While people often debate the merits of Brunello vs. Barolo or Barolo vs Barbaresco, the smaller appellations where Nebbiolo grows are often overlooked. This is certainly the case with Carema DOC and it is a real shame. I first heard of these wines about 20 years ago when I lived in Florence and someone who was close to me mentioned them as sensational wines. He had worked for many years at Olivetti in Ivrea and discovered the wines during his years in Piedmont. I always remembered the name Carema because it sounded musical and lyrical to me. The wines when I finally tried them a couple of years later were what I could call lyrical – elegant and beautiful expressions of Nebbiolo. Carema is located in the province of Turin very close to the Valle d’Aosta. In fact, I visited there after a skiing vacation in the Valle d’Aosta, an amazing part of Italy as well, and not to be missed.
These are some of the most northern Nebbiolos one will find and growing vines on the steep and terraced vineyards there is quite difficult. The wines are a tad more austere than some of the Nebbiolos people might be used to. They also have great acidity, again not, what one immediately associates with Nebbiolo. There are two varieties of Nebbiolo that grow in this area, one is called Picutener and the other Pugnet. Carema sits on the remains of a moraine at the foot of the Maletto mountain. In addition to this special mineral rich soil, the climate also helps to grow healthy grapes as the weather is somewhat mild, and protection from harsh winds can be found both from the alps and the smaller hills surrounding the area. Furthermore, the climate is mitigated by the presence of a myriad of lakes.
The grapes grow at altitudes of 350 – 700 meters in a pergola form supported by stone pillars. These are mountain wines. It is very hard work and erosion and damage to the terracing is common, requiring constant attention to the vineyards. The terraces are all supported by dry walls. The thermal excursion or difference between day and night temperatures in this area is quite large, adding to the elegance and balance one finds in these wines as it helps grapes reach phenolic ripeness. The pillars also help to retain heat during the day and then they release it at night, again, helping to keep the vines healthy with a good balance between acidity and sugar in the grapes.
The wines are aged for 24 months by law, at least 12 of which in oak or chestnut barrels. For the Reserva level, they age for 36 months. While Caluso makes wines with Erbaluce and Canavese makes many wines not just Nebbiolo as one finds in Carema, all three are grouped together in a Consortium and thus I am mentioning all three of them. The first Consortium was established in 1991 for Caluso DOC wines. In 1996, the Consortium added Carema DOC wines and finally in 1998, Canavese DOC wines. The Consortium has some 26 members. Carema is located near a famous town called Pont Saint Martin. This is a picture of the remains of a castle there. It is named for a Roman bridge that crosses the Dora Baltea river there.
Nebbiolo also grows in the Canavese area which includes one hundred towns near Turin and 10 near the Piedmont towns of Biella and Vercelli. Other grape varieties also go into this designation including Barbera, Bonarda, Freisa and Neretto. For the Canavese Nebbiolo DOC, some 85% of the wine must come from Nebbiolo grapes, while the other 15% can be made up of other locally-grown red grapes. These Nebbiolo based wines are generally more fruit forward and less austere than the ones from Carema. Carema is much smaller than Canavese, as one can see from the list below of production areas. Two very well known producers who are available in the USA are Cantina Produttori Nebbiolo di Carema and Luigi Ferrando. Click here to find them.
The Carema DOC winegrowing area is in the town of Carema while the Canavese DOC winegrowing area is in the following towns:
Province of Torino: Agliè, Albiano d’Ivrea; Alice Superiore, Andrate, Azeglio, Bairo, Baldissero Canavese, Balangero, Banchette, Barbania, Barone, Bollengo, Borgiallo, Borgofranco d’Ivrea, Borgomasino, Burolo, Busano, Cafasse, Caluso, Candia Canavese, Caravino, Carema, Cascinette d’Ivrea, Castellamonte, Castelnuovo Nigra, Chiaverano, Chiesanuova, Ciconio, Cintano, Cofieretto Castelnuovo, Colleretto Giacosa, Corio, Coassolo, Cossano Canavese, Cuceglio, Cuorgnè, Favria, Feletto, Fiorano Canavese, Forno Canavese, Front, Germagnano, Ivrea, Lanzo Torinese, Lessolo, Levone, Loranzè, Lugnacco, Lusigliè, Maglione, Mazzè, Mercenasco, Montalenghe, Montaldo Dora, Nomaglio, Oglianico, Orio Canavese, Ozegna, Palazzo Canavese, Parella, Pavone Canavese, Pecco, Perosa Canavese, Pertusio, Piverone, Pont Canavese, Prascorsano, Pratiglione, Quagliuzzo, Quassolo, Quincinetto, Rivara, Rivarolo Canavese, Romano Canavese, Salassa, Salerano, Sarnone, San Carlo Canavese, San Colombano Belmonte, San Giorgio Canavese, San Giusto Canavese, San Martino Canavese, San Ponso, Scarmagno, Settitno Rottaro, Settirno Vittone, Strambinello, Strambino, Tavagnasco, Torre Canavese, Valperga, Vauda Canavese, Vestignè, Vialfrè, Vidracco, Villareggia, Vische, Vistrorio;
Province of Biella: Cavaglià, Dorzano, Roppolo, Salussola, Viverone, Zimone;
Province of Vercelli: Alice Castello e Moncrivello.
These Nebbiolos are absolutely worth searching out and can be both of good value and wines to keep.
Check out other alternative Nebbiolos and our discussion later today on Twitter.
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