Μακαρόνια φούρνου αλά ναπολετάνα, ένα μαμαδίστικο φαγάκι για το κυριακάτικο τραπέζι.
Θα μου πείτε ότι και στην Ελλάδα φτιάχνουμε μακαρόνια φούρνου, όπως φτιάχνουν και σε άλλα μέρη στην Ιταλία, η ναπολιτάνικη συνταγή όμως είναι ξεχωριστή και ιδιαίτερα φημισμένη.
Η pasta al forno alla napoletana ή ‘a pasta ô furno στην ναπολετάνικη διάλεκτο, είναι ένα ιδιαίτερα πλούσιο πιάτο, που αποτελείται από πολλά υλικά, και αποτελεί ένα κλασσικό comfort food της τοπικής κουζίνας. Βασικό συστατικό τα μακαρόνια, και συγκεκριμένα τα ριγατόνι, ή άλλο είδος πάστα μεγάλου μεγέθους και απαραίτητα με τρύπα (στην Ιταλία υπάρχουν και τα zitoni, calamaretti, mezze maniche), ώστε να συγκρατήσει την σάλτσα. Επίσης θεμελιώδης και μία καλή, σπιτική σάλτσα ντομάτας, η οποία πρέπει να βράσει για πολλή ώρα, ώστε να νοστιμίσει, και να μείνει πηχτή μεν, αλλά όχι στεγνή. Τα τυριά είναι βέβαια αναμενόμενα, και εδώ θα μιλήσουμε για ρικότα, χαρακτηριστικό τυράκι της ναπολιτάνικης κουζίνας, αλλά και για μοτσαρέλα ή πρόβολα. Τα υλικά έκπληξη για όλους εμάς που είμαστε συνηθισμένοι στην ελληνική κουζίνα, είναι τα βραστά αυγά και τα κεφτεδάκια! Με λίγα λόγια έχουμε μία μακαρονάδα φούρνου πολύ πλούσια σε γεύσεις, αλλά το τελικό αποτέλεσμα δεν είναι καθόλου βαρύ ή μπουχτιστικό, αντιθέτως, είναι από τα πιάτα που ίσως ντρέπεσαι να το πεις, αλλά θέλεις να ζητήσεις και δεύτερη μερίδα! Επίσης κανένας δεν θα παρεξηγήσει αν σκουπίσεις με το ψωμί σου το πιάτο, αφού και οι ίδιοι οι ναπολιτάνοι το λένε ότι εδώ η scarpetta επιβάλλεται!
Να σημειώσω ότι η μπεσαμέλ συνήθως δεν συμπεριλαμβάνεται στην συνταγή, οι ναπολιτάνοι προτιμούν τα μακαρόνια να είναι ξεροψημένα και τραγανά.
Η προετοιμασία της συνταγής ξεκινάει από την σάλτσα, την οποία μπορείτε να ετοιμάσετε και από την προηγούμενη ημέρα. Ψιλοκόψτε το σκόρδο και σοτάρετε το με το ελαιόλαδο, μέχρι να γίνει τραγανό. Προσοχή να μην το κάψετε! Προσθέστε την πασσάτα ντομάτας (ή έτοιμη ντομάτα στον τρίφτη), τα φύλλα του βασιλικού και το αλάτι. Αφήστε την σάλτσα να σιγοβράσει σκεπασμένη για 2 ώρες τουλάχιστον. Αν χρειαστεί προσθέστε ζεστό νερό. Η σάλτσα είναι έτοιμη όταν θα αρχίσει να πιτσιλάει και θα πρέπει να είναι πηχτή, αλλά όχι στεγνή.
Ετοιμάστε τα κεφτεδάκια. Μουλιάστε το ψωμί με χλιαρό νερό, στραγγίστε το και τρίψτε το. Βάλτε το μέσα σε ένα μπολ, προσθέστε τα υπόλοιπα υλικά και πλάστε μικρούλικα κεφτεδάκια. Τηγανίστε τα μέχρι να ροδίσουν, ακουμπήστε τα σε απορροφητικό χαρτί κουζίνας, ώστε να στραγγίσουν το περιττό λάδι και κρατήστε τα στην άκρη.
