Pasqua and the great Kinder Surprise


Week four of wine adventures in Piedmont

The only crunch the Ferrero chocolate factory in Alba can surely have endured came as a result of the pre-Pasqua surge for its Kinder eggs, a fine selection of which were on display at the altar on Easter Sunday. Whoever said the Church is out of touch should have attended Serralunga’s 11am service. There they were, lined up on the front rail, all 30 eggs, some larger than the children heaving them over, each identically wrapped in garish foil, a plastic Kinder ‘friend’ primed to burst out and surprise! Father Pietro, as old as the Langhe hills, reverently ushered in an array of appropriate items: oil, water, a lit candle, before raising his frail arms to receive the holy egg: a particularly large specimen, this one decked out in gold foil (nice), placing it oh so carefully in the heart of the congregation. He didn’t waiver; nor did he succumb to the temptation of tucking in.

And nor did I, as we clocked my fortieth birthday in the cool of Alessio’s (‘Ciccio’) restaurant, Centro Storico (see the video below), along with immediate family and a few (new) friends: Claudia Cigliuti, Maria-Teresa Mascarello, Alessio, and of course Davide Rosso. A deeply coloured, rich, butter biscuity 1993 Champagne Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs set the pace; a fine match for the plates of prociutto, customarily wrapped round the local grissini/bread sticks. I had lugged out a bottle of 1996 Chablis Vaillons, Gerard and Lilian Duplessis, which shone like a diamond, its cool river stone purity and soft gentle fruit a joy to all, especially alongside the crunchy asparagus, courgette and tomato salad. Next up, the 2006 Ostler Vineyards Pinot Noir puzzled all, on account of its screw-cap (illegal hereabouts) as much as for its luscious fruit. Preferred alongside the Val del Stura lamb, a local delicacy, was the 2005 Côte-Rôtie, Dme Mouton: a finely poised, full, sweetly fragrant and finely structured wine, if still ten years off its best. And then back to work in the vineyards. 

The arrival of a new, bright orange vineyard rotovator the following day generated as much, if not more fervour at the Giovanni Rosso winery; prompting a ‘come, gather round’ ceremony not dissimilar to that around the coffee machine. For this one automatically turned the soil between the vines, negating the need for nasty chemicals; needless to say it had broken down by mid afternoon. They love their toys.

Something a wee bit more essential was shown to me that evening over a plate of tajarin pasta at the Rosso household: a crude aluminium spoon stamped on the back with the swastika. It had been Esther Rosso’s father’s only possession while interned at one of Hitler’s ‘delightful’ camps during the War; one side flattened to double-up as a knife. A native of Serralunga, he disappeared at the age of 24 and came out weighing 40 kgs; thereafter requiring daily double portions of tajarin and Barolo to restore his health. But not for long; he died at the age of 47. His wife, now 90, still lives in the village. And so we sifted through Esther’s box of black and white photographs, bringing their Serralunga family and roots to life. Meanwhile the TV blinked in the background, blind to what was going on.