In this article I will not talk about wine. All the tastings I did during the Valtidone Wine Fest I will reserve them for a future article, where I will be happy to share my notes and point you to wines Malvasia (and not) that I liked the most. No, in this article I have decided to tell you about the experience I had in its beauty, with the expectation that you will fall in love with this beautiful valley where I have left a little piece of my heart.

Valtidone Wine Fest: Saturday 7 September 2019

Wines:34 | Tortelli: 170,000 | Pisarei: impossible to count | Coppa piacentina: in spades | Cigars: 2 | Kg: 1,000,000 (with the remainder of 2) 

A wise man once said: he who begins well... and that was it! When do I ever stop at the worst Autogrill in Caracas, er no, the A21 and find a single pistachio brioche bursting with pistachio cream? Pure joy, especially for someone who has not touched a carbohydrate in any form for exactly 15 days. I sensed at this instant that it was going to be a great day, to say the least. 😁🤤

Another wise man, however, said that "he who finds a friend finds a treasure"... so it's time to introduce you to my beautiful new friend! How did I get into theFarmhouse Podere Casale he jumped into my car and wouldn't come out! Puppy, I adore animals... and deeply disgust those who bully them! After I met Nicolas Rigamonti, owner of the facility, he even followed me to my room: he wouldn't let me go! My only cat, whom I really adored as a child, was red and identical to this one. His name was Pu (diminutive/vezzeggiative of Puzzone, because he marked everything).

I arrived at 12:30 and despite the super brioche I would have eaten even the chair in my room. My body is deeply cunning (or ignorant, depending on whether you ask me or my scales) and immediately went into 'emilian' mode. Blessed be Nicolas, even though I am an atheist! But do you see this dish of tagliatelle with mushrooms? Simply exquisite! A creamy and super tasty sauce! Its Gutturnio frizzante Podere Casale vintage 2017 married perfectly, it's just a pity they served it to us a couple of degrees too high.

The reason for going to theAntica Trattoria del Tempio di Vicobarone however, it is neither the noodles nor the appetisers... but the exquisite zabaglione with cantucci that reminded me so much of afternoons with my beloved grandmother Diomira. How much serenity in watching her as she made me eggnog on the fly before going to play tennis! As children we presume to know everything and we want to grow up more than anything else, then we grow up and nostalgically remember those seasons that never return. In a moment you are over 30 years old and the terror of ending up devoured by an Alsatian shepherd without anyone noticing (I trust that the shepherd, when he comes down from Alsace to feast, brings with him at least a bottle of Gewürztraminer to wet my dying lips). Nicolas is a very pleasant man and I am glad I had the chance to get to know him by having lunch together! It gave me hope that perhaps in the end the famous shepherd will not come down to devour me, but to offer me his best bottle! [How I love Alsatian wines...😍]

My erotic relationship with Piacenza coppa was born during the second stop of these two days: the Vicobarone cooperative winery. Vicobarone is one of those wineries that I affectionately call 'cantinoni' and, despite the fact that we live in an era where cooperative wine is often mistreated, I still maintain, even outside the chorus, that in some cases it is a good thing that it is there. I am deeply convinced that there is room for everyone in the world, starting with everyday wine. Don't hold it against the oenophiles... 😁

Vicobarone was established in 1960 in Ziano Piacentino and currently has around 200 winegrowing members between the Colli Piacentini and Oltrepò Pavese. I candidly confess that I had tasted only one wine from the winery and did not like it: the multi-award-winning sparkling Malvasia. I tasted it again and found it 'sitting' once more. But the delightful vice-president of Vicobarone invited me to taste it again in its finest hour with the new vintage, and I trust that I will be re-believed. However, when he pulled the Theta, the still Malvasia, exceeded my expectations: so much minerality and pleasantness! One goblet really pulled the other... well done! 😍 The wine, however, that amazed me was the Ortrugo, which I consider (don't get me wrong) to be Malvasia's slightly loser little brother. Well, I liked the Ortrugo di Vicobarone very much and consider it a very good alternative for aperitifs to the more famous Prosecco.

