Just returned from a great trip to Piemonte with three journalists. Enotria has a wide selection of Barolo producers on our books, and it is a real eye opener to spend a couple of days visiting them all! Jane Parkinson (Drinks Business), Amy Wislocki (Decanter) and Victoria Moore (The Guardian) joined me as we braved the November fog and trusted our sat nav to take us down the A6 to Fontanafredda. This mighty Barolo house is located on an estate which includes an old hunting lodge favoured by Victor Emmanuel, King of Savoie. These days they are a throroughly modern operation, with 120 hectares of prime Piedmontese vineyard - and a few black swans in their pond too! At Fontanafredda we tasted their 3 cru Barolos, Vigna La Villa, Vigna La Rosa, and La Lazzarrito from the two great vintages of 2004 and 2001. Each wine had a really distinct character - easy to see why Barolo is often called the Burgundy of Italy - the terroir is so important.
La Rosa 04 was a popular favourite , all silky, smooth, velvety fruit and finish, but La Lazzarito 01 also found favour thanks to its musky, muscular power - quite different in style, and all due to the Serralunga soil as we were told.
After this we all piled into the hired Passat and made the short journey over to Barolo itself and E. Pira. Chiara Boschis has run this tiny winery almost single handed (of which more later) and her wines reflect a single minded devotion to purity, nature and character.
She took us through a fascinating vertical of her two cru wines, Via Nuova and Cannubi; starting with the current juice which was undergoing its malolactic as we stood next to the barrels! After 09, 08 and 07 we started to see how a small producer can be faithful to the terroir, even if they risk alienating those who would prefer to taste the same wine year on year. Chiara for me is like a dressmaker; her creations vary from season to season, but there is no mistaking her handywork behind this level of craftsman (or rather craftswoman)-ship.
To be continued...