Wine writer Alice Feiring responds to Wine Pass's questions about organic and natural wines in Piedmont. This is the second part in a two-part series; click here for part one.
Alice Feiring, a critically-acclaimed wine writer and author, winner of the James Beard Award and Louis Roederer Award, as well as nominee for the International Feature Wine Writer of 2011, recently visited Italy this April. Alice answered our questions about her view on natural wines in Piedmont, her writing career, and what she thinks of her book Naked Wine being translated into Italian.
What do you think about your book Naked Wine being translated into Italian?
“I think it's very exciting. […] These new people—drinkers and winemakers-- are thinking ‘ natural’ is new. It's important for people making wine to know the history, know where natural wine came from, the thought behind it, and how it evolved. […] I'm delighted that this information will be available here and my hope is, because it is a narrative, that the actual book appeals to the Italian sensibility and love of story.”
What about Piedmontese wine in the United States and New York: how do you gauge the attention of consumers about Piedmont and Italy?
“Certainly the connoisseurs rate Piemontese wines extremely highly. But I suppose you can cite a battle between Piemonte and Tuscany, sort of like between Burgundy and Bordeaux. Though Piemonte is probably more the region for the wine geek, with wines more structured, though they certainly give plenty of pleasure. The little grapes of Piemonte are becoming sought after, so it's not only Nebbiolo. Right now people are trying to find all the Ruché they can. On this trip, I've heard a lot of people in this region say that outside of Dogliani, Dolcetto is hard to sell. It’s not hard to sell in America! The only problem right now is that the price of Italian wines is high and it’s hard to find a really good authentic-value wine from any place in Italy except for maybe the South. But American’s love Italy, and they love the wines.”
Piemonte is probably more the region for the wine geek, with wines more structured, though they certainly give plenty of pleasure. The little grapes of Piemonte are becoming sought after, so it's not only Nebbiolo.
If you would recommend an itinerary to a wine tourist coming to Piedmont, where would you suggest they go?
“I can't suggest an itinerary, but I can suggest a method. They first have to first spend some time drinking. Basically, come to a place that has a lot of wine by the glass, find out what they like, and then go make an appointment at those cantinas. A good place to try would be Grinzane Cavour and the enoteca there. When making appointments, they should try one big, commercial visit, then spend the rest of the times going to small contadinos with no real tasting rooms, and ones who will take them into the vines. Go to places like Dogliani or Asti or even Verduno. The more out of the way you get, the better experience you get, because those people don't get that many visitors.
“And I do recommend that you buy at least a bottle and probably more, because you should remember that the vignaiolo is taking out a lot of time during their day to greet you. They're taking out time from a very busy day and you need to show some appreciation. That's extremely important. I cannot emphasize that more. I think people don't realize that, because if they come from a big country like America, they're used to California and just showing up to the tasting room. But try to drink and visit who you like, and remember, Piemonte is more than just Barolo.”
"When making appointments, try one big, commercial visit, then spend the rest of the times going to small contadinos with no real tasting rooms. The more out of the way you get, the better experience you get, because those people don't get that many visitors."
You also have your own newsletter. Would you like to tell us about that?
“I just started a subscription called The Feiring Line. Ten issues a year for $65. I am happy to say that I have a lot of Italian subscribers. It's the only newsletter that I know of that is devoted to what I would call “real wines,” at least organic viticulture and wines made with nothing added, nothing taken away, a little bit of sulphur dioxide at most. Also included are some articles, some places to eat, some places to drink and very personal experiences with winemakers I've met along the way. Of course, there’s 20 wine recommendations, not reviews but recommendations for wines that I love. There are no scoring devices. Instead, I’ve devised a visual device of icons that symbolize heart throb, classic, hard core, vin de soif, geek wine, no sulfur, to cellar and cool. It's a short newsletter. Maybe eight pages, and it is going really very well.”
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