One of the highlights of my winter every year is visiting Alessandra Bodda and her family in the Monferrato region of Piedmont. Their vineyards are in a hamlet of the town of Cisterna d’Asti, a typical Monferratese fortified hilltop town, with its tall brick campanile built for keeping watch over the surrounding countryside. The Bodda family farms all of the local grapes of the area on their steep vineyards of limestone marl: Arneis, Barbera, Freisa, Bonarda, Croatina, Dolcetto, and Brachetto. When I arrive in February, each of the grape varieties is separated into stainless-steel tanks, post-fermentation. All of the Bodda family’s wines are honest, forthright expressions of the grape and place that they come from and their winemaking is truly minimalist, so the building blocks are raw and uncut. We start the tasting by sampling each tank individually so that I can decide which to prioritize for our blend. Every year the blend of grapes and the proportion of each changes, often dramatically. The second step is to begin sampling various blends of the selected components, striving for harmony and a consistency of style with previous vintages, all while respecting the unique character of the current vintage. My goal with the blend is always to have floral aromatics that pop, medium body that is not too ripe or alcoholic, sufficient acidity (never a problem with their Barbera!), juiciness, enough structure to stand up to a real ragù, and tannins with no rough edges. I am honored that the family gives us access to the treasures of their cantina and grants us the opportunity to make this custom blend. Over the years, it has been gratifying to observe the evolution of Alessandra’s son Emanuele, from his sitting at the table with us for five minutes to say hello and sample one or two wines to managing the tasting and participating throughout. Her younger son, Moreno, and daughter, Martina, have begun to join us in recent years as well. Martina has taken the place of her adorable, lively grandmother, who passed a few years ago, as the chef for our all-important post-tasting lunch. This annual voyage allows us to bring you the best expression of this family’s work, which we bottle without fining or filtration so that you can enjoy the authentic taste of northern Italian countryside.
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