Wines and other drinks of Giro d’Italia 2018: Stage 18. Abbiategrasso — Prato Nevoso

Now we will have three days with mountains, before the sprinters will get their last chance to shine on the final stage in Rome. The first 160 km of today’s stage are relatively flat, and then it starts to ascend. The final 15 km is a climb at around 7%. Here we can expect attacks from those with GC-ambtitions.

The stage starts in Lombardy, in or just outside Milan. When we are in this region, I use to write about franciacorta. But we had franciacorta yesterday, and hopefully you have kept one bottle for the final stage in Rome.

We will soon cross the border to Piemonte, the best wine region in Italy. We will not visit the most well known and prestigious wines this year. But we will find the wine people know better in practice, meaning wines we are drinking, not just reading about.

Vi will first come to Asti. I think of two wines from this area: Barbera d’Asti and Moscato d’Asti. Barbera is a small, dark, thick skinned grape with much taste, high acidity and low in tannins. It gives a tasty wine that is easy to drink, that goes well with a lot of dishes. Asti is one of the more important production areas for Barbera.

I find barbera wines good for cooking. I usually have a bag-in-box with barbera wine in the refrigerator to use in sauces etc. Some years ago, I used a full bodied and tanninic Portugese wine for this. When you boil and concentrate the wine, you concentrate the taste, including the tannins. The result was a bit too tanninic sauce to my taste. With barbera I get taste and acid, which is what we want from wine in cooking. I do not go for the best, and more expensive barbera for this use. I looked into the fridge, to see if my current barbera is from Asti or Alba. But it is just a barbera from Piemont, in practise on a level below Asti and Alba. It is probably not the best barbera we can get, but it works well for my use.

Moscato d’Asti is, as the name indicates, made from the grape Moscato or Muscat. This is an aromatic grape, and one of the few grapes that are used both for eating and wine production. There are many different Moscato grapes, some white, some red/black. Moscato d’Asti is made form white Moscato. Some Moscato grapes have lot of sugar, and are used for sweet wines, like Moscato d’Asti. But there are also dry wines made from this grape.

Moscato d’Asti is a lightly sparkling, sweet wine. It is a classic with strawberries. We are now entering the strawberry season, at least here in Norway. We think the Norwegian, or Scandinavian strawberries are the best. We have long days and relatively low temperature, which give the berries long ripening time and lot of sun. This give very tasty berries. Having said this: I find delicious strawberries in France. My theory, which I have not checked, is that the imported strawberries are picked before they are ripe, so that they shall not be destroyed during transport. And as with all fruits: They are best when picked ripe.

Some insist that champagne is the right wine to strawberries. Dry champagne, or dry wine in general does not go well with strawberries, at least not to my taste. A sweeter wine is better.

At the beginning of the strawberry season, I  will mention another of my favourite wines to strawberries: Brachetto d’Aqui, which is produced not far from today’s stage. It is a red, sweet, low alcoholic and lightly sparkling wine. It has a characterestic taste of strawberries. It is not a very well known wine. But if you have tasted it once, you remember it. On one occation I discussed wine with the sommelier at a restaurant in Oslo. He then came with a glass of red wine to the dessert, and said something like this: This wine, you do not know. I only had to smell the wine, and said that it was a Brachetto d’Aqui. He was a bit disappointed. It was not very impressive, because it is a wine that is easy to identify once you have tasted it. I had gotten Brachetto d’Aqui as part of the wine menu at another restaurant, served to a strawberry dessert. Then it was en exciting and unknown wine.

Dolcetto is another classic Piemont grape. Dolce means sweet. Dolcetto is a grape that gives not sweet, but fruity wines that are easy to drink. It is a good wine to pasta dishes. Dolcetto is known as a grape that it easy to grow, but the vinification is difficult. It ripens early, usually 2-4 weeks before barbera and nebbiolo. Then the producers can utilise their production facilities in a more efficiently. Dolcetto is a popular everday wine in Piemont, but it is not as popular as it once was, outside this area.

We continue to Alba. I first think of Barbera d’Alba. But in Alba, the best vineyards are used for nebbiolo, the most noble wine in Piemont, the grape used or Barolo and Barbaresco, areas we do not visit this year. But they produce excellent barbera and dolcetto in Alba.

Wines (and some other drinks) of Giro d'Italia 2018

Norwegian version

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