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Wine & Health: A Trip to Piedmonte (Part Two)

March 15, 2010

Still stuffed from our wonderful dinner the night before, we woke up the next morning to find that a beautiful fluffy snowfall had robed the vast vineyards surrounding the castle and our hotel in light fluff; it was like the snow of a fairytale.

After breakfast we drove to Serralunga d’Alba to spend the morning at a nearby winery, Fontanafredda.  The beautiful stone winery buildings reminded us of Liguria, all of them boldly-striped horizontally with alternating light and dark blocks of stone, and we thought that the wine bottles, all carrying the same distinctive stripes, would be a big hit on the shelves at home.

We had a terrific tour of this royal winery, passing up a tasting since it was only 10 AM and what we really wanted was espresso!  We were intrigued by a gigantic and spectacular wall map of the region, because it was a very clear orientation of famous Piedmont towns with their equally storied castles and wines (Barola, Asti, Barbaresco).  It made clear, too, its relationship to the encircling mountains and the Piedmont region, including Turin, site of the 2006 Winter Olympics.

We drove back to our hotel in Grinzane Cavour, and then we walked ten minutes through a few inches of fluffy new-fallen snow to the grand castle, Castello Grinzane, atop the conical hill marking this village.  Inside we went up a couple of flights of narrow stone stairs to castle’s Great Hall, where our lunch and conference were to be held.

Lunch?  Wonderful salads, charcuterie and more crudo, plus another pasta with butter and sage.  And of course, wine!

And the conference?  Titled the Truth About Wine, the two-day conference featured presentations about grape genomics, grape growing, as well as wide-ranging discussions about wine and health (EU programs on moderate wine drinking, and the Oldways sensible wine drinking guidelines, among others).  We were impressed by the presentations by plant scientists from INRA in France and various institutes in Italy, and even thought we began to understand the intense complexities they described.

This evening brought dinner at the splendid Locanda nel Borgo Antico, just one kilometer outside Barolo.  Not at all a traditional restaurant, it featured small courses with interesting interpretations, spectacular service, and splendid wines.  Each of the courses was splendid – a custardy broth starter, lamb risotto, beef, and truly-inspired desserts.  While we loved each one, the towered meringue was the hands-down favorite.  All in all, the evening was a wonderful eating and drinking experience – plus, we shared the dining room with the same group of crazy singing Brits and Scots.

Back to work the next morning for the wine and health presentations, plus several group meetings (at lunch and after the presentations), because as a group we were there to create a Consensus Statement (or Carta)  that summarized the perspectives of both plant genomics and nutrition/behavioral science for healthy wine drinking.

We were in the wine and health “nutrition/behavioral science group,” which also included Attilio Giacosal Carlo LaVecchia and Eva Negri from the Mario Negri Institute in Milan; Luigi Bavaresco from the Catholic University in Piacenza; Vincenzo Gerbi of the University of Turin; and Curtis Ellison, our long-time friend and colleague from Boston University (and also one of the Fathers of the French Pardox).

Fortunately for us, we worked in English, and after a few hours of discussion we reached agreement on a 10-point statement we were all proud of.  We presented to the larger group, and with another hour’s work, the text of the Carta di Grinzane Cavour was final, approved, and ready to be presented to the media the next day.

No Italian conference is a conference without a Gala Dinner, and we were treated to a lovely Gala Dinner in the restaurant of the Castle.   Wonderful pasta, meat, and of course…..wine (but not entirely in moderation!).

Grazie mille Attilio, grazie mille The National Observatory for Conscious Wine Consumption, and grazie mille Grinzane Cavour!

– Sara and Dun

P.S.  Please see the final text of the Carta under EATING WELL (Wine and Health) on the Oldways website.

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