Work Visit to Northwestern Italy – with benefits

Why we went to Italy

As wine storage experts, we were invited to visit some villages in the Province of Alessandria.  We aren’t travel writers, but this trip was particularly interesting and the locals particularly welcoming, so we feel it’s worth mentioning.

Alessandria is a charming Italian region, very scenic, and as you might imagine, it’s quite rural.  There is lots of local heritage, everyone we met could have written a book with the (hi)stories that they were very willing to share with us!  The general landscape, the distinct lack of hustle and bustle and the absence of hype, advertising and social media, made a very refreshing change.  It was almost instant relaxation!  We found out later, that the historic vineyard landscape of Monferrato was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.

A view of Alessandria Province in the Piedmont region, northwest Italy.

Meeting the locals

We were introduced to local vintners and also the ‘Mayor’ of one particular village.  Obviously we were invited to try some of their local produce, and we discovered that this particular region have their own ways when it comes to letting red wines breathe.  Apologies if you’re already aware, but we’ve never come across this during our 25+ years serving wine collectors and restaurants with temperature-controlled storage solutions.

Letting wine breathe – magic formula!

For vintage wines of 10 years or more, when the time comes to open and drink it, you have to plan a little in advance.  If a vintage wine is over 10 years old, it’s given extra time to ‘breathe’ – the general rule of thumb being one additional hour for every year past its decade. So, a 20-year-old wine would need to breathe 10-12 hours before landing in the glass.  We experienced this ‘magic’ first-hand, we had the pleasure of tasting a 20-year-old local vintage at the 2 hour mark in the morning, and 12 hours later in the day.

Even us, as novices, could tell the difference.  The only way I can describe it, the later tasting (apart from being after an interesting day and ‘feeling ready’ for a glass), was different.  The wine was deeper and smoother, there seemed to be more to smell and more to taste.  Completely unscientific of course, but isn’t perception everything?

Our visit to Alessandria Province was indeed a ‘work trip’ and definitely one of the nicer ones.  Even after all this time, we still consider it a compliment to be invited for consultation and ‘brain picking’ by our Italian associates.  Especially so because Italian people have such an established pedigree in luxury design and impeccable cuisine.  Meeting the locals ‘naturally’, in the street, on their home turf so to speak, put a completely different complexion on our visit; it really enforced the principle of how an uncomplicated and respectful and grateful way of living results in happy AND long, healthy lives.

It will be impossible to open a bottle of red now without remembering this visit.  It was a truly uplifting experience and we’re looking forward to returning in the near future.