La Terra Trema: Critical Wine in Milan
One year later, I find myself once again in Via Wattenau. In that warehouse which has an important political resonance in Milan, Leoncavallo. Again, my presence is driven by Critical Wine, which this year has been organised by Folletto, a ‘small’ alternative space on the outskirts of Milan. Last year I made their acquaintance, as they had a stall at critical book and wine, and they impressed me with their rigor. No surprise then, that they have done a superb job in organizing this year’s event.
There are about fifty wine-makers present, a disproportionate number are from Piedmont, which makes sense when you understand that it is the region of high-quality, small-scale producers par excellence. Most of them, like their customers, are principally interested in red wines, but I’ve developed a fetish for whites, so I started with Timorasso. This is an ancient Piedmontese varietal, which was largely abandoned due to its temperamental nature, being too liable to rot and to bursting, according to the climate. Other grapes were available which were more reliable. Today, as part of the rediscovery of local heritage Timorasso is a source of excitement, even if it remains relatively rare, being produced in an area near Tortona over a total of just 50 hectares. Producers describe it as a white with the body of a red, and insist that it is a wine that can age for up to ten years. I tasted wines from Valli Unite and Euvio Ferreti, the former was more acidic,mineral and Mediterranean, and the latter more driven by floral and fruit components. Honestly these are young wines, and I’m curious to see what will become of them with the passage of time.
A highlight of the day was an excellent presentation by sommelier Andrea Bonini about Barolo. Honestly this level of contextualization and expertise was a novelty for me at Critical Wine, but I was really impressed. A detailed analysis of the elements of terroir was provided, encompassing geology, micro-climates, vineyard methodology, precipitation levels etc – basically it was deadly serious! During the lecture it occurred to me that the producers should be proud to have their wines presented in such a manner, and indeed both Cascina del Monastero (La Morra) and Vigneti Rocche (Castiglione Falletto) participated enthusiastically in the discussion , in addition to providing the samples🙂.
In addition I got to try two of my favourite whites from le Marche, a Pecorino from Aurora (one of heroes tout court), and a Verdichio di Castelli di Jesi Riserva (2005) from La Distesa. Aurora had bad news about the harvest (their production is down 40%). La Distesa explained how verdicchio can go in either of two directions, a more raw and mineral version a la Riesling from Alsace, or a softer rounder form comparable to Burgundy whites, hinging upon the use of a malolactic fermentation.
Otherwise I spent the evening drinking reds from Apulia, a deliberate drive on my part to correct an impression of primitivo and negoramaro formed by the industrial producers which dominate the market in these wines, whose products taste cooked. But if you can find a good producer then you’ll get far better value for money than in any of Italy’s famous regions. Morella was my first stop and their cru made from seventy five year old primitivo vines is great. In addition they offer a blend with malbec, the first time I’ve encountered this varietal in Italy, although the apparently it is common in that region. Next up was Mille Una from Lizzano. I preferred their primitivos to the negroamaros, particularly enjoying the Ori di Taranto 2003. All of these wines managed to maintain balance such that the strength of the alcohol was kept in the shade.
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