To the most amazing tasting and lunch yesterday. The occasion was a tasting of Piedmont wines from three venerable Barolo producers – and the most expensive Grappa in the world.
Guido Fantino of Conterno Fantino, Ciara Boschis of Pira and Anna from Perusso had lined up a stellar selection of the best of their wines. The tasting began with a gorgeous Dolcetto from Fantino – as a curtain-raiser it was pretty dramatic, heady stuff. The Barolos themselves ranged from drop dead gorgeous to ‘fantastic – but not to drink for another 10 years’. The 2004 vintage is every bit as impressive as billed. Ciara’s Cannubi vineyard Barolo 2004 had perfect balance (in fact balance was the word I most often wrote in my notes), complexity, suppleness, power but really great approachability too.
Once the tasting was complete, the tables were cleared and we sat down to lunch. What a lunch. In fact it was only some hours later that I realised quite how dazzling it had been. Piedmont is prime truffle country and this lunch (at Via Condotti) was a masterclass in truffles.
A veal tartare with white truffle shavings was swiftly followed by what I quickly named ‘the millionaire’s breakfast’ – panfried quail’s eggs with radicchio and white truffle shavings. The Parusso Dolcetto 2007 kept the flavours in balance. Things were cranking up through the gears now. A plate of exquisite risotto flavoured with – you guessed it – white truffle was so, so brilliant. The only thing that stopped me eating it all was a quick glance at the menu and the next course. Fantino’s Montpra – a kind of ‘Super Piedmontese’ blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera and Cabernet Sauvignon accompanied the risotto, tasting for all in the world like a well-developed claret. Delicious.
Then what was for me the absolute pinnacle of a meal which had many high points. Veal carpaccio with sautéed mushrooms and white truffle just blew my taste buds into some faraway nirvana. Most definitely the best dish I’ve eaten all year and probably one of the greatest things I’ve ever eaten full stop. Pira’s Cannubi 04 made a sensuous partner.
Like a punch drunk boxer I dimly acknowledged the desert. It was parfait – with truffle shavings naturally. Ciara Boschis pointed out how each truffle was different in texture, perfume and appearancefrom the next. I sampled Berta’s Moscato Grappa with the mien of a man who had come to the end of a very exhilarating journey.