Delights of Piedmont

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Speaker: Michael Garner

One hundred years ago, Michael Garner told the audience at this packed masterclass, the Langhe was a land of poverty. It was not until the 1960s and 70s that Renato Ratti and Angelo Gaja dragged it into the 20th century, and ‘laid the foundation for a burgeoning industry.’ And the mainstay of this industry are the langhirole – ‘a hardworking, tough people who now have smiling countenances’, as Garner put it.

The reason for those smiles is the fact that the ‘undiminished enthusiasm’ for the area has resulted in some of the most celebrated wine in Italy, like the opening wine, the delicioius Malvira from Roero, with ‘apples and pears on the palate, a great example of what the region can do: softness, sweetness and intensity.’

Then after the intensely powerful – ‘but not particularly tannic’ – Barbera of Andrea Oberta (which Garner told us is made in quantities of around 11,000 bottles a year), we move on to ‘the grape of the fog’, Nebbiolo.

The tannins in Nebbiolo, Garner suggested as we tasted the Monchiero Carbone, were almost ‘like the wall that marathon runners hit towards the end of a race’. They are huge, gripping, dense. ‘It’s a big issue with this grape.’ He asked for a show of hands – ‘were these massive tannins or not?’ – and got an unambiguous affirmative from an audience which certainly knew something about tannins.

The masterclass continued with the ‘warm, earthy plum and cherry’ of the Corregia, the Spinetta with its sweet nose of perfume and fruit, the Asili – with a production of 6,000 bottles per year – ‘a classic of modern winemaking’.

When we got onto such greats as the Conterno Barolo, it almost seemed as if Garner was running out of adjectives. ‘Pure sex in a glass’ he said, eliciting a low murmur of assent from the audience.

Wines:Malvira - Roero Arneis DOCG 2007

Andrea Oberto - Giada, Barbera d'Alba DOC 2005

Monchiero Carbone - Roero Printi DOC 2004

Az. Agricola Matteo Correggia - Roche d'Ampsej, Roero DOC 2004

La Spinetta - Barbaresco Starderi DOCG 2005

Marchesi di Gresy - Barbaresco Camp Gros DOCG 2004

Bricco Asili, Ceretto - Barbaresco Bricco Asili DOCG 2004

Pelissero - Barbaresco Vanotu DOCG 2004

Chiarlo - Barolo Cerequio DOCG 2004

Poderi Aldo Conterno - Barolo Romirasco DOCG 2004

Vajra - Barolo Bricco delle Viole DOCG 2003

Batasiolo - Barolo Corda della Briccolina 2001

The Great Italian Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2008