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How the son of a Piedmontese winemaker, launched Italy's booming craft beer scene
Teo Musso's stellar success was shaped by a fight with his father, a Piedmont winegrower who insisted his children drink the family's home vino with meals.
"He made me drink wine mixed with water," Musso says, adding that the stuff often approached vinegar.
A punk-rock rebel at 15, Musso defiantly told his Dad, 'I want to drink beer!'"
Today at 50, the bearded, gray-mopped Musso has followed that proclamation to become a guru of Italy's booming craft beer scene and to build one of the world's hottest artisanal beer brands, Baladin.
Baladin beers are served in high-end European restaurants in Musso-designed tasting glasses. He owns 13 themed pubs across Italy, is a partner in breweries inside Eataly stores in New York and Rome, and has opened a hip, gastronomic beer-pairing restaurant called Casa Baladin on the main square of his native Piozzo (pop. 1,000), a Dolcetto-producing town 10 miles southwest of Barolo.
Extreme Nebbiolo Part II
I confess. I'm one of those wine lovers who regard Nebbiolo as more than a wine grape. I won't say Nebbiolo wines provide a mystical experience. But some get pretty close.
A recent Nebbiolo pilgrimage across Northern Italy led me inevitably to the door of Ar.Pe.Pe.—the perfectionist, traditionalist producer in the grape's alpine frontier of the Valtellina valley bordering Switzerland.
And what a door it is.
The winery threshold is carved into a steep mountainside, terraced with vineyards, in the appellation's Grumello zone. Here the centuries-old terraces, built from 10-foot drywalls of schist and granite, lead way up to a medieval castle perched in the distance.
Inside, I was immediately struck by the cathedralic vastness of Ar.Pe.Pe.'s cellars. The family company, after all, produces a modest 5,000 cases. But this is a winery that could produce hundreds of thousands more.
Extreme Nebbiolo Part 1: A helicopter harvest in Alpine Italy
Casimiro Maule, tall and elegant in a pin-striped suit and supple black shoes, races across some of Northern Italy's most rugged terraced vineyards like a mountain goat.
The 65-year-old winemaker, who over the past four decades has led Nino Negri through ups and downs to its place as one of Italy's leading quality producers, darts over a makeshift plank bridge and bounds over a series of ditches where the vertiginous terrace walls have eroded.
"Attenzione!" he warns younger visitors trying to keep up in hiking boots.
It is end-of-October harvest, and we are traversing the ominously named Inferno—one of five wine zones in Italy's steep Valtellina valley. Its dramatic 25 miles of vineyards cling to the lower slopes of the Alps that form the border with Switzerland.
Lou Reed, Parmigiano Reggiano, and unexpected pairings
By Robert Camuto -- Wine Spectator Dec. 15, 2014
Chef Massimo Bottura is on a mission one morning in spring. He drives to the leafy edge of his native Modena with a stepladder and a pair of scissors—the car stereo blasting music on shuffle from his iPod. As Bottura pulls to the curb, his Mercedes wagon fills with the bass-heavy intro to Lou Reed's 1972 rock anthem "Walk on the Wild Side."
"This is going to be a walk on the wild side." Bottura grins through black-framed glasses and his salt-and-pepper beard.
The next few hours indeed bear witness to Bottura's wildly imaginative palate, which swings between the extremes of Italian tradition and the culinary avant-garde. His mission is foraging in an urban park for elderflowers, to be transformed into a dish for his 13-course seasonal "Sensations" menu at Osteria Francescana, one of Europe's hottest gastronomic addresses.
"No photo!" Giuseppe Cavallotto waved me off as I aimed my iPhone in his direction.
He stood atop of one of Barolo's most gorgeous vineyards, his family's monopole Bricco Boschis, a steep, sunny, concave hillside that stretches below the family home and winery in Castiglione Falletto.
Giuseppe, the middle of three siblings who run Tenuta Cavallotto, said posing for photographs was for his younger brother, Alfio. Then I asked Giuseppe his age. "That doesn't matter," he responded, and after an awkward silence added, "I'm more-or-less 46—it's no secret."
