Piemonte, where have you been all my life?

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Wine basics from the Chinese MW

I finally reached Piemonte after several years of wanting to, but never successfully because holidays were designated to visits home, weddings and adventures in Asia. This year a wine trade friend insisted we go (conveniently during white truffle season) and I organised us onto a Liberty Wines' trip to visit our Barolo producers (Aldo Conterno, Massolino and G.D. Vajra).

Image: Massolino vineyards, Barolo. Credit: DecanterImage: Massolino vineyards, Barolo. Credit: Decanter

Had I known previously that the vineyard landscape, deservedly a UNESCO world heritage site, was so astonishingly beautiful, I would have enriched my life every year with a visit. I was surprised to learn that the Barolo DOCG zone, comprised of 11 communes, was just slightly more than as far as the eye could see standing from Massolino's terrace. It was smaller than I imagined.

The hills with their different aspects, altitudes and soils translate into varying expressions of Nebbiolo, a testy variety to cultivate. I began to understand why some fine Barolo command the price that they do today, especially since yields are kept low and there is a minimum 38 month ageing requirement before their release for Barolo and 62 months for Barolo Riserva (of which 18 months must be in oak). I am convinced that Barolo, in comparison to other red wines of similar quality and price, offer excellent value, not to mention be an investment purchase that could outlive the purchaser.

During our quick weekend visit we managed to 'research' by method of consuming several bottles of Barolo and I can confirm that it does indeed pair seamlessly with tuber magnatum (the white truffle). The mouth-watering acidity of Nebbiolo also balances the sage butter sauce of the traditional tajarin pasta dish so particularly well that one is oblivious to having consumed a shot of melted butter. Add to this a handful of hazelnuts and a box of Baci di Cherasco from Pasticceria Barbero (dark hazelnut chocolates) and we have the menu of my last meal, to be confirmed next year when I return to Piemonte on a newly adopted annual pilgrimage.

Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦

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