We then drove north to Barbaresco, a region that again is home to the Nebbiolo grape. The wines, with a few significant exceptions (Gaja, Giacosa), are lighter, more delicate and earlier drinking than Barolo.
Giacosa is based in the village of Neive and makes both Barolo and Barbaresco. His wines are made in an elegant and Burgundian style and are some of the very best in the region. We tasted a beautiful Dolcetto Soreno 09, very aromatic and pure, and a backward, structured Barbera Falletto 08 that still needs a couple of years before it can be drunk. The 2 Barbarescos, Asili 07 and Santa Stefano 07, are pure class, the former with its more sandy based soil was more open, voluptuous, more elegant, whilst the San Stefano, from purchased fruit is a big, serious wine from clay based soil. Barolo La Rocche 05 and 04 were 2 of my favourite Barolos of the trip.
It was a marathon days tasting and we still had a 3 hr drive north east to Lake Garda!!
Tuesday morning we drove north east to Negrar, one of the communities of Valpolicella to taste the wines of Quintarelli, one of the greatest estates in Valpolicella that produces the finest Amarone in the region. The highlight was his 2000 Amarone, layer upon layer of dried wild fruits, garrigue and sweet cherry, a nuance typical of the wines of this region. It was quite amazing!
We stopped for lunch at Le Due Spade in Trento, on route north to the Alto Adige (Sud Tirol) and Lake Caldaro where we were staying with Manincor at their domaine.
I have to say that I was blown away by the drive north, passing through long valleys with sheer cliffs on either side and lush undulating green. It is a region that loses its Italian influence the further north you go and quickly morphs into something more Germanic. I have never been to this region before, and it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to (not just because there are vines, I hear you cry!).
We were so impressed by the wines we tried in Alto Adige that they are getting their own blog and an offer will follow in a few weeks.
On Wednesday afternoon we left the Alto Adige and hurtled 3 hrs south east to Conegliano (the capital of Prosecco) in the Veneto, to stay with Bianca Vigna, our Prosecco domaine. We were very very well looked after by Luca and Elena Cuzziol, and we drank a lot of our Prosecco, which is delicious. It comes from Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, the 2 Crus of Prosecco, it is here where the finest vineyards are located. Fresh, crisp, lemony and so light on its feet, I love it. It is a welcome change for anyone who wants something sparkling to quench their thirst over the summer. Prosecco is a really good drink and very underated.
Our final leg took us directly east and into Fruili (which borders Slovenia), where we stayed in the capital, Udine. 65-70% of the production is white and tends to be bigger than Alto Adige white and is often barrel fermented.
The remainder is red and up and coming. The towns of Buttrio, Rosazzo and Prepotto are best known for their reds.
Christian Patat, known as Mr Friuli, spent a day and a half showing us 4 very different domaines. He is a superbly relaxed gentleman who has a truly inspired passion for this easterly wine region.
We tasted the wines of Meroi, a biodynamic producer making varietal wines from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Merlot and an excellent blend using Merlot and Refosco (spicy Syrah character), called Dominin.
On to Antico Broilo, who uses very traditional wine making, makes terroir driven wines in an elegant rather than powerful style. His focus is more on reds from the famous red growing region of Prepotto, his single varietal Schioppettino, Merlot and Refosco where absolutely delicious.
Miani is the greatest domaine in the region. I was blown away by the quality of these wines. They call it the DRC of Fruili. His whites are made in a Burgundian style, with creamy rich fruit and laser like acidity. His single varietal red wines, made with Merlot and Refosco are real ‘WOW’ wines…they are not cheap but their inherant quality rivals some of the greatest and most majestic of Brunellos.
If you want to try their wines, I spotted his 2005 Merlot on a wine list last night at Osteria dell’Arancio,, my favourite Italian restaurant in London, it is very special.