Whether it’s the hills of Southern Indiana, the lush valleys of California, or limestone soils in Bordeaux, winemaking is farming. Most any winemaker will quickly share that great wine comes from great vineyards.
Additionally, the best winemakers say they only get involved in a tiny portion of the winemaking process.
“A vineyard is by God,” said Italian winemaker Chiara Boschis, in Indianapolis to promote her Piedmont wines. “Winemaking is an art, such a long process from the grape to the harvest and then vinification. What is important is to be a good farmer. We have learned to be better and better farmers.”
Boschis is a bit of an icon. She started in the late 80s with her first vintage in the early 1990s. Her ‘old farm of Barolo’ had been worked for nine generations. “But being a girl, I was not really involved. Ah, a lost resource.”
So off she went to university to earn a degree in economics, which she hated. When her father purchased a nearby small winery in 1980, she jumped at the opportunity. “I wanted in, I wanted to have my hands in the wine. At that time Barolo was not as important as it is today. I was attracted to all the new ideas.
Pira & Gigli winery has been her workshop ever since. She believes in minimal interference. As a matter of fact, she calls her wines 99 percent vineyard and 1 percent winemaking.
She almost immediately started reducing the crop in her 10 hectares (about 24 acres) to improve grape quality. She became diligent in keeping her winery spotless. She called the 1990s the years winemakers learned what they needed to do to make the Barolo grape, Nebbiolo, a world-class wine.
“Back then the winemakers were called the Barolo boys,” she said. “I was the only girl. Women have always been the column of society, taking care of the kids, the budget, and the household. Now a lot of girls are taking up winemaking.”
That emergence in the 1990s was crafting Piedmont wines to be food-friendly and a bit lighter than previous tradition. “We wanted to reduce the crop to reduce the alcohol and sugars,” she explained. “We wanted to make wines of elegance, wine for food.”
Piedmont wines are for serious wine drinkers. The first step into Piedmont wine is Dolcetto. You’ll often find it labeled as Dolcetto d’Alba or Dolcetto d’Asti – that’s simply a geographic designation. It’s an earthy grape with bright fruit and can be found for around $20.
Barbera is a real workhorse in the area and maybe the best value. The best Barbera wines are silky on the palate with lots of spicy notes. Barbera can range from $25-$50.
Nebbiolo is the rock star in northwest Italy. Wines labeled Nebbiolo are essentially ‘second wines.’ The wines are dry and tannic with a distinctive flavor of terroir and region. Nebbiolo can be found at a wide range of prices from upper teens to $50.
The very best Nebbiolo, in specified Piedmont regions not far from Turin, becomes Barolo. Barolo is considered by many wine critics and wine drinkers one of, and in some case, the best wine of Italy and even the world. The wine is made for food and to age. They are rich wines perfect for big food and Barolos usually have a pronounced finish.
Good Barolo is hard to find at less than $50 or $60. Boschis’ Barolo wines are generally $100-$120. So, Barolo isn’t going to be for everyone, its not easy to find unless you are in a larger city wine shop, but Barolo is a dynamite wine. Try a Piedmont in your price range with Italian beef or hearty sauces.