Wine & Food – Cheese 2007 in Bra, Italy

09232007a.jpgWhat is Cheese? It’s not what you think: Cheese is four days of cheese, wine and food bliss in the small town of Bra, Italy. Located in the province of Cuneo, just south of Turin, Bra is the headquarters for Slow Food International. If you haven’t heard of it, Slow Food is an association that promotes the pleasures of the table, taking time to eat and eating food that tastes good and is good for you. Slow Food also promotes biodiversity and the historical memory of culinary traditions.

Every two years Slow Food organizes Cheese here in Bra. Fortunately, I just happened to move to Bra this year right around Cheese time. I teach the anthropology of food at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in nearby Pollenzo, but I consider Cheese essential fieldwork for better understanding culinary culture in Italy and around the world.

09232007b.jpgAlthough cheese is the protagonist of this event, wine is certainly its ally. There are numerous enoteche throughout the various exhibits ad marketplace. Yesterday I discover the Super Whites stand, which features over fifty lovely white wines from the Friuli region of Italy. For 3 euros you get a glass and a generous pour of the wine of your choosing. I tried two blended whites. The first really blew me away. It was a Jermann, Vinnae 2006 (Ribolla Gialla, Tocai Friulano, Riesling). A straw colour, this full-bodied white went perfect with the Montebore cheese that I tried as I was wandering down the street, glass in hand. I returned to this stand earlier today and tried a Russiz Superiore, Coldisore 2004 (Tocai Friuliano, Pinot Bianco, Ribolla Gialla, Sauvignon), another big white with green, grassy overtones but a big ripe taste. Wow, are they ever doing a good job in Friuli making white wine. I have made a note to take a trip to the area when Sean gets here.

Perhaps the most amazing and overwhelming attraction here at Cheese is the Gran Sala del Formaggio e Enoteca. There are nearly 2000 wines that can be tasted by the glass and over 100 cheeses from around the world. This all takes place under a beautiful historic portico with a wall of wines on one side, cases of cheese and comfortable tables setup under tents on the other side. This is where I have been camping out.

09232007c.jpgThe hardest part is choosing what to drink. There are nearly 6 pages of Piedmontese wines (Barolo, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto and more), but I decided to venture to other areas of Italy that I knew I would not have much opportunity to taste unless I went there. This is what I drank:

Fontalloro – 2003 – Fattoria di Felsina – beautiful, classic, stylish,
I wanted to lick the rim of the glass (Tuscany)

Montefalco Sagrantino – 2004 – Tenuta Perticaia – musty underbrush,
nearly black. A bit rough but promising. (Umbria)

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2001 – Vigneti Villabella – OH MY
GOD – I love this stuff. Sexy dried fruit, lush and all that and some
more… (Veneto)

I still have two more days of cheese and I plan on trying as much wine and cheese as my liver will take. Wish me luck.

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