Bottling the character of Piedmont

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PIEDMONT is an Italian region soaked in history — and wine. It was here that the House of Savoy held court, the royal house that waged wars to unite the fragmented Italian states into one, the basis of Italy as we know it today. Piedmont is also home to the Nebbiolo grape, which goes into the production of one of Italy’s most famed wines, the Barolo.

A young winery’s Barolo was introduced in a dinner earlier this week at Okada’s La Piazza.

GD Vajra (pronounced Vaira) is only now working on passing the mantle onto its second generation. The winery was founded by Aldo Vajra in the late 1960s, and was the first winery in Italy to earn organic certification in the early 1970s. This was according to GD Vajra’s Brand Ambassador, Nadia Castellano. She also said that while Mr. Vajra (who named the winery and its brand after his father Giuseppe Domenico) may only have started to make wine in the ’70s, the family already had a presence in Piedmont for centuries — before Mr. Vajra’s decision to make wine, the family had been growing grapes on its land to sell to other wine makers.

Mr. Vajra’s story of a family owning and operating its own winery isn’t new, and across Europe, several families are proud to tie their history and livelihood to the vine. “Wine is like the passion that a person has. Imagine, when you are born and raised in that area; you have that vineyard. You have seen your mother and father working all day; every day in that vineyard. It has an attachment to who you are,” explained Ms. Castellano.

“We like to call it a battlefield,” she said of Piedmont’s climate, which causes their wines to become what they are. There the cool air of the Alps mingles with the hot air of the Mediterranean, which allows the grapes to mature slowly, and retain their characteristics. “The wines of Piedmont, they can be very powerful, with a big personality, but they have this very unique finesse.”

The traits apply as well to the people of Piedmont she noted. “They’re not so loud; they don’t talk much,” she said, describing a certain reserve. “When they open up to you, they are beautiful. I think that’s a little bit like the wines of Piedmont.”

TASTING THE WINES
BusinessWorld got a taste of GD Vajra’s Barbera D’Alba 2016, paired with buttered veal sweetbread with artichokes and cauliflower. It had a robust scent, and, yes, it did take time to open up, revealing a dry and woody taste with a spicy savory finish. It was irresistible with the sweetbread, to which it gave gravitas and justice to its visceral texture.

Next came a Langhe Nebbiolo 2016, which had a sharpness and gaiety uncommon in a red. The rube in this reporter would identify this flavor, unfortunately, as akin to Coca-Cola. In my opinion, neither the wine or the risotto pairing would benefit from each other.

The Barolo Albe 2014, meanwhile, was peppery and had a warm heart. It had a silky mouthfeel, warmed the palate, and was dense with flavor. A lightly seasoned beef short plate, though delicious, paled next to this wine.

A Barolo Bricco delle Viole 2014 served afterwards was fragrant and mild, and served as excellent soft background music to a plate of strongly flavored Italian cheeses.

Ms. Castellano said, “At first, they need a little time to be enjoyed at full blossom.”

GD Vajra is distributed in the Philippines by Happy Living. — Joseph L. Garcia

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