One thing that is very important is to make sure that you make a reservation for your visit ahead of time. In Piedmont almost all of the wineries are small family run, and more often than not are located in their home. They want to have visitors and love when you come from all over the world to visit but respect and etiquette is important.  Some do’s and don’t: Do taste all the wines they would like to show you. Don’t say no I only want to taste this. You never know you might like more the wine you were going to pass on. Do ask if there is a tasting fee. A lot of wineries are starting to ask a fee to help with the costs of the bottles being opened. However a lot of places will wave that fee if wine is purchased, it’s a good excuse to bring home some bottles. If you like a wine and would like to retest a wine: Do ask for another taste. Don’t pick up the bottle and pour yourself.

Some recommendations of places I have visited and have found to be very accommodating and interesting. In the village of Barbaresco a visit at the historical Produttori del Barbaresco. This winery is important because it is one of the oldest running cooperatives in this area.

In Neive the neighboring town to Barbaresco and the largest producing area in the DOC I would recommend to take a visit a Pier Busso located in the heart of the Albesani vineyard. Great people and even better wines!

If you have time for a visit to Treiso where in my opinion the views from this village on a clear day are the most spectacular, have a visit a Ca’ del Baio another slam-dunk with the wines.

Now when we start to talk about Barolo a whole lot of things have just got that much more complicated. I know right. Barolo the king of wines, the wine for kings this phrase originated from the king of Savoia Vittorio Emmanuele II who just loved his glass of Barolo. Now I recommend in order to get the most out of Barolo you need at least 2 days to explore the 11 villages that make up this magical place.

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If you just have time for the greatest hits, the must visit villages are Serralunga d’Alba, this range of hills makes up an era of soil structure dating back over 10 million years. What this means, it is the oldest soil structure that makes up the Barolo area. This soil structure makes the wines from this area very complex, more tannic, and better for aging. A winery I recommend to visit Pira Luigi typically how they start their tour is on their balcony overlooking their 3 main vineyards Vigna Marenca, Vign Arionda, and Vigna Margheria. This is good to be able to see the different exposures talk about the minor differences in the soil and the microclimates.

Monforte d’Alba a majority of the more famous wineries come from this little hill top village. Monforte is not the highest area in Barolo but it is the steepest incline. A must visit winery is Conterno Fantino located in the Ginestra vineyard, right on the top. The view from the tasting room is breath taking; also the winery is really something to see.

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In Barolo you are in the heart of the Barolo area and some of the wineries here are the oldest. Barolo is where you really want to visit one of the traditionalists and one that still today remains the last of the Mohicans is Bartolo Mascarello Maria Teresa is an absolutely passionate and respectful of her family traditions and the great wines that make Barolo what it is today. Here you will be able to really see the original side to Barolo.

Then there is La Morra the highest area in Barolo I highly recommend to visit this town last because if you go to the top of the village there is a view point and a map that shows all the towns you have visited in both Barolo, Barbaresco and some of Roero. The winery to visit would be Elio Altare. This visit with his daughter Silvia will be completely different to the traditional style Baroloistas. Elio is the mind behind the modernist movement here in the Langhe, and the story that his daughter Silvia tells is just captivating. Silvia has some pretty big shoes to fill but I think she is doing a great job, her energy and enthusiasm for what she is doing you can really see in the wines they are outstanding and the whole visit is just a great experience.

If you need any other pointers or help planning your trip please feel free to contact me.  Buon viaggio!