Day 26 – Barolo for Breakfast?
It was 10am and we expected to be back at Knigel by 11am, check out by 12pm and onwards we go. We said our goodbyes to our (ie Juno’s) friends in the campsite, particularly the lovely and very fit Danish couple who put us to shame with their exercise regime, and who Juno nearly ran off with – they have offered to look after Juno whilst we travel the rest of the world!
Upon arrival at Buon Padre, Julio made us feel very welcome and led us down into the cellar. It was a wine lover’s dream. Stacks upon stacks of bottles, mainly of Barolo of all different ages together with large oak barrels used for the aging process. Poor Julio had been stung by a wasp (Vespa in Italian, so that’s why the scooters are called that!) and seemed to be having a reaction as his hand was really swollen. He was very brave though and insisted on being the consummate professional, despite me insisting that he should go to hospital as he was having a bad reaction! We learnt that Buon Padre produced just over 100k bottles of wine a year, so is a small vineyard with mass producers extracting 1m, but caring less about quality I guess.
Julio then pulled out wine glasses and 6 bottles of wine and said that we would begin tasting, Greg and I had no idea that we were going to be having Barolo for breakfast! Clearly, we did not turn it down though. We started with a Chardonnay, apparently Buon Padre is the only producer of Chardonnay in the Barolo district. I am a fan of Chardonnay so I was quite happy. The wine was lovely, not so heavy as some Chardonnay can be but a good blend between mine and Greg’s taste. We were going to enjoy this morning!!
Then onto the Barbera, Julio explained that the Barbera used to be the wine of the poor people of Italy as it is made using old vines. At first the taste was very acidic and not very nice, until Julio produced cheese and told us to eat and drink at the same time. The taste was totally different. Julio went on to explain that he believed that Italian wines were made to go with food rather than French wines that are made just to drink. I think that this is true, although my wine drinking habits aren’t solely with meals so maybe I should stick to French!
Our next wine, and may I add the the portions were pretty generous, was a Nebbolio. This is the grape variety that Barolo is made of, but there is a difference in the aging process. Barolo has to be in an oak barrel for 36 months, whereas Nebbolo can just have 12 months of aging before sale. The taste was lovely, a very easy drinkable wine.
At this point, Juno was getting a bit bored so started chasing a cork around the cellar – just great when there are 1960’s and 1970’s priceless wines about Juno!!
Next we moved onto the Barolo 2012, again, a lovely wine, light and fresh. The serious stuff started then with the vintage Barolos. Julio explained that Claudio and his team drank some wine from each barrel every week to decide when it was perfect. They now decided that the 2004 (from last night) and the 2007, which we were about to try were at the perfect aging and drinking condition. There were 3 vintage wines to try; San Pietro, La Volta and Bricco delle Viole. The difference between the 3 were the vineyards, although we were later to learn that the vineyards are a few metres apart. It was incredible how different the tastes were. Bricco Della Viole was a more mineral vineyard and wasn’t to our taste, La Volta was on clay and we definitely liked that one (our home in Dorridge has clay soil so maybe if we arrange for England to get some sun we could produce this ourselves?!)
During our wine tasting we learnt that most Barolo vintages have a good life of 20 years, although for some this increase to 30 years, the wine maker knows how long each of their wines will last and when is the perfect time to drink them. It seems incredible the amount that a wine maker needs to know, I think a lot of people would love to do their jobs but I’m not sure that it would be very easy!
Julio then took us in his car to a couple of the vineyards. He showed us how their vines are cultivated by hand and very well cared for – in contrast to some that we had seen. The pride in the grapes was almost tangible. It is said that Italian wines are made on the vines and French wines are made in the winery, I don’t know enough to comment but plan to visit a French vineyard to find out. However these vines were certainly well loved. Claudio then met us to show us around the wine making section. This part is now almost entirely machine run with silver barrels everywhere. Claudio told us that the Italian market is shrinking, now only around 2% of sales due to a struggling economy but that northern Europe, particularly the UK is growing, together with the US market which is Buon Padre’s largest market at the moment.
It was an absolutely fascinating morning and I loved seeing the passion of both Julio (who went to hospital in the afternoon) and Claudio for Barolo. I would recommend the experience to anyone.
We realised that we weren’t moving on that day, and I had 6 glasses of wine to sleep off, so headed back to Camping Sole Langhe for a relaxed couple of hours, sleeping and reading. The evening brought movie night…..we were very excited having not watched TV for a month, so settled in and watched Trumbo, a great film that we really enjoyed. Greg as the resident techie was quite excited that he was able to link the computer to the TV, and the TV to the Bluetooth speaker system giving us almost a perfectly realistic cinema experience. With a couple of key differences, not least we had to have it on really quiet for fear of disturbing our neighbours.
Tomorrow a sad goodbye to Barolo but a happy hello to Cinque Terra.