Showing posts with label Wines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wines. Show all posts

24 March 2017

Luigi Einaudi - politician and winemaker

Composer's grandfather was President of the Republic

Luigi Einaudi was President of the Italian Republic from 1948 to 1955
Luigi Einaudi was President of the Italian
Republic from 1948 to 1955
The politician, economist, journalist and winemaker Luigi Einaudi was born on this day in 1874 in Carrù, in the province of Cuneo in what is now Piedmont.

Einaudi, who is the grandfather of the musician and composer Ludovico Einaudi and the father of publisher Giulio Einaudi, was elected President of the new Italian Republic between 1948 and 1955, the second person to occupy the post.

He was actively involved with politics from his university days, when he supported socialist movements.  For a decade he edited a socialist magazine but later took a more conservative position.

After being appointed to the Senate of the Kingdom of Italy in 1919, in the days when the upper house of the Italian parliament was a non-elected body, he was one of the signatories in forming the Italian Liberal Party (PLI).

The PLI initially joined forces with the Italian Fascists and it was through their support that Mussolini was able to win the 1924 general election with an absolute majority.

Einaudi had been both a journalist and an academic since graduating in law from Turin University in 1895.

The musician and composer Ludovico Einaudi
The musician and composer Ludovico Einaudi
He became a professor at Turin University as well as the Polytechnic of Turin and the Bocconi University in Milan. He wrote on economic matters for the Turin daily La Stampa before moving to Corriere della Sera in Milan in 1903.

At first broadly supportive of some elements of Fascist policy, he became distrustful of Mussolini's plans for constitutional reform and when the socialist politician Giacomo Matteotti was murdered in 1924, with suspicion falling on gangsters recruited to Mussolini's secret police, he distanced himself from the Fascists.

In 1925, he was among the signatories of the Manifesto of the Anti-Fascist Intellectuals, written by the writer and philosopher Benedetto Croce. In the same year he resigned from Corriere della Sera after the Fascists removed the editor, Luigi Albertini.  His positions at the Bocconi University and Turin Polytechnic were taken from him but he retained his professorship at Turin University's law school, signing an oath of allegiance to Fascism rather that let the chair be occupied by a Fascist.

In the Senate, he voted against Mussolini's war in Ethiopia in 1935 and against proposed racial laws in 1938.  When Mussolini was deposed and arrested in 1943, he was appointed Rector of Turin University but when the Germans freed the dictator from house arrest and installed him as head of a new Italian Socialist Republic he fled Italy to Switzerland, where he was granted asylum.

Alcide de Gasperi, in whose governments Einaudi occupied several offices
Alcide de Gasperi
On his return he was made Governer of the Bank of Italy and became part of Italy's governing National Council prior to the formation of the Republic, in which he served its first prime minister, Alcide de Gasperi, in several ministerial positions, including deputy premier, before his election as President.  He was the first to hold that office to reside at the Palazzo Quirinale.

Einaudi entered the winemaking business in 1897 at the age of 23 when he acquired an 18th century farmhouse called San Giacomo outside Dogliani, his mother's home town, about 10km (six miles) from Carrù, which came with a ruined chapel and about 15 hectares of vines.

The farm began bottling Dolcetto di Dogliani under the label Poderi Einaudi (Einaudi Estates), with Luigi attending the harvest every year, despite his numerous commitments.

Although Luigi died in 1961 at the age of 87, the business remained in the family and now extends across 145 hectares, mainly in Dogliani but with some in Barolo.  The current owner is Matteo Sardagna, Luigi's great grandson and Ludovico's cousin.

The University of Turin now has an Einaudi Campus named in his honour.

Dogliani's church of Santi Quirico e Paolo
Dogliani's church of
Santi Quirico e Paolo
Travel tip:

Dogliani, where there has been a settlement since pre-Roman times, is a town of some 4,500 inhabitants about 60km (37 miles) southeast of Turin. As well as being the home of the red wine Dolcetto di Dogliani, it is famous for the annual tradition of Presepio Vivente, in which around 350 people take part in a living nativity scene in the medieval streets.  The town is also notable for the magnificent parish church of Santi Quirico and Paolo, designed by Giovanni Battista Schellino.

Dogliani hotels by

A typical hamlet in the picturesque Langhe area of  Piedmont
A typical hamlet in the picturesque Langhe area of  Piedmont
Travel tip:

Like Dogliani, the similarly sized Carrù is one of the towns of the Langhe, a picturesque area of hills to the south and east of the Tanaro river famous for wines, cheeses and truffles, in particular the white truffles of Alba.  The wines produced in the region include Barbera, Barbaresco, Barolo, Dolcetto and the Langhe Nebbiolo.  Carrù hosts the Sagra dell'Uva (fair of the grape) each year.  The town's castle, now a bank, is said to be haunted by La dama blu (the blue lady), the wife of one of the counts of Carrù, who was killed by an arrow fired by a murderer who was never caught.

