Last week we took a deep dive into Piedmont and its luscious food and wine, closing our visit at the 500 year-old Tenuta Carretta for lunch. The Tenuta has several restaurants - one a Michelin star restaurant - great accommodation, and wines.
Piedmont wines are world-renowned and this remarkable wine region produces more DOCG wines than any other Italian region. It also ranks sixth among the Italian regions in annual production volume. Piedmont produces all kinds of wines from sparkling whites, to rosés to red wines.
Perhaps the best known wine in the region is Barolo. As it turns out Barolo is not a kind of wine or a grape varietal, but rather the name of a town where luscious Barolo red wine is produced from the Nebbiolo grape. If your pocket won’t allow you to drink Barolo wine regularly then consider some of the other wonderful wines produced using this grape.
Today sommelier and Italian wine connoisseur and aficionado Cynthia Chaplin and I chatted about the Piedmont Barolo wine producing area and more specifically three of the lesser known Piedmont red wines well worth diving into. All three of these three Piedmont wine production areas are slightly north / northeast of Barolo: Roero is about 20 km away, Verduno about 5 km away, and Castagnole about 45 km.
Nebbiolo is an Italian red wine grape varietal mainly associated with the Piedmont region; some of Italy‘s top DOCG wines are produced from this grape: most notably Barolo and Barbaresco.
The name of the grape comes from the Italian word for fog, nebbia. Some of these wines can require years of aging to balance out the tannins. Words used to describe nebbiolo wines are violets, wild herbs, tar and roses, cherries, tobacco and prunes.
Italian immigrants introduced Nebbiolo to the United States back in the 19th century but as it’s a complicated grape to grow, and as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot began to increase in popularity, plantings of Nebbiolo steadily decreased and now there are only about 170 acres left in California, Washington, Oregon and Virginia.
Roero Rosso Wine
Roero Rosso is the way to drink Nebbiolo less expensively than Barolo and its riserva wines are exquisite. It’s just as intense and structured as Barolo but at a fraction of the price. It needs to age at least 20 months - 6 of that in wood - and it must be made with a minimum of 95% Nebbiolo grape.
Angelo Negro winery
This family has been cultivating vineyards on the Roero hills since 1670. The family is dedicated to protecting and cultivating the region’s native grape varieties. Everyone in the family is involved in the winery: owner Giovanni Negro, his wife and four children. Gabriele Negro is the agronomist and Angelo Negro is the enologist.
The Angelo Negro winery cultivates 70 hectares of vineyard and produces Roero wine, Barbaresco and Barolo.
They produce cru wines using elite vineyard designations to grow grapes for specific wines. Negro, and other cru producers, separate their land into individual vineyard lots and label the wines with the single vineyard designations.
Ruché Grape & Wine
Ruché is an aromatic, floral and unusual DOCG Piedmont wine. Ruché is produced in the Castagnole Monferrato area in the province of Asti. It’s an up-and-coming red that until the 1970s was only used to produce sweet wines. Most likely this variety was imported in the 12th century from Bourgogne, France by Cistercian monks.
The Ruché growing area is small and the producers are few: the total growing area is about 50 hectares with roughly 15 producers.
Ruché wines have spice notes of mint, cinnamon and pepper, balanced by floral aromas of rose and iris.
This is a wonderful Ruché producer owned and run by the Cavallero family which has been making wine for over a century. They produce Barolo, Gavi and Ruché. This Piedmont winery is run by the two brothers, Claudio and Franco. It’s a small winery with just 12 hectares.
Pelaverga Piccolo Grape
The Pelaverga piccolo grape is a fascinating rare red grape from Castello di Verduno. This rare grape had almost entirely disappeared but Verduno growers resisted the temptation to eradicate Pelaverga from their vineyards in favor of profitable Nebbiolo vines used to produce prestigious and valuable Piedmont Barolo wines.
The Pelaverga growing area is even smaller than the Ruché growing area: 25 hectares and just a handful of producers.
Every September 2 there’s a festival in Verduno to celebrate this rare grape.
Castello di Verduno Winery
This winery represents an intertwining of two historical families: the Burlotto di Verduno and the Bianco di Barbaresco. Now it’s the three incredible daughters who run this winery and their focus is to express their creativity with the Pelalarga piccolo grape to create outstanding Piedmont wines. The three daughters are also dedicated to the winery’s hotel, restaurant and farmhouse.
Buying Wine Online
Perhaps one of the best things that has emerged from the Covid era is the increase in online buying and that extends also to wine. Here are two extremely valid e-commerce wine websites: Vivino and Tannico. Another option is to purchase wine from a wonderful wine club like the Rome-based Rimessa Roscioli Wine Club.
About Cynthia Chaplin
Cynthia is a passionate Italian wine professional, educator, writer, presenter, translator and judge. She sees herself as spreading Italian wine joy one glass at a time and that says it in a nutshell! She’s a member of Le Donne del Vino and is a professor of Italian wine and culture.
Cynthia was born in the USA and moved to Europe in 1990. She’s lived throughout Europe but has chosen to center her career in Rome and immerse herself in the Italian wine sector. Connect with Cynthia on Instagram and Facebook.
Be sure to check out this podcast episode with Cynthia Chaplin all about the Lake Garda Valtenesi wines and the Conti Thun Winery.
Read about this fascinating winery that originally belonged to Leonardo da Vinci.
Here's a great book about Piedmont wine and Barolo and Barbaresco:
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