Castelmagno with Chiara

One of the things I was looking forward to the most on my recent trip to Barolo had nothing to do with wine. It was visiting the mountains on the Piedmont border with France, home to the production of one of Italy’s great cheeses, Castelmagno.

Chiara out front

Chiara in front of the caseificio

In 2007 a group of friends, known as ‘Des Martin’ and including two of our Barolo wineries; Chiara Boschis (Chiara together with brother Cesare) and the Conterno and Fantino families from Conterno Fantino, purchased the run down mountain borgata (hamlet) of Valliera and set about restoring the village and reviving the famous mountain cheese.

Castelmagno was first recorded in 1277 and in the early 19th century it rivalled Parmigiano Reggiano as the king of cheeses. But the war years were brutal on a life in the mountains and there was a mass exodus to the cities in search of work. As a result of this, production declined and almost disappeared entirely until it was revived in the 1980’s.

This was the state of buildings when Des Martin purchased the village in 2007. Beds, clothing and other personal belongings that couldn’t be carried were simply left behind, a reminder of a life that perhaps no one wanted to take with them.

ruins

Most of the village is now completely restored and the agriturismo is scheduled to open for the 2015 Summer.

There are two types of Castelmagno. Both must be made in and around the village of the same name but the most prized is ‘d’Alpeggio’, where the cows graze on the wild grass and flowers over 1000 metres. Thus the growing season is confined to the months of June to October when feed is both plentiful and accessible. The difference between the two could be described as being somewhat like that of between Nebbiolo Langhe and Barolo.

cowsIMG_0794

Cheesemaker Ilaria takes the morning and evening raw milk, adding a rennet and going through a process of removing the whey, chopping and salting before forming the cheese into cylindrical shapes of around 5kg. The cheese is then matured in caves for betwen 6 and 12 months. The young cheese, aged 4-6 months, is chalky white with a crumbly texture and slightly tangy and salty. The mature cheese develops a mould not unlike gorgonzola and is more full-bodied in flavour.

aged 1 month

aged 1 month

aged 1 year

aged 1 year

aged 1 year on the left, 6 months on the right

aged 1 year on the left, 6 months on the right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the table, the Piedmontese serve Castelmango with gnocchi or risotto, or eaten on its own with cugna’, a local jam of fruit and nuts.Gnocchi Castelmagno

I’m hoping that we can find a way to ship some Des Martin Castelmagno d’Alpeggio next year, especially to accompany the wines of Chiara Boschis and Conterno Fantino.

Happy reading

At a recent lunch a customer said to me, “I love Italian wine but I want to know more, what can I do?”. The answer is simple: read, read, taste, visit (if you can), taste, read and read some more.

Understanding Italian wine requires effort, but its rewards are great. Make an effort to hunt down a bottle of a grape less known and make an effort to get to a tasting (cheaper than buying every bottle yourself). Nothing beats visiting a wine region for all that information to really sink in and to better understand the nuances of a particular region or zone.

But most importantly, you have to read. Some people collect stamps, I collect Italian wine books – and I never lend them out by the way! Although you don’t have to go that far, there are some great new books and publications on Italian wine.

All of the below are best enjoyed with a glass of wine.

photobooks

IN PRINT
Vino Italiano by Joe Bastianich and David Lynch (disclaimer, we import Joe’s wine to Australia). Published in 2002, its still just as relevant today. If you only buy one book to learn about Italian wine, buy this.

Native Wine Grapes of Italy by Ian d’Agata. Ian is one of the foremost experts on Italian wine and has put his life’s work into an A to Z of Italy’s native grapes. Recently released, this digs deeper than just the grape, detailing clones, soils, history, characteristics and best examples. I simply love this book, bravo Ian

Brunello di Montalcino by Kerin O’Keefe is the definitive book on one of Italy’ most famous wines. Kerin details the history of the region and profiles her best wineries. The book was groundbreaking for its analysis on the regions zones, something that is little understood in the professional wine trade let alone for the Italian wine enthusiast.

