Changing Times in the Piemonte
As mentioned, I can really only take a “time-slice” of current events and I can’t speak with much authority about the way things “used to be” or exactly what has brought on the change, but I do know change is happening. For example; I have a favorite wine here and it is called Barbera. I have asked a few questions about its history and it seems that Barbera was once a wine that was mass-produced and cheap, consequently it was considered plonk and rightfully avoided by anyone with a palate. But gradually things changed and the Barbera growers began to trim back their vines and tend them more selectively and with some careful vinification the results can be staggering. We are seeing Barberas spending time in oak, and some is even blended with Nebbiolo and other grapes to make some tremendously complex cuvees. Today the best Barberas bring top-money and are worth every penny.
Grignolino has a similar story. In many cases it is often almost a rosé, but now a few producers are producing stellar Grignolino. We are even seeing alcohol levels in excess of 14% and they are starting to garner some international recognition, not to mention multiple-cups in Gambero Rosso. In spite of all that, Grignolino is not widely grown here. I believe the problem is that most people don’t understand the wine outside of the region. Grignolino is a wine that was made to be enjoyed with cured meats, especially the fattier salumi like coppa and salami. It cuts right through the fat and the flavor of the Grignolino blends perfectly with the sweet nuttiness of the meats. Once you have a Grignolino with a good local salami you will be hooked for good. Just a word of caution: don’t be tempted to judge this wine at a wine tasting… as with many Italian wines, it will not fare well without the food it was intended for.
But it is not only wine that is changing. In the Piemonte every village is known to produce something special. It might be a type of cake, or perhaps there is a butcher there that makes a special sausage, or it might even just be a certain dish that that town is famous for. There is a constant stream of new creations from the village shops. All of this creates a very completive spirit in the food and wine world and when you combine all of that with a public that is devoted to the table from the moment they learn to walk, some very magical things happen!
This is the glory of the Piemonte!