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by Fred McMillin
Winery of the Week
Mrs. McMillin at a tasting in Piedmont of Barolo and Barbaresco red wines.
Piedmont ("the foot of the mountain" in Italian) winemaking got off to a good start in the fifth century B.C. when the Greeks arrived. They improved the local thin wine by introducing pruning to add punch to the product, etc. A few centuries later, the Roman legions arrived. They improved training of the vines, built cellars, and switched storage vessels from ceramic to wooden casks, a Celtic invention.
Caesar praised the wines of Piedmont. By the 17th century, Barolo wine was so prized the House of Savoy dared send it to the King of France! King Louis IV, a lover of Burgundy, pronounced the Italian wine "excellent."
At an 1873 International Exposition in Vienna, Piedmont wines won 11 medals. with such a pedigree, why on earth did the "Barolo Brotherst" stray? Well, they were keenly aware that Piedmont need not be bound by tradition. They break barriers, and here are some of their innovations.
Start fermenting the red wines in stainless steel rather than wood, to increase the flavor contributions of the grape and reduce those of the container.
Plant not only Pinot Noir, but other Piedmont strangers including Viognier, Syrah, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Ferment several of their lighter white wines under a slight pressure in the stainless steel tanks to provide a little fizz in the bottle.
Pioneered something else new in Italy, the production of wines from a single vineyard. Winemaker Marcello works with six locations. At New York's Four Seasons Restaurant Bruno introduced the little-known white truffles of Piedmont, and one of his wines that cost over $100! Thus, one of Italy's best and most innovative is...
Alba, Piedmont, Italy
Proprietors—Bruno (business) and Marcello (winemaking)
Ceretto Wines to Try:
Here Comes That Grape—Its domination of the white wine world continues. What white wine varital is being added the fastest in Piedmont? Our latest figures say Chardonnay.
Italy's Noble Red Wines, by The Wassermans
About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.
This page created October 2000