A little over a year ago, my husband and I went arbitrarily cruising in our convertible VW bug looking for fun wineries to visit. We ended up in the middle of the vineyards of Dogliani and took the driveway marked Chionetti. Looking more like someone's house than a winery, we hesitantly asked the smiling people standing outside if we could "fare una degustazione." A pint-sized silvery grey haired man waived us in with a smile. It was the winemaking legend himself, 86-year-old Quinto Chionetti. As they would say in Italy, "che culo!" or "what luck!"
We sat down at the old wood table as he opened up one brand new bottle of wine and then a second. Just like family, we drank our glasses of Dolcetto (an everyday wine), while shooting the breeze and getting to know each other. We talked about everything from our local mountain cheese, his tragic loss of a son and politics to changes in the wine industry.
His words and "modo di fare" enchanted me.
"Wine needs sediments... it shouldn't be too filtered...chemicals...there is too much garbage out there," he chuckled as he spoke. "And barrique... ahh it's all a show!" Sipping his Dolcetto, I was starting to understand the expression of both these wines and Quinto himself. Natural, well-ageing, genuine and profound. We moved on to the Briccolero Dolcetto, one of the best of the best. For the first time in my life, I actually bought a whole case. This was a wine that I wanted to drink again and again.
A few weeks ago I started flipping through my mental archives of all the wineries I have visited here. My current task was to take around a few Texans and show them the best of Langhe. So in the land of Barolo, I took them to experience Dolcetto first.
Boiling hot, we kept our promised cheese up on the dashboard in front of the AC vents in our van full of tourists. Sharp as a button remembering us and our cheese vow, Quinto was out to greet us again and led us into the open room. To my dismay, he left us right away and took care of the other visitors already there! I was sweating bullets and getting nervous. This visit would not be the same without the man behind it all. The secretary assured us that he was coming. In the meantime, we were happy reading our printed articles about their 1982 Dolcetto that was surprisingly opened almost 20 years later and still as good as ever, easily confused with a good Bordeaux! Who says Dolcettos must be drunk young? Not Chionetti. I guess there must be something in the water because Quinto is looking pretty good himself.
First we tried the 2010 Dolcetto San Luigi (one of his two Dolcetto "crus") and were relieved to see him make himself comfortable at the table with us. He immediately got the group laughing as he talked about his philosophy on unfiltered wines again. This time he described it by comparing it to a beating.
"It's like beating a good guy with a stick, trying to get something out of him. You can do it but he's never gonna be the same!".
Along came the secretary who lives with them on their property and whose husband basically takes care of the winemaking nowadays. Their children showed up at the table too and you could see the sparkle in Quinto's eyes as he looked at them. They were all like family to him and we were lucky to feel a part of it, even if only for a moment. He got a kick out of the fact that the oldest child told him he wanted to take over the winery (he is only about 6-years-old, I think). This time we got to see the "cantina" where they keep their wines, made in stainless steel tanks, overlooking the the hilltop town of Monforte. We kicked the soccer ball around near the apricot trees and soaked in this very special moment.
Quinto is a pioneer in quality winemaking and remains a legend in Langhe. What continues to strike me is his sense of humor, sincerity and humility. Of course after a couple compliments to the ladies, he won everyone's hearts over. This man and his wines are basically what made me fall in love with Langhe.