Green from the Emerald Isle

Today – St. Patrick’s Day – marks the fourth anniversary of the launching of the web log – Vino Voices. The site was originally titled Vino Expressions – to match the book title this blog promotes. When I changed the book name to Wine and Work, (which is now Vino Voices), this blog name changed with it.

The original Vino Expressions book
The original Vino Expressions book
The modified version - Wine and Work
The modified version – Wine and Work

Four years? That’s wild. Particularly as for three of those years I’ve assembled posts from a country where it can be a challenge to obtain wine. Most posts (and all photos) are based on travels, research, and interviews with others. For the first few years, this post simply included excerpts from the book Wine and Work.

A years ago came the sister website – Roundwood Press – which is both an online bookstore and a blog related to a dozen books, written during the past twenty-one years.

Also from misty Ireland – name of the sister website

This has been a busy month: an emergency plane landing, two neighborhood suicide bombs, lockdowns for days – all punctuated by a few splendid parties and dinners. Each event provided the essential reminder that life is brief, and should be – as much as possible – celebrated. To celebrate this anniversary of this web log, I am ‘re-blogging’ the first full wine-related post – from March, 2010. It is about a wine maker who works on a hilltop in the piemonte region of Italy and who loves crafting Barolo wine. Flavio Fenocchio was the first person interviewed for Wine and Work, a strong soul who not only graciously treated us to a mid-morning tasting of excellent Barolo wines, but who shared stories about his passions: photography, geology, and exploring the hills and riversides of Italian wine country. He is one of the people this site is dedicated to – those who choose (whether for vocation or avocation) to do what they love, and to share the best of it with others.

Thanks for tuning in during these past years.


Here is the original post titled Flavio Fenocchio – Master on the Hill Top

A tough job. Flavio's the man for it.

“We don’t have a recipe,” said Flavio Fenocchio, winemaker for the Marchesi di Barolo winery in the Italian hilltop village of Barolo. “You say, I can’t.  Then you say, well, yes, I can.  You say, I couldn’t, but then you say, I’m going to see whether I can.  It gives you enthusiasm.  When you find that you can, then you say, today, I love my job.”

We sat together on a spring afternoon, tasting a half-dozen bottles of Barolo wine made during the past ten years.  The winery sits in Italy’s northwestern region known as Piemonte, named after the Italian words meaning foot (piede) and mountains (montagne).  Located south and east of the Alps, this region basks in summer sunshine.  Piemonte is a decadent find for those who love good food and wine.

Few people drink Barolo because production is small and the price is high.  The region produces eight million bottles each year, compared to 200 million bottles generated from the Bordeaux region of France alone.   Barolo comes from the Nebbiolo grape, which the Romans enjoyed, and which US President Thomas Jefferson considered as sweet and heavy.  Today, Barolo has a reputation as a distinct and excellent red.

Flavio compared himself to both an artist and scientist, admitting that an artist moves by inspiration, while the force that guides a winemaker is the question – ‘why not?’

“Making wine is a matter of trying to tell the future from the present.  It’s similar to a cook trying a new recipe, trying to understand the cooking time, the temperature.  You only have results when the meal is prepared, or when wine is aged.”

“What I am aiming at is to find surprise.  To give emotion.  It’s like photography.  You have to impress, to do something people remember.  If you can put a little of your personality not only in your wine, but in your job, it’s more interesting.  Doesn’t always happen,” he added, laughing.  “The worst and best thing about this job is that we are never bored,” he said.

“You have to ride the horse,” he added, referring to the process of making wine.  “It’s not always a quiet horse.  But with a good one, you can win the race.”

Before the tasting, I managed to visit the underground cellars, guided by Alessandra Minetti

“The first bottle of Barolo came from this cellar,” Alessandra explained as we toured through dank and musty pathways.

“Probably from one of these big traditional barrels,” she said, pointing at rows of huge oaken casks.

“These barrels are about 180 years old.  We still use them to make wine.”

She then showed me the Barolo ‘library’ – a room controlled for temperature, humidity and light and storing 36,000 bottles of wine.

“One of the biggest collections of Barolo in the world.”

She pointed at the oldest bottle behind a glass case.  The pale label read Barolo Cannubio 1859.

“Dusty,” I said.

“We want the dust,” said Alessandra, laughing.  “We never clean them.”

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Sounds like great fun in Italy. A place I’ll have to visit again . . . someday. Congrats on your 4th anniversary of Wine and Work. It’s a great book. I really enjoyed reading it. Cheers!

  2. Happy Blog Birthday Tom! Four years, I hope I get there too 🙂
    ‘Piemonte is a decadent find for those who love good food and wine’ is the perfect quote, it’s my favourite wine country (and nice and close to Nice!)

    1. Thanks Chrissie – glad you appreciate the rolling hills of Barolo and Barbaresco country! A friend who reviewed my book corrected the entire ‘palate,’ ‘pallet’ paradigm….which I knew nothing of before. ‘Good on yeh’ for the reminder, and for informing the world who love wine…You are serious about learning tastes. Sounds great, and please keep us informed.

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