The Alto Piemonte Thread

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Oliver Coleman-Green, Jul 1, 2020.

  1. I thought it might be a nice idea to try and bring together a few notes and experiences on Alto Piemonte wines.

    I’ve rather enjoyed most of the wines I have had from the region, recent examples being the Antoniotti wines, Fara Ciada 2010 from Vallee Roncanti (the good bottles anyway) and an excellent Mauro Franchino Gattinara 2011 the other week. Jeremy organised a lovely dinner at La Trompette last year and we had a real range of wines including Nervi, Ferando Carema, Le Piane and the delightfully rustic Vallana.

    As a gross generalisation - I find the wines a bit lighter and more accessible at a younger age (not yet had a “closed” one, but not to say it doesn’t happen) and the lower alcohol is an added bonus.

    Yesterday I had a mixed case including the below delivered and I aim to taste them and post notes here over the coming months. Hopefully by posting my aim I will keep myself honest in actually getting round to do it.

    Boniperti 2016 Barton "Fara"
    Boniperti 2017 Favolalunga Colline Novaresi
    Boniperti 2018 Favolalunga Colline Novaresi
    Boniperti 2018 Carlin Colline Novaresi
    Boniperti 2019 Rosadisera Vino Rosato
    Fabio Zambolin 2017 ‘Feldo’
    Fabio Zambolin 2017 ‘Vallelonga’ Coste della Sesia Nebbiolo
    Silvia Barbaglia 2015 Boca

    Anyone have any recommendations for books covering the area (in English)?

    Please do contribute any notes and experiences you have, including favourite producers.
  2. A week ago my last bottle of Boca Rosso delle Donne 2007 from Castello Conti was as you describe. A neat-waisted figure rather than a squat monster. Not much tannin. A touch of blackberry and clove. No proper tertiary qualities yet though, and benefitted from aeration. Very fine sediment but not too much of it.
  3. I like titles like this! "Lets Talk about..."" and "hooked on Muscadet" always draw attention.
  4. I wasn't aware until we went there, of how close many of these regions are e.g. Fara, Sizzano, Ghemme form a ~ 5km stretch, which puts them more akin to villages of a larger wine region. Gattinara not that much further away, but with the river crossing a little further north of this map segment, it feels further away. By chance the restaurant Google highlighted is where I ate braised donkey, and it was surprisingly lovely.

    Boca, Lessona etc. a bit further away
  5. I’ve enjoyed the wines I’ve tasted, and probably quite unfairly characterise them as lighter versions of their Langhe cousins, I’d love to learn more so I’m looking forward to hearing more suggestions
  6. A couple of old tasting notes, but on the better bottles we've had from this producer. Some were fading but still interesting. These were probably fading as well, but offered much of what I crave in old wine. Remarkable wines, with them apparently being cheap as chips on release. Plenty of knowing winks about what 'other' wines made it into the bottles, though the winery always denied anything of the sort. I know one very good producer who stopped releasing wines labelled with Spanna (which was the local name for the grape), on the basis it had no legal footing and this had been abused by a number of wineries.

    Whatever, wine quality definitely dipped at this estate, but I still try the odd bottle and hope for a resurgence.

    Still my favourite wine labels, though the images below do them no justice.

    • 1954 Antonio Vallana e Figlio Spanna Campi Raudii - Italy, Piedmont, Northern Piedmont, Colline Novaresi (08/02/2012)
      In truth, no idea on the vintage, but it did come in the same box as some 1954s and the labels are consistent, hence on balance of probability, also a 1954.

      Certainly over-mature in colour, being predominantly brown/mahogany albeit with enough red to suggest it might still be alive.

      Very attractive nose, with high toned faded fruit, mushroom, liquorice, fennel and a touch of black olive, all with a genuine flow to the profile and the sort of complexity that comes with fully/over mature wines.

