Going Italian will lead you to some tasty wines
As I think back to that fateful day of March 15, 44BC and the demise of Julius Caesar, I can't help but be concerned for the wellbeing of friends now in northern Italy. Today, I will tell you more of a people and place story and leave wines till the end.
Let us begin in Bermuda, on the evening we invited a young Italian sommelier to our home to taste and discuss wines. We also asked a young Bermudian lady with similar interests and, although we are not claiming any responsibility, they now live together in northern Italy.
During our last trip to Piedmont we stayed with this couple, in the guesthouse of the family that owns the Poderi Marcarini winery. They took us to a very special restaurant called La Ciau Del Tornavento that is in the small commune of Treiso bordering the famous wine town of Alba. We walk into the reception area and notice that the floor is thick, clear glass and we stare down into the most mind-blowing wine cellar that I have ever seen.
Our friends have arranged for hors d'oeuvres and wine in this cellar and here we sit surrounded by 60,000 bottles consisting of 5,400 different wines from thirteen countries. Next to me is an imperial (at six litres, the largest bottle filled in Bordeaux) of Château d'Yquem that I believe is on their list for $30,000.00. There are many affordable wines as well.
My wife takes a particular interest in a small fish tidbit and wants to know if the chef/owner Maurilio Garola will share his secret on how to make it. When he is reluctant, she offers to tell him how to make “the best Bermuda fishcakes”. When we leave, he presents her with a signed copy of his book that starts thusly, “I've always believed there are memories to be written on paper for being indelible. My dream was about creating a book able to explain real moments in life, brilliance stolen from daily life, seemingly insignificant memories I breathe and feed on. With passion and devotion, my dream came true. And to me, this book is the way to say many thanks”.
The food was as traditional as you can get and not only for humans. They have a special menu for your pets and as your dogs enter the restaurant, a water bowl and special dishes are ready for them. It's their way to show respect to clients and to their “friends”. It is a big part of Maurilio Garola and Nadia Benech's philosophy.
I did also notice in the town of Alba, that most shops had a bowl of water outside their door on the sidewalk.
Fast forward a couple of days and we are now staying in the home of Pio Boffa who owns the Pio Cesare winery started by his grandfather in 1881. Pio, who has visited us here in Bermuda, wants to take us to the finest restaurant, that happens to be only a few hundred metres from his house. This time, rather than three Bermudians and one equally unfamiliar Italian walking into La Ciau Del Tornavento, my wife and I are in the company of a Barolo producing “rock star” of the Piedmont region. The chef is rather taken aback as he spots the “Bermudian fishcake lady” again.
You could not find more friendly folks to meet than Manual Marchetti (forementioned guesthouse owner) and his three children who together own Poderi Marcarini in the hilltop town of la Morra. The Wine Enthusiast rates their Marcarini 2013 Barolo la Serra 93/100 and writes, “Rose, iris, red-berry and cake-spice aromas set the tone on this graceful red. It's linear, bright and loaded with finesse, evoking red cherry, crushed strawberry, star anise and pink peppercorn alongside taut, polished tannins and bright acidity”. La Serra is a “cru”, or specified geographical area and Manual tells me that la Serra represents the softer and more gentle feminine side of Barolo. This makes it easier to enjoy at an earlier age. $50.70.
Interestingly, the more masculine Marcarini 2013 Barolo Brunate also garners 93/100 from the same publication and this description, “Earthy aromas of truffle, forest floor, woodland berry, mint and new leather escape the glass. Bright and elegantly structured, the polished palate delivers Marasca cherry, cranberry, cinnamon and star anise framed in youthfully firm, refined tannins. Fresh acidity lends balance”. $67.90.
Pio Cesare Barolo 2014 is a classic style of Barolo with excellent structure, harmony and elegance. Soft tannins and balanced fruit are approachable, but with a very long ageing potential. Barolo is such a great wine which should not be described as a “basic” or “regular” Barolo, simply because it does not have any additional cru indication on the label. James Suckling rates it 94 and Robert Parker 93. $83.95.
Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato is the very first single vineyard Barolo produced by the Pio family, for the first time in 1985. It has great structure, power, concentration, with a very long life ahead. It is produced in small quantities. When we stayed in Pio's home we looked right out at the vineyard. Here is what James Suckling has to say about the 2015 that we have, “98/100 the aromas are so complex yet subtle with wet earth, mushrooms and dark fruits. Dried flowers as well. Full body, chewy tannins that are ultrafine and powerful, yet there is a finesse and beauty to them as I said from barrel. Classic, great Nebbiolo”. $116.80. Buona salute!
• This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409). Visit wineonline.bm