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.
The story of Monferrato Rosso began in a simple trattoria. Dixon and Kermit were on their way to Alba when they stopped for lunch. They were served a pitcher of Arneis that pleasantly surprised them and got the address of the producer. When they visited, they tasted several cuvées of Monferrato Rosso. It has quickly become a staff favorite, not only for its smooth earthiness and genuine regional typicity, but also for its versatility in pairing with a wide variety of dishes. We have high hopes for this everyday cuvée, because it has the finesse of a much grander D.O.C. Kermit says that it reminds him of the Piedmontese wines of old. Simple label, low price, totally satisfying!
Kermit’s love affair with the great reds of Piemonte dates back to the early days of his career: the very first container he imported from Italy, in fact, featured legendary 1971 and 1974 Barolos from Vietti and Aldo Conterno. Regular visits since then have seen our portfolio grow to now nine Piemontesi estates, with a strong focus on the rolling hills of the Langhe.
Nebbiolo rules these majestic, vine-covered marl slopes, giving Italy’s most mystifyingly complex, nuanced, and age-worthy reds. When crafted via traditional production methods—long macerations and extensive aging in enormous oak botti—the powerful, yet incredibly refined Barolos and Barbarescos provide haunting aromatics of tar, raspberry, incense, tea, roses, and more. At times austere in their youth but well worth the wait, they pair beautifully with the hearty local cuisine starring veal in many forms, braised beef, pastas like tajarin and agnolotti, and of course, Alba’s famous white truffles.
Surrounded by mountains on three sides, Piemonte’s climate is continental, with baking hot summers and cold winters. Nebbiolo is only part of the story here: juicy, fruity Barberas and Dolcettos represent the bread and butter throughout the region, and other native grapes like Freisa, Croatina, and the white Arneis are also noteworthy. Value abounds in the Monferrato, while Alto Piemonte also has its share of thrills to provide.
Every corner of Piemonte is rich with tradition, especially when wine is concerned. It’s no wonder we have been singing the region’s praises for over forty years.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
Hot in your area? Pick up in our shop or we’ll hold your wine until it’s a good time to ship.
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