Piano Piano Barbera d'Asti DOC £119.88 12 bottle case (£9.99 per bottle) free post & packing *** ONLY AVAILABLE IN THE UK ***

Passionate about drinking good wine?  The producers of this wine are. So much so that five years ago, Ingrid and Phil Blades decided they needed to make their own. After several years of extensive searching, finally in 2004 they found a suitable vineyard to buy.  Piano Piano is the first red wine to be released from their estate.  Being committed to an environmentally friendly philosophy, the couple combine the best of traditional and modern viniculture techniques.  Phil Blades tells us “we are committed to ensuring the perfect matching of soil, climate and grape variety alongside rigorous selection of our grapes and meticulous care in the production process from vineyard to cellar. We believe that everything we do must respect natures own enormous contribution, following organic principles is not a matter for subjective choice, for us it’s simply essential for the success of our vineyard over time”. In naming the wine, “Piano Piano" [meaning softly, softly or slowly, slowly in Italian] Ingrid and Phil are affectionately acknowledging the advice they often got from their local Italian wine community. It is also a tongue in check dig at the strict Italian wine laws and bureaucracy that slows down everything in Italy.   

Tasting Notes

Piano Piano D.O.C. 2005 is a young and easy Barbera with a marked personality from a low yield crop. The producer has helped concentrate the flavour of the wine by restricting the number of grape bunches allowed to mature on the vine. The Blades quality over quantity approach has resulted in a mouth-filling well structured wine with lemon-tart acidity and marked but accessible tannins. It’s still rather youthful palate shows a good density of bright berry fruit with a tannic, spicy finish. With a pleasing aroma of blackberry and citrus it’s taste is typically Barbera grape with a hint of liquorice.  Dark reddish-purple in colour, it offers generous black fruit and ripe fruit flavours. A little zesty still, it comes into perspective with red meats and strong cheeses.  The wine shows real promise for further improvement.

Although not a cheap ‘pound a bucket’ wine, its price is at the low end for decent Barbera and so represents a very good buy. Eeleased in September 2006, it can be enjoyed now or left to smooth out more over the next few years. 

.Serving Note: This wine benefits from being allowed to ‘breath’ for about an hour before drinking. Decant or uncork and pour off a sip to increase the exposed surface area, and let it sit at room temperature for an hour.

Variety of grapes: 100% Barbera double selection . Production area: Castelnuovo Belbo. Appellation: DOC. Alcohol by volume: 13.5%. Soil: calcareous, clayey. Harvesting: Late September. Fermentation: 8–10 days. Ageing: 6 months in steel tanks then a further 6 in the bottle. Bottling: March (released September). Serving temperature: 16°–18° C

Meet the Winemakers - Phil & Ingrid Blades

“When you casually pour the luxuriant red liquid into your glass we would ask you to take a few moments to contemplate the effort and energy that has gone into its production.  Its full life cycle from vine to wine has taken passion, skill, a lot of luck and just a little madness”.

Phil & Ingrid Blades

Phil & Ingrid are now in their third year of wine making with most of their first vintage [2005] Barbera already sold. They have just released the 2006 vintage of Piano Piano and have completed the 2007 grape harvest.

Gaining Momentum - our third year as vineyard owners and winemakers

When we started our wine business in Piedmont 3 years ago we proudly set up our web site and called ourselves winemakers. With more enthusiasm then knowledge and more passion then sense, we swopped our business suits for farm apparel and our leather soled shoes for welly boots and training shoes.  Now, three years later, we would call ourselves first and foremost farmers, then winemakers, and finally business managers. The truth is that to be successful we have to be all three, increasingly in equal proportions.

Our evolving philosophy:

The phillosphy we adopted during our first year in Piedmont is still very much part of our life. We believe that great wines start in the ground and the management of the vineyard is equally as important as production techniques in the cellar. For us wine making does not start at the door of the cantina, but in the ground, the best wine makers are also farmers. All wines tell the story of the grapes they have come from. The grape reflects in its character the care and attention of the artisans that grow the vine from root stock to mature plant. It reflects the nurturing and care that the farmer takes in caring for the land and surrounding environments in which the vine grows. Anything that upsets its natural balance ultimately produces inferior wines.

Striving for Quality and Greatness in Wines? :

All wine is the end product of grape juice fermentation. With modern production techniques knowledgeable enologists can take grapes grown anywhere in the world,  blend them in vats according to a chemical recipe and churn out predictable,  pleasant wines that taste the same year after year. Supermarkets sell thousands of bottles of such wines and to some extent shape consumer’s choice and perceptions of quality because of their competitive pricing ability. Ingrid and Phil’s approach to wine production however is very different. They strive for quality and greatness in wine that is defined by the intensity of the varietal character of the grape and its unique sense of place.