ON THE WEB
A new web site, www.italianwinecentral.com has an enormous amount of information on regions, wines and denominations with substantial statistical information. Even better, no subscription required.

Walter Speller writes for www.jancisrobinson.com (subscription required). Based in Italy, Walter writes in-depth articles with tasting notes from his tastings around Italy.  These often feature the sorts of wines and regions that are not the usual suspects.

Vinous Media, www.vinousmedia.com (subscription required) is the work of Antonio Galloni, probably the most influential critic writing on Italian wines today. Antonio covers the main regions – Piedmont and Tuscany are the specialty areas – with an annual review that includes tastings at all the leading wineries, and then some. The website includes an ‘Italian wine geek’ forum that I find particularly useful for keeping up to date with news on Italian wine from around the world.

www.slowwinemagazine.com  I highly recommend this new online publication from Slow Food, and its reasonably priced for the quality of information.  Main features are long format articles on regions and wineries, including vertical tastings.

ITALIAN WINE MAPS by Alessandro Masnaghetti
Originally trained as a nuclear engineer, Alessandro worked with the revered Luigi Veronelli, writing about food and wine, before completing his first map, of Barbaresco, in 1994. Since then, he has mapped the other villages/zones in Barbaresco and Barolo, along with those in Valpolicella and Chianti Classico, to name a few.

image_2038_large

In undertaking such a herculean task, Barolo for example has 170 cru vineyards, Alessandro spends months visiting every winery in the region and walking through their vineyards. The maps are incredibly detailed, offering an unprecedented view of each cru and come in a folded format printed on both sides. The front is a colour map of the region and its crus and the back contains descriptions of the most important vineyards.

Trembath & Taylor are proud to be the sole Australian distributor and the maps will be available from September. Please contact me for pricing and availability.

Happy reading,
Matt

 

ventesimo anniversario

In life there are many milestones to celebrate. Turning twenty might not seem like much, but when it’s the wine business (especially importing and selling) well, it’s kind of like dog years where the real figure is more like eighty!

Twenty years ago, Michael Trembath and Virginia Taylor established Trembath & Taylor. And ten years ago I joined my mentors in this wonderful business. It’s the best job in the world and I consider myself fortunate to be part of it. Yes, I get to travel to Italy and eat and drink great wine whilst visiting incredible places. But more than anything else, it’s the people that make it special.

Ive made my own friendships with the sons of daughters of many of the people that Michael and Virginia established relationships with twenty years ago. On my last trip to Italy I spent more time dining in the homes of our winemakers than I did in restaurants. That’s what this business of wine is about, people.

So how are we going to celebrate our twenty years? By doing something we’ve never done before and all be in Italy together. And who knows, in twenty years time it could be my son working with my friends kids, right Fabio Fantino? That’s after playing for Juventus of course!

Cha and Fabio

della nostra cantina

We get asked all the time for older wine but, the problem is, nobody wants to do the expensive part – cellaring. The winery cant really afford it and has limited space. The restaurant/retailer – they cant afford it and definitely have no space. And, whilst our budget doesn’t allow for multiple vintages of Barolo and Brunello (yet), we do have the climate controlled space.

So finally, after years of patient cellaring, we will soon offer our inaugural DELLA NOSTRA CANTINA wine from the 2007 vintage.

photo

The wines will be cellared for about five years and each bottle will be badged so you will know that they have come from our cellar. We have  started the program with value in mind, cellaring Chianti Classico, Barbera and Valpolicella Ripasso - all wines that drink beautifully with short term cellaring and are often underappreciated. That’s one of the other aims of the program, to dispel the myth that such wines don’t age.

First up this year will be Felsina Chianti Classico 2007, a great vintage in Tuscany that produced rich and fruity wines. With time in the bottle, the ripe dark cherry fruit is giving way to more earthy and liquorice notes. It has a few years ahead of it that’s for sure, but its hard to beat right now. *quantities will be strictly limited

 

 

 

Kitka Web Design
KITKA
WebDesign