Two of my kids are taking Italian in school this year. So i thought i would brush up on my own Italian lessons and investigate the world of grappa [Italian for moonshine].
Grappa is made from grapes – specifically the distillation of skins, seeds, stems, and pulp that is left over after the pressing of the grapes to extract the juice. Actually, the best white lightning i’ve ever tried was some home-brew prune flavoured grappa. It’s good to have Italian friends.
I recently obtained a beautifully shaped bottle of Bottega Grappa [$29 LCBO] in order to study the italian language and culture a little more in depth. I also obtained a bottle of Limoncino, a lemon flavoured digestif that comes in a peculiar flounder shaped bottle [and by peculiar i mean that my daughters exclaimed “awesome” at the sight of it].
The grappa I drank two ways – ice-cold and room temperature. Ice cold i loved the cool feel on my tongue and the warmth it created on the way down. However, room temperature is where Bottega’s Grappa shines. The light, floral, taste of the grapes came through in such a delicate manner with a slight honeysuckle sweetness on the finish. Yikes, this goes down easy!
The Limoncino was beautiful in the bottle and glass, but nobody on the tasting panel [my wife, brother-in-spain, his wife, or M] developed an affinity to it. So i served it to my Italian neighbour who has just finished an al fresco meal and she finished it happily. I guess no matter how much i love Italy, i can’t hide the fact that i’m not Italian.
We did have fun with the photos for this blog. Anyone else seen a 31 yr old make bunny ears over a glass of grappa? Didn’t think so. We’re not Italian, but we know how to have fun.
It started out like a very bad foreign film. I don’t speak Italian – Sergio Rivetto doesn’t speak English. Sergio speaks German – sadly the only German I know is from Sgt. Schultz, of Hogan’s Heroes, and counting to 13 or telling someone to “rouse” doesn’t help much in casual conversation. I am “pathétique” in French, which is still a little more of that language than Sergio understands.
Still, I found myself in Alba, Italy, in a tiny wine store with Sergio Rivetto, the patron of Rivetto wines in the heart of Piedmont (I get goosebumps just writing that) having a conversation about wine. In our hour together Sergio opened up 4 wines in total for me to try. Then I opened up my wallet, became very vague with my wife about how much I spent on the Barolo and Barbaresco (I think I only mentioned the Barbera D’Alba price), and left with a MasterCard moment – priceless (except for the price of the 4 wines that I bought).
I think I found the national past-time of Italians. Italians love to argue! Whether it’s over espresso (Lavazza or Illy), soccer (InterMilan or AC Milan), or the best foccaceria (the one here or the one two doors down from here), Italians love to have heated “discussions”. I don’t think it’s just my interpretation of watching them talk with their hands flying about – they love to argue. They really are kind, generous people so who am I to argue over their love of arguing. Our train stopped due to technical difficulties the other day. One older lady let the conductor know about it loud enough to entertain the rest of the riders. I’m not sure how to argue over a train’s technical difficulties but then again I am not Italian.
I’ve discovered I enjoy wines that are like Italians. I want my wine to be delicious but to fight back a little. I like that about the Bardolino that I am drinking. Bardolino is from the lake district (Lago di Garda) east of Milan near Verona. It has some nice berry flavours, is simple, but comes at you with a little edginess and tartness. I am coming home to try some of the LCBO’s bottles of Bardolino and see which ones I like fighting with ~ I will report on them early in September but if you want to try a couple and report to me I am ready to listen ~ and maybe argue with you.
Bardolino ~ you can't argue that this looks like a nice place to visit
The Italians are brilliant people. They have given the world so much culturally. Sure there’s Dante (Inferno — the feel good book of 1308) and Da Vinci (that Mona Lisa girl is just plain cute), but I am talking about their real gift to the world, their real expression of genius – Espresso and Biscotti (the cookie so nice they bake it twice). The Italians have made it perfectly acceptable to have cookies for breakfast! If that’s not enough – and that should be enough- they drink adorable superstrong tiny coffees all day long. That is an act of pure genius. Surely man can live on cookies and coffee alone.
I admit that when I visited Italy in the summer of 2008 I took far too many photos of my espresso – but the crema was so breathtaking I couldn’t help it. Oh the crema of Italian espresso.
Italian crema 2008
I did also discover the world of Barolo. A quick side trip from Genoa found us in the town of Alba, situated between Barbaresco and Barolo. A fantastic conversation with winemaker Sergio Rivetto left me with four great wines and considerably less room for credit on my Visa.
While I wait for my Barolo to age I am perfectly happy with my bright Barbera d’Alba wines that cost a fraction of the price and remind me of Phil’s balcony in Genoa overlooking the Mediterranean.
And don’t get me started about my precious Parmegianno Reggiano …