The novel A Long Finish by Michael Dibdin focuses on a grudge between two families of vignerons in Piedmont. Though I can’t recall the plot in any detail, there’s a murder (obviously), something about access to land for truffle-hunting and the roots of the grudge during war, what comes back to me clearly are the descriptions of the wine. One of the families gets a high price and international repute for their wine, a Barolo I think, whereas the other are in poverty. Their vines are just over the border of the region so can only call their wine Nebbiolo d’Alba. The former family makes sleek crowd-pleasing reds beloved of people who buy wines based on scores. There are rumours that they blend their Nebbiolo, the only grape allowed in Barolo, with some Cabernet Sauvignon (or even Merlot!) to make it more immediately appealing. The poorer family make something dark, earthy and ultra-traditional; the sort of wine that takes years to show its best. Here the wines represent the differences between the families but also the divisions within Italy itself.
Whilst reading the book, I longed to try the wines. Now whenever I have an old-fashioned Piedmontese red, I think back to the Dibdin’s writing. I was reminded of this when I read about a tasting evening that Hersilia press are putting on to promote their Italian crime list. There’s something about the murkiness of Italian politics that lends itself peculiarly well to crime fiction. It takes place in Oxford on Thursday 19th July from 6pm at the Portobello restaurant. Highlights include an Aglianco from Terredora to go with the Neapolitan novels of Maurizio de Giovanni and a Valpolicella Ripasso from Tommasi to drink with A Private Venus by Giorgio Scerbanenco. Italian are good at crime, very good at crime fiction and make some superb wines so this promises to be a rewarding evening.