‘E proprio cosi’ (‘It’s really like that’)
Author: David Berry Green
Week two of wine adventures in Piedmont
After what was, let’s be honest, a shaky start, I had a hunch things were about to change for the better when I received that call from Davide Rosso (my adopted fratello) as I made my way ‘home’ after a weekend in England. It was approaching midnight and I had just cleared the last toll booth. ‘Where was I?’ They (Davide, Alessio and Roberto Conterno) had been at Ciccio’s (Alessio eatery in Serralunga) all afternoon awaiting my return! A tad tired, I dumped my gear and headed up to the Castello where a glass of vintage Champagne greeted me – benvenuto indeed!
Talk about timing, Piedmont shone as Berrys’ training team emerged into the Monday morning sun. Raffaella Bologna at Braida pressed all the right buttons. Act Two featured a certain Uncle Angelo Gaja, apparently out the country, gliding in and effortlessly upstaging his wines. The Bruno Giacosa experience was packed with thoroughbreds; the Cigliuti family charmed us with their perfumed Barbareschi and then fed us like kings. The visit to Serralunga on Day Two featured the establishment in Franco Massolino ‘pitted’ alongside an ambitious Davide Rosso; local radio permanently on, pulsing through his wines and winery. Guiseppe Mascarello proudly showed off their Monprivato and Santo Stefano di Perno vineyards, while the visit to Giacomo Conterno was, well…what can I say? And so it went on: Day Three with the genial Manuel Marchetti at Marcarini, the door always open; Maria-Teresa Mascarello (Bartolo), a study in serenity; while the Sandrone family provided a lesson in exactitude and grace, capped by a glimpse of the sandy sun-trap that is the Valmaggiore vineyard. Summing up, to one of the team the region is a perfect blend of Burgundy’s finezza and perfume with the slopes and structure of the Rhone! And we haven’t even touched on the cuisine…
Yet, bazaarly, the visit to Alba’s market on Saturday reminded me more of Mumbai: the weave of fabric stalls through its narrow streets; the array of colours from unlikely sources, such as the piazza packed with dusters; the pressing of people and their chatter; all overlain with a heady smell of chocolate courtesy the local Ferrero-Rocher factory, spiced up occasionally by the strident cologne of some eager young Albese. Then there were the food halls, clearly delimited between trader and peasant farmer, between bought-in and homegrown; perfectly formed and wrinkled. Triple zero anchovies, purple celery, pears, primavera miele, a clutch of eggs wrapped in brown paper, Calabrian oranges, hazelnuts and of course a basilico plant all filled my groaning basket.
The region might well sit at the foot of the Alps but as I walked the windy Serralunga ridge to work this morning, eye to eye with Mt Viso on the horizion and flanked on either sides by vines, it doesn’t feel quite so lowly.
* In a break from the norm, David Berry Green, wine buyer at Berrys’ since 2001, has relocated to Northern Italy for seven months. The objective? To develop a keener understanding of Italian culture while focusing on the wines of Piedmont and, more generally, on delights a little further afield.