More reading:

Alcide de Gasperi - the prime minister who rebuilt Italy

The distinctive and beautiful music of Ludovico Einaudi

Why Giaocomo Matteotti was called a 'martyr of freedom'

Also on this day:

1926: The birth of actor and writer Dario Fo

(Picture credits: Ludovico Einaudi by Joergens; Church in Dogliani by Luigi.tuby; Langhe hamlet by M^3)


22 October 2016

Soave - an Italian classic wine

How the dry white from the Veneto earned its DOC status

A bottle of Soave wine
Soave from
the famous
Bolla vineyard
Soave - at one time the world's most popular Italian wine - was officially granted a DOC classification on this day in 1968.

The DOC status - which stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata - was introduced midway through the last century as part of a series of laws designed to safeguard the quality and authenticity of Italian wines.

Winegrowers had been pushing for such regulation because the increasing popularity of Italian wines around the world was impacting on quality as more and more producers sprang up to meet demand.

Soave was a case in point.  Originally limited to a small area of just 2,720 acres (1,100 hectares) in the hills to the north of the small towns of Soave and Monteforte d'Alpone, roughly 25km east of Verona in the Veneto region, production spread rapidly to an area more than six times as large.

The biggest demand was from the United States, which developed a taste for Italian wines in the boom years that followed the end of the Second World War.  Of the huge volume of imported bottles that arrived on ships from Europe, Soave was the most popular.

Its reputation then was that of a fine, high quality wine, not unlike France's Chablis in style - pale coloured, lively and refreshing and with crisp mineral flavours and a clean finish.

However, mass production led to a decline in quality.  Grapes grown on the flatlands in the expanding production zone did not yield wine of the same character as those grown on the hillsides, and more and more liberties were taken with the blend of grapes used.

Soave is produced using the Garganega grape
Soave is produced using the Garganega grape
Most wineries honoured the fundamental requirement that a minimum 70 per cent of the blend should be the Garganega grape, which gives the wine its characteristic almond nose, but some were more liberal. And sometimes the Trebbiano di Soave grape that by tradition made up the other 30 per cent in the recipe would be substituted with the very different Trebbiano Toscano, or with other varieties producing different qualities.

At the same time, the volumes being produced led to prices falling, which while a good thing in some respects tended to have a negative effect on the wine's reputation.  With its rarity value gone, Soave began to be seen as a cheap wine, not one with which the wealthy could impress their friends.

Swanky restaurants began to drop it from their wine lists and the knock-on effect was soon felt by wine merchants, too, as customers looked for exclusivity elsewhere.

A similar tipping point was also reached in the United Kingdom and Soave's popularity began to wane, with Pinot Grigio taking its place as the favourite among Italian whites.

Although the area in which Soave makers could obtain DOC status after 1968 reflected the expanded production zone, strict rules on the blend had to be followed.  Garganega grapes had to make up between 70 and 100 per cent and Trebbiano di Soave between 0 and 30 per cent.

The beautiful rolling hills near Verona where Soave is made
The beautiful rolling hills near Verona where Soave is made
Soave produced from grapes grown in the historical 1,100 hectares around Soave and Monteforte d'Alpone was marketed as Soave Classico.

Since the DOC classification came into being, two further indicators of provenance have been introduced.  Wines of the highest quality can qualify for the certification category Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), while wines that do not adhere exactly to the DOC guidelines but are nonetheless judged as of good quality can be awarded an IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) certificate.

Recent signs are that Soave is regaining some of the market share lost to Pinot Grigio.  More sophisticated and reliable production methods have led to higher quality wines, with subtle variations in taste relating to the location of the vineyard underpinning the crisp, non-acidic freshness.

Older wine connoisseurs are still tending to give it a wide berth but a new, younger generation of wine drinkers are discovering it afresh, tiring of Pinot Grigio, still enjoying the fashionable Sauvignon Blancs of Australia and New Zealand but finding Soave a pleasing alternative that is a little easier on the pocket.

The 10th century house at the centre of Soave Castle
The 10th century house at the centre of Soave Castle
Travel tip:

Soave, a small municipality of fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, is notable for its castle, which enjoys a commanding location overlooking the town.  Originally built in the 10th century to protect the area against the Hungarians, it was added to in the 14th and 15th centuries and has three lines of walls.  It was bought privately in the 19th century and restored, and is now open to the public, with several rooms of exhibits, including a dining room with medieval kitchenware.  The poet Dante Alighieri is said to have stayed there as a guest of the Scaligeri family, who were part of a noble Veronese dynasty.

Travel tip:

Nearby Verona, which sits astride the Adige river, is regarded as one of Italy's most beautiful cities.  It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors whose sole aim is to find the 14th century house in the centre of the city where the balcony overlooking a courtyard was made famous by Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, which he based on stories of Verona's warring Montague and Capulet families.  But there is much more to the city, which has a fascinating network of narrow medieval streets, some fine churches, handsome squares and impressive Roman ruins, the most famous of which is the vast Arena amphitheatre, designed to accommodate 30,000 spectators and now a major venue for music concerts and opera.

(Photo of Soave landscape by Alessandro Pighi CC BY-SA 4.0)
(Photo of Soave Castle by Casalmaggiore Provincia CC BY-SA 4.0)