Meet The Maker: Susanna Bianco

Recently, the lovely Susanna Bianco stopped by Astor Wines for an in-store tasting and we had the pleasure of speaking with her. Her winery, Gigi Bianco, is one of the oldest in Barbaresco. Established four generations ago in 1870, this small winery is run by a family who care deeply about their craft. Susanna’s passion for their wines is apparent when she speaks about them. After tasting her delicious Barbaresco and Dolcetto, we couldn’t resist a quick chat with Susanna to learn more about her roots in winemaking and how she was enjoying her first visit to New York.

What makes your production process unique among Barbaresco producers?
We are a very old farm, born in 1870 – one of the most historical farms based in Barbaresco. Our products are very natural, very traditional, very classical, very genuine. When you drink our products, you feel the soil, the terroir. So, I think this makes us very unique. We work in a very traditional way. My great grandfather, my grandparents, my parents – there’s a long history of the family working on the winery. Today, my mother, husband, cousin – all of the family is involved on the vineyard, and we do the majority of the work by hand.

You grew up on the vineyard from the time you were very little?
Yes, since I was nine years old. I went to university to study, but then I came back to work on the winery. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a wonderful place to work: the hills are very relaxing; there’s no pollution. This job is year round, so we work a lot, but it’s a great place to spend your days.

You were nominated by Slow Wines and invited here to New York by them?
Yes, our Barbaresco was selected by them for the Wine of Excellence award. What makes the wine special is that you can recognize the terroir: the real smell of the soil, the air, the plants. It’s a very authentic product, and we’re very happy that it was selected three times by Slow Wines. Slow Foods was born in Italy, just 25 km from Barbaresco, as a way to protect good food and good wine, and we do our best to produce a high-quality, natural wine.

It’s your first time in New York? What do you think?
It’s a very different life! We are 600 inhabitants in Barbaresco. We’re really happy to be at Astor Wines – it’s the only place in the US where we are currently selling our wines. We’ve been to some nice restaurants here, too. If you choose well, you can find very elegant places.

What are your favorite foods to pair with your wines?
The Dolcetto d’Alba is very easy to combine with many foods – pasta, meat, cheese, even fish. But when we have an important lunch or dinner, we start with the Dolcetto for starters and main course, and continue with the Barbaresco for the second course, also very easy to combine with a variety of dishes.


Try Susanna Bianco’s Wines:

Dolcetto d’Alba, Gigi Bianco – 2011 (Staff Pick)
This is the only Dolcetto from the renowned Barbaresco region, and as soon as I got to know it, I knew why no other producer wanted to compete with winemaker Susanna Bianco. The complexity of this wine is apparent in the glass. The soft violet color is indicative of the wine’s lightness, yet the nose is packed with tart berries laced with a strip of leather. The tart nose sets the expectation for lively acidity on the palate, but the acid is mild, balanced and complemented by ripe raspberry, lithe tannins and layers of minerality. Decanted as many as twelve times before bottling, this wine is clean and fresh, but its true magic is in how flavorful and persistent it is in spite of its delicate body. It finishes long and smooth. Delicious on its own, this wine also pairs brilliantly with antipasti, caponata, simple pastas or steak tartare.-DGT

Barbaresco “Ovello”, Gigi Bianco – 2007
An exquisite pairing with meaty stews or braised duck breast. This is a classic Barbaresco with charming aromas: roses, white pepper, and red fruits. Classic, elegant Nebbiolo from a tiny property in Barbaresco.