Βράστε τα αυγά. Βάλτε τα μέσα σε ένα κατσαρολάκι με νερό βρύσης και βάλτε το στην φωτιά. Μετρήστε 8 λεπτά από την στιγμή που το νερό θα αρχίσει να βράζει, κατεβάστε το κατσαρολάκι από την φωτιά και αφήστε τα αυγά μέσα μέχρι να χλιαρίνουν. Αφαιρέστε τα τσόφλια και κόψτε τα σε φέτες ή τέταρτα.
Βράστε τα ριγκατόνι σε άφθονο αλατισμένο νερό, 2 λεπτά λιγότερο από τον χρόνο που αναγράφεται στην συσκευασία τους. Στραγγίστε τα και περιχύστε τα με τα 2/3 της σάλτσας.
Αναμείξτε την ρικότα με την μισή σάλτσα που περίσσεψε.
Κόψτε την μοτσαρέλα και το σαλάμι σε κυβάκια.
Πάρτε ένα ταψί πυρέξ με διαστάσεις περίπου 30×40 εκ. Απλώστε στον πάτο του την υπόλοιπη σάλτσα και τακτοποιήστε από επάνω το 1/3 από τα ριγκατόνι. Σκορπίστε μερικές φέτες αυγού, κεφτεδάκια, μοτσαρέλα, σαλάμι, λίγη παρμεζάνα και τέλος ρίξτε το μισό από το μίγμα της ρικότας. Κάντε μία δεύτερη στρώση με τα υπόλοιπα υλικά. Η τελευταία στρώση πρέπει να είναι σκέτα ριγκατόνι. Περιχύστε με την μπεσαμέλ και πασπαλίστε με την υπόλοιπη παρμεζάνα και την φρυγανιά.
Ψήστε σε φούρνο προθερμασμένο στους 190°C, στις αντιστάσεις, για μισή ωρίτσα, μέχρι να σχματιστεί μία ωραία ξεροψημένη κρούστα.
Βγάλτε τα το πυρέξ από τον φούρνο και αφήστε το να σταθεί ένα τεταρτάκι, γιά να μπορέσετε να το κόψετε χωρίς να διαλυθεί.
Σερβίρετε τα μακαρόνια φούρνου αλά ναπολετάνα ζεστά.
It is probably pretty obvious if you look back over my posted recipes the past month or so, that I am a little obsessed right now with winter squash. I am enjoying all the different varieties of squash available this time of year, and since squash is so versatile, I am using it in just about everything I make. As well as being delicious, winter squash is a good source of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, and manganese. A cup of cubed butternut squash also provides 582 mg of potassium, more than the amount available in a banana, which I find pretty amazing! Is it no wonder that I keep trying to find ways to dd it into all of my recipes?
I have often shared that my husband needs to have his pasta at least three times a week. If I get too creative with recipes and forget to add pasta into our weekly menu plan, I will get a gentle reminder. Luckily I love pasta almost as much as he does. The other problem that arrises often is that he’d like me to prepare his favorite pasta dishes over and over again, but since I am always looking for new recipes to share on my blog, he often does not get his way. This pasta dish was created when I was asked (begged) to please make pasta for dinner, but I had already roasted some butternut squash for something else. I decided to switch gears and use my squash as the main ingredient in a pasta sauce. I pureed half the squash and set aside the rest to fold into the pasta at the end.
Generally, you might add heavy cream or mascarpone to help develop the creaminess of the sauce, but since I had neither, but I did have half a log of creamy goat cheese, I decided to use that. I thinned out the sauce with chicken broth, and once seasoned it was creamy, slightly tangy, but had a delicious subtle sweetness from the squash. I added some diced cooked bacon to the pasta for a salty touch and served the pasta with some grated Pecorino Romano cheese. This pasta dish turned out as tasty as I had hoped it would, and in fact was so good, that it will now be on my list of recipes to serve guests when entertaining. The only change I would make next time is my choice of pasta. I asked my husband to pull out a package of pasta from the pantry, and he chose paccherie pasta. I think fusilli, penne, or rigatoni pasta would be better choices, or even spaghetti if you prefer.
