Stinky dirty wine I drank in Piedmont and a note about vitello tonnato

When in Piedmont, do as the Piedmontese do and drink Piedmontese wine. But when I saw the 2004 Trebež by Dario Prinčič (from Oslavia, Friuli) on the list at La Libera (probably the hippest, best see-and-be-seen place to dine in Langa), I couldn’t resist. After all, it was my turn to pick the wines the Barbera 7 was going to be drinking at dinner that night. I know it’s a shame to drink a Friulian wine in Piedmont (and for our red, we drank an a killer 2006 Dolcetto di Dogliani by one of my favorite producers, Cascina Corte), but the mimetic desire created by my browsing of the list simply overwhelmed me. I had to have it.

According to Divino Scrivere, the wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc, obviously vinified with skin contact. (I believe that Trebež is a toponym that refers to a river by the same name, but I’m not sure.) Cloudy and practically brown in color, this is as real, natural, and orange as it gets… not for the refined palate but rather the folks who did real, groovy wines… Acid and gently astringent tannin, apricot and prune flavors, balanced by dirt and rocks. The man, Dario Prinčič, is dry and sour in person, perfectly polite, but never a smile on his face when I taste with him at Vini Veri. His wines, on the other hand, are full of joy and glorious flavor and they are among my all-time favorites.

The night we ate at La Libera, I asked owner/chef Marco to feed us whatever he wanted (which is always the best way to go in any great restaurant, btw). Among other victuals, he made us a tetralogy of classic Piedmontese antipasti, including the sine qua non vitello tonnato (the photo above borders on the pornographic, no?). I love vitello tonnato and eat it whenever and wherever I know it’s good. Today, vitello tonnato is regularly made with mayonnaise but the addition of mayonnaise is a relatively recent adjustment to this recipe. In fact, the sauce prescribed by Artusi (1891) calls for tuna in olive oil, anchovies, lemon juice, and capers in vinegar.

I enjoyed another excellent vitello tonnato, while Tracie P and I were in Barolo in February, at the Osteria Barolando, served on a roll of crusty bread (above).

I love vitello tonnato so much I could most certainly write a dissertation on it — its variants, its history, its epistemological implications… but, alas, I need to make a living…