In 1954 the aim was to inform the who knew little or nothing who had a desire to know more. Their purpose was to encourage, stimulate and maybe assist newcomers to gastronomy to consider wine, taste wine and study wine for themselves. That's exactly what I want to do in Italy. Perhaps they can help me after all? Fanny and Johnnie steer me through food choices (none are Italian), how to cook with wine (Vermouth is perfectly happy in the kitchen), ordering wine in restaurants (most wine waiters are ignoramuses, so you must guide them), drinking wine at home (apparently no excuses are necessary), hosting a wine tasting party (choose four for a modest affair) as well as a summary of wines by region. Well, French at any rate. If we must consider Italian wines, start by considering Asti Spumanti, a frivolous drink. Fanny says only one word is required. Don't.
The Bon Viveurs do admit that Italy does have at least one good wine. A red. Barolo. It has a certain amount of bouquet which is lacking in nearly all the others. The faint praise continues, with a faintly positive description of it having a faint resemblance to Burgundy. Perhaps the wine sessions and visits to vineyards that I have booked up will provide a faint whiff of pleasure while I am there?
There is a glimmer of hope. In the 1970s, Johnnie, presumably free from the shackles of Fanny's French obsession, does say that the quality of Italian wine has greatly improved. Finalmente! Italy, being one of the oldest, and biggest, wine producers in the world, finally gained the support of their government to establish the Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or D.O.C. based of course on the French system, which has helped immensely. Johnnies advice is to always buy D.O.C approved wines. Good news. The good news continues as he says that Italy does not often export it's best wines, only those of medium quality.
Johnnie is especially drawn to Piedmont, where he describes Barolo as the 'king of wines' or the 'wine of kings'. Either will do nicely for me. Protected by law, it is aged for at least three years in oak barrels, turning orange red in colour and still remaining dry. Johnnie says Barbaresco is similar but matures faster. He recommends I also watch out for Sizzano, Lessona, Gattinara, Fara, Ghemme, Boca and Mottalciata, all of which need time to mature. I am hopeful they will have matured sufficiently by the time I arrive. And then there is Carema, Barbera d'Asti (which is very good drinking), a dry red called Freisa, Dolcetto, Grignolino, Cortese and Erbaluce di Caluso. There is even a sparkling red which carries the scent of roses called Brachetto. I'll be simply spoiled for choice. And that's before the Vermouth is opened. There will be no need to reach for the Asti Spumante.