Deborah Mele 2017
Pasta With Creamy Goat Cheese Squash Sauce & Bacon
Italy, when it comes to wine, is a very and evidently rich country. Richness in grape varieties like no other place in the world, a wealth allowing a wine making diversity having no equals. I have written about this many times, I will do this in future and with pride, of course. The many faces of Italian wine are expressed in many contexts, telling about countless identities and point of views, certainly distinct and frequently in evident contrast. Part of this phenomenon is clearly also the fad going on since a long time and having wine as the protagonist of endless debates, a subject for which everyone believes to have something to say, as well as expecting to be even authoritative. It was once said, as it is commonly known, Italy is a country of football coaches, everyone is an unexceptionable expert with visions and strategies originating from their living rooms and bars. Nowadays, besides still having this title, Italians have also become very experts in many others subjects and disciplines, in particular wine and cooking.
Italy, besides being a country of excellent football coaches, has also become a country of wine makers, vintners, wine experts and, last but not the least, amazing chefs and cooking masters. All this is happening – magic of our times – by comfortably staying at home, sitting in the sofas of our living rooms and with a TV remote controller at hand, a tablet or a mouse. Every TV station is broadcasting at least one show about cooking, showing how good they are in using pans while giving the illusion that, after all, cooking is a simple and funny game everyone can play. Everyone can be an expert chef by simply staying at home while sitting on the sofa. Not to mention, of course, the ending part of the show is always about the majestic pairing of what has been cooked in few minutes in front of cameras with the best wine. We are Italians: we are very serious about cooking, not to mention wine. We are all incredible chefs and wine experts. And football coaches, of course.
Every phenomenon that, anyway, becomes an expression of the masses, simply definable as a fad, unavoidably undergoes changes, frequently cause of confusion and ending up being negative elements. The more the phenomenon catches the attention of masses, the more the chances of speculations, favoring the many schools of thought, not only for the evident hope of making money, but also for creating small market niches. Wine is no exception, not to mention cooking. After all, if we consider the growth of the number of wineries and restaurants in the last recent years, the trend is very clear. Everyone is, of course, the ultimate defender of his or her own wine or cooking vision, paladins of traditions and absolute truths, showed off with powerful shields and no one can criticize or deny them. Everyone believes that, in his or her own winery or kitchen, is being celebrated the only and real expression of the majestic identity of wine or cooking. Italians, after all, are all wine and cooking experts: wineries and restaurants are no exception.
Not to mention what it is happening on the Internet, a virtual place which changed our lives, where everyone – in theory – can say everything, most of the times telling disputable tales while expecting of not being criticized. In few minutes, with the help of the so called social networks and a simple web site, everyone can experience the excitement of becoming an authoritative, revered and feared wine influencer and also being convinced about it. On this regard, Internet is the ideal place for all those supposed experts about any subject, including wine and cooking, of course. Shielded by the reassuring light of a display, safe from any direct debate, everyone can write his or her own thought by believing to be indispensable and unquestionable. They frequently forget the fact that, for the simple act of expressing a thought in a public place, everyone is subject of criticism from others and this is evidently obvious. Things easily get for the worse and becomes what can be sadly seen in some TV shows: lots of insults, most of the times supported by the authoritative you don’t know who I am. With a hurt pride for having suffered from the crime of non-existent lèse-majesté, they get angry for the fact someone dared to criticize or deny the prophetic words of such messiahs. After all, when someone has a tablet or a keyboard and writes something, it is because he or she is an authoritative expert and his or her thought is clearly an indisputable verdict, the only revealed and absolute truth.
They are shielded by their arrogance like I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe, imagining being a haughty emulator of the replicant Roy Batty in the famous Ridley Scott’s movie Blade Runner with the majestic soundtrack by Vangelis. They cannot believe there are some more competent than them – really competent – capable of denying certain suppositions with concrete and tangible facts. In this case, of course, the one who dared to criticize the words of these wine prophets, is usually referred to be at the service of who knows what obscure organization conspiring against the truth. That truth known by them only and that, most of the times, they do not even have any concrete fact to support them, just their supposition that, as such, cannot be denied. It seems like watching the typical debates of any football team supporters, everyone fiercely and strenuously defending their own sides. After all, we all are football coaches. And wine and cooking experts, of course.
