Rivetto–An Italian Word I Won’t Soon Forget

I actually consider myself a bit of a linguist. There was a time that I was pretty close to fluent in four different languages, but over the course of time (coupled with considerable laziness), two of those have drifted away. Now I am down to two (if you count English, with which regular readers of this blog know I struggle mightily).

The other is decidedly not Italian.

There was a time, though, that I was fairly comfortable with what I called “restaurant Italian” or the ability to deftly make my way through an Italian menu. It was not always so. Back when I was leading bike tours in Europe on a regular basis, I pretty much stayed within the confines of the French-speaking world: Switzerland, Belgium, and of course France (one could argue that the languages spoken Switzerland, Belgium, and the South of France are bastardizations of “Parisian French” but that is the subject for another post).

There were a couple of occasions, however, when I was called into service to lead trips in the northern part of Italy. In most cases, I could converse with the hoteliers using either French, English, or a well-timed smile, but this was not the case in restaurants. Part of the charm of the tour group was that we went to great lengths to find special restaurants, those that were away from the tourist areas, frequented by the locals, and often run by a husband and wife and staffed by their children.

Unfortunately for me, that also usually meant that there was no one within 3 kilometers of the restaurant with whom I could communicate without a fair amount of pointing and childlike facial expressions.

That meant that I would ride like a banshee from town to town, desperately trying to arrive before 15:00 when most of the restaurants would shut down until dinner. I would make a reservation, borrow a menu, and then spend most of the next five hours translating every word on the menu, committing it to memory (I did this usually in a local enoteca, sampling most of the local wines). By the time dinner rolled around, I was able to translate the menu for the clients on the trip, making it seem that I actually knew how to speak Italian.

Most of the time it worked. Except when it didn’t. One particularly poignant failure was in Stresa, on Lago Maggiore, where the entire group thought they were ordering a white fish and they ended up with lamb intestines.


I was reminded of all my struggles with Italian the other day while cruising along the Schuylkill Expressway at 54 miles an hour (I drive a Prius) when my phone rang. Like many of you out there, I get a ton of spam calls and when a number comes up that I do not recognize, I simply let the phone ring. On the fifth ring, while trying to avoid causing a 17 car pileup, I noticed the call was from Italy.

It is not every day that I get a call from Italy, so I decided to answer it (using the Bluetooth feature in the car, naturally). I really don’t know what happened next as the person on the other end spoke even less English than I speak Italian. Halfway through the “conversation” (does an interaction qualify as a conversation if neither party has any idea what the other is saying?) I heard the word “vino.” Now I may have forgotten most of my restaurant Italian, but I have retained that one (along with fragola, for some reason).

When I eventually hung up the phone, I was pretty sure that some wine from Italy was heading my way. That, or I was having sheep intestines for dinner.

Later that day, these showed up. Phew.

nebbione-kaskalN.V. Rivetto Kaskal Metodo Classico Extra Brut: Retail $40. 100% Nebbiolo. I have been drinking more and more Italian sparklers these days: Prosecco, the occasional Franciacorta, and a few from the Trento DOC. Admittedly, I had the first two wines below first from this producer, and I had high hopes for this wine. And I was not disappointed. I did not know what the varietal make-up of this wine was when I tried it, but I presumed there was a fair amount of Chardonnay in the blend: bright and tart with citrus predominate. And I was wrong as this is all Nebbiolo–the first sparkling wine I have ever tried from the Piedmontese variety. Lovely balance buoyed by the vibrant acidity. Initially, I thought this was a bit too bright, but over the course of the bottle, the considerable depth and body gradually won me over. Very, very nice. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.

barolo-del-comune-di-serralunga-docg2011 Rivetto Barolo Del Comune di Serralunga d’Alba DOCG: Retail $50. A tiny bit stewed on the nose with raspberry predominate (with a little heat: 14.5%). On the palate, surprisingly pretty big fruit for a Barolo, with some mocha and tobacco thrown in. The balance here is admirable and there is a considerable amount of tannin on the back-end suggesting this wine has a ways to go. Bigger than most Barolos I have had, but that is not a bad thing in this case. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.

barolo-docg-briccolina2010 Rivetto Barolo Briccolina DOCG: Retail $150. More of a classic Barolo nose with restrained fruit of black cherry and raspberry, some heat (14.5%), some coffee, and a bit of mint. On the palate, this is near seamless from beginning to end. The tannins here are less prominent than the Serralunga, but this wine is not going anywhere anytime soon. This is a wine for the long haul, but honestly, this is so good right now, it would be difficult to allow it to age gracefully on a wine rack in the cellar. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.

Many thanks to Valerie Quintanilla of Girls Gotta Drink for reaching out and putting me in touch with the fine people and wines of Rivetto.

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Barolo, Nebbiolo, Sparkling Wine, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Rivetto–An Italian Word I Won’t Soon Forget

  1. SAHMmelier says:

    I’d answer that call too! Did you share my number?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This post reminded me of a visit to Italy where we stayed for a week in a town that NEVER had English speaking visitors. It was a popular place for Europeans so they had menus in French, Spanish, German, and Italian, but nothing in English. We had the best time trying to communicate and I think I learned more Italian in that one week than I did in 8 weeks of taking an Italian language class.


  3. Ah, the universal languages: a smile, and wine! Great post!


  4. So glad to see that Enrico’s wines are getting some notice outside of Piemonte. We had the pleasure of meeting him back in October and (brag alert!) he told us we were the first Americans who got to taste the newly released Kaskal. Exciting! The estate is located on a lovely hill overlooking Serralunga D’Alba, and we got to taste a fantastic vertical of his Barolos as well for a very reasonable fee. Side note: try his Barbera, the most approachable (read: not screeching acidity that demands rich foods to really appreciate) one we’ve come across that stands nicely on its own.

    Sinio is a lovely town, and if you get a chance to visit the Alta Langa, you really should stop by! Bonus for us Coloradoans–Enrico Rivetto is a Broncos fan. Go Orange!

    A little insight into Sinio can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uELdDjTOUwo


  5. That sparkling Nebbiolo is sensational by all accounts, enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mukul Manku says:

    Very nice write up – interesting and witty. Also liked all the four wines described above (oh..and I have a passion for maths too😊). Loved reading the blog

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ciao, Jeff!

    I’m so pleased you enjoyed all the wines! I didn’t realize you’d be getting the 2010 – it’s a fantastic vintage! As for the the sparkling Nebbiolo, it’s the very first release! What a wonderful review, especially for the “first try”. Enrico has big plans to continue to improve the wined based on feedback from this initial vintage. We’ll try to make sure you get a taste of it over the next few years.

    A presto! Val

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I am so excited you are getting deeper into Italian wines and liking them!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. wineismylife says:

    I enjoy studying languages as well. Yet more we have in common.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is almost a good as an OMG post. 😀 The wines sound fabulous.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. harriswine says:

    Sure, but certainly the intestines gave them more energy than the fish would have to power home after lunch! Wine’s sound good, too. I guess a 2010 Barolo from a rarely-seen producer would be fine, if you are into that sort of thing. 🙂


  12. ChgoJohn says:

    Lamb intestines instead of fish. I hate when that happens. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Trying a sparkling Nebbiolo is on my 2016 winolution list! Oh that along with sabering, which was also in my 2015….ah well!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: Rivetto Winery: A Piedmont Portrait - Girls Gotta DrinkGirls Gotta Drink

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