by Scott Casper
My wife and I had been looking forward to a wine trip to Italy since 2012. Every year we were hoping to go but every year something came up so we couldn’t…until this past June.
The focal point of our trip was the fine wine country of Piedmont in northwest Italy, specifically Barolo and Barbaresco, two of the greatest wine appellations in the world. We went with La Dolce Vita Wine Tours. It was a six-day wine tour in beautiful country including lunch at a cheese farm in the Alta Langhe (the high Langhe hills, too high to grow wine grapes). They took us to thirteen high-end wineries for tastings they had to schedule well in advance. Only one winery had a public tasting room. The other twelve don’t do public tastings. Those tastings have to be arranged by someone in the wine trade. La Dolce Vita also secured various wines at the restaurants where we had lunch and dinner so we could taste specific wines with paired Piedmontese dishes.
Over four-fifths of the wineries in Barolo are family owned. All of the wineries had interesting stories. At Altare, Silvia, a fifth generation owner and winemaker told us how her father, Elio, was one of the “Barolo Boys,” a half-dozen young producers who revolutionized Barolo. He and the others frequently shared information and collaborated in their winemaking techniques to produce the finest Barolos we enjoy today. We also went to Domenico Clerico, Damilano, G.D. Vajra, Aldo Conterno, Brezza, Marchesi di Barolo, and Cavallotto.
Next, we went to Barbaresco and visited Marchesi di Gresy and Produttori del Barbaresco. The Produttori also has a very interesting history. It is one of the few cooperatives in Barolo and Barbaresco. It has a long history that was interrupted by Mussolini and the Fascists who thought that cooperatives were too close to a Communist system so they broke them up and outlawed them. Historically, Barbaresco had always been a poor area but the Second World War devastated their meager economy. In 1952, the village priest, pharmacist and the one vineyard owner who was the most literate, came together to help the village. They brought back the cooperative, called it Produttori del Barbaresco and decided to make only fine Barbaresco. They did just that and saved their village.
Join PWS in November to enjoy their 2011 Barbaresco rated 93 points by Wine Spectator – sign up now for “The Italy Cup.”