Despite the soft glow of its sunlight, the easy pace of its rolling hills, and the centuries of history behind it, a sort of subterranean reinvention is constantly happening in Monferrato.
The time has come for me to put some retrospective perspective on my wine-soaked journey through Monferrato. I guess you could say that I’m supposed to be putting a sort of “exclamation point” on my thoughts and impressions of this magical Piedmontese place.
But this is Italy, and if anything, Italy is predictably unpredictable, and so that exclamation point isn’t really going to happen. In fact, it’s probably going to look more like an ellipsis. Because while Monferrato is a place that’s easy to know on the surface, there is such cultural and gastronomic depth to explore here that you won’t be able to do it definitively within one lifetime (or even several lifetimes).
I’ll give you an example of how readily identifiable Piedmont seems at first. When I started this journey, I often posted pictures of our video work in the vineyards onto social media. I was pleasantly shocked by how many of my friends offered comments on those photos, most of which stated something along the lines of “that beautiful lighting, you must be in northern Italy!” If several of your friends can identify your location by the natural, unfiltered quality of light in your social media updates, then chances are pretty good that you are somewhere special and unique in the world. So hopefully I can be forgiven for (arrogantly) thinking that I already “knew” Piedmont long before I got to Monferrato to start this journey.
If I could pin down one thing to tell you about Monferrato that makes it special, it would be its depth. It’s the thing about the region that (if you’re like me, anyway) you’re most likely to overlook as you focus on the long traditions and history of area. Those aspects are all amazing, of course, and quintessentially Italian, but they are like pieces of a landscape that has, underneath it, a foundation that is always slowly flowing and changing, offering something new without ever upsetting the beauty or validity of the long-standing things that it supports.
If you look away too long, you miss those subtle, yet constant changes that Monferrato offers to those who are paying closer attention: the inventive takes on traditional peasant farmer meals that transform them into funky, delicious haute cuisine; the diversity of its Barbera wines, which offer something compelling at almost every conceivable price-point and for almost every possible occasion and food pairing; the surprising longevity of the wines of Nizza that now cap the region’s quality pyramid, and that can rival more famous Italian wine styles in aging and substance.
Despite the soft glow of its sunlight, the easy pace of its rolling hills, and the centuries of history behind it, this sort of subterranean reinvention is constantly happening in Monferrato, with interesting developments regularly bubbling up to the surface at the coaxing of the region’s forward-thinking and inventive inhabitants. Many of those developments end up taking their place right alongside the more ancient and traditional offerings in Monferrato, without the area losing identity or seeming culturally out of place. When you stop to think about all of that for a minute, it starts to sink in just how truly remarkable it is. Few places in the world are special enough to be able to reinvent themselves without actually reinventing themselves, to remain as vibrant and as alive and as fresh the wines that they produce.
I’ll be talking more, and more specifically, about my thoughts on those wines as we wrap up my journey here (specifically with regards to Barbera and the supporting cast of other grapes that have done so well in Monferrato in recent decades); what made my heart leap, my taste buds sing, and where I think that things are going for those wines in the future, so stay tuned for those.
For now, I can tell you that I’d rather not have my Monferrato journey end, at least not in the traditional sense, because even if I were to have been able to tell you everything worth knowing about the region’s wine scene right now (which I’m not actually able to do), thanks to how wonderfully remarkable the place is, my telling would start to be out-of-date just as soon as we hit the Publish button on the post. And that’s why this sentiment isn’t really an exclamation point on my trip, so much as it is a hope for meeting again in the future, and a love letter to the promise that future holds for Monferrato.