We had a great Thanksgiving yesterday in Orange, Texas with Branch and Johnson and now Parzen families. Mrs. B’s roast turkey; smoked turkey; spiral sliced ham with pineapple, brown sugar, and Coke; Uncle Tim’s cornbread dressing; Memaw’s deviled eggs; sweet potato pie, mashed potatoes; eight-layer salad; Tracie P’s shaved Brussels sprouts salad; pecan torte; and lots more. I wanted to share this story about my favorite wine pairing for this year, Pelaverga by Castello di Verduno, and the somewhat saucy story behind the name. For those with PG13+ status, read on…
The year was 2006 and I was working in New York as the media director for a high-profile Italian restaurant group that also happened to be a direct importer of Italian wines. Earlier that year, I had made the annual trek with my colleagues to the Italian wine fairs, where we met and tasted with a young winemaker at the natural wine fair, Vini Veri: Mario Andrion of Castello di Verduno, producer of awesome Barolo and Barbaresco and a then relatively obscure grape called Pelaverga. I’ve always loved Mario’s traditional-style wines (like his excellent Barbaresco) but all of my colleagues and I agreed that his Pelaverga Basadone was one of the most original wines we’d tasted that year: light in body, bright with acidity, and rich with fresh red fruit flavors, complemented by a gentle “white pepper” note. Later that year, a prominent colleague asked me what my Thanksgiving pick was and I whispered, Pelaverga, the perfect wine to go with wide variety of foods we eat for the holiday, from roast turkey to cranberry sauce.
Don’t ask me how but this vital piece of information was somehow whispered into the ear of the then New York Times restaurant editor Frank Bruni (remember him?). The rest is history: when he picked this wine as his top choice for Thanksgiving 2006, it made Mario’s Pelaverga a household word (at least in Manhattan).
And it’s a highly interesting word at that! No one knows the true origin of the grape name but on face value it means branch scraper, from the Italian pelare (to peel) and verga (branch). Most believe the name has to do with vine training techniques that were used to cultivate this rustic grape.
Of course, verga (and those of you who speak Spanish will immediately see the linguistic kinship) can also denote the… ahem… the male sex. Back in Verduno (Piedmont), the locals say this spicy grape has aphrodisiacal properties and that’s why Castello di Verduno calls it Basadone, the baciadonne or lady kisser.
Tracie P and I hope you had a great holiday! Thanks for reading!
Happy Thanksgiving! Can anything compete with Texas smoked turkey?!!! I think not.
happy thanksgiving j and t!
Perfect pairing of the wine J….enjoyed the visit so much as always….Jane
When I was in Piedmont last month Mario took us to visit a local salumeria called La Pineta in Neive. The owner, Massimo, gave us a taste of a pepper-less salume which he’d designed to be paired with Castello di Verduno’s peppery Pelaverga. (I managed to smuggle half a kilo into my suitcase!) We actually tried it with Mario’s new metodo classico, Sciopet (arriving in NYC very soon). During lunch Mario revealed his juventino tendencies (hey, nobody’s perfect), but that didn’t stop me picking up a few bottles of Barbaresco ’06 to give friends in Florence!
Pelaverga – I was told by a winemaker at Ascheri that it means – Verga – male “organ”, Pela – peel back, as you relate. But he added that the word is a local slang name for a foreskin. The grape itself has a fold in it around the top that tends to suggest this….
No way I could have made that one up.
Fast forward to September 2017 when 2 couples from Petaluma CA travel to Italy and take a private wine tour with Evan other 1/2 of Girl’s Gotta Drink blogger Valerie. We visited the winery of Manuel Marainacci and his delicious Barbera d’Alba and Diego Morra’s Verduno Pelaverga the peppery notes and flavorful wine left us wanting more and more. We live in the heart of CA wine country and dream of Pelaverga. Cheers and viva Italia.