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In Dining

Luca Currado understands the importance of tradition in a Piemontese winemaking family. (PHOTO: Vietti)

In Dining

Currado visits Milwaukee Thursday, March 6 for a Vietti wine dinner at Zarletti. (PHOTO: Vietti)

Vietti's Currado feels the joy and weight of winemaking tradition

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After celebrating Piemontese wine month in November, offering half-priced bottles of wine from Italy's northwestern Piedmont region, Zarletti Milwaukee, 741 N. Milwaukee St., ups the ante with a wine dinner featuring famed and respected Barolo producer Vietti.

Vietti's Luca Currado will be on hand for the multi-course dinner, with a Piemontese-inspired menu by Brian Zarletti, on Thursday, March 6. There's a 6 p.m. cocktail hour and dinner is at 7 p.m. Reservations, which are limited, are required (call 414-225-0000).

We reached Currado, via email, at his home in Piemonte, Italy, to talk about Vietti, his U.S. tour and his Milwaukee stop... Let's talk a bit about the responsibility that comes with being part of a great Piemontese winemaking family, one with a century of tradition. Surely, there's pride, but is there also a weight to bear?

Luca Currado: There is a lot of responsibility. Having five generations of history and hard work on your shoulders is no small thing. You know, when I was 10, I played in the wine cellar, helping my dad and I was always attracted to the magic of winemaking. There's a lot of pressure, but I need some adrenaline. I do my best under stress and I like competition. That healthy perennial dissatisfaction that pushes you to do your best and to keep going.

OMC: With you and, say, Ceretto, for example, it seems like there's a new generation breathing a modern air into the grand Piemontese wine scene. Is this true? Do you think it's important, and is it difficult, to find a new path without abandoning the old road?

LC: Thanks for the youth. Unfortunately, I'm not that young. Maybe I'm in the generation in between now. A few years ago, the stimulus to change and create was very strong. Then after a few years, it was understood that one is fortunate to be born in a land kissed by God. And maybe there isn't much to invent, but much to respect. Everything can be improved. The details create perfection.

Here (in Piemonte), the generation before ours did a lot and now it is our turn, with our knowledge, by taking care of the details, to bring a qualitative consistency that, maybe in the past, was lacking.

The word "tradition" means to learn from the errors that you make every day, those that our parents made and to follow the right road, learning from mistakes. But tradition isn't revolution. That would be a grave error. When we want to enjoy today one of the great barolos, we open a 1982, a 1989. What we're doing today will have to be judged in 20 years. (Changing) style doesn't last long and doesn't pay. You're chasing a butterfly.

OMC: I'm a barbera fan and I'm always happy to find good barbera here, but it still isn't very well-known. Do you think there are other ways to open new inroads here for barbera?

LC: I am a huge fan of barbera. In the 1800s, the Barolo zone was planted half in nebbiolo and half in barbera. Then at the start of the 1900s, when Barolo became so famous, since you could make Barolo only on these three hills, everyone ripped out barbera to have more nebbiolo vineyards available.

But the "true" wine was barbera. Because in Mediterranean culture, wine was on the table with food and was an integrated part of the culinary experience. In Italy, and let me say in Europe, there are few wines that have the versatility and ease of pairing with food that barbera has.

This is why barbera was so popular. It was only rediscovered in the early 1990s and now its undergoing its renaissance, above all now where the whole world is beginning to understand the true essence of gastronomic pleasure is wine and food, food and wine – inescapably linked.

I love barbera so much that we sacrificed several Barolo vineyards to replant barbera in the Barolo zone where it was in the 1800s. Barbera Scarrone is an example.

OMC: It's interesting how sometimes things happen in an unexpected way, like the success of moscato, which is now very popular among rappers and their American fans. What has been the result of that success?

LC: There was no doubt that moscato would explode in the American market. A lightly fizzy wine, sweet, low alcohol, fruity perfume. It's the only sweet wine that I drink. I don't like "passito" wines. Unfortunately, it's exploded too much and big firms have profited by cannibalizing the true essence of Moscato d'Asti, producing low-priced moscatos, improbably from all over the world, riding the fashion but destroying a wine.

OMC: What's it like doing the tour? Is it hard to be on all the time, eating a huge dinner, surrounded by people you don't know? What do you like most and least about it?

LC: I like it. I like meeting new people, I like seeing the light that goes on when they taste your wines. I like talking about my land, my people, my traditions. I would like the people to drink "history" and culture paired with the culture of local cuisine. I don't enjoy tasting where you're behind a long table and someone distractedly hands you a glass only to drink the most expensive wine before it runs out. A lot of times, I slip out of these. It feels like a slap.

OMC: How do you find Piemontese dishes in America. It's not a cuisine that's especially well known in the U.S.

LC: It's not true. As you well know, there is no Italian cuisine, only regional cuisines. Piemontese cuisine was always by tradition one of the most refined and elegant. Here, before 1870, there were the Savoys, who were food fanatics and were always in competition with their French "cousins." Often, refined Italian cuisine in the United States has Piemontese dishes as its base.

OMC: Have you ever been to Milwaukee?

LC: Once, very briefly, many years ago.

OMC: What comes to mind when you hear the name of the city?

LC: First of all, Harley, of course. Mythical. Then beer, great music and then from my youth, "Happy Days." Who knows, maybe I'll run into Fonzie!

OMC: What awaits us at the Zarletti event?

LC: It will certainly be fun. You'll eat well and you'll drink well.


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