Piemonte Wednesday

We had a morning at the Pollenzo campus with some of the Slow Food folk on Wednesday. Representatives of the Slow Food International, Slow Food Editore and the Foundation for Biodiversity gave us a talk on their mandates and activities. It was a helpful boost to our understanding, half a year since our last talk from them, and was particularly useful for classmates hoping to do internship postings with the organisation. We left for Bra, where the offices and our lunch were waiting.

Where it all began: the restaurant in Bra where the Slow Food movement became a reality.

Italian sushi, quipped Piero Rondolino, who joined us for lunch. We had lardo, salsiccia di Bra – a delicately spiced raw veal sausage, and carne cruda battuta al coltello (raw, hand-cut veal). All delicious.

Then some pasta, followed by the best panna cotta in the world? Maybe, surely in the running, lots more research needed. It was sweet, soft, delicate. Creamy but not too rich. And very pretty.

Back on the bus, after a shuffle round the hot, closed-for-lunch town, and away we sped towards our final Italian winery in San Martino Alfieri. Not sure what was ahead, we strolled up the path…

Heading in the right direction for Marchesi Alfieri winery…

A very old grapevine (for table grapes)

And hey presto there we were in a castle with beautiful grounds, meeting our winemaker Mario Olivero, who gave us another talk about my beloved Barbera, which is the main one of the several varieties of red wines they produce. A neglected grape, it was dismissed as fit only for table wine until about fifteen years ago, when a few and then many Piemonte winemakers began to take it seriously for its fruit and body and capacity for ageing. Now there are some 50 million bottles produced in the region, and it’s the area’s second most important variety. We sampled a couple of different years each of Marchesi Alfieri’s Alfiera and La Tota wines, and yes they were very good indeed.

After the cellar tour, Marco introduced Elena Rovera, from Cascina del Cornale, the organic cooperative that is an agriturismo, restaurant and seller of organic products, situated in Magliano Alfieri, between Alba and Asti. And what a spread she put on for us…

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