A website, as we know, is not like a book.
We enter it at any point and navigate at will.
Also, while browsing, we aren’t usually inclined to read long texts.
My hope is that this site will be an exception and that this page, which is often ignored but is the key to the work, will rate your full attention.
Let’s begin with the landscape.
As some of you know, particularly those who have followed my rare seminars around the world over the years, the term landscape has become the cornerstone of my mapping and editorial work.
Today, more than ever before, I’m convinced that learning to read and interpret the landscape allows us to understand many things about a wine and its area of production, even before we’ve read a book about them—though that’s hardly a surprise, considering that books that deal in a cogent and in-depth way with the environment in which wine is produced are rare indeed.
Landscapes tell us about culture, how man interacts with his natural surroundings; landscapes tell us about microclimates through subtle and unequivocal variations in vegetation; landscapes tell us about geology and soils, also through vegetative alterations but above all through its morphology.
That’s why in my maps and books I have increasingly tried to combine the description of a landscape, or a part of it, with a three-dimensional graphic reproduction. Yet, however accurate it may be, a digital replica of one or more hills does not convey the same intimacy and detail as a real image. For this reason, after some attempts with traditional photography, I decided to focus on the use of the drone.
That choice in itself is not a novelty, since drones have been used for years, even in this field, to produce truly captivating and spectacular videos. However, for my purposes, such videos have an important limit: the beautiful images almost never convey the essential elements of the terrain, and even in those rare cases that they do, the very nature of the video requires a complete view of the clip to pinpoint what is of actual interest in it.
When this happens, the only way to retrieve the sought-after information is to shift back and forth along the timeline in search of the exact moment when it is evident. This can be frustrating in the long run, as can be searching through three-dimensional animations based on satellite images, which basically follow the same principle.
The only way to overcome this inconvenience is to transform the user from a mere spectator into an active browser, allowing him to manage images and content personally, when and how he chooses, as if he were part of the picture or even aboard the drone. And this without ever lacking the in-depth text that also acts as a guide to each section, turning it into an actual tutorial.
And speaking of tutorials, in response to numerous requests in recent years, I decided to take a further step and include in the entries of many MGAs suggestions of one or more wines (under Recommended tastings) for those who would like to taste and better understand the style of the MGA in question. Clearly these are good wines, but having mentioned them does not imply that they are the best on the market or my personal favorites or the most prestigious. They simply lend themselves better than others to the purpose. Moreover, it is good to remember that the character of a wine, especially if it is a matter of nuances, is more easily captured by comparing it with a wine from another MGA, better if from the same producer. For this reason, where useful or possible, I also indicated under Reference tastings some labels to be used as touchstones.
In other words, the aim behind this kind of approach is to go beyond establishing what is good and what is less good, a choice that is entirely personal. Rather, I preferred to focus on the differences, to memorize them and if possible to explain them. Only in this way can one hope to learn something. The important thing is that the comparison is made with the same vintage and with wines that are not too old, otherwise you would lose the fruity component that is often one of the distinguishing tasting factors.
Speaking of texts, the site covers only part of the contents of my books Barolo MGA Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. The aim is not to embellish those words with images, but rather to integrate them with the information and observations that can be rendered and developed effectively only through the use of such a specialized digital tool (without the hassle of dealing with the excessive number of pages, that make a traditional book bulky and economically untenable).
Unlike a book, a site can also be updated, integrated and reshaped according to needs. And this will be done. Not routinely, of course, but it will be done.
Finally, a few brief considerations about the photographic material used.
Beyond the written words, a fundamental purpose is to convey the incomparable beauty of these places. Being convinced, however, that images should be at the service of information and content, and not vice versa, I preferred to focus on photographs that convey realities before inspiring awe, exploiting the drone’s ability to highlight details that are already visible from a normal point of observation but which are often ignored by the wine tourist’s hasty eye.
As you can well imagine, no matter how expeditious you may try to be, achieving complete photographic coverage of the entire Barolo territory takes time, and during this period of time conditions of light and visibility can vary significantly. It follows that limiting shooting to a single season and/or precise moments of the day in order to create images artistically compatible with one another would have required a prolonged period of realization.
It was therefore necessary to make some compromises both in terms of seasons (mainly summer, but also autumn and late autumn) and technical precision (exposure and resolution).
For this reason I ask you to look with a benevolent eye on any imperfections or fortuitous juxtapositions between the seasons, and to focus more on contents than aesthetics… which, nonetheless, seem to me to be quite successful overall.
At this point only a few thanks and some words of caution seem to be in order.
Thanks, as always, go to the producers and consultants, who never tire of meeting my requests for information, and with them to the Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Dogliani. To these should be added all those producers and professionals who are no longer with us today and among whom I would like to remember with particular affection Beppe Colla and Armando Cordero.
Special thanks must ultimately be reserved for Giampiero Romana and Edmondo Bonelli, with whom I developed the Geoviticultural Map of Barolo and who still put up with my phone calls and messages at all hours of the day and night, including Sundays. It would be unfair to hide the fact that I learned so much from them.
And now some words of CAUTION
1) As accurate as one might try to be, drawing borders on 360° aerial images is no simple matter, and for this reason they are to be considered purely indicative, whether they are borders of communes or MGAs. As for any blatant errors, I ask forgiveness and urge you to report them to me without hesitation.
2) With regard to borders, in the case of MGAs, I have highlighted only the vineyard areas and not their total territories, which almost always take in spaces dedicated to other crops or woodlands, or more rarely to habitations.
3) While on the subject of borders, in some images and in the extracts of the geo-viticultural map I have tried to specify the different types of soil or geological formations found within a given area. Even more than with the MGAs, these borders are to be considered purely indicative because the transitions between one formation and another or between one soil type and another often occur in a nuanced and gradual way, thus creating distinct areas of evolution, as is the case with many historical vineyards. It should also be remembered that soils, even within areas considered homogeneous, are often quite complex whether due to natural causes or to human intervention such as leveling and excavation.
4) The site is designed to be viewed on desktop computers, laptops and tablets since it takes time and a large screen to examine the many details. If you really want to view it on your mobile phone, rotate it horizontally and make sure you have a good signal. On balance, even on such a small screen, the result is not bad at all.
5) Some of the 170 officially delimited MGAs lack a panoramic landscape image. This is not due to minor importance, but simply to the fact that to date I have not been able to produce satisfactory images.
6) Not all MGAs rate the same degree of in-depth analysis, which may depend on several factors: dimensions, complexity and ultimately reputation. However, I do not rule out further additions when and if conditions warrant them.
7) For some MGAs I have also indicated the owners or renters of individual plots, whether they make a wine from it or not. The important thing is that they have a winery or cellar. As many of you know, such information can be found in my book Barolo MGA Vol. 1. However, transferring data from print to digital is a long and laborious process, so, for now, I decided to do it only where practicable, where changes in ownership/rental were less likely and, above all, the graphic result was attractive and readable (Cannubi or Brunate, for example, are not very suitable). With time I promise that the others will follow.