Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Diary 35: Beginning 2022, an update

The first day of a new year, beginning 2022, feels like a good time to give you an update. The current Covid situation looks bad but hopefully–and who can know?–2022 may allow us to do rather more things in person than 2021 did. Most of all I wish you a healthy and productive new year!  In the meantime, my book The Wines of Piemonte has appeared on Amazon to pre-order: there’s faith for you! 

Producer samples and Zoom

The middle part of 2021, April to September, was another period when Zoom continued to be the most important tool for continuing my research.  The promotional body, I vini del Piemonte, was very helpful as it has wineries all over the region. As a result, I was able to do work on zones as disparate as Dogliani (Dolcetto), north-west Monferrato (aromatic reds, Freisa and more) and the Langhe.  Walter Speller also put on an excellent new-vintage Nebbiolo wines tasting in London.

About to Zoom with Pierfrancesco Gatto
About to Zoom with Pierfrancesco Gatto

But I was longing to visit the region in person … 

Autumn 2021 – extended visits in October and early November

And finally, on 6 October, Janet and I boarded a Ryanair flight to Turin and arrived at Tenuta La Romana, just outside Nizza Monferrato, for the first leg of a month long visit.  With the help a number of consorzi, we then visited 94 wineries in southern Piemonte. The main themes were Asti, Barbera d’Asti and Nizza, then on to Gavi from where we visited in Gavi and neighbouring Ovada, before moving on to Tortona and finally Alba for the multifarious wines of the Langhe. This level of compression is probably not the best way to do this … but after being stuck at home for 20 months, who is complaining? Beginning 2022, we can look forward, hopefully to better times.

I wrote about some real learning points in my earlier post, A month in Piemonte.  Some other highlights were:

  • The commitment and kindness of those who helped to organise visits. I am bound to miss someone but Stefano Ricagno, Paola Baldi, Simonetta Borasi, Micaela Vassallo, Ulrike Ferlin, Sara Frau and Valentina Casseta all deserve a mention.
  • The chance to visit both Giacomo Conterno and Aldo Conterno in Barolo for the extraordinary quality of their rather different wines.
  • Walking in the great vineyards including Monprivato and Vigna Rionda. 
  • Getting to grips with Gavi to understand the ageing potential of the Cortese variety and seeing the excitement of Timorasso in the Colli Tortonesi.
  • Staying in an old silk factory now turned into a beautiful B&B in Tortona, Casa della seteria Sironi, and the remarkable cuisine of Anna Ghisolfi.
  • The astonishing beauty of Piemonte in the autumn sunshine. 
  • The professionalism and enthusiasm of many, many producers.

Having returned for all of a week, I was off again for a press trip to Monferrato (Barbera, Nizza, Ruchè and more) and a few days tacked on to visit the less frequented parts of the zone. The latter featured the aromatic reds of Casorzo and of Castelnuovo Don Bosco, and Albugnano, the tiny Nebbiolo denomination, east of Turin. 

Nizza Monferrato from Tenuta La Romana 
Nizza Monferrato from Tenuta La Romana 
Researching, collating and writing

Since returning I have begun the enormous task of writing all this up. So far, I have added to my section on the main Dolcetto denominations (Dogliani, Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba and Ovada), written an entirely new chapter on Gavi and started on Colli Tortonesi. So this is tangible progress, even if what remains seems forbidding large. I have to fill the gaps in my Monferrato chapter, write about Barolo and Barbaresco (!), complete my chapter on tank method sparkling wines, not to mention the areas yet to be visited.

Dusk at Ceretto's Bricco Rocche, Barolo
Dusk at Ceretto’s Bricco Rocche, Barolo
What’s next? Spring 2022

My hope for the spring of this year, beginning 2022, is to visit northern Piemonte (the fashionable, small but scattered denominations of Alto Piemonte) and the tiny ones in the valleys of the Alps in the direction of France: Valsusa,  Pinerolese and Colline Saluzzesi.  If you haven’t heard of these, don’t worry, nobody else has either! And there are plenty of the gaps to fill and areas that need a greater depth of coverage.  Theoretically, the text is supposed to be finished in November 2022, but there has been a world event in the meantime which will make that an improbable deadline. But I am really looking forward to writing up the material collected thus far and, let’s be honest, getting back to Italy’s north-west for more vinous adventure. Have a good 2022!

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