Monferrato DOC Master Class – twenty-six wines but few favourites

Going to a Master Class is enriching regardless of subject area or specialisation. An enthusiastic speaker with a strong connection and a big heart for the area in question. A conversation not only about the wines but about the place, the region and the people. Michael Palij welcomed us and mastered the art of keeping pace and interest at the top for two hours.

Michael, who originated from Canada, received a Master of Wine in 1995 and has since been one of Italy’s foremost fan bearers. Dozens of growers were on site and were given space to present their wines combined with as many cheese producers.

The initial ten wines were like a duel, barbera vs barbera superiore. A question of taste perhaps, but the barbera wines passed completely unnoticed. With the add-on superiore, the wine gets a year’s ageing in oak barrels and only then does the wine begin to take its place, show details and a little excitement.

Bussi Piero, Dacapo, Poderi Cusmano and Baldi Pierfranco all showed great wines with noticeable elements of oak, pretty tannins, red berries and dry fruit. Clearly ready to drink with vintages between 2015 and 2017. Adding a few extra euros for a superiore feels totally reasonable no matter what you are going to use the wine for.

Tenuta Garetto Grignolino d'Asti

Tenuta Garetto Grignolino d’Asti, copyright SO Johansson

The performance continued and a woman from Tenuta Garetto presented today’s most sparkling sunbeam, Grignolino D´Asti 2018. You are completely forgiven if you are not familiar with grignolino, which as far as I know is only grown in Piedmont. Light ruby red and in the sunshine easy to associate with a dark rose. But there the similarities ended. The nose was crunchy, detailed and with a mineral tone of matchbook. I can see this a warm summer evening on the terrace, grilled white fish with some salty accompaniments and a glass of the beautiful light red liquid. Despite its pale colour, there was a clear tannin structure that gave a backbone to the wine. Two days of skin maceration and aged in steel tank. A real treat.

The journey continued and we became acquainted with grapes such as ruché and freisa. Again, a question of taste but it is not these grapes that will lure me back to Piedmont.

The third and final line up of glasses was filled with nebbiolo from Monferrato and three power packages from Nizza. The nebbiolos showed familiar characteristics and a conclusion that the wines from 2015 and later are not really ready to drink.

Freisa from Piedmont-Piemonte

Freisa from Piedmont-Piemonte, copyright SO Johansson

The three final glasses from Nizza presumably attract the same audience that falls for amarone. Dense in colour, texture and mouth-feel. Troublesomely high alcohol and large amounts of dried fruit. Barbera in a whole new style. Il Botolo Nizza 2015 was a neat and uncompromising flirtation with guys with hair on their chest. Lively with good punch, nose of paint box, tobacco and heavy red fruit. Dense, demanding and with integrated barrel notes and a massive sense of alcohol.

I thank Michael Palij for an inspiring lecture but before I leave the room I stop at the local cheese producers and have a hard time moving away. I note that it is the whole that builds Piedmont’s attractiveness. The food, the wine and the people.

Visit the event at with some fun video-contest entries by young people to promote the area.


Sven-Olof Johansson is a wine enthusiast in Stockholm with a long history of wine tasting experiences.

Cheese from Piedmont

Cheese from Piedmont, copyright BKWine Photography

Barbera d'Alba Superiore

Barbera d’Alba Superiore, copyright BKWine Photography

Grignolino d'Asti from Agostino Pavia & Figli

Grignolino d’Asti from Agostino Pavia & Figli, copyright BKWine Photography

Ruché from Castagnole Monferrato

Ruché from Castagnole Monferrato, copyright BKWine Photography

This post is also available in: Swedish


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