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Almost Wordless Wednesday: Grinzane Cavour

Grinzane Cavour

Grinzane Cavour

Greetings from Piemonte! This is the castle (and town) of Grinzane, where Count Camillo Benso di Cavour served as mayor for a time — his father bought him the castle since he needed a place to live — and also dabbled with winemaking, following the lead of the Marchesa di Barolo, who was engaged in developing one of the world’s finest reds (Barolo) at the time.

Count Cavour later said that he got his grasp of politics — this is the man who sent Piemontese troops to Crimea to gain the support of the English, and also managed to convince the French to join forces with the Piemontese to force the Austrohungarians to relinquish their hold on much of northern Italy, thus paving the way for the reunification of Italy under the House of Savoy — from his dealings with the farmers and townspeople of Grinzane. Grinzane later thanked him by changing its name to Grinzane Cavour.

His castle is now a fascinating museum, with an enoteca downstairs, and the vineyards he planted are still there, and still producing Barolo.

A great place to visit if you happen to be in Piemonte!

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Greetings from Piemonte! This is the castle (and town) of Grinzane, where Count Camillo Benso di Cavour served as mayor for a time — his father bought him the castle since he needed a place to live — and also dabbled with winemaking, following the lead of the Marchesa di Barolo, who was engaged in developing one of the world’s finest reds (Barolo) at the time.

Count Cavour later said that he got his grasp of politics — this is the man who sent Piemontese troops to Crimea to gain the support of the English, and also managed to convince the French to join forces with the Piemontese to force the Austrohungarians to relinquish their hold on much of northern Italy, thus paving the way for the reunification of Italy under the House of Savoy — from his dealings with the farmers and townspeople of Grinzane. Grinzane later thanked him by changing its name to Grinzane Cavour.

His castle is now a fascinating museum, with an enoteca downstairs, and the vineyards he planted are still there, and still producing Barolo.

A great place to visit if you happen to be in Piemonte!

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Almost Wordless Wednesday: The Harvest is In…

Racking Newly Fermented Wine

Racking Newly Fermented Wine

Most everywhere by now. This doesn’t mean that the work is done, far from it. The newly fermented wine has to be racked off the wine marks (skins, seeds and whatnot) – what is happening here – and then go into either oak casks or barrels, or steel or cement vats for the malolactic, or secondary fermentation, after which it will be racked again to wood, cement, or steel for aging.

Depending upon the wine, the aging can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. Here we have Le Bignele’s Amarone  (I took the shot last winter), which then went into botti, the large oak casks of Italian tradition, and it is likely still there. Amarone takes time.

The notes from my visit to Le Bignele.

Almost Wordless Wednesday: What you See and What You Don’t

La Pieve di Santo Stefano

La Pieve di Santo Stefano

The Val di Luni, the crescent-shaped valley that extends inland from the mouth of the Magra River along the Tosco-Ligurian border almost to Emilia, boasts a great number of medieval castles and Romanesque churches, and if you drive through the area on a nice summer day you’re certain to find shutterbugs clicking away.

The 11th century Pieve di Santo Stefano in Sorano is one of the most popular subjects, the apse especially, and it often appears in promotional materials prepared by the local tourist board. Always cropped to include the outer wall, or starting mid-way up the apse, and to be honest I never thought about why it was cropped this way until I stopped myself one day, got out of the car, and took the shot above.

Santo Stefano: What's Behind the Wall

Santo Stefano: What’s Behind the Wall

Then I walked in and discovered the church, which is an old, old, parish church, is surrounded by the graves, some old and some quite recent, of the parishioners. This is something the tourist board might not want to announce, but if you enjoy wandering about graveyards looking at the headstones (and I do) it makes the church seem much more immediate.

Almost Wordless Wednesday: A Decanter

A Decanter at a Wine Tasting

A Decanter at a Wine Tasting

There’s no getting around it, a decanted bottle of red wine makes a very impressive addition to the table. But the looks are merely a (happy) byproduct: decanting serves to aerate the wine, helping it to breathe and open up, and also, in older wines, to separate the wine from the sediment that has settled out over time.

Decanting a wine is quite easy, but does require care. In addition to the decanter you’ll need a light source — if you want to go for the scenic effect use a candle — and, of course, a good bottle of wine, which you should stand upright a couple of days before you plan to open it.

Come time to decant it, begin by removing the part of the capsule covering the cork, and then uncork the bottle, shaking it as little as possible.

Light your candle and hold the bottle in front of (not over) the candle, so you can see the flame through the bottle’s shoulder, where it begins to flare out under the neck.

Gently tilt the bottle and start pouring the wine into the decanter. You want a thin, steady stream — NO GURGLING!

Keep an eye on the flame as you pour. If the wine contains sediment, you will see it as a thin dark stream moving up the inside of the bottle, silhouetted by the flame. Continue pouring, slow and steady, until the sediment reaches the neck of the bottle. At this point stop. With practice you’ll be able to pour all but the last half-inch of the bottle before the sediment reaches the neck.

One thing: Don’t let the bottle stray over the candle flame, lest the soot from the flame blacken it and keep you from seeing the sediment.

And this photo, you wonder? I took it during a vertical of Duca Carlo Guarini’s Vecchie Vigne, a Primitivo that was first made in 1985. That vintage was past its prime, but one of those things a wine lover will find fascinating, while the more recent vintages poured would delight anyone.