Just like every expression of the masses, there are factions and sides, everyone proudly believes to be on the right side, supporters of an ideology which cannot be and must not be debated. Indeed – and this is my very personal opinion – wine, just like every cultural expression of men – and wine certainly is one of them – has no absolute rules and cannot have any. Strongly influenced by preferences, tastes, vision, culture and interpretations everyone of us unavoidably has, wine gets many identities and expressions. None of them is true and unarguable, none of them is false and questionable. Each of them is simply an expression of the same thing seen from different sides, interpreted, felt and considered in a different way. I admit many of these expressions do not meet my personal vision of wine, however there would not be any good reason for not considering or understanding them. It would be a mistake and a silly, unforgivable arrogance. Then there are those who make me smile, those who make wine a personal matter of vanity and presumption, of poor self celebration as well as obtuse and pitiful arrogance. I don’t understand them and maybe there is nothing to understand. After all Italy is the country of wine and cooking experts. And we all are very good football coaches, of course. No one dares to deny it!
If pressed to name just one signature red grape from northern Italy, most wine lovers would nominate Nebbiolo. Reputed for big, rich, age-worthy wines on par with other famous “B” wines like Brunello di Montalcino, Burgundy, and Bordeaux, Nebbiolo is best known for the wines of Piedmont’s Barolo. But Nebbiolo is actually more versatile than most realize. In fact, some of Italy’s most exciting Nebbiolo wines don’t taste or even sound like the grape’s stereotypical style.
A thin-skinned, late-ripening grape, Nebbiolo is believed to be named after the Italian word for fog, nebbia, which covers vines and extends ripening times in the grape’s principal region of the Langhe. Nebbiolo can be quite difficult to grow, as it’s hard to ripen and susceptible to disease, but it also gives great rewards in the form of complex, long-lived wines.
Regardless of region, some classic Nebbiolo characteristics hold true. Despite the wines’ pale color, they are notoriously high in tannin, acidity, and, most of the time, alcohol. This usually requires extended aging in order to render the wines drinkable, and to precipitate their full potential. Nebbiolo is almost always aged in either old or new oak barrels and typically has a wide range of complex aromatics such as red and black cherry, roses, violets, leather, tobacco, spice, and more.
By exploring the regions of northern Italy, you’ll find a Nebbiolo wine for every palate.
The Langhe, a hilly region around the town of Alba, is the heart of Nebbiolo country. It contains some of the grape’s most famous appellations, their vineyards often located on sun-drenched, southern slopes.
Located southwest of the town of Alba, the Barolo region is primarily comprised of five main villages and their surroundings: Barolo itself, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba, and Monforte d’Alba. Though the region isn’t very large, there are differences in soil between these subregions that create subtle differentiations in the wines. La Morra and Barolo are dominated by limestone and clay-based, Tortonian calcareous marl soils, creating softer wines. Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba are dominated by sandstone-based Helvatian soils, creating denser, bolder wines. Castiglione Falletto has a mix of both.
While styles can vary greatly depending on vineyard site, producer, vinification, and aging, Barolo wines are known for incredible layers. They are intense, particularly in youth, with acidity, alcohol, and tannins competing to be the biggest structural component. Aged for at least three years, Barolo must also always be aged in new or old oak for half of that time to gain more complexity. Aromas and flavors of fresh red fruit, violet, rose, and earth grow into flavors of dried fruit, dried flowers, tar, tobacco, cigar box, decaying soil, iron, and more.
Barolo is considered to be the more “masculine” of the Langhe’s two most famous Nebbiolo regions, with more concentration, power, and complexity, but today, individual producer styles usually dictate more of the stylistic differences.
Less than a half-hour from Barolo is its counterpart Barbaresco, located northeast of the town of Alba. The region is largely made up of the towns and vineyards of Barbaresco, Neive, and Treiso. The soil here tends to be more limestone-based, as in La Morra and Barolo, creating softer, somewhat less tannic wines. Stylistically, Barbaresco wines tend to be the softer of the two major regions, thought of as lighter and more elegant, requiring less time to mature. This is why aging requirements are shorter: just two years for the average Barbaresco, with nine months in oak. For those trying Barolo and Barbaresco for the first time, Barbaresco tends to be the more approachable of the two.
Many forget about Roero, which can get left in the shadows compared to its more famous neighbors. But lying just north of Barolo and Barbaresco, across the Tanaro River, is some excellent Nebbiolo-producing land. Similarly rolling hills dominate the landscape, where a mix of lighter sand, limestone, and clay soils create a softer, more fragrant style of Nebbiolo wine. Its medium-bodied, less aggressively structured character is not as age-worthy as the average Barolo or Barbaresco, lending Roero well to youthful drinking.
