04 January 2012

n.d.p. in piemonte: osteria dell'unione, treiso, then bruno giacosa, neive

After tasting the extremely ethereal Barbarescos of Cascina delle Rose with estate owner Giovanna Rizzioli, we followed her recommendation for lunch in nearby Treiso to Osteria dell'Unione, where we had a meal as perfectly enjoyable as any other we'd had in the region.

Let's be honest, though. I can only describe vitello tonnato so many times on this blog, as in here, and here, and, come to think of it, I had one here also, though I declined to mention it. The most distinctive things about the meal at Osteria dell'Unione were my friend J's nicely piquante rabbit, and the fact that the plate of cured meats he'd ordered as a starter came with what appeared to be, and actually was, a tiny omelet. (Genius!)

If I post about the experience now, it's primarily as a segue to air some thoughts on one of the meal's less interesting elements, the 2006 Spumante Brut by Bruno Giacosa. Shortly after the meal we were to visit that winemaker's winery in Neive, where my trusty iPhone camera was to totally fail me,* meaning I lost out on some useful pics of the premises and of the very intelligent, very young new winemaker Francesco, who would've been in 1st grade when I was in 3rd grade, that is how young he is. Giacosa's reds are self-evidently magnificent, from the elegant Dolcetto on up to the cru Barbaresci; I won't burden them with more praise here. I'm more curious about why the Giacosa estate goes to such efforts year after year to produce and promote what is, after all, a merely okay sparkling wine.

First, it should be said that this is remarkable only in the context of the stratospheric quality of all the other Giacosa wines. Even the estate's Arneis is a benchmark for the genre, showing drastically more verve and personality than most others. The Spumante that Giacosa's been producing since 1983 is, by contrast, merely a firm, well-constructed blanc des noirs-style sparkling wine, for which one pays Champagne-like prices, due no doubt to both the high costs inherent in sparkling wine production, and the added gleam-value of the Giacosa name.

The badass door-handle to the Giacosa shipping facilities.

Roughly 25000 bottles of the white are produced each year; there is also a sparkling rosé, of which about 5000 bottles are produced each year. The white sees 38-40 months aging, some of it on lees.

Fruit for the wine is sourced from the Otrepo Pavese in Lombardy, a region typified by a very spaghetti-against-wall-see-what-sticks winemaking culture, even for an ampelographically diverse nation like Italy. The region's traditional reds, often Bonarda - Barbera blends, are in my experience inconsistent and a bit oddly-weighted, compared to the reliable pleasures of much Piedmontese Barbera. There's Sangue di Giuda, a fizzy-sweet style of red that I find inexplicable, except perhaps as another method for old Italian men to induce young girls to drink. (C.f. most Moscato.) And then you have a fair amount of Pinot Nero production, some destined for sparkling wine such as Giacosa's.

It is to be taken as a back-handed complement when I say that Giacosa's sparklers are probably the best Pinot Neros I have tasted from the Oltrepo Pavese. The white tastes closed and anonymous to me, just a well-made sparkling wine, a somewhat interchangeable and mundane luxury, like a rental car. The rosé by comparison shows a little more vidalia onion and berry complexity, but is heavier and lightly candied. If offered either, I think I'd ask where the Dolcetto was.

New winemaker Francesco (unfortunately did not retain his last name, and it appears seemingly nowhere online just yet) took over from longtime consulting winemaker Dante Scaglione, who retired this past May. Francesco formerly interned at the estate, and before returning worked as an analyst at Terre del Barolo, the enormous, forbiddingly touristic wine concern that one sees ostentatiously built into the hills near Castiglione Falletto. Before that Francesco studied winemaking in Turin, Alba, and Asti. Throughout the tasting I was immensely impressed with his knowledge and his enthusiasm, and I've no doubt he'll capably maintain the estate's overall standards.

I'm just not sure the Spumanti can be much improved. They strike me as a savvy business decision on Giacosa's part - rounding out a winery portfolio with a wine type every Italian list will need - and not much more. General Piemontese Champagne-envy probably plays a part, but it's mostly the strength of the name that sells. Hell, even we bought in.

Osteria dell'Unione
Via Alba, 1
12050 Treiso
Tel: +39 0173 638303 ‎

Bruno Giacosa
Via 20 Settembre, 52
Tel: + 39 0173 67027Map

Related Links:

N.D.P. in Piemonte: Cascina delle Rose, Barbaresco
N.D.P. in Piemonte: Saint Peter's Country Chapel
N.D.P. in Piemonte: Stefano Bellotti & Cascina degli Ulivi, Novi Liguri
N.D.P. in Piemonte: Trattoria della Posta, Monforte d'Alba
N.D.P. in Piemonte: G.D. Vajra, Vergne
N.D.P. in Piemonte: Giorgio Barovero, Monforte d'Alba
N.D.P. in Piemonte: Case della Saracca, Monforte d'Alba
N.D.P. in Piemonte: Walter Porasso at Bovio, La Morra
N.D.P. in Piemonte: Vinoteca Centro Storica, Serralunga

Buckets of great info on Bruno Giacosa @ DoBianchi, including a recent tasting of 2007's with the man himself
A strictly informative, eye-killing profile of the Giacosa estate @ FineWineGeek
A profile of Bruno Giacosa @ RareWineCo.
A write-up of the Giacosa Spumante @ ItalianWineMerchants

An exhaustively pictorial account of a dinner at Osteria dell'Unione @ Con-Vivium

No comments:

Post a Comment