Wine expert Giorgio de Maria (co-founder of now-retired natural-wine festival Rootstock and the man behind wine-distribution company Giorgio de Maria Fun Wines) is bringing one of Italy’s top winemakers and nebbiolo champions, Isabella Perego of Arpepe, to Australia for a series of meals at some of the country’s best venues.
In Adelaide, 2KW will host a four-course lunch on Sunday August 11, led by De Maria and 2KW wine director Liinaa Berry. The food, cooked by 2KW executive chef Trent Lymn with guest chef Matteo Carboni from the Barossa’s Italian cooking school and enoteca Casa Carboni, will be matched with Arpepe’s rare, current and back-vintage nebbiolos.
The organic and minimal-intervention winery was established more than 150 years ago in Valtellina, an appellation in the north of Lombardy (bordering the Swiss alps). It’s the “historical home” of nebbiolo, says Berry, known in that region as chiavennasca. Berry prefers the term “alpine nebbiolo”.
“People are very familiar with nebbiolo from Piedmont, [a region] to the left of Lombardy, but they haven’t heard of Valtellina. [Arpepe] have been cultivating this for more than 150 years, it’s like a diabolical feat to even grow the vines up there on those alps, on those vertiginous terraces. It’s very labour-intensive.”
Berry says the Perego family has helped to “resurrect the region”, which had gone off the radar for decades. “It went into obscurity for a long time while Piedmont was the star.”
Valtellina’s alpine setting has a strong impact on the perfume, flavour and texture of the wines. “Because it’s grown on the alps, the air is different,” says Berry. “I find the wines not as tight as the wine from Piedmont. It’s more weightless, more aerial, more like a pinot. It’s got the best of both worlds. It’s got the softness of burgundy and the perfume of barbaresco.”
During the lunch, Perego – who runs the winery with her two brothers – will share insights into the grape’s history, how the Lombardy wine region was resurrected, and the impact of climate change on farming. De Maria and Berry will also discuss the wines of the Piedmont region and antipodean examples of nebbiolo to compare.
“[De Maria] is a legend,” says Berry. “He’s one of the most respected wine distributors in Australia. He brings in a lot of the really sustainable wines from Italy, including Rinaldi, which is just, wow – one of the top barolo in Piedmont.”
Lymn and Carbone have co-designed the Lombardy-influenced menu, which Berry says will include pizzoccheri (a type of short tagliatelle made with mostly buckwheat flour), violino di capra (prosciutto made from goat) and sciatt (buckwheat and cheese fritters). “We wanted to do Lombardy cuisine but it’s not Trent’s specialty,” says Berry. “So he was very happy to do a crossover with Matteo. He’s bringing his cooking school to 2KW and teaching our staff to cook Lombardy cuisine.”
Each course will be matched with Arpepe’s mountain wines – including one from 1999 – poured from magnums and jeroboams. “It’s an opportunity to show people wines can age without much sulphites put in them,” says Berry.
And if you’ve had your fill of long-table lunches, this one’s for you. “It’s a normal lunch booking,” says Berry. “[Guests] won’t be sitting on communal tables with other people. Sometimes people don’t want to come out of their house and socialise with people they don’t know.”
Arpepe Wine Lunch is at 2KW on Sunday August 11 at 1pm. Tickets are $175 and available online.