While the majority of Piedmont’s Nebbiolo vines are located south of the Po River, the northern reaches of Piedmont also produce a lesser-known style of the grape. In this part of Piedmont, loosely referred to as Alto Piemonte, altitude is key, as vineyards here are located in the foothills of the Alps. Cooler temperatures and iron-rich, acid-boosting soils create a linear freshness to Nebbiolo wines, locally called Spanna. Vineyards with good sun exposure encourage ripening, but overall, the wines from Alto Piemonte tend to be lighter in body than those from the Langhe. Whereas tannins tend to dominate the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, acidity tends to dominate the wines of Alto Piemonte.
The region of Gattinara is the largest and best-known of the Alto Piemonte appellations. It is also the warmest of this area, so the wines tend to be relatively fuller-bodied. The wines are either entirely made from Spanna or blended with a tiny proportion of local grapes Bonarda di Gattinara and Vespolina. The blending in of these local grapes is one reason that these wines are lighter and more approachable when young.
Located just east of Gattinara, across the Po River, Ghemme produces wines that are very similar to Gattinara. The climate is a bit cooler here, as the region is more exposed to the chilly air descending from Monte Rosa, the second-highest mountain in Europe. Therefore, the wines tend to be lighter, though the tannins in the wines here are grippier than in surrounding regions. Spanna makes up at least 85 percent of the blends here, sometimes combined with Vespolina and Uva Rara.
After almost disappearing in the 1990s, this tiny region has only a few producers making wine. Boca has ancient volcanic soil, contributing a rustic, darker minerality to the wines here. Boca’s Spanna-based blends may also contain a portion of Uva Rara and Vespolina.
Flanked by Valle d’Aosta, Carema is set apart from other Alto Piemonte regions, and higher in altitude than Gattinara and Ghemme. There are more glacial deposits in the soil here, so wines tend to be very bright and acidic, yet fit for youthful drinking. Wines must be predominantly Spanna, sometimes blended with other local red grapes.
Piedmont doesn’t claim sole ownership of Nebbiolo; the large Lombardia region to its east also produces high-quality, ageable Nebbiolo as well. The grape is known as Chiavennasca in the Alpine foothills nearing the Swiss-Italian border, 60 miles north of Milan, where this mountain climate contributes high elevation, cool temperatures, and large day-night temperature swings.
Terraced Chiavennasca vineyards dominate the landscape of Valtellina’s east-west-running valley, where slopes rise above the Adda River. Abundant sunshine ripens grapes during the daytime, while cool nights allow the grapes to rest and preserve acidity. These are the northernmost Nebbiolo vineyards in Italy, where ripening can be difficult, and the wines are lighter and more angular than in Piedmont, though they share similarities with the wines of Alto Piemonte. Valtellina wines much be at least 90 percent Chiavennasca and are all about delicacy and acidity, with more finely grained tannins, high-toned ripe and underripe red fruit flavors, and youthfulness.
Sforzato di Valtellina
This uncommon style of wine similar to Veneto’s famous Amarone della Valpolicella was created because historically, the cool climate in Valtellina made it difficult to ripen Nebbiolo. In order to bolster body and flavor, winemakers would pick healthy grapes and dry them in the appasssimento method, lying on mats or hanging from rafters. Sforzato di Valtellina wines have more richness than the region’s standard Valtellina, with at least 14 percent ABV, and flavors include dried, raisin-like berry fruit, along with sweet spice and dried rose.
Andrew Jefford discovers the unexpected after taking a closer look at the divide between Barbaresco and Barolo.
What exactly is the relationship between Barolo and Barbaresco? The Bordeaux model of Left and Right Bank isn’t echoed here, since there is no varietal difference between the two DOCGs: it’s nothing but Nebbiolo. Perhaps the contrasting red wines of the Côtes de Nuits and the Côtes de Beaune are a better comparison: they offer a subtle difference in style based on a modulation of topography and soils. When you peer more deeply into this question, though, there are surprises in store.
Langhe fans are sometimes startled to discover that Barolo and Barbaresco are not adjacent zones. They are separated by the town of Alba and by much of the Dolcetto-growing zone of Diano d’Alba (which also pokes into Barolo). Barbera d’Alba, too, can be grown in these transitional vineyards – but this enormous DOC also covers Barolo and Barbaresco in their entirety and much else beyond.