Greece's great whites flow from volcanic soils of a legendary island
By Robert Camuto-- Wine Spectator Nov. 15, 2014
Just a few miles from the village of Thira on the island of Santorini, home to a honeycomb of whitewashed hotels and infinity-edge pools set atop steep cliffs, Stefanos Georgas describes the harsh scene around him. Scant rainfall, strong winds and a landscape punctuated by prickly pear cactus give it a desertlike feel.
"This is Jurassic Park," says Georgas, manager of Estate Argyros, one of the Greek island's leading producers. The acres of Assyrtiko vines don't look much like a vineyard, growing amid bone-dry volcanic pebbles and sand between the barren, sun-scorched Profitis Ilias mountain and the Aegean Sea.
Coaxing Elegance from an Italian Monster
"The trouble with Sagrantino is to understand Sagrantino," says Giampaolo Tabarrini, who grows the indigenous red grape in Montefalco, in Italy's Umbria region. "It's much easier to make a Sangiovese, Cabernet or Merlot than Sagrantino."
"Because Sagrantino has too much of everything!" He seems to shout with his whole body, from his skinny torso to the standout ears on his near-shaven head. "There are a lot of polyphenols. A lot of tannins. A lot of sugar. It is many times over: A lot! A lot! A lot! So how do you balance it?"
A freewheeling Provence winemaker's ride from ruin to recovery
Raimond de Villeneuve grins like he's won the French Loto as he looks over rows of Syrah vines loaded with dark, healthy grapes.
"It's my first real harvest since 2011," says the 52-year-old producer, who is in his 20th vintage at his Château de Roquefort in Provence.
It's a happy chapter in a story that looked like a tragedy two years ago after a hail storm destroyed his entire 62-acre crop and left half his vines damaged for the next vintage.
Just after the storm, de Villeneuve faced financial ruin. He was saved by the rallying of 35 Provence and Rhône producers (and the flexibility of French authorities) who contributed grapes for a special rosé and two reds labeled Grêle (Hail) 2012, under his name rather than the château's.
De Villeneuve's survival is a good thing for Provence wine: Château de Roquefort is a one-of-a-kind place run by a singular category-defying winemaker…Read the full blog at Wine Spectator
Exploring the wines of Italy's "Green Heart"
By Robert Camuto -- Wine Spectator Oct. 31, 2014
With its perched medieval towns and its rolling hills covered with olive groves and vineyards, central Italy's Umbria can look like a twin of its northwestern neighbor, Tuscany.
But there is no Florence here, no cultural icons to rival Michelangelo's David or Brunelleschi's Duomo. And Umbrian wines have yet to achieve the stature of Brunello or Chianti. For wine lovers, though, Umbria's obscurity can be a good thing. The region, nicknamed "Italy's green heart" more than a century ago by Tuscany's Nobel Prize winning poet Giosuè Carducci is a bonanza of exciting diversity and excellent value.
Umbria is Italy's heartland—the only region that doesn't border the sea or a foreign country. The small region's annual wine production is roughly a third of Tuscany's.
Pino Cuttaia cooks his way to the top of Italian gastronomy by sticking to his roots
By Robert Camuto -- Wine Spectator Oct. 31, 2014
Pino Cuttaia left his native Sicily at 13. Following the death of his father, he quit school and went to live in northern Italy's Piedmont with his mother, where he worked a monotonous, soul-deflating job in a textiles plant. "I was just a number," he says. "I wanted to be something more."
The first step on the path to his destiny came in the form of a seemingly mundane offer: A friend asked Cuttaia to help wash pots and pans at a trattoria on New Year's Eve. Cuttaia connected instantly with the rhythms and life of the kitchen.
"It was a free ambience, where there was movement and noise and smells," recalls Cuttaia, 46, a big-boned man with a shaved head and enormous dark eyes. "It wasn't at all like the drone of a factory."
Cuttaia quit the factory job and went to work as a full-time pot washer, the lowest level of the restaurant hierarchy. But, he says, "I turned it into an art."
See the Video Trailer for PALMENTO on You Tube....
Robert reads from and discusses Palmento at McNally Jackson books in NY Sept. 2010.
Robert on radio