The 2004 had a great development in the bottle, more developed than the 2005 by far. The 2004 went from elegant floral, roses with tanned leather, to a more amarone-like dried plums and fruits, and ended up after an hour as an intense chocolate, raspberry caramel, still with the dried roses and mint on top. The elegant lightness stayed throughout. Sweet liquorish flavor came toward the end. I have always been fascinated with a wine that will develop so much in the glass, and surprise me at every sip. Most importantly, what made me want to meet this winemaker apart from the elegance of his wines, was that sniffing and drinking it did what very very few wines do. Instead of immediately dividing itself into scents, it gave me a feeling, an image. I somehow imagine that the wines that do this are the ones where the vine and the winemaker have managed to leave an impression of themselves, maybe a bit of soul, or of their feelings, in the wine for me to discover. It makes me fluttery or giddy or dreamy. Hard to describe in tasting notes, but it was a wine like that which made me decide to dive into a profession where I could spend my days with wine. I have been chasing it ever since. So of course, when it happens, I like to know more about the wine and the person behind it.
Driving through the mountains from Alba to Acqui Terme via Canetti (constantly reprogramming the GPS to avoid the big roads – I think it is slowly understanding me because more and more it sends me off to random dirt roads where the poor Fiat can hardly make it over the dips). The landscape changes drastically on the one-two hour drive. I stopped at one little dirt road and tasted the Moscato grapes, which were not ripe, but at least were developing a touch of their characteristic flavor. Moscato is grown on the hills around Asti, Cuneo and Alessandria to make Asti Spumante, a simple, sparkling sweet white wine that I have been negative to for much too long. I know why – there was a bottle of awful, semi warm Asti Spumante served with seafood once that made me renounce of any white wine with the word Asti in it for years and years. A fairly cheap, old bottle of Moscato d’Asti (same grape, same region, a bit less fizz) had to be drunk when I moved in June, since I refused to schlepp it any further. I had NO idea those things could survive seven years of moving around and being placed in all kinds of warm environments! Drunk with my sister and her friend from New York on the steps (there are many many steps to my old apartment) at the last day of moving, I was pleasantly surprised at its freshness and delicate sweetness. So, the lesson learned: Moscato d’Asti or Asti Spumante can be excellent sweet wines. As a tip they go well with creamy, fruity desserts or cakes. Much better than brut champagne, which really does not go with cake at all, no matter how festive the occasion.
When I came to Acqui, the town was more or less sunday afternoon dead. To top it of, the second I left the car it started raining and my intent to find the LaCuria enoteca was quenched by the lack of an umbrella. Instead, I dashed in to the first café that was open, where I ordered a sandwich and a glass of local Bracchetto d’Acqui. I had managed to forget it is not a red in the style of Dolcetto, which I somehow confused myself into thinking, but rather a low alcohol, fresh, semi sweet red wine with a touch of fizz. I would recommend it with a dessert of fresh red berries, maybe a pannacotta, but not with my cured meat panini. I salvaged the problem by ordering some mini cookies to finish off the glass. The Pasticceria Voglino has a selection of pastries and cookies is to die for – just look at the picture!
I used to find most stopovers a boring waste of time when I was flying. Now I feel that every stop in a wine country is a chance to learn something new, even if it is only a few hours at an airport. My flight to Milano included an afternoon at the Prague airport. Did you know the Czech republic makes wines? They do, and not all bad. I was not a huge fan of their biggest brand of sparkling, the Bohemia Sekt, a slightly oily, cloying (though not sweet) sparkling wine which must be made through the tank method. Similar to cheap german sekt – like Henkell Trocken, which once upon a time while living in Hamburg I did enjoy in piccolo bottles as a bathtub drink. But back to the Prague Airport offerings – the Frankovka Habanske Sklepy (Blaufränkish) from south Moravia that I found by the glass at a wine bar was an easy drink. A bit on the simple side, but light and juicy with good balance. Worth its 5€.