Whatever the reasons, there has been a recent rash of Italian designer stores (clothing, accessories and shoes) being launched in the metros, Italian “plug-n-cook” kitchens are catching on, and Italian fashion seems to be closing in on haute couture. So why not Italian wines?
After Tuscany (whose Chianti I wrote about last month), the most famous wine area in Italy is Piedmont (“at the foot of the mountains”), the region of north-west Italy adjacent to Turin (Torino), and the best Italian wine is undoubtedly Barolo — the name given to wine made from the Nebbiolo grape of this region and which has famously been called “the wine of kings — and the king of wines”!
Barolos typically have an aroma of tar and roses, are expensive and some older wines can take on an orangish hue.
The traditional method of producing a Barolo gave a very dark and intensely tannic wine that required at least 10 years of ageing in large casks to soften; many producers have now changed to a more modern process that allows the wines to be ready within 5-7 years (much to the horror of traditionalists and the delight of consumers).
Barbaresco is the other world-class wine made in this area, also from the Nebbiolo grape, and like Barolo takes its name from the village at the heart of the area permitted to use this title for its wines.
The major difference between the two wines is that a Barbaresco is softer and ready to drink sooner that a Barolo, but will not keep for as long.
The largest volume of wines in Piedmont comes from the workhorse Barbera and Dolcetto whose vineyards occupy much of the area devoted to wine. Also produced here is the white wine Gavi (made from the Cortese grape) and Asti Spumante — a light, fruity and sweet sparkling wine produced from the Muscato (Muscat) grape.
The Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso rates Gaja (of Piedmont) as the best winemaker in Italy, having garnered 41 “three glasses” awards over the last 21 years. Other notable wine companies from Piedmont include La Spinetta (32 awards), Altare (26 awards), Clerico (19), Giacomo Conterno (17), La Barbatella and Paolo Scavino (both 16) — all unfortunately still unknown in India.
Among prominent wineries from Piedmont whose wines are available in India are Pio Cesare, Castello Banfi, Prunotto and Marchesi di Barolo. And, of course, the vermouths from Martini Rossi and Cinzano.