There are useful lessons here. Both Barolo and Barbaresco are, in fact, comprehensively planted with varieties other than Nebbiolo; the villages of Neive and Treiso within Barbaresco constitute a key Moscato d’Asti-growing zone, for example, into which Nebbiolo has only begun to make inroads in recent years. One look at the chaotic topography of the region and you will realise that this has to be so. It’s a comprehensive contrast to the Côte d’Or.
Bricco di Neive vineyards. Credit: Andrew Jefford.
In fact what the Barolo and Barbaresco zones signal is that the greatest sites for Nebbiolo in the Langhe are found somewhere or other within their boundaries: they encircle Nebbiolo hot-spots, if you like. Barolo is the hot-spot southwest of Alba, and Barbaresco is the hot-spot northeast of Alba.
How hot? My assumption had always been that Barolo was the warmer of the two, and probably the lower lying, based on the fact that its tannins were grippier, its fruit more forceful, and its ageing requirements more imperative.
Wrong again. Barbaresco is in fact lower, warmer, and usually harvests earlier. The highest vineyard sites in La Morra and Monforte lie just above and just below 550 m, while Serralunga peaks at 450 m. Barbaresco, by contrast, has no site higher than 500 m, and most great sites peak at 300 m or so. It’s perfectly common in Barolo for Nebbiolo to be growing at 400 m.
There are other physical differences, too. Barolo, lying further west, is hit by weather systems prior to Barbaresco, which enjoys a more sheltered position. This factor made a dramatic difference in the 2014 vintage, when Barolo wrestled with a total of 1,400 mm of rain while Barbaresco strolled by with just 750 mm.
That still doesn’t explain the style difference, though, between Barbaresco’s gentleness, elegance and approachability and Barolo’s force and power. Maybe it’s all in the soil? Once again, our theorising seems frustrated: the limey blue-grey Sant’ Agata fossil marls and the slightly sandier or siltier Lequio formation marls dominate both zones.
Let’s head back to the map again. Remember that the best and most Nebbiolo-friendly vineyards in Barbaresco are in the village of Barbaresco itself. Take a look where that is: on a series of rising and falling bluffs, up above the river Tànaro. Australian Dave Fletcher, who lives and makes wine in Barbaresco, says that its ‘golden mile’ is the proportion of the zone which runs along the river. Barolo, by contrast, lies in its own little bowl of hills, south of the Tànaro. There is only one Barolo village close to the Tànaro, and that is Verduno – often said to be the most ‘Barbaresco-like’ of all Barolo villages. Could this be a clue?
Now we might be getting somewhere. Barbaresco growers often talk about an ‘air-conditioning’ effect brought by the river – it’s breezier and less prone to storms, even though the summations show it to be warmer on aggregate. Look, too, at the shape of the main ridge lines in both Barolo and Barbaresco (not easy for the untrained eye, I admit), and you’ll see that Barbaresco’s key sites tend to be west- or east-facing, whereas Barolo has a much higher percentage of south-facing sites. Both of these are surely significant factors.
When you talk to the locals, too, it would seem that soil differences do indeed play a role, in that Barbaresco soils tend to be somewhat sandier, softer and warmer than Barolo soils, even though the formations are the same. The Lequio formation in Serralunga, for example, contains less than 20 per cent sand, whereas the same formation in Treiso and Neive contains about 30 per cent sand. And in general the Langhe soils tend to get sandier as they approach the Tànaro; Roero, on the north side of the river opposite the village of Barbaresco, is almost pure sand. More sand means less clay in the mix, and less clay will tend to mean less retained water – which in turn is critically important for polyphenolic development.
So that’s my provisional answer to the question as to why Barbaresco differs from Barolo: proximity of the river, aspect of the main slopes and percentages of sand in the soil.
What drinkers rather than wine students should remember, though, is that we are not talking about ‘better’ and ‘worse’ here; we are talking about ‘different’. The virtues of the finest Langhe Nebbiolo – its detail, its refinement, its grace, the brightness of its balances, and its tannic generosity (with all that implies for health, digestibility and gastronomic aptitude) — are shared by both wines. Even if Barolo didn’t exist, Barbaresco would still be up there with the world’s greatest red wines. Here are some examples, including some semi-mature wines recently tasted in both Barbaresco and Hong Kong.
