We were sitting on Berkeley East watching the sun set on yet another day in the Med, glass in hand, and there came a question, "What am I drinking?" The cryptic reply was, "Laughter and flowers." At that, we both smiled. And thus the conversation began, about our visit to the family winery in Gavi. Where a woman had quit her day job to become the winemaker when her mother no longer wished to fill the role. Where we talked about the wine and the region, but also about growing up in the Piedmonte in carefree days when no one wore a helmet while driving a scooter. Where Otto the dog waited patiently under a tree hoping to catch a bird. Where we laughed, and laughed at tales of family and winemaking. Where the winemaker's sister cooked lunch for us with flowers.
It's no secret that we collect and enjoy wine. During our cruising season, we seek out interesting wine regions to explore, unique wineries to visit, new varietals to taste so we can make purchases for BE's wine bilge. We make a point of poking around the historic towns, and wandering through the countryside. We take tours of the wineries, there always seems to be something different to learn. We try to meet the owners and winemakers to hear about their passion for the grape. Every bottle has a story.
Italy has twenty different wine regions, some of the oldest wine producing areas in the world. Etruscans and Greek colonists produced the fermented juice there long before the Romans started their own vineyards in the 2nd century BC. Viticulture and winemaking was abundant and very well structured, and it still is. There are currently about 350 official Italian wine varieties and well over a million winemakers.
We have been fortunate over the past few months to be cruising on Berkeley East near a few Italian wine regions that were new to us: Bolgheri, in western Tuscany, famous for Bordeaux-style wines; Gavi, in the southeastern Piedmonte, where wine made from Cortese grapes once exemplified Italian white wines; and Barbera, in the central Piedmonte, a red grape that is one of the most planted varieties in Italy.
While each region is rich with fascinating history, it was the uniqueness of every place, the personal stories, and the people, that really captured our attention. These are the things that will warm our hearts with every sip of every bottle.
Like the restaurant that was purpose built to showcase a vintner's award-winning wines paired with gourmet dishes. Or the producer that utilizes the techniques of biodynamic cultivation to develop wines that are richer in flavor. The estate that not only creates beautiful wines, it also displays stunning works of art. And the vineyard where a team of 12 women has cared for the vines for more than 20 years.
There was the accountant who joined a winery to satisfy his fervor for the grape. The lovely vineyard surrounded by poppy fields. And the intern working to earn his sommelier decree with a plan to go back to his hometown and help in his father's small restaurant.
And finally, there was the story of a man who had visited a winery every year for 20 years, taking home some of the best wines they made. This year, the man's son called to say that his father would not be coming to the winery, he had passed away. But the son had really called because he wanted to know about the wines that he found in his father's cellar. How long should he keep them? When should he drink them? Saddened that the man had not enjoyed the wines he had collected all those years, the winemaker's response to the son was very simple, "Do not wait; always drink the good wine."