6 days, 5 cities, 8 flights, 5 dinners and more than 350 people tasting the Rivetto Barolo. That is the numeric breakdown of my recent trip to ‘conquer’ the Great North.
Norway and Iceland were my destinations last week, and I found the cities I visited, like Bergen, Trondheim, Tromso and Reykjavik, truly fascinating. I wanted write you about my experiences there, to compare notes and see if you feel the same way as me. The further north I went, the more playful and open the people became. The wine culture up there is already good, but the potential of these areas, considered minor, is incredible.
Tourism around the Northern Lights, which I unfortunately did not get to see due to the bad weather, is increasing every year, and increasing numbers of people are visiting these places, far from smog and stress, to appreciate their wild nature and silence.
Norway in particular has a truly special tie to Piedmont, one of the Italian regions best-loved and most often visited by wine lovers, helped by medium-high buying power and a passion for fine wine, with a special fascination for the refinement of Barolo.
Many producers have already entered the market, but I believe that even though there are only four million inhabitants and the state has a monopoly over alcohol, there is still a lot of room for development, especially as one pushes further north.
The gastronomic pairings with my wines were amazing, and I was impressed by the stunningly high quality of the food. The free-range lamb, venison and beef were exquisite, not to mention the fish, which were of jaw-dropping freshness and authenticity.
I appreciated the various kinds of cod, king crab and North Sea lobster, unique flavours where the Langhe Nascetta truly found its natural habitat. Another aspect that inspires hope are the young wine lovers of the North, who are full of interest and happy to listen to those of us for whom wine has always been a part of life. In Trondheim, I dined with three very young under-25s who are responsible for creating wine lists for elegant restaurants in northern Norway.
During the numerous wine tastings of my visit, I admit that was struck, almost even moved, by the fact that a few of the young sommeliers were from the Norwegian hinterland and had made the three-hour trip through icy terrain in order to taste our Barolo and hear me speak.
I felt filled with a powerful sense of responsibility and this added fuel to my enthusiasm. And speaking of fuel … to give you an idea of the this populace’s intelligence and extremely high level of civilisation, here is a single piece of data: Norway is the seventh-largest producer of oil and gas in the world, but more than 70% of the energy is produced by hydroelectric systems installed in the fjords. I could give you a dozen other examples that, when compared to what is by now medieval Italy, can only send me into depression.
Iceland is another intriguing country that, although small, has enormous potential for wine market growth. With a small but rich population, its geographic position would make one think that it is isolated and out-of-date, whereas on the contrary it has an international air and is extremely open-minded.
Surrounded by the thirty-eight sommeliers and wine enthusiasts gathered in the wine-tasting room at Hotel 101 to sample my wines, I experienced a momentary flash during which I thought that none of it had anything to do with what I was doing, but then, looking at those thirty-eight men twice my height and/or width, I asked myself how in the world, 2000 years ago, the Romans managed to conquer and subject Europe? The answer was easy: organisation.
Which wines did the Icelanders appreciate most? Langhe Nebbiolo 2010, Barbaresco 2010, Barolo Serralunga 2009 and the Barolo Briccolina 2008.
It was a business trip that gave me much food for thought and it was satisfying not only in terms of sales but especially for the human element, meeting people who are curious about and appreciative of this complicated, fascinating profession, young, respectful people who are humbly ready to learn, an aspect often missing down here in southern Europe.