Preparing the ground for Berrys’ Italian tasting in London, September 8th…


Tecce old vines mtIt’s been an absorbing two weeks on the road covering nearly 4000 kms between Piemonte and Puglia. As outlined in my previous blog, my destination was the Puglian town of Savelletri di Fasano for the Radici del Sud southern wine fest, but I made the most of the opportunity there and back to visit current suppliers as well as to explore uncharted territory (for me).

Napoli statueSo I left the serenity of the Langhe for the jungle of the South…or that is how the Lega Nord would have you believe; they who wish to separate the North from the South. Bar an unsettling experience in Napoli, whose lawless, litter-strewn streets seem to cast a massive cloud over everyone’s perception of the South – and where we were duly fleeced – I was charmed by the people and the wines of Puglia, Basilicata and Campania. I’ve now got my bearings and will be returning this autumn to further strengthen Berrys’ Italian range.

Sulla strada to Puglia I first stopped at Montalcino to catch-up with Andrea Mantengoli at his La Serena estate (see video); then onto Montefalco and Duccio Pompili at Cantina Fontecolle, producer of Sagrantino, followed by Aldo Cifola at Verdicchio di Matelica property La Monacesca and then of course to Luigi Tecce, producer of scintillating Aglianico Taurasi high up the Irpinian hills of Campania. My return took me to prime Primitivo zones on the Puglian flats, then to volcanic soils of Basilicata’s Monte Vulture before heading to the Cilento coast south of Napoli in search of fresh juicy Aglianico

Back in Serralunga d’Alba it seems that ten days of cool damp weather has brought the season back into line, having been two weeks ahead of schedule. However this fluctuation of humid hot and cold provides the perfect breeding ground for peronospera. Fortunately the dry conditions at flowering have left many of the bunches open so reducing the disease pressure (and rendering treatments more effective).

FontanaMy thoughts now turn to finalizing the list of 32 Italian producers who will be showing their 110 wines to customers and press at the Berrys’ Anteprima tasting on September 8th at One Great George Street, London. Despite the threat of ever earlier harvests Berrys’ Italian suppliers will be coming out in force to prove how fine, drinkable and good value their wines are. New faces include Luigi Tecce (Taurasi), Manuel Marinacci (Barbaresco), Bibbiano (Chianti Classico), Monte dei Ragni (Valpolicella) and La Colombera (white Timorasso). Core wine styles on show will be Barolo (07), Barbaresco (08), Chianti Classico (08) and Brunello di Montalcino (07/06).

In the meantime I’ve just had the immense pleasure of hosting a group of eight South Africans here in Piemonte for the first time (isn’t it everyone’s?!). When we first made contact via email they gave me a list of producers they’d been advised to visit…La Spinetta, Aldo Conterno, Altare, Voerzio, Sandrone – spot the difference?! Their advisor was none other than Gambero Rosso, or was it Wine Spectator. I suggested that perhaps a visit to Mario Fontana, to Chiara Boschis, to Rizzi and Cantina Mascarello Bartolo might give them a truer picture. Fascinatingly for palates brought up on overripe, ponderous Cape blends (their words not mine!) they found the modern, concentrated, Parker-pointed wines thick and ugly while the new breed of traditionalists thrilled them with wines of breed, race and elegance. And so it follows, does it not: Fine Wines should have Finesse, not Flabbiness!

Next week I’ll be reporting on a visit to the land of Prosecco where a new breed of lees-aged wine, Prosecco ‘Col Fondo’, is turning heads…