02/07/06 – Piedmont part 1 (white)

By Jesse on February 7, 2006


Hope you all had a lovely Superbowl weekend. And I hope you all drank a lot of wine, as well. Americans consume more wine during Superbowl weekend than any other weekend of the year. That’s actually not true, I just made that up. But every other fact in this e-mail IS true, which is overwhelming, because there are a lot of them. This week, as you know, we move on to Italy, definitely a fascinating and important nation in the wide world of wine.

Despite its size, Italy — not France, not Australia, and not the US, but Italy — is the world’s number one producer of wine. According to the Wine Bible, over 900,000 registered vineyards are scattered throughout Italy’s twenty regions. From these regions come a dizzying number of wines (no one knows precisely how many) based on more than a thousand documented grape varieties. Of course, not all of these wines are very important; many Italian wines are just simple quaffing wines and scores of others are consumed almost entirely in or near the villages where they are made. Piedmont is Italy’s highest-producing wine region and will be the first that we examine.

Piedmont is most well-known for its seminal red grape, Nebbiolo, which produces the famous Barolo and Barbaresco red wines. The region also produces whites, however, and we’ll be looking at white Piedmont wines this week before moving on to the more well-known red wines next week. In general, we may find that Italian wine labels are slightly more accessible than the French ones were — i.e., more likely to list the grape type on the bottle (but again, not required to). When looking for a Piedmont white, look for one of these wines: Arneis, Gavi, Moscato (Muscat), or Asti, the last of which is a sparkling wine, and which may be packaged under the name “Asti Spumante.”

If Piedmont is to be compared to a region in France, that region would be Burgundy. Why is that? Anyone who comes to the meeting on Wednesday with the answer to this question receives major points. Think about what makes Burgundy unique as a French wine region. I know we didn’t look at very many yet, but start by thinking about what makes Burgundy different from Bordeaux. What is it that we learned about Burgundy that allows it to consider itself France’s premiere wine region in terms of quality? Then compare that to the little that we know about Piedmont so far…. we’ll discuss this more tomorrow.

We’re going to be meeting at the original wine club spot, the Sherman Oaks Shag Pad, now with increased seating capacity. For those who haven’t been out to see us yet, we’re located at (a little slice of heaven), halfway between Coldwater Canyon and Woodman (take either exit off the 101 and then drive towards the other one on Moorpark; you’ll hit Dixie Canyon before you get there). It’s in Sherman Oaks, 91423, and it’s apartment #4, around the right side of the building and up the stairs. No need to bring wine glasses because we have a lot — just bring a nice bottle of white Piedmont, chilled if possible, and your bad selves. We’ll see you at 9 PM.