Wine Pass interviewed one of Italy's most famous food bloggers about Piemonte and its wine, food, and communication. And of course, we couldn’t leave out her holiday advice. These are her enthusiastic opinions on Piemonte’s wine and food, advice for wine communication, and recommendations for the best places to gather ‘round the table and remember the joy of being together during the holidays.
Mariachiara Montera is an “indie” drinker, and not least for her appearance: thick glasses, cropped hair, and a vintage vibe to her wardrobe. With wine, she marches to the beat of her own drum, admitting that she simply follows her instinct … and she always orders the entire bottle. She believes wine, like food, lets people appreciate the intimacy of what goes into making it, to enjoy the complexity of experimentation, and to delight in tasting unexpected flavors.
We asked this famous food blogger and food marketing expert – or, as she prefers to define it, “food strategist” – what her favorite restaurants of the area are. In particular, we wanted to know where to celebrate the festivities of the holiday season.
Mariachiara has only recently moved to Piemonte, but she fell in love with it long ago.
What was the move like from Milan to Turin and entering the food and wine scene of Piemonte?
I would say overdue, since I was already coming to Turin to eat back when I lived in Milan. Between one locale in the center of Turin and the average restaurant in Milan, I basically spent the same amount of time and money. I fell in love with Turin and decided I wanted to get to know it through living and eating here.
What did you discover about Piemonte that you didn’t know before living here that struck you as particular and special?
I often say that I’m not in love with Turin but that I have a huge crush on Piemonte. Every time I take my car and drive towards Cuneo, Alba, Asti, I find new itineraries and beautiful panoramas. And they’re all different from each other, each place with its own gastronomic traditions to taste and discover.
If you had to describe Piemonte very briefly, what colors would you say the region is?
Red like meat, and yellow like the autumn leaves on the hills.
First, carne cruda (beef tartar), which I never imagined could be so wonderful and tasty. And after that, potatoes and the cheese Tumin del Mel, because of the ravioles recipe that they make in Val Varaita, one of my favorite places in all of Piemonte.
I’d choose two: Timorasso made like Walter Massa does, and Barolo from Rizzi, which is an important wine but still easy to drink.
Here’s another wine question: During lunch or dinner, how important is wine and food pairing to you?
It depends on where you’re eating – at home, in an osteria, in a Michelin restaurant? In general, I like discovering wines exactly the same way I love trying new foods that I’ve never tasted before. I like choosing new labels, sometimes asking sommelier friends from home (if the restaurant isn’t sure of what to recommend, obviously), or with a Google search. With food pairings, I have a totally indie inclination: I drink what I want regardless of the food I order, usually because I order the whole bottle and not just a glass. When I’ve had the chance in the past to eat a meal already paired with wines, I really appreciated it; but I’m too lazy to do the same thing myself.
In your opinion, is Piemonte being communicated in the right way? And what do you see are the strengths and weaknesses of this territory?
I think that wine communication in general is fragmented and weak, and in Piemonte you see this even more clearly because there’s this incestuous circuit of communication: wine producers entrust their business’s communication only to local companies or local freelancers, and only to those they know really well. They might be able to communicate just fine, but the thing is, they only know how to in their own province or town. This happens out of a lack of trust, because wine is such a complex and intimate product, and in a family business it can be difficult to externalize communication. But sharecropping has been over for decades – the days are over when you can judge how much success you’ve had by how many local television channels broadcast your event.
Wine communication is missing vision, continuity, the capacity to value resources (both local and non), and the will to tell their stories.
During the holidays, everyone wants that warm and fuzzy feeling of celebrating with friends and family they love the most. Which restaurants would you recommend to eat during Christmastime, and why?
Without hesitation, I’d choose the Nazionale in Vernante. No second guessing, it’s the first one that comes to mind for three reasons: for the Maccario family because they are so hospitable, comforting, and familiar; for the cheese cart, which is absolutely unbeatable in Piemonte and in all of Italy; and for the wine list, which is the work of curious palates and an eclectic culture.
If you stay in Turin, I’d recommend Banco – with its great wines and food, it’s the Consorzio restaurant’s little brother. You can come here at all hours, and it’s a place that just invites conviviality – which, you have to admit, often feels forced during the holidays. Here you get the real deal, made with dishes for sharing and dozens of bottles of wine to try.