Above: Giovanni and Elena Rava of La Casaccia, producer of Barbera and Grignolino in Monferrato. I had dinner with them after visiting their winery in March, 2010.
I am a big believer in how the ethos of a winemaker is expressed in the personality and character of her/his wines. The best truth of my belief that I can offer is Giovanni and Elena Rava of La Casaccia (above), who are the nicest and coolest people, true humanist winemakers, and they make some of my favorite wines from my favorite subzone of Barbera production: Monferrato. IMHO, Monferrato (in the province of Asti, Piedmont) is where the BEST Barbera comes from. And I’m certainly not alone in that belief.
The subsoil their (above) is made of rocks and sand: terrible for growing other crops, but ideal for grapes intended for fine wine. Because of the soil’s mineral content (nutrient poor) and its drainage, the vines are “stressed” and consequently produce richer fruit.
Two of La Casaccia’s wines were included in the Thanksgiving Six-Pack: I wanted to share a few istruzioni per l’uso, instructions for the application of these wines during your family holiday feast.
Sella 2009 Coste della Sesia Erbaluce
Please do not serve this wine TOO cold. It’s a rich, mineral-driven wine and it’s ideal serving temperature is “cellar temperature,” as we say in wine parlance. Technically, that’s 55° or 56° (or thereabouts). But all you need to do is to take the wine out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving. At our Thanksgiving, this is the first glass that guests are poured.
Laureano Serres 2009 Abeurador Macabeo
Again, here, if too cold, you’ll only taste half the wine. I actually like this best at room temperature, like a red wine. Technically, this is an “orange wine,” i.e., a white grape that has been vinified with “skin contact.” The grape juice is macerated (steeped) with the skins during vinification and the skins impart some tannin and an orange color to the wine.
This wine is also a unsulfured wine. In other words, no sulfites have been added to stabilize the wine (sulfites are a GOOD thing, btw, but only when used in moderation). N.B. THIS WINE WILL STINK when you open it. Be SURE to allow for at least 30 minutes aeration before serving. Once aerated, it will show all of its crunchy earthiness and pure fruit (think apricot).
Sella 2009 Coste della Sesia Rosato
I couldn’t believe the beauty — the true sexy beauty — of the nose of this wine when I recently re-tasted it. Again, NOT TOO COLD. I think this and the next wine are the ideal wines for the main seating at Thanksgiving.
Castello di Verduno 2008 Pelaverga Basadone
I called this my favorite Thanksgiving wine and you’ll see why: very little tannin, bright bright acidity, and a white pepper note that makes this so good with everything at Thanksgiving. Serve this as your centerpiece wine at the peak of the meal. It’s light in body and utterly delicious.
La Casaccia 2007 Barbera del Monferrato
Reserve this wine for folks who want a richer, meatier style of wine. This is going to be my number-one pick for dark meat (I like the leg, btw!). Here, bright acidity, rich mineral flavor, and some tannin (and dark, inky color) are going to go well with the richest savory dishes on the table (dark meat, ham, etc.).
La Casaccia 2009 Grignolino del Monferrato
DON’T BE DECEIVED by the light color of this wine. It’s bright and nearly transparent but this is ONE TANNIC MOTHER OF A WINE! Of any of the wines for Thanksgiving this year, this is the one to decant. And it’s my top choice for meditative wine at the end of the night, in other words, the wine you sip while munching on cheese after dinner, even though you’ve already had too much to eat!
Lastly, for those of you who bought the Jelipins 2005 Sumoll, you’ll find the vintage on the back label at the bottom. It’s encrypted: because this wine is classified as a vino de mesa, a table wine, the producer is NOT ALLOWED to write the vintage on the front label or technically anywhere.
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