After the visit to the Vicobarone winery, and after the tasty tasting with snack, the quads of LTS Racing Team to take us for a ride through the vineyards of the conferring members at full speed! The scene: I'm 'assigned' the boss's quad, super-sporty and without even a micro-hatch to get in... that is, you know the leggings? Impossible, getting into it is absolutely a man's thing (or a woman's thing with trousers that fit her less tightly! 😭😝) Luckily, Matteo combined the useful (for me) and the amusing (for him) and we reversed the quad! And here I am with my 'driver' in front of San Lupo!

My driver was brilliant in two pre-departure statements of the kind that leave a mark: 'this isn't the boss's quad where if you crash you don't do anything, here you kill yourself' (how nice!) and 'the boss is a super driver, I'm a mechanic and I've driven him three times! (heartening... especially after the first sentence!). Instead, he was great too and I had a lot of fun, it's an experience I absolutely must repeat! It has to be said that I'm a slightly anomalous woman because few things amuse me as much as racing in a car, possibly climbing mountain passes...

That the hills of the Valtidone are beautiful and seem to have been designed by a great painter I already knew... they took us right in front of a road that I love, which climbs straight up a hill, literally cutting it in two, stupendous! Everything is neat as in a Manet painting and the light illuminates the vineyards tinging them a deep green. The cross and delight of this land is its being historically devoted to a wine that has not been able to make itself loved enough by the powerful of the time, but because of this it has remained true to itself and has not undergone any great changes.

I had just returned to Agriturismo Podere Casale to smoke a fine cigar when Elisa wrote to me inviting me to her farmhouse for a hot tub! And who says no to her? Of course, I had a pool at Podere Casale as well, but there was that tiny insignificant detail of the absence of a swimming costume in my suitcase... an absence justified by the weather app that had predicted black clouds and 11 degrees for the whole weekend (fuck her!)! Instead it was -almost always- warm and on Sunday I even had to change my shirt because I was baking! Anyway the whirlpool bath in question was in an area of the Civardi Racemus where there was only us! Apart from all the foreigners who gave us huge greetings and various gestures of approval from the huge window right in front of the pool, it was "un-fangible" to do it in the most chaste underwear we had (and that's saying something...) 😁 It's just a pity that the water temperature was bordering on the same as in Alaska and rose by just 3.5 degrees in an hour... but it's good for the circulation, they say!

In the evening he picked us up Emanuel Piacentini to take us to the producers' dinner at thefarm holiday La Barlocca di Seminò, also near Ziano Piacentino. Never was the decision not to drive wiser, given the endless battery of wines they had prepared for us to taste! I pulled out my MacBook and off I went to write! La Barlocca is an enchanting place and here I have eaten not only a dreamy giardiniera, but the best tortelli from Piacenza of these two days! How good... tasty the filling, the pasta was just right in terms of both thickness and quantity, and even the butter and sage seasoning was well dosed! I don't know how many I would have eaten... from doing the quadris while looking with hungry puppy eyes at the waitress only stopped me knowing that I lost 5 kg in the last 21 days and I didn't want to ruin it all! 🤤

Of the tasting I can tell you that, out of 28 wines, apart from a couple that were absolutely underwhelming, I found a average quality above expectations! I don't want to be obvious, but the wines I found most successful were the passito wines, in particular the Boccadoro by Davide Valla and the Passito del Dottore di Formaggini & Peverifollowed by the Classic method sparkling wines from Fratelli Piacentini and Lusenti. Other genre, I also particularly liked the Gotturnio Superiore 'Le Staffe' by La Ferraia and the Sparkling Bonarda by Paolo Badechini. I would like you to consider these names as 'rumours' because I am not going to reveal my tastings to you until the next article! 🤐

Valtidone Wine Fest: Sunday 8 September 2019

Wines:16 | Tortelli: a whole Flemish one | Pisarei: impossible to count | Salame piacentino: one slice leads to another | Cigars: 1 | Kg: 300?

I woke up on Sunday at 7 a.m. because I felt the absence of my pillow... and indeed it was on top of the wardrobe and I couldn't even reach that height! I wandered around the room without a hundred-year-old mole model lens and more or less climbed up on the chair to pull it down... then I went back to sleep, with the doubt of who or what made my pillow fly up there!

