In an earlier post I mentioned the filling-station style of wine procurement.
An even more satisfying way to get your wine is to go to the vineyard where the grapes are grown and the wine produced. This is a popular pastime in Tuscany, which is famous for its red wines, especially Chianti and Brunello, and where many of the vineyards are large and have impressive tasting rooms.
It’s no less a pleasure in Piemonte, which in fact boasts more grape varieties and wines than our neighbors to the south in Tuscany. (As the Italianmade website says, “For craftsmenship, respect for tradition and devotion to native vines in their historical habitats, the Piedmontese have no rivals in Italy.”)
I don’t want you to think I’m working for the Region of Piemonte… it’s just that because of family and friends it is a frequent destination when we travel. It is, in my opinion, every bit as beautiful a landscape as La Toscana; however it is much less touristic. Here is a photo of some rolling hills of vines.
I also really don’t want you to think I’m in the employ of the Rinaldi family. They are one of many Piemontese wine producers; it’s just that we’ve happened to visit their vineyard twice now,
The Rinaldis are a small producer of wine. They live, grow grapes and make wine in Ricaldone, a tiny town (population +/- 750) famous in Piemonte for the high quality of its wine.
We first discovered them a year ago, on the Monday after Easter, which is a holiday here. We were driving through the countryside after a visit with our cousins near Aqui Terme, and their sign looked welcoming. The gate was open, so holiday or not, we drove in and threw ourselves on their mercy. We had providently brought our 20-liter plastic jug. The young Signor Rinaldi, who is both knowledgeable and extremely enthusiastic, was nice enough to interrupt his holiday, give us a tour and a private tasting, and fill our container with his delicious dolcetto.
We arrived unannounced again this year with our jug (never travel without your camera, your trowel and your wine jug!), on a Saturday afternoon not too long ago. To our amazement Andrea Rinaldi and his mother both remembered us and gave us a very warm welcome. After giving us a tour of all her pretty gardens, La Signora dug a bunch of her portulaca for us to bring home and put in our own garden. Her son was, once again, as lively and enthusiastic as could be. Carrying a wine glass, he took us right down to the cellar where he pulled tastes for us from the spigots at the bottom of the huge stainless tanks in which the grape juice becomes wine.
The wine stays in the big tanks for a while, and later is put in casks if required. This year we fell in love with his moscato, a sweet wine that is perfect with dessert. It turns out that 55% of his production is moscato, something we didn’t realize last year. A small producer, he makes 1,200 quintale a year. A quintale is 100 kilograms and one Kilogram = 1 liter, so that’s 120,000 liters of wine. Sounds like a lot to me, but as wine production goes it’s on the small side.
The Rinaldi wine is prize-winning; near the office there is a wall of plaques and certificates to prove it. Can you get the wine in the U.S.? As a matter of fact, you can; at least you can get the moscato. It is marketed there under the somewhat dubious name of Bug Juice. Did we fill our containers with Moscato? We did not. It is not sold in bulk. We bought a half case and for the princely sum of E 1.55 per liter filled our 20-liter jug with Rinaldi’s wonderful cortese, a crisp, light white wine.
There are some photographs of Ricaldone and the Rinaldi Winery in Photographs on the right. If you have the chance, visit a winery some day. You don’t have to be in Tuscany or California to do so; there are wineries all over the US as well as Italy. It is great fun, and an economical way to buy your wine.