The Brezza Boys- Barolo Through the Eyes of 3rd and 4th Generation Producers (video)

It’s fascinating what you learn by being there.  You can study all you want in books, but seeing a wine region in person unlocks a reality that takes you to a new understanding.  You experience the smells, the color, the people, the vineyards and it finally lifts off the pages of your wine books and becomes tangible.

I was fortunate to have Paolo Ferrero as a tour guide while in Piedmont.  A native to the area and author of several books on the region, Paolo has the ability to show you Piedmont in a way that would be impossible as a foreigner.

We visited Giacomo Brezza & Fils.  The video below was taken at the entrance of Brezza’s original cellar built in 1885.  It was once used for cellar operations and is now used for oak maturation.  The gentleman translating is Paolo and the winemaker is Oreste Brezza who talks about their four Grand Cru from Vineyards Bricco Saramassa, Saramassa, Cannubi and Castellero.

Want to watch it in a larger format? Go here.

After the tour we had a traditional Piedmontese lunch in their winery.  The dessert they served was off-the-hook for the simple reason that it contained their Barolo as the main ingredient.  The dish was made with egg white, sugar and –yep- their Barolo mixed in.  It was outstanding for the geek-out fact that Barolo in the U.S. is just too fantastic and coveted to rock in a recipe.

Have I mentioned we tried through a whole line-up of their wines? Langhe Chardonnay, Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba, Nebbiolo d’Alba and Barolo.  Their wines exhibit elegance wrapped in a balance of tradition and modern technique.

Use of Oak

Our conversation over lunch led to a discussion about their use of oak. Enzo Brezza is the family’s fourth generation winemaker.  He commented they sell their old barrels to port and whiskey producers once the barrels have maxed at around 11 years.

(this is Enzo)

Several generations ago barrels were used for upwards of 40 to 60 years.  The older oak barrels would basically dry up and impart dry tannins into the wine.  When used with the tannic nebbiolo grape the practice lead to a gripping experience on the palate, a wine stripped of its fruit and problems with volatile acidity.

Due to its high tannins, a Barolo once required a good 20 years of bottle age before it was even approachable, and 30 to 40 years for optimum maturity.   That said today you can enjoy the wine much earlier due, in part, to the region’s updated use of oak.

Consumption and Wine Quality

Where oak practices have modernized, so too have levels of consumption.  Enzo commented that several generations ago agricultural workers used wine as food.  They would each drink roughly a liter of wine a day out in the fields, which gave them energy.

Wine produced during that time was made with quantity in mind, which greatly lowered alcohol levels and the overall intensity of the wine.

Consumption today, however, is much lower than it once was.  As well, the introduction of new technologies including the use of stainless steel tanks, temperature-controlled fermentation and defined single vineyards has increased the overall quality of wine in the region.

I leave you with a few pictures I took:

Above:Taken on our way into town

Above: The beautiful landscape

This biker happened to randomly show up in one of my photos during our drive into town!

If you plan to visit Piedmont, I highly recommend contacting Paolo.  You’ll have the chance to meet some amazing people while there.  You might even be lucky enough to visit the Brezza boys…

Lead image courtesy of Azienda Agricola Brezza Giacomo e Figli.  Photo of Enzo boldly borrowed from The Wandering Palate, a blog worth checking out. Video and bottom images taken by my Flipcam, which I adore.

How a Stellenbosch Wine School will Transform the South African Wine Industry- An Interview with ISAW Founder Stephen Satterfield (videos)

The International Society of Africans in Wine (ISAW) has a great story to tell.  They have just landed in Cape Town after an exciting U.S. tour featuring African music, food and wine, while raising money and awareness to create opportunities for Africans in the country’s billion dollar wine industry.

Fresh from the effects of apartheid, which ended in 1994, South Africa boasts just two African families who own wineries in that country. ISAW is set to change things up by helping to reduce poverty and create economic opportunities in Africa through the business of wine.

I covered ISAW back in March and had a chance to meet up with Founder Stephen Satterfield during his recent stop in Seattle.

His story of how he created ISAW is inspiring and will open your eyes to how wine is being used for the greater good of humanity.

Here’s the interview!

Tell us about the ‘Drink Well, Do Good Tour’ and the cities you’ve visited.

The ‘Drink Well, Do Good Tour’ is a multi-city, international tour of mainly food and wine events and concerts.  It’s put on by our foundation ISAW to raise money and awareness for our cause, which is to use wine as a way to reduce poverty in South Africa.  The tour started in New Orleans and is traveling through cities across the country including Austin, San Francisco, Eugene, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Detroit, and Atlanta.  The final destination is in Capetown, South Africa.

