Mention the Nebbiolo grape and the wines that are most likely to come to mind are Barolo and Barbaresco. These are great wines but there are others from northern Piedmont that deserve some attention, such as Ghemme, Bramaterra, Spanna, Carema, Boca, and Gattinara. These are made from100% Nebbiolo or blended with little known grapes such as Vespolina, Croatina and Bonarda.
As Co-Chair of the Wine Media Guild, I was happy to assist member Ed Mc Carthy and member sponsor Tom Maresca in putting together a tasting of these wines along with lunch at Felidia restaurant in NYC. One of the guest speakers was Ciniza Travaglini of the Travaglini winery. One of the points that she made was that all of the wines at the tasting showed better with food. I could not agree more.
The other guest speaker was Morgan Rich, a former sommelier, now with Polnar Selections. Mr. Rich spoke about each of the Northern Piedmont appellations that were represented at the tasting.
Ghemme 2006 made from 100% Nebbiolo Cantalupo The grapes come from the Carella Baraggiola Valera and Cavenago vineyards. The vineyards are on hills formed during the interglacial stage by the Monte Rosa moraine, the second highest peak in Europe. The soil is very rich in minerals because of the considerable crumbling of the rocks. The vineyards are between 280-310 meters. The training of the vines is counter espalier with Guyot pruning. Harvesting takes place in mid-October. The grapes are destemmed and delicately pressed. Temperature controlled fermentation during which repassing was carried out twice a day until the sugar was completely transformed. This was followed by submerged cap fermentation. The wine was then transferred to oak casks where it remained for about 20 months. After bottling the bottles were stored horizontally for refining. Aromas and flavors of violets, faded rose and raspberries. $37
Bramaterra 2007 made from 70% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina, 7% Vespolina and 3% Bonarda Antoniotti. Odilio Antoniotti and his son Mattia run the winery. The grapes are from the oldest vines, in a high elevation vineyard on porphyry soil that drains extremely quickly and is full of minerals and nutrients. In the vineyard they did not use fertilizers only compost and try to keep the sulfur at a minimal level. The vines are Guyot trained and the grapes are hand harvested. The grapes are destemmed and fermented in underground cement tanks for 12-14 days. The wine is racked into stainless steel tanks for Malolatic fermentation and then placed into botti of at least 1,250 liters around the end of December for about 30 months. There is no fining or filtration. $25-30
Spanna “Campi Raudii” 2009 Vallana Tom Maresca said that he was told when he visited the winery that this wine was 90% Nebbiolo with Vespolina and Bonarda. The wine is vino di tavola because they wanted to make a wine as they did in the past that did not follow the law. Since there is no IGT in Piedmont the wine had to be vino di tavola and therefore could not have a date on the label. Tom said that he was told it was a 2009 and that it was on the bar code. Vallana Spanna was a wine that could age. A few years ago I had a 1954 and a 1955. Will the present wines last as long? Only time will tell. They are a great bargain! $16
Spanna “Colline Novaresi “2008 Vallana . The Spanna Vallana is made from 100% Spanna the local name for Nebbiolo. Grapes from two different Crus Boca and Gattinara are used. These high altitude vineyards were planted in the 1960’s. The acidity of the soil prevents iron deficiency and only basic fertilizer is used. The grapes are hand harvested and selected. They are crushed and transferred to cement tanks for a 24-hour cold soak. Then the must is injected with selected yeast strains and fermentation begins. The cement tanks thermally insulate the must and the fermentation temperature gradually rises which is ideal for color extraction. Fermentation lasts between 8 to 10 days and pumping over is performed during this period. The wine undergoes Malolatic fermentation over the first winter. In the spring the wine goes into botti of 5-12 HL for six months. $ $17
Carema Classico 2007 DOC Produtti Carema 2007 Made from 100% Nebbiolo $24 This winery created in 1960, is a small cooperative divided amongst 45 growers in this small, remote region. Each grower rarely owns more than 1 hectare, most having only ½ hectare. The D.O.C. Carema, established in 1967, sits on a mountainous piece of land bordering the Valle d’Aosta. The climate is cold and quite windy here, resulting in grapes that are slow to ripen, and wines that are light garnet in color.
The vines are planted on steep stone terraces that reflect the sun and maintain the heat of the day during the night. The vines are trained on pergola-like crossbeams locally named topie or tabbie, onto which the vines are tied down firmly to keep them from being broken by the strong winds. These topie also allow for maximum exposure to the sun, helping to draw out the harvest for as long as possible, thereby taming the grapes’ high acids that would otherwise overwhelm the palate. The wines are 100% Nebbiolo from the local clones of Nebbiolo, Picutener, meaning “tender stem” and Pugnet, meaning “fist-like,” a reference to the compact shape of the bunches. The minimum aging requirement for these wines is 4 years, of which two years have to pass in large oak or chestnut botti.
Carema “ La Tabbie” 2007 DOC Orsolani The wine made from two clones of Nebbiolo Picutener and Pugent. The wine is aged in botti for three years and in bottle for 12 months before release. This was one of the more elegant wines at the tasting. $36
Bocca 2004 Valanna made from 65% Nebbiolo, 20% Vespolina and 15% Uva Rara. Grapes are hand picked and transported in small boxes to protect the skin and delay natural fermentation. Each variety is fermented separately. Fermentation takes place in cement tanks, with aggressive pumping over in the beginning to develop tannins and color. The wines are then blended and aged in 10HL casks for 2 years. $ 30
Gattinara 2006 Antoniolo 100% Nebbiolo, with a south/southwest exposure, the vines are 40-50 years old. Fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with an automatic daily pump over. Maceration takes place between 14-16 days. The wine then ages in medium capacity oak barrels for 24 months and in bottle for another 12 months. $40
Gattinara “Le Castelle” 2006 Antoniolo Made from 100% Nebbiolo from the Castelle cru with a mostly southwest exposure. Fermented in temperature controlled stainless tanks with daily pumping over and 10-12 days maceration. The wine is aged for 2 year in barriques and one year in bottle. $55
The hills of Gattinara have the same mineralogical composition as the Alps: granite rocks, porphyries, quartzes and iron minerals, which give the typical reddish color to the indigenous rock.
Travaglini Gattinara the vineyards are at 280 to 420 meters and the exposure is south /southwest. There are 3,500 to 5,00 plants per hectare. The grapes are crushed and macerated for about 14 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.
Cinzia spoke about Gattinara in general and her winery in particular and pointed out that all of their Gattinara is made from 100% Nebbiolo. She also said that it is a family run winery and her husband Massimo is the wine maker
Gattinara “ Tre Vigne” Travaglini 2005 The wine is aged for 40 months, 30 months in Slovenian oak casks -25% of which is aged separately for 10 months in French barriques. The wine then rests in bottle for 8 months. $49
Gattinara Riserva 2006 Travaglini The wine is aged for 4 years, at least 3 in oak casks of different origin and sizes, then in bottle for 8 months. This wine is only made in the best vintages from a special selection of grapes. $59
Gattinara Riserva 2005 $ 59 Same as above
Gattinara 2004 Vallana This is the same as the Spanna but it is aged for 24 months in botti and 9 months in bottle before release.$30
Gattinara Riserva1995 Travaglini $ NV Same as above