Phil states that “we want our wines to reflect the tastes of our specific grapes grown in the specific region best suited to the varietal. We don’t want to produce wines that taste predictably like many modern wines from all over the world. Piedmont as a region has something unique to offer, lose that and we become just another producer of easy drinking wine with little individual character”.

Ingrid adds that “it is important not to confuse greatness with quality ratings. The grapes that make our wines all comply with the Italian Denominazione di Origine Controllata system for wine control [normally abbreviated to be called D.O.C.]. So quality is guaranteed at least to a minimum standard.  Greatness however comes from the wines particular character, predictable wines lack greatness”

Founders & adventurers!

Phil & Ingrid are co-founders of PiedmontWine.Com, seeking to bring to the UK unique wines from boutique winemakers in Piedmont (Piemonte), Italy, where they now live, growing grapes, making wine and welcoming guests in their B&B and self contained apartments.

Their first vintage Barbera, shown being picked in the above pictures at the end of September 2005 is now ready for release. They have chosen to name their wine "Piano, Piano". By way of explanation here is an extract from the wines lable:

"We are proud to present our first vintage for your enjoyment.

We moved to Piemonte from England 18 months ago and

have been working hard to develop our vineyards, learn all

the skills of cultivating the vines and of course make the wine.

At every turn our friends and neighbours have encouraged

and mentored us, they often use the words “Piano, Piano”

 meaning  “Slowly, Slowly”.  We hope you will savour this

wine in the same way.

Best enjoyed sitting around the pool of our vineyard B&B

visit www.stayinpiedmont.com"

Starting afresh - our first year as vineyard owners and winemakers

We thought that people might find our experiences of becoming vineyard owners interesting. In describing our approach to the complexities of wine growing we have also tried to convey [without getting too heavy], our evolving phillosphy resulting from being up close and personal with the natural rhythms of our vineyard.  It seems that having the time to smell the roses [normally when we hoe the weeds around them] fortifies us with a more balanced view of the world. We hope that in some small way our ramblings on this web site can help you appreciate how amazing the transition of the grape from vine to wine really is.

A dream come true:

It was our romantic dream of owning a vineyard that provided the impetus leading to our big life change. Initially though the influence of common sense dictated that we content ourselves with the idea of buying a holiday home in one of our favourite European wine growing areas. It’s ironic that after two years searching for this holiday home in either France or Tuscany, we sell everything to buy a vineyard in a wine area that we had never been to. Two factors contributed to this situation, firstly web based research and secondly finding a good house agent to work with. Our discovery of Piedmont’s potential was the fruit of our labours from hours of internet research. The fact that it still seemed to be relatively undiscovered increased its appeal for us enormously. When we also figured out its geographic location meant that it was both surrounded by the magnificent Alps and close to the delights of the Italian Rivera, we thought that it warranted a closer look. So using the excellent services of a Piedmont based estate agent, we came; we saw, we fell in love and we stayed.

It's a learning experience:

It’s hard to believe that it’s now just over a year ago that we bought our 4 hectare vineyard, Vecchio Podera Santa Christiana.  It’s been a roller coaster ride and we continue to learn much, indeed something new every day. During this year for the first time in our lives, we have practiced the fine art of growing grapes and turning them into wine. Perhaps the most profound lesson we have learnt is that in all stages of this slow process, nothing is more important than getting the basics right. For us, it all starts with ensuring our vines grow in harmony with the earth in a sustainable and natural way. This eminently sensible approach is not actually as easy to achieve as it might seem, indeed it can be really complicated. First let us explain that we did not start out with any rigid ideas about what represented good vineyard husbandry. Our cautious approach has been influenced as much by lack of knowledge than by any high brow ideals. As we simply had little idea of how or when to use chemical fertilisers or weed killing herbicides, we did not use them. Looking back over our first year, it is amazing that we complete novices have survived what nature threw at us. We have done so by investing in expertise [and it does not come cheap], some luck and having the advice of great neighbours and friends. But by far the biggest factor in our struggle to become competent wine producers has been the many, many, many hours of back breaking work that we have put in around our 10 acres. Believing that the best way to acquire the necessary skills is to do much of the work ourselves, we have been totally hands on. One of our most physically demanding chores has been the months of early morning manual hoeing between the vines. As we hoe, the weeds are left to rot on the ground and work as an organic fertiliser. But before we can feel smug about this environmentally friendly approach, we discover that the weeds themselves can become infected with mould or fungi.  Suddenly doing our green thing is fraught with risk. We might inadvertently introduce harmful spores into the earth around the vines.  To mount our defence against such an occurrence, we rapidly had to become knowledgeable about hazardous vine diseases. The key imperative is to be adept at spotting early signs of trouble. More sleepless nights followed as we discovered just how many potential vine killing diseases there are. We had days of prowling through our plants imagining that every spot and mark on the foliage meant we had rampant infections about to kill off our entire crop. Ok we are still not experts, but at least we do not now have a panic attack if we spot a brown leaf on the vines.

