Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Report from - Piedmont, Italy – Day 2 (Barolo Press Conference and Auction) … September 28, 2008

It all started at the Charton-Hobbs tasting and ended with me nursing a stuffed nose for two-plus weeks; but I would have to say it was well worth it …

We started the morning off in an old theatre (teatro) for the Barolo press conference. The press sat in the seats in the main body of the theatre as 3 speakers, from different aspects of the Barolo region, talked about the wines, the vintage and the tourism from the main stage.

Claudio Rosso discussed harvesting, Barolo’s DOCG status, the next Barolo launch to market (the 2005’s will see the light of day in January 2009) and the 2008 grape growing season: fresh spring, below average July and August with a hot summer-like September. His wrap up assessment: “Not an abundant crop but good grapes with excellent flavours and good acidity … these will be good wines for ageing.” He then told us that Barolo is sold in 48 countries – 14% of the wine is sold in the U.S. while another 34% is sold locally and over 10 million bottles are made annually. Claudio then sat down and took a hefty belt from his glass of wine (remember, it’s about 10:45 in the AM – what a great country, or as Konrad put it at the airport, “civilized”.)

N. Argamante addressed all in attendance with tourism facts … many around me nodded off during this part of the proceedings. I, on the other hand, stayed awake by watching them trying to stay awake. Bottom line here is that tourism numbers have doubled in the last few years and restaurants are booming trying to keep up with demand.

F. Curtaz then stood up and delivered his report, which turned out to be a repetition of much of Claudio’s speech, but he did add in a few helpful details about Barolo of his own, like a list of the outstanding Barolo vintages of the past decade (2001, 2003, 2005), that they’ll be making about 5% less Barolo this year then the average and that the 2008’s will be elegant, powerful and long lived. He then concluded with an old grape grower’s saying: “A late vintage is never a bad vintage.”

We then headed downstairs to the basement for a taste of some of the wine to be auctioned off that afternoon – of them the Cerretta 2004 was the best of the lot … lots of mineral component, good structure and a definite earthiness – there was also red currants, cranberry and drying tongue appeal.

A 30-minute break before lunch had me snapping pictures in the town square, and the 30-minutes of free time after lunch brought me to a gelato shop for Pistachio gelato. This was my only free time on the trip.

Barolo Auction …

We arrived at Gianni Gagliardo winery at 2:00pm where I had plenty of time before the 4pm auction to walk the winery, its cellars and into the kitchen. I mention the kitchen because when I wandered into it I stumbled onto what I thought was my own personal piece of heaven (you’ll see a few pictures to your right – might I suggest clicking on them to enlarge them to get the full scope of what I found myself in the middle of) … yes it is a plethora of chocolate. Later on, after the auction, these delicacies were put out on long tables for the post-Barolo Auction party. One table was all chocolate and desserts, the other was nibblies and other finger foods, including a mountain made of Prosciutto (see pictures).

During the auction the 2003 Preve Barolo Reserva was poured (producer: Gianni Gagliardo): plum, sour cherry, cinnamon, wood with good red and black fruit smells; the palate was dry, tannic and ballsy – the wine still needs lots of time.

The party ended at 7:30pm. With our stuffed bellies they piled us into a bus and drove us to a local pizza place for dinner; seriously, Italy really is all about food. This place (to which I never caught the name) had the most wonderful thin crust pizza and served exquisite local beer in 750ml bottles (this is where I picked up a bottle of beer named after my honey, Erika (she spells it Erica), quite apropos, it’s a honey beer. Not sure she got the connection though, I guess when you expect fine Italian jewellery and end up with fine Italian beer instead it’s a little disappointing). The day ended with our collective distended bellies being full of salted, cured meats, chocolate, enough hors d’oeuvres to kill a horse then capped with pizza and beer … the Italians do love to eat – God bless ‘em.

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