      Lovely balance on the palate, which is nearer to medium bodied than I'd expect (albeit still probably 'light' in the context of modern wines). Although the fruit is light/delicate, it's far from faded to the background. Slightly less complexity than the nose, but a decent length to the finish and lovely acidity that's both refreshing, yet also soft enough not to dominate.

      Our last bottle of this and I suspect we're unlikely to see any more at a sensible price. It's done good by us.
    • 1954 Antonio Vallana e Figlio Spanna Campi Raudii - Italy, Piedmont, Northern Piedmont, Colline Novaresi (30/06/2007)
      Having experienced this wine before, expectations weren't too high and as I was opening it said "It will definitely be fading".

      Fading perhaps, but stonking with it!

      Cork was pretty soft & soaked and came out in two pieces. The level was a concerning, (albeit unsurprising with it's age) upper shoulder

      The colour is edging from claret to mahogany with the red tones hanging in there - just. The browning at the rim has a touch of amber, but not as much as I've noticed in other older nebbiolos. This one definitely darker and heading towards brown.

      The nose is certainly very mature, with a fair degree of sweet decaying fruit giving it an overall caramelly nose (in a good way, this descriptor cuts both ways for me). There's some earthy mushroom in there and a nice fresh lift (VA?) that fits well, perhaps a touch of sweet spice as well?

      On the palate there's a degree of sweetness and balancing refreshing acidity that matches really well. Relatively light in body, with a finish that isn't powerful, but long and complex (it almost fades away, yet seems to come back again, and again). Works very well with food (in this case roast chicken with a porcini and Morel gravy). On it's own, perhaps the acidity dominates the finish and makes it a little drying. Still a minor quibble.
  7. Oliver - I went on a press trip trip there in 2016 and tasted a lot of wine over a week, well over a hundred. I love the wines and have written a fair bit about them on my wineloon website, won’t share a link but easy to find. If you google “Wineloon baby Barolo” you’ll get the summary article which covers all the areas I visited. There is a Lessona tasting article on there and a piece on sparkling erbaluce as well. I rate erbaluce fizz

    Based on my that trip and subsequent tasting the best producers are;

    Lessona - sella, Sperino, Pietro Cassina, la Badina (In that order). I recently discovered colombera & Garella as well whose wines are great, their Coste della Sesia 18 is great. Available from indigo wines website. Have bought some of their Lessona 16 as well but not tried yet.

    ghemme - Cantalupo is superb but haven’t been able to find the wines anywhere since I visited

    Gattinara - Nervi, Travaligni (I still buy nervi from Raeburn but not travaligni, def prefer Nervi), Vallana

    Erbaluce di caluso Spumante - cellagrande, orsolani, cieck (they also make nervi’s erbaluce bizarrely), la masera

    bramaterra - sella, antionotti

    carema - we only visited the produttori, great wines and much cheaper than the Ferrando which are great but a bit punchy.

    I also like the le Piane wines that lea & sandeman sell - Boca and others

    The Coste della Sesia doc is a great source of value, Young drinking wines. The Nervi “Spanna” is a great wine and Sperino’s uvaggio is always good.

    The only book I’ve read in English which covers the region in detail is Paul Blake’s piedmont atlas, but it’s quite expensive. Masnaghetti has done a map of Gattinara which I have a copy of on my study wall, it has details about the winemaking, Terroirs and Producers. You can buy online for €7 euros
  8. Ah, Carema, an aethereal wine, you think it's there but then it's gone, faded like a dream. An experience never to be repeated...
    Oliver Coleman-Green likes this.
  9. Thanks for that, Simon, very thorough and useful.

    I’ll have a look at buying some of the maps, I do find they help me to fix an area in my mind much better.
  10. Right, first of the mixed case was opened last night;

    Fabio Zambolin “Feldo” Costa delle Seisa 2017

    Small garagiste producer, making 3k bottles in total across two wines. This is a blend of Nebbiolo, Croatina and Vespolina (I believe 50/25/25 but different sources mention earlier vintages as a third each). Closed under Diam 5, which is a good thing to my mind as I felt the failure rate of the Vallee Roncanti Fara was down to less than good corks. Apparently very little sulphur added at bottling (30ppm, although I don’t really have a handle on what is low or high).

