The king of wines

Posted on: 3rd November, 2015

Category: The Wine Buff

Contributor: Tony Eklof

Tony Eklof, originally from New England, has settled in Clonakilty after a career as a librarian at University College Dublin. His knowledge and passion for wine has been inspired by frequent visits to the wine growing regions of the continent, particularly Italy and France.

Which city was the first capital of a united Italy? Rome, Naples, maybe Florence? Actually it was Turin although Florence did serve as the capital for a short period before Rome finally assumed the honour. Turin has a colourful history. The major city of the Piedmont, (foot of the hills) it became the main city of the French House of Savoy who ruled the area for hundreds of years. The Piedmont was also the hotbed of the Risorgimento, which eventually led to Italian unification. The first King of Italy was Victor Emmanuel II who had previously been Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia and Piedmont.

Incidentally Turin makes for a wonderful short city break, with its Royal Palace, beautiful piazzas and miles and miles of arcaded walks lined with famous coffee houses. And all nestled right up against the Alps. The 17th century Church of San Lorenzo is a baroque masterpiece.

The Piedmont has claims for being the most important wine-growing region in all of Italy. Most notable is Barolo, ‘Italy’s greatest red’ according to wine doyen Hugh Johnson. Also know as ‘the king of wines, and the wine of kings’ ever since King Carlo Alberto of the Piedmont expressed his fondness for it, Barolo is produced in a small area located

in hills above the small town of Barolo itself and in ten surrounding villages.

Made exclusively from the Nebbiolo grape, the young Barolo is particularly tannic, only softening after years of aging. It must be aged at least three years before release or five years in the case of a riserva, although most experts would wait at least 10 or 15 years in order to allow the wine to develop its wonderful aromas and tastes of forest fruit, roses and tobacco.

The best Nebbiolo grapes go towards the making of Barolo, but you can often find very drinkable Nebbiolo varietal wines at a fraction of what you would pay for the noble Barolo. There are other notable reds from this region also known as the Langhe. Barbaresco, which is also made from Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, which is a personal favourite, lighter and meant to be drunk fresh and young, and Barbera d’Alba, which comes from the famous ‘foodie’ town of Alba.

A good bottle of Barolo will cost around €40 although sometimes you can spot a bargain in wine sales.

Recommendations: Lidl – Barolo, recently included in the Guardian’s ‘Six Best Aldi and Lidl Wines’ and currently priced at €15. Won’t be the stunner you would expect from the more aged and pricey Barolos but is a nice introduction to the wine all the same. Aldi – Lot 09 Toscana. A merlot from Tuscany, unusual and delicious, tasting of mulberries and cherries. €13.99

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