Name: Barolo Chinato 500ml
*special offer ends 4th April 12:00pm
Giuseppe Cappellano, a pharmacist in Serralunga d'Alba, undertook the creation of an efficient digestive. His love of fine Barolo was reinforced by his belief in the wine's therapeutic properties when drunk well aged, and so he began his research with this great wine. Starting with an alcohol infusion of quinine bark ("china"), he added numerous herbs and spices such as clove, wormwood and cinnamon; this was blended with Barolo slightly sweetened with cane sugar.
This delicious elixir soon became famous among the Piemontese bourgeoisie and much appreciated by the house of Savoy, who served it at royal banquets not only as an excellent digestive, but also as an aperitif and as a dessert wine to accompany chocolate.
Iconoclastic and opinionated, Baldo was best known in Italy for his Barolo Chinato, a tonic of wine, spirit and herbs, chiefly quinine, invented by his uncle Giuseppe at the end of the nineteenth century. Endorsed by the House of Savoy, the former Kings of Italy, Giuseppe Cappellano's Barolo Chinato became the standard by which all others were measured.
Baldo revitalized his uncle's trademark recipe in the 1970's and made Chinato popular once more. Today Baldo's is the measure of great Chinato without a doubt. But for us it was not just about the Chinato. It was his work both in the vine and in the cellar and the Barolos, Barbera and Dolcetto that instantly drew us to him. And it was the spirit of the man.
It was probably his unique and romantic upbringing that gave him such a vibrant personality. Baldo was born in Eritrea in 1944 and lived there until 1970 when war broke out between Eritrea and Ethiopia. His father's family was among the first colonial families of Italian Africa where they were wine and food traders. He was fully aware of the richness of his experiences at a time when the world order was changing, and he liked to tell tales of his idealistic, youthful antics there.
When he returned to Italy, the Cappellano family no longer owned any vineyards, but Baldo was determined to be a Barolista in the land of his ancestors. He purchased 3 hectares of vines, the Otin Fiorin, or garden of Fiorano (the old man who tended it for many years). It's a beautiful parcel in the Gabutti vineyard of Serralunga d'Alba. He turned away from the use of synthetics, fertilizers and herbicides in the vineyard early on and when an earthquake caused part of the vineyard to collapse in 1976, he searched for ways to replant without grafting onto American rootstock (piede franco), a method almost heretical at the time because of the risk of phylloxera. He succeeded and the vines are healthy to this day. For this reason he was and will always be an icon to today's younger generations of winemakers and winelovers.
He spurned the notion of the wine critic's point scores and humbly asked journalists in the 1980's not to review his wine with points. He asked so nicely and persuasively, that, in fact, we know of no journalist who did not respect his request to this day. Another reason he was and will always be an icon.
He stuck to his guns and adamantly searched for tradition and terroir in his Langhe wines, during a time that it was horribly unfashionable to do so. On this he never looked back and always knew that time and the opinions that mattered would be on his side. He banded together with like-minded Langhe winemakers and with them fought for ways to save traditional techniques and stave off internationalization in the flavor of their wines. And beyond the Langhe with like-minded winemakers throughout Italy he formed the Vini Veri group to promote principals and ethics in vineyard management winemaking that preserved nature, tradition and terroir. And while a traditionalist, Baldo made wines that were always a pleasure to taste. The allevamento was careful and they always had a dense core of fruit, the wines were never simply tannic and old-fashioned. In the glass they are always dynamic, reponsive and alive, changing slightly all the time. Yet another reason he was and will always be an icon.
Best of all, he was an incredibly witty man. He always had a story and a turn of phrase that would be sagely funny. And those stories were always out of the world he knew and out of his experiences, more often in the hills of Barolo. They were never jokes or apocryphal stories, just real life experiences. At the same time he could be a passionately serious man, at times imposingly so, whether discussing politics, vineyard work or his wines. For anyone who was lucky enough to have those moments of conversation, amusing or serious, during a tasting or over a glass of wine, they are undoubtedly indelible memories. Certainly for me, those stolen minutes are irreplaceable.