Talk a little bit about South Africa’s history and why this tour is so important to the country.

The thing that people should know about South African wines is that the industry there is 350 years old.  So it’s not considered a new world growing region, actually in fact it’s pretty old world.  And the industry itself was founded on slave labor after colonization took place.  The by-product of that has been many generations of disenfranchised indigenous workers.  So what our vision is, is to use this thriving industry that is creating wealth for so many others and to train the workers to move freely from focusing on just grape picking to other facets of the wine industry where they can expand their footprint and have a better life for themselves and their families.  Hence the ‘Drink Well, Do Good Tour’.  So we’re working with and promoting primarily two families- one is M’hudi and the other one is Seven Sisters.  They are the first and the second, respectively, black owned vineyards in South Africa.

With this tour you are looking to raise money for a school to be built in South Africa?

That’s right.  So in addition to raising awareness with this tour these events are set up to raise money to begin construction on a viticultural center in Stellenbosch which will actually be on the M’hudi Estate.  So there’s a really cool, symbolic partnership that’s happening there as well.

So how did you get your start in the wine industry?

I went to a culinary school in Portland and thought about being a chef, and then thought better about it (laughs) after I had to work in some kitchens.  But I was really inspired by the wine industry during the time that I spent in Portland.  Of course, the Willamette Valley is an incredible wine region.  And then from there I moved to Atlanta a couple years ago.  I knew I wanted to stay involved in the wine industry but also to have an opportunity to increase the well-being for others.  ISAW has been a unique opportunity and I’ve been at it for about 2 years now.

What is your connection to South Africa?  How did you get involved with the wine industry there and what led you to create the ISAW Foundation?

I don’t have a reason to be involved with South Africa other than I was really taken aback by the socio-economic landscape of the wine industry there.  I was a sommelier at the time and I know that there’s not many African Americans in the wine business in any capacity.  When I learned about the M’hudi and Seven Sisters families in South Africa I actually went over there and met them first hand.  After that visit it became very clear in my mind that this was the project I wanted to take on, indefinitely.

It’s been hard.  I mean it’s not easy. Starting a small business is not easy, philanthropy is not easy, film production is not easy, educating people about social issues is not easy.  I could go on and on.  The cause and message is not easy to get across, but we’ve created the ‘Drink Well, Do Good’ part of the message which we’ve tried to make easy.  We are trying to become better at getting people to understand why it’s important for South Africans to have access to education.

It sounds like you’re educating people about the South African Wine Industry in a really positive way.  Can you talk a little about the performances and events you’ve done on this tour?

First of all I should say that we will do this again next year, or if not next year, certainly in the future.  It’s been a really great way to engage people by meeting their interests as food and wine lovers, or as music lovers.  So the groups that we have in Seattle are Afrobeat groups- the headliner is The Chicago Afrobeat Project who have been on tour with us since San Francisco.  So you’re talking like 4 or 5 piece music sections, heavy percussion, lots of rhythm, fun high-energy music.  So the concerts have been alot of fun.  Depending on the region and the market in each town is how we bill the concert, and we focus on music with African roots to fit into the context of the tour.

(Wanna check out some concert footage?)

(this video distributed by Tubemogul)

For those of us who want to support your mission, how can we donate to ISAW?

Thanks for asking!  We are a 501c3 so that is a way that we keep gas in the tank so to speak in tour language.  You can go to the ISAW Foundation homepage and you’ll find a really big icon that says “Make a Donation” at the bottom of the page.  Click on that and we have alot of different opportunities to donate.  People can start at $5 on up.  We understand that everyone has different abilities to donate.

How can people follow what you’re doing and stay informed on ISAW’s progress?

So all our communication is very transparent.  We have a blog which I’ve been updating on the tour at ToastAfrica.com/blog.  We’ll always keep people informed on what’s happening with the Foundation through our newsletter, and if you want to receive our newsletter go to ISAWfoundation.org.  You can also send me an email- I’m at isawstephen@gmail.com.  You’ll also find tons of information and video footage of the tour on our Facebook page. We really try to use social media to get our information out there.

If you would like to hear more from Stephen, check out this video!

(video distributed by Tubemogul)

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Something to keep your eye out for… While at the concert in Seattle I caught up with Danielle Bernstein, an award-winning film maker out of New York City.  She is creating a documentary of the tour set to be released next fall.  As well, once the viticultural center is opened in South Africa she plans to document the life of a student from their first day of class through the creation of their own winery.

Cheers!