Colla is the main landholder in the small, high-quality southwest-facing cru of Roncaglie. This clear, deep red wine has lots of lifted charm and spicy, warm fruit: strawberry and turmeric. On the palate, it’s an undemonstrative gauze-textured classic: long, floating, elegant, with soft, lacy tannins and a powdered-stone character lending dignity to the subtle fruits. 93
Az Ag Falletto di Bruno Giacosa, Asili, Barbaresco 2012
Three of the greatest contiguous vineyards in Barbaresco are Asili, Martinenga and Rabajà. This Giacosa ‘merchant’ wine from the first of these is clear garnet in colour, with fruits now well into the stride of maturity: creamy, complex and autumnal, with a hint of camphor and tar. Authoritative and ample. 94
Marchese di Gréy, Martinenga, Camp Gros, Barbaresco 2010
The entire 17-ha cru of Martinenga is owned by the Marchese di Grésy: a holding of almost unique good fortune for this region of generally morsellated holdings (though note that Grésy, which only began its own winemaking and bottling in 1973, has 11 ha planted to Nebbiolo). This cru wine comes from the portion of vines underneath Rabajà. No doubt the Marchese would disagree, but this seems to me perfectly mature just now: fine-lined and sweet-scented, suggesting new suede or glove leather; a little shy, creamy fruit emerges later. On the palate, the wine is soft, open and expressive, the sustained acidity and fine-milled tannins forming a single structural arc which never disconcerts, only charms. 94
Paitin, Sori Paitin, Barbaresco 2013
The Sori Paitin is the top part of the Paitin family’s steep Serraboella holdings in Neive. Why separate it? “My grandfather had one strong ox,” remembers Giovanni Pasquero Elia, “and it could manage all the vineyards. Then it died, and the new one wasn’t as strong. It sweated and struggled in the upper section, so we decided that the difference was there and we should make a special wine.” This is clear red in colour, with elegant, fresh and detailed aromas: straw, wild flowers, strawberries. After this aromatic charm, the severity and dry, rousing depths of the palate come almost as a shock: virtuoso tannins, and a sense of dark, shaded woodland in a dry season. Deeply rewarding wine. 93
Roagna, Pajè, Barbaresco 2011
The amphitheatre-like Pajè is found on the outskirts of Barbaresco village and is Roagna’s flagship holding, hence the three separate cuvées (and a Reserva, too). It’s hard to believe that this wine is the most modest of these, with its refined scents of walnuts, saucisson and other fermented meats, its melting wealth of tannin, its tender softness allied to concentration and poise. 94
Roagna, Pajè, Vecchie Viti, Barbaresco 2012
Old vines are seriously defined here: 75 years or more. Other Roagna principles include rigorously organic cultivation, late harvesting and traditional, long ageing practices. This is a dark-hued wine with the seamless harmony of aromas which traditional ageing tends to bring: autumnal red fruits, wild-mushroom complexities. On the palate, too, there is a glowing fruit core to the wine. Limpidity, purity and proportion: a perfectly clothed body of wine, fresh yet rich, ample yet graceful. 95
Roagna, Crichët Pajè, Barbaresco 2007
This comes not only from very old vines (80 years +) but from the most limestone-rich section of Roagna’s holding of Pajè. No more than 1,800 bottles are produced per year. The wine stays with its skins for up to three months, followed by ageing in large wood only; it is released at ten years. It’s limpid and clear, but shows little brick-red as yet; the aromas seem to have gathered inner force with the years, and evoke mushrooms, prunes, warm stones and the sweetness of veal tartare in harmonious, even symphonic style. On the palate, the clear, smooth tannins are briefly apparent, then disappear into the refined mass of flavour: damson and black raspberry liqueur for the fruits, but it’s as salty-savoury as it is fruity. Lingering, close-textured and tapestry-like. 97
Sottimano, Pajorè, Barbaresco 2011
Pajorè is one of the finest of Treiso’s vineyards, sited on the boundary of Barbaresco village. Andrea Sottimano’s wine is relatively deep in colour and forthright in its aromatic style: it has some ageing in small oak barrels, but it is the redcurrant and cranberry fruits which emerge with most clarity. Deep, full and fresh in style on the palate, with firm tannins, too, which give the wine a crunchy quality. It remains within the Barbaresco idiom, though, and softens towards shapely grace as it leaves the palate. Impressive energy and engagement here. 93