    Nose starts as dusty rich dark fruit when poured, opening up with more sweet floral notes over time.

    Palate has cooler fruit than the nose might suggest, sappy blackberry interplayed with dark cherry and redcurrant. Tannins are fine but build through the palate, along with herbal notes and a bit of liquorice, and are very evident on the finish (although the tannins are mouth coating, they are not harsh). This is really long, especially for a wine at this price point. This is a bit wild, but it doesn’t feel rustic in a bad way at all, just honest. There seems to be a touch of heat on this, but it is only 13.5%. The bitterness, along with uncompromising acidity and tannin keep you coming back for more. Certainly has time in hand. Lightens up over the evening and softened by food.

    Day 2 - the nose has opened a lot overnight and this has lots of intense rose and candied red fruit, the palate has softened somewhat and bitter cherry to the fore, no noticeable heat.

    Overall a really interesting and well made wine, which could do with a good decant if opening soon or a bit of a sleep in the cellar.

    Looking forward to trying to 100% Nebbiolo from this producer.
  11. Book wise, I stumbled across the below the other day which looks fantastic for those that can read Italian. I contacted the author who said no plans for an English translation but that they would consider in the future if they thought it would be worth it, I think it is hard to know how big the market is for such things. No commercial connection etc.

    Giorgio Fogliana - Nord Piemonte
    David Crossley likes this.
  12. Something I like about Alto Piemonte is that they are allowed to mix in other grapes with the nebbiolo and I nearly always feel that this adds character and interest, particularly when young.
  13. Totally agree Jeremy, and I do think the native grapes do make good blends which seem more than the sum of their parts (although I do remember enjoying the 100% vespolina I took along to Popolo a few years back).
  14. Big fan of vespolina. Adds a lovely lick of spicy tension to the wines. Pietro Cassina does a good 100% one, I think that’s the only one I’ve had. What was the one you mentioned Oliver?
    Leon Marks likes this.
  15. It was Paride Chiovani’s “Afrodite”, I remember buying it from Passione Vino - they used to have a range from Paride Chiovani, not been in for a while so unsure if they still sell then.
  16. Another fan of Vespolina here, with Mirù's vespolina being a billy bargain (Italvinus stock it. but no UK suppliers despite a pub considering importing their wines a while back). It ages rather well
    • 2009 Miru Colline Novaresi - Italy, Piedmont, Northern Piedmont, Colline Novaresi (08/05/2018)
      In fine shape, indeed a little more primary than the other bottle which was consumed a couple of years ago. Cherry comes through strongly on the nose, along with star anise. Some initial VA has blown off within the hour. On the palate, the cherry has a slightly sour edge. Tannins are subtle and now in the background, but with lightly refreshing acidity gives a lovely appetising balance. A lovely wine for summer where you want a little more complexity and calmness of almost a decade's age.

      Wonderful bargain

    • 2009 Miru Colline Novaresi - Italy, Piedmont, Northern Piedmont, Colline Novaresi (02/04/2016)
      We took a bit of a flier on ageing this, as when tasted on release it hard a firm structure with a hint that the fruit could last beyond the tannins.

