Chapter 6 – Piemonte e Langhe
Today we are going to uncover together, not simply one of the most important regions of Italy in terms of wine and food culture, but also one of our favourites so far.
Click in the followings to scroll down to the topics:
Indeed Carlotta has more connections to the area as she used to live there, while me, I am planning to make one of the most memorable wine trips there, as soon as it will be possible.
We are talking about Piedmont focusing on the Langhe region.
The wine decision for this week has been one of the hardest for me, since the beginning of our regional series. First of all because Piemonte region offers a wide variety of some of the greatest italians wines (and most of my personal favorites), so I had to choose among the most famous Italian denominations and wines, such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara and co.
Secondly, the risotto that Carlotta would have prepared required a wine that should contribute to enhance the characteristics of the dish.
I did not want to seem trivial in my choice, so after dwelling on many wines for days I finally made my choice: an incredibly good quality/price wine, from a very well know but artisanal producer, but not his Barolo, a wine that most people never taste when trying some Langhe wines, the Dolcetto.
So today’s wine is the Dolcetto d’Alba 2017 from Giuseppe Rinaldi.
Giuseppe Rinaldi represents staunchly traditionalist views on winemaking that have brought the estate into conflict with the Barolo Consortium. Most significantly, the estate has always maintained that the best wines from Barolo have always been blends from several sites, rather than the currently fashionable single-vineyard expression. Rinaldi’s most prominent wines were blends from the Brunate and Le Coste, and the Cannubi and Ravera vineyards respectively, and were labeled as such. However, Italian law passed in 2009 restricted labels to a single designated vineyard or none at all, requiring at least 85 percent of fruit to come from the named vineyard. Giuseppe Rinaldi vocally opposed the changes.
Organic since the beginning, no use of any chemicals treatments in the vineyards nor additives in the cellar. Strictly traditional, Rinaldi has avoided ‘new world’ trends such as the use of French barriques or shorter fermentation times. As a result, the wines demand significant cellaring to reign in their high tannins.
Dolcetto grape produces soft-styled, fruity wines with colors varying from deep ruby to purple. They are characterized particularly by their low acidity which is the source of the variety’s name; Dolcetto means “little sweet one”. Those with a basic grasp of Italian might understandably assume that Dolcetto wines are all sweet, but this is certainly not the case – sweet-styled Dolcetto is something of a rarity.
Dolcetto d’Alba DOC is a dry red wine noted for its juicy fruit character, low levels of acidity and mild tannins. Generally more floral its aromas are reminiscent of lavender and violets with a hint of almonds. It has a characteristically purplish ruby-red color, black cherry fruit flavors encased in sweet spices and a slightly bitter almond finish that is strongly associated with wines crafted from this variety. It is an easy-drinking wine that has long been considered the everyday drop of the local Langhe community.
The Dolcetto from Rinaldi expresses exactly this traditional characteristics both in the nose and in the palate and in my opinion was a great match with the Risotto with hazelnuts from Carlotta.
The flavors of the food are very well balanced with the aromas of the wine, which are very rich and intense. The mouth is round and smooth which accompanies very well with the sweet sensation of the risotto and the small but present tannins and acidity clean up the creamy from the cheese. This softness from the wine also pairs very well with the bitter and dry sensation from the hazelnut. In my opinion a wonderful marriage between the food and the wine.
CARLOTTA’S FOOD STORY:
I was extremely excited when Manu proposed we tackle Piemonte as the next region not just because it is one of Italy’s most important wine and food regions but because part of my family is from Biella, and I had the fortune of living in the Langhe – the area where this week’s wine and dish are from – in 2018 and 2019. During my time in the area I had the chance to explore all things food and wine, thanks to my internship at the Alba White Truffle Fair and my Master’s Degree at UNISG, during which I drove up and down all the Langhe’s rolling hills in search of the best trattorie and plin.
The dish I chose to combine with Manu’s wine is a collection of the most Piemontese ingredients that exist. The main character of the dish is rice, Arborio rice to be exact, which grows extraordinarily well in the region’s vast plains surrounding the cities of Novara and Vercelli, which provide the perfect ecosystem for this crop, which needs great amounts of water, to grow.
Rice cultivation in Piemonte dates back to 1400, when a congregation of monks from Burgundy, France moved just outside Vercelli and founded an Abbey, who reclaimed the land and transformed it suitable for agriculture. Rice was however only cultivated for medicinal purposes, it was used to cure indigestion and other digestive system related illnesses. One century later, Leonardo Da Vinci worked on agricultural hydraulic engineering projects which allowed farmers to control the irrigation of their land, and studied and executed the first mechanisms for uplifting water.
Half of the rice consumed by the entire European population is consumed in the area known as basso Piemonte, between Vercelli and Novara—that’s a lot of rice!
The second most important ingredient of this week’s dish is hazelnuts. Alba is known all over the world for its excellent production of hazelnuts, it doesn’t come by surprise that Ferrero was born at the heart of hazelnut paradise! Driving around the hills surrounding Alba all one sees are vineyards, hazelnut trees and castles atop basically every hill. The variety found in the Langhe is called Tonda Gentile delle Langhe, and is especially unique due to its thin shell, which allows for a very small loss in weight of the product, its wonderful aroma and delicate flavour and reduced quantity of fat content, making the nut prone to maintaining its features in conservation, without risking it to become rancid.
I decided to combine these two gems of Piedmontese cuisine in a cream risotto al bianco, on top of which I drizzled toasted hazelnuts and a handful of diced apples, to give the dish a fresh note and contrasting texture.
Follow the link to see the full recipe of the risotto: www.lapanzapiena.com
A TRADITIONAL APERITIVO FROM TORINO: WHITE VERMOUTH
Before start eating when in Italy it is a must to have a nice aperitivo. Traditional from Torino, so not far from the Langhe region, vermouth is a spiced wine, aromatised via infusion with herbs. One of the most famous is the artemisia but the recipe of vermouth is absolutely kept in secret from each producer. Vermouth can be white, red or rosè depending on the type of wine. For me the white one is the perfect aperitivo, very classical. It can be drunk by itself with some ice and soda or added to create fancy cocktails. Recently I have tasted the white vermouth from Seirole winery with which I have created amazing cocktails. My favourite one is the gin tonic with white vermouth.
GIN TONIC WITH WHITE VERMOUTH:
2 PARTS OF LONDON DRY GIN ( I USE NIKKA GIN)
1 PART OF WHITE VERMOUTH FROM SEIROLE WINERY
HIGH TUMBLER GLASS ALMOST FULL OF ICE (4 OR 5 CUBES)
3 PARTS OF GINGER ALE OR GINGER BEER FROM FEVER TREE
LEMON PEEL ON TOP