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- Mitch’s Musings
The summer months in Italy are generous for the soul. Moreover, any months in Italy are a tonic, combined with the traditions of the Dales and the Alps, it gives an important balance to life. Swap rolling hills for rugged Alps, streams for lakes. The people of the countryside, in any country, however, display similar character.
Itwasnotme has come to Italy with us and keeps putting plates by the dishwasher, not in the damn thing, and more worryingly, has decided to deploy the boarding school trick to flip all my daughter’s beds. The girl’s newly purchased bikinis, which were for the eyes only of the Italian boys, are placed high up the large downy oak trees on the top branches (it is impressive climbing). The peace of the lake’s clear air is shattered by another regular visitor: I am going to kill you. When does school start again?
Local traditions, communities based on agriculture, forestry and livestock with knowledge passed down from generations are common in North Yorkshire and North Lombardy. The latter region makes excellent wine.
Summer sipping amongst my Italian friends is worth sharing, especially dinner with my neighbour Felice…. let’s say his second name is Smith. I am lucky to share a similar character living nearby in the Yorkshire Dales. Picture the seasoned fellows with narrow middles and wide minds (I fear mine are swapping places). They are great company. They can also halt either one of Itwasnotme with a glance and a steely-eyed gaze.
They like grass-fed meat and have no regard for self-identification by whichever offended group dominates the media next. They work hard, play hard, and have serious knowledge of viticulture. They hold little regard for the yoga mats, papoose-swaddled babies, avocado and vegan sourdough on show in the urban towns of London or Milan. That to them is a different world.
They are knowledgeable about many things, from life and books, not social media. They do not travel far but beware the quiet man. They are 20 years my senior and I enjoy every minute of drinking with them both. They may be out of place at times. I know how they feel. However, you can learn a thing or two from them. The most important of which is that there is still room in the world for a gentleman with manners and two ears and one mouth.
Felicie, with whom I dined, is involved with the Sandro Fay vineyard, a name familiar to these pages. Felicie served a few bottles at dinner, with me hosting, cooking his pig.
His other claim to fame is that his father was involved in capturing and executing Mussolini. In 1943, Mussolini fled Milan in a 1939 Alfa Romeo sports car, the kind seen at the Fastlane Club run by friend Stephen Owens, and I am sure the MD Simon Smith can source you one or two if rare classic cars tickle your fancy. Speaking about a tickle, Clara did for Benito.
Clara Petacci was the Duce’s mistress, and the car gave them way. Love is blind and can be stupid.
By Lake Como, the car was spotted, and in the village of Dongo, they were captured, placed against a wall, and shot. The name of the shooter is still unknown. Felecie will not tell me. It was not far from here where I write.
Drinking with great company, like my respective neighbours in both Blighty and Italy, makes the wine taste better. That is what good company should do.
Wine from Italy is like the people, cuisine, and regions. Diverse. A local guide is required. Super Tuscans get some press, especially from the much-admired Bruce Anderson, of whom I am a great fan.
Barolo is a famous Italian red, but it can be overpriced as people pay for the name. I have written greatly about Franciacorta, which has the highest esteem in my Littondale and Italian cellars and is the favourite tipple of the current Mrs Mitchell. But Fay, from Lombardy, you must try.
There is something about drinking a bottle of wine which you know is not mass-produced. Like all good things, a labour of love for the producer makes it taste better for the consumer.
You are drinking more than their produce; you are drinking their history, their passion, and their purpose. Everyone should know their purpose and what guides them, just as a wine should.
When we invest our clients’ money in Traditum, we focus on the genuine, authentic character of the management team with which our clients will have empathy, ask Iain Marlow. Values, legacy and a DNA of excellence and hard work. This wine has all those traits.
So, my friends, try Sforzato della Valtellina Ronco del Picchio. It is a natural wine, made from grapes dried for 90 days. Like Amarone, Sforzato or Sfurzat is rich, hedonistic, and intense. It is a true Vino da Meditazione. Wine for conversation and a different view. You will get that from Felicie.
Sforzato represents the best of Nebbiolo in the Valtellina and will rival any Barolo. With slow-cooked Littondale lamb looking at the fells or pork ribs on the BBQ looking at the Alps over the lake, it is excellent, and the conversation flows.
It is grown at 700 metres up on death-defyingly steep terraces. Ronco del Picchio is a labour of love for young winemakers because it is so hard and labour-intensive to produce. They cannot get any mechanisation up there on the high slopes, not even horses. All the vineyard work is done by hand. In the winter, the vineyards are well below freezing, so manual work is gruelling.
It is a great wine, and as with the best Burgundian and Bordeaux labels, it comes with a great story. You drink more than the contents of the glass, and if you are choosing something Italian, may this note be a well-needed guide. Salute.