Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vendemmia in Val Chisone

I'm not quite ready to leave the autumn behind just yet, even though old man winter keeps blowing his frosty breath around to chill the bone and make you work even faster to get all of those autumn projects done before winter begins in earnest.
Our local vendemmia, or grape harvest, was well under way in September finishing up recently in October. It's a labor of love as the grapes are hand harvested and only picked when deemed to be at their peak. The wine growers experience helps them determine the best time for harvest, visually judging the color for ripeness and taste for sweetness. They also use an optical instrument called a refractometer, that measures the amount of sugar in the grapes supporting or not, their opinions of when would be the prime time to harvest. Naturally, the position of the vineyard and weather conditions all play their part in the drawn out maturation and harvesting process. The weather is critical in determining the harvest and is always a great source of speculation.

Recently we had the pleasure of introducing long time American educational filmmakers,
Sid and Mary Lee Nolan, to our Chisone valley.  They were in our area filming for their upcoming video of Italian wine regions. Naturally, we took them to visit the Coutandin family winemakers, whose Pomaretto vineyard we gaze upon from  our balcony. Their impressively steep vineyards are part of our "Bella Baita View" at the  base of of the French border skyline and mouth of the Germansca valley. Their terraced vines are so steep that they have installed a train to help them with harvesting and maintaining the vineyard. Below you see Daniele Coutandin, demonstrating the use of it for the camera.
 
Although the Coutandin operation is relatively small, Ramie wine has big bold flavors. They have gone from just over 800 bottles per year to 3,000 bottles last year.  Our alpine wines reflect the soil and environmental weather that can offer some insight into life in the Cottian alps. Back in January we were up in the vineyard as it was a beautiful mild day offering up the promise of spring and encountered some folks  working on the vines. Nice to see the full progression throughout the year.
 
This family winery mainly produces a rare DOC wine called Ramie, which is a blend of several local varietals. Their Ramie is quite smooth and fruity and goes down well with many of our local specialties, rabbit and polenta comes to mind. You might want to visit our part of the world and try it some time. We're always happy to point in any number of interesting directions.

We also made a a small tour up the valley to the imposing Fenestrelle Fortress and as well as some of our favorite haunts.
Later in the day, we also made a visit to the Dora Renato Cantina, who produce the other DOC appellation of our neighborhood, Doux d/Henry. This is light refreshing rose´ style wine, favored locally here and  in southern France. They produce a range of delicious local varietals also. A couple of other posts about them are here and here.

We rounded out the day tour with the unmasking of the 2009 edition of Pinerolo's Maschera di Ferro,
also know as the "Man in the Iron Mask" festival.  And who was that you ask? Well, you'll just have to wait until I can get a post up of this years festival. It is a wonderful event so, stay tuned.
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