After taking a quick shower I waited for Matteo to finish breakfast so that he could drive me to pick up the car that was still at Racemus from the day before and in the meantime I drank at least two cups of coffee! I took a tour of the farmhouse with Nicolas and was able to appreciate the beautiful view from the pool, even though the sun was quite shy... but we were beautiful all the same!

The first leg of the day took us to Ziano Piacentinowhich I had never seen despite having frequented the Valtidone quite often over the past year. I found it an absolutely delightful villagepostcard-perfect! The conference room had an incredibly beautiful archive bookcase... I imagined it at home filled with books on wine, art and architecture, I admit! The conference 'Malvasia aromatica di Candia, a brilliant choice' was above all expectations! The first speaker, Roberto Miravalle, gave a beautiful talk on Leonardo between art, history and forensic science. Most of them were things I already knew, being the great art (and Leonardo Da Vinci) enthusiast that I am... but it was still very enjoyable! The second talk was by Stefano Pizzamiglio of La Tosa and told us about Malvasia as a grape variety and as a wine with an awareness and culture that really got me hooked: I would have listened to him for hours! The last intervention was by Giovannella Fugazza: winemaking as in the 16th century, the first harvest of Leonardo's vineyard. Despite having received a couple of thorny questions on malvasia in the USA (which, by the way, had nothing to do with it... that is, we're talking about Piacenza... imagine if, when I was a guest at a Champagne conference on chardonnay, I'd ask what was being done with that vine in Lebanon... what do you think?), he replied with great punctuality!

For lunch, for a change, I had salami, coppa piacentina, tortelli, pisarei and roast. Apart from the roast, which was a bit dry, everything else was good! Besides, there was a lady who had just celebrated 57 years of marriage with her husband... but if she cooks like that, I'm not surprised he's holding on to her! 😝

At lunch I had two wines that I liked very much: the first is from Mossi 1558, SemiCromaa pink aromatic Malvasia di Candia vinified as an extra dry charmat method sparkling wine (but the dosage seemed more brut to me). It has easy and elegant drinking! The second wine I really liked is by La Ferraia and is called 'Golden berry"a fat and structured Malvasia firm with delicious aromas of dried fruit, fried sage and figs.

Two more wines from Gaiaschi thrilled me, both from malvasia, the first dry - Sulana- and the second sweet -luna gialla- which I liked even more. Even here for the tasting you will have to be patient a little... just long enough for me to get back from Porto! In exactly 7 hours I have my plane and a wonderful Portuguese tour awaits me... I can't wait! It's been 7 years since I've been away from this city that I loved so much that I wanted to live there, way too many!

The discovery of this day was the pink malvasia di Candia aromaticwhich I didn't even know existed! Marco Profumo told me over lunch that only three are currently producing it. This vine was born from an anomalous mutation of the buds. Anomalous because normally one mutates from the black berry to the white berry and the opposite rarely happens! This is because all wild grapes are black and, as they evolve, they can lose their colour, as happened for example with pinot grigio and pinot blanc, both of which originated from pinot noir. It took 20 years of work to select and plant the first Malvasia rosa di Candia Aromatica vineyard. The Rosamata is a rosé wine from overripe grapes a beautiful bright cherry colour, with an elegant nose in which floral and citrus notes intertwine with great balance. In the mouth it is structured and persistent, I like the idea of pairing it with different dishes, from seared duck breast to a fine criollo chocolate... but it is also perfect on its own!

As you have guessed, it was a wonderful experience... I hope I have intrigued you and I count that you are anxiously awaiting the article with all the tastings. So far, everything is regular: the pillow is on the bed (although I'm sleeping on the couch tonight), the scales have worn me out as usual and the Alsatian shepherd is still in his kennel for now. With a 'bowl' of traminer of course! 😝

E do you know Valtidone? What are your favourite wines from this area? Do you like Malvasia or Ortrugo more?

Cheers 🍷


P.S. Many thanks toZian Seven Hills Associationo for this wonderful experience!

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