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Current topics, themes, musings and travel notes

March 7, 2023

Alt. Barolo anyone?

A winemaking journey through time and bubbles

I’ve spent the last few days in a Florida beach community visiting family in a place where wine shopping is a bit different.

Trying to buy a bottle of Italian red at the local wine and liquor store to bring to my Sicilian nonagenarian uncle, was eye opening. When I asked the shopkeeper, where to find Italian wines, she pointed to some racks dominated by California and Australian reds.

She was friendly allright in a laid-back “Five O’clock Somewhere” way but I don’t think she knew the difference between Coppola (as in Francis Ford) and Chianti Classico. Or cared to. After that I headed to the local Publix supermarket where the choice was better.

Small brands and niche wines don’t make it to these sandy outposts.

Giuseppe Vaira tastes vintages of his alt_Nebbiolo inspired by the writings of Thomas Jefferson

Giuseppe Vaira, of Barolo's star G.D. Vajra tastes vintages of his alt_Nebbiolo inspired by the writings of Thomas Jefferson and other antique texts.

It all underlined once again what a rarified world we wine nerds live in.

Speaking of nerdy niche wines, my current Robert Camuto Meets… column discusses an intriguing Piedmont one-of-a-kind Nebbiolo from the Barolo-zone’s G.D. Vajra.

Called Claré J.C., it’s the brainchild of familial winemaker Giuseppe Vaira who’s worked to create a wine based on antique recipes and descriptions including one by Thomas Jefferson “about as sweet as the silky Madeira, as astringent on the palate as Bordeaux, and as brisk as Champagne.”

The wine is light in color and weight with a hint of wild rusticity and a bit of fizz. It’s also pretty easy drinking and tends to disappear fast – especially when served chilled in warm weather… like, say, at the beach.