      Well it worked perhaps better than we'd expected, with good tertiary complexity and the tannins had dropped away. On another night I would have taken notes, so will look forward to the other bottle with confidence and the intention to do it a little more justice.

    these bought from a memorable winery visit - we've been twice and are itching to return. Our plan to deliver some goodies as a thankyou for a previous visit, ended with us taking away more than we brought. Never, and I mean never, try to be more hospitable than one's Italian host :D. Their nebbiolo freshly pressed fruit remains the best 'fruit juice' we have ever drunk. One of those wineries on no critic's radar, yet these are often the most rewarding experiences.
  17. I'm surprised the wines from Colombera & Garella aren't more widely available in the UK and particularly like their Bramaterra. The I'll Drink to That interview with Cristiano Garella is very informative:

    IDTT Wine 381: Cristiano Garella
    Oliver Coleman-Green likes this.
  18. Had friends over last night who have a place overlooking Aosta, not sure if this fits into the area, but he brought with him Lo Triolet muscat petit grain, 2018. Which was a lovely dry white, 14.5% but good mineral notes and a good touch of the grapiness of Muscat.

    we have tried several of this producers wines and they’re all good. Aosta seems a good place to explore.
    David Crossley and Ian Sutton like this.
  19. It is a delight to watch the light planes coming into land at Aosta's airport. They definitely 'swoop' (not like paving slabs mind) down into the valley to land. As mesmerising as watching the ferries from Ravello. Agreed on that producer. Along with La Crotta de Vigneron, one of the safest bets in the region.
    Russ Sainty likes this.
  20. I decided to open another from the case this evening and fancied a 100% nebbiolo this time.


    Gilberto Boniperti 2018 Carlin Colline Novaresi
    13% abv, 100% nebbiolo from two vineyards in Colline Novaresi closed under Diam 5. Fermented, completes malo and aged in stainless steel.

    Beautiful pale ruby colour. Plush red cherries and pretty flowers on the nose which really opens up in a burgundy glass. Palate starts with prickly red fruits (redcurrant, strawberry, raspberry) with the faintest perception of spritz, some cherry joins on the midpalate. Obviously very young and fresh but no less enjoyable for it. A certain leanness and zippy acidity throughout and a touch of firmness on the end. Delightful fine boned rendition of nebbiolo, in fact it is very pinot noir like, although perhaps a little chewier than you would get with entry level burgundy . Lovely wine for basically £15 on the table.
  21. I just got Ultravino's email today (no connection) for a few more new Alto Piemonte producers. There does really seem to be some momentum around a part of the region I began t get into a decade ago but was maybe a bit too early (though Roero certainly offered some good wines). I'm dying here though, having already spent way too much in Lockdown and being told by everyone how I "have" to buy the 2019 Mosels... Been meaning to buy here for months but for me it's now largely a case of what I can get away with. Hoping some seriously warm waether will allow for the creation of a bit more room in the racks. The genuine appeal to me is to be able to drink a Piemontese personality without having to wait decades to do so, decades which I should face up to the facts that I probably no longer have.

    Other than Ultravino, which really seems on top of Alto Piemonte, who are the retailers of note?

    I think the geeks should try to look over the border if they can...Donnaz/Donnas has some attractive Nebbiolos. Even the co-operative there makes some great value red at the top of the range.
  22. As you probably deduced from the list in my first message, I got my mixed case from Ultravino - a bit ahead of the general offer as I was pestering Gabriele. They offered to do two different mixed cases for me and, having little restraint, I went in for both so got some duplicates. Might be worth asking for a mix... and add some Eraldo Rivelli dolcetto... and some Guido Rivella.... (and this is how I have failed to save much money during lockdown).
    No commercial connection other than as a (very) satisfied customer.

    Uncorked always worth a look, they had the whole range from Anoniotti and previously had Mauro Franchino. Stannary also carry the Franchino.

    @Simon Reilly is probably your man for where to buy some interesting kit - he mentioned Raeburn & Indigo upthread.
  23. I have been wanting to try some Alto Piemonte since the inception of this thread piqued my interest, so Ultavino's mail was timely and I have ordered a mixed case.
    Oliver Coleman-Green likes this.
  24. Appellations usually have some good stuff too.

    separately I see A&B have picked up Chiara Condello, not sure where that leaves Ultravino going forward on that front
    David Crossley likes this.

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