Cross contamination is a real big worry for vineyard owners. Its not enough just to look after the vines, the whole eco system must be managed. There is no good substitute to working in the fields and knowing what is happening with every plant, tree, shrub and vine.

The more intimate we become with working with the land, the more we appreciate that despite mans amazing progress in science and technology,  nature still remains a force we cannot control. This year, nature has thrown many tantrums at us, storms with hail stones in the summer, too much heat early in the season and later when the grapes should have been baking in sunshine, we had rain that formed rivers through our vineyards. We have had pests, mould, fungi and virus alerts.  In our newly planted vineyard we have choking weeds that grow twice as fast and five times as big as our baby vines. Despite all this we harvested our Moscato grapes achieving a similar yield as the 2004 harvest. Their sugar content [very important for Moscato wine quality] was one of the highest in the area. We fretted for even longer about the effect of the inclement weather on the sugar and acidity levels of the grapes from our 45 year old Barbera grapevines. In order to allow more time to reduce the acidity levels, we harvested the grapes later than most of the other wine growers around us. This was risky because the weather was very unsettled and heavy or prolonged rain would lower the sugar levels again.  It was only after the harvest when the grapes were fermenting in their vats that we could relax. Thankfully our Barbera wine is shaping up well and tastes surprisingly good even at this immature stage. Our experts tell us we had a great ‘malolactic fermentation [ML]’. This is a reaction that is carried out by malolactic bacteria if conditions are right. For the chemists among you L[-]malic acid [four-carbon backbone, di-acid] is transformed into L[+] lactic acid [three-carbon mono-acid]. The fourth carbon is released as carbondioxide. We non-chemists understand that the main results of this fermentation are the reduction of acidity and the development of a special ‘vino bouquet’. Apparently this reaction is not so desirable in white wine production because it has potential to reduce the fruity flavour. In red wines it adds complexity and enhances bouquet so we are delighted to hear that our ML fermentation has been good. We have to be patient though because it will be at least another year before our red wine is ready to drink, indeed if it lives up to its early promise we might age it even longer in wood. Our hope is to be able to produce a quality ‘Barbera Superiore’.

Our evolving philosophy:

We now understand that success in a vineyard cannot be measured on one or even five years produce. Longevity must be planned for otherwise the eventual cost is too high.  Over stress the vine with too much fertilisation and you very quickly burn the plant out. If you do not get the pruning right and the plant is allowed to over produce grapes, the vine will die prematurely. Sterilise the earth with chemical herbicides and you upset the organic balance that provides the plants with nourishment and natural protection. Unintelligent spraying with insecticides can be equally damaging as it just encourages more resistant strains to evolve. Getting quality grapes from vines that will last for 70years or more requires a different mind set to an approach that reaps profits from a few years of big yields. There is a delicate balance to be maintained over time, production of good wine cannot be hurried. The advice of our neighbouring farmers has helped us understand that in nature, less often means more. We are grateful that they are coaching us in the traditional methods which have been passed down through generations. A heritage like the one we have found in Piedmont deserves to be safeguarded and promoted to ensure that all its potential is understood by others who will benefit from its example. Living here has made us appreciate that what really makes this place special is the respect, love and passion the wine grower’s show for the land and the wine they create. A lot of the wine comes from small producers like ourselves whose energy is tied to the land they work and their satisfaction with the quality of wines they produce.

All wines tell the story of the grapes they have come from. The grape reflects in its character the care and attention of the artisans that grow the vine from root stock to mature plant. It reflects the nurturing and care that the farmer takes in caring for the land and surrounding environments in which the vine grows. Anything that upsets its natural balance ultimately produces inferior wines. This is one of the reasons why we endorse and support the work of the Slow Food Movement. It’s imperative that somehow we convince the world that there are no shortcuts with nature.

If you have read this far, you may like to read our vineyard diary here.

Moscato Apartment living room and kitchen area
view of house & alps from our vineyard
Moscato apartment
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Things to do

horse riding.
wine tours.
great food.
world class shopping.
truffle hunting.
visit the Alps.
visit the Italian Lakes.
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visit the Italian Riviera.
visit Turin.
relax by our pool.
tour our vineyards.
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enjoy peace & tranquility