It's been a little over a week now since I returned stateside from my adventures in Piedmont. With the better part of that week devoted to recovering, digesting and mulling over of all the finer points of the trip, it's about time that I get down to the business of sharing some details.
The impetus for the trip was an invitation to attend an event called Nebbiolo Prima as a member of the press. I have to say I was psyched to be invited and, in the end, even a little proud to have been included among the group of international journalists who'd been invited to participate. Hell, I was actually surprised at first, so much so that when the invitation originally showed up in my email box, its full import didn't really register. I thought it was just a press release notifying me of the event. Like most of my comrades in wine and/or food blogging, I get dozens of such notices on a daily basis. It wasn't until the event organizers followed up with me that I realized I was being invited to attend.
"Hell yeah, man, I'm going to Piedmont." The invitation provided me with the opportunity to return to a region I'd been dying to revisit since my first and only time there in early 2006. To be clear, I should reiterate that the invitation included airfare as well as a hotel room and meals for the duration of the four-day Nebbiolo Prima. As with my similar trip to Paso Robles earlier this year, I hold myself accountable, and to a high standard I'd like to think, for editorial integrity. All expenses prior to and following the event were my own responsibility; in other words, I took the opportunity of being there to add on a few days to do my own thing. We'll get to that part of the trip in due course but, for now, I'd finally like to tell you a little about Nebbiolo Prima itself.
The 2010 Nebbiolo Prima was in one sense a first-time event but in the larger sense a rechristening and repackaging of the 14 year-old Alba Wine Exhibition. Under the aegis of Albeisa, the producers union for the Langa and Roero regions, and its new president, Enzo Brezza, this year brought a shift to a new PR/organizing firm for the first time in 15 years and, with that shift, a subtle reimagining of the scope of the event. Much was being made and spoken behind the scenes of this shift in organizers. Not having attended in the past, though, I really can't comment on the politics or qualitative aspects of the move. The new organizers, a Veneto-based PR firm called Gheusis, did what seemed to me a fine job. Communications leading up to and through the event could have been more thorough but, in the end, everything came off without a hitch, so I really can't complain.
This year's event was broken into two separate and distinct programs, one for journalists (of which about 70 were in attendance) and one for buyers (40-50 attendees). The event spanned four days, with each day on the press side of the camp broken out according to a simple if fully packed program, which looked something like this:
- 8:30 AM to 9:00 AM — opening comments
- 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM — blind tasting
- 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM — buffet lunch
- 2:00 PM to 4:30 PM — visits with local producers/wineries
- 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM — walkaround tastings with producers
- 8:00 PM to 11:30 PM — dinner with producers at a regional restaurant
What little spare time might appear in the couple of 30-60 minute gaps in that schedule were essentially taken up by transportation needs, or simply by taking a moment or two to breathe. Blogging: forget about it. Checking email: barely, especially given the spotty Internet access at the event site and my hotel. Finding time to grab a beer, something that's much needed after tasting 100+ Nebbioli per/day: rarely and barely.
Things actually kicked off on Sunday night the 16th of May with an opening reception in Alba's Piazza Savona, and closed on Thursday the 20th with an evening party at the newly constructed Castello di Barolo in Barolo. I opted to miss both of those affairs in favor of opportunities to take on extra producer visits. Otherwise, though, I did my best to stick with the official schedule, especially when it came to the morning blind tastings and the afternoon producer visits, by far the two most important and educational parts of the event from my perspective.