Category Archives: Piedmont

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia Nera Lunga

Piedmont

This week’s variety is called Malvasia Nera Lunga and hails from Piedmont. It grows in the provinces of Asti and Turin. It is a grape with a long shape hence the name. It is a hard and vigorous grape. It can lose acidity relatively quickly so the picking date for these grapes is key before the alcohol and acidity gets out of balance. It works well as a dessert grape as well for its particular characteristics. The grape is often compared and contrasted with Malvasia di Schierano. Malvasia Nera Lunga is an earlier ripener that Malvasia di Schierano and it has less acidity traditionally. It is also heartier and more vigorous. Often Malvasia Nera Lunga is made into a mono-varietal wine or blended with Malvasia di Schierano. In the wine known as Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco DOC which I wrote about a few weeks ago, the rules call for 85% min. Malvasia di Schierano and/or Malvasia Nera Lunga.

This is my penultimate post on Malvasia. It has been wonderful finding out about so many versions of this amazing grape and all of the places it is grown in Italy. Both the white and the red versions of Malvasia are very interesting. This one can make a rich, full-bodied still wine and can also make beautiful sweet wines.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia di Schierano Nero from Piedmont

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This week’s indigenous grape variety is called Malvasia di Schierano Nero. This aromatic grape comes from Piedmont and produces either frizzante or spumante red or rose style sweet wines. The grapes are occasionally dried and made into a passito style wine as well. The wines are said to be of low alcohol and to pair well with regional desserts. I have never had a wine from this particular denomination but it seems to be relatively popular in the Torino area. I found the names of a few producers and I think I may look them up at Vinitaly in two weeks. One is called Carlin de Paolo while another is Terre dei Santi. The grapes tend to grow near Castelnuovo Don Bosco and some other villages in the Astigiano area such as Albugnano, Passerano Marmorito, Pino d’Asti, Berzano and Moncucco. Another producer is Casa Vinicola Franco Francesco. Cascina Gilli also makes this sweet wine. I have had many of their other wines so I think this may be my first stop. The must be cooled down and then refermented with yeasts in an auto-clave. The cold temperature enables the grapes to keep their fresh, lively, primary aromas of fruit and flowers.

To have the Malvasia di Castelnuovo don Bosco DOC designation which includes sweet, sparkling, red and rose wines, the wines must be made from 85% Malvasia di Schierano grapes. This area of Piedmont is farther inland and has higher elevations. The climate is more Continental than Mediterranean and the grapes retain their freshness. I always feel that Piedmont is one area of Italy that I haven’t spent enough time in. Turin, like Milan, is a city that has undergone many changes throughout the areas. It is a city that surprises you and offers unexpected beauties. I think maybe I am due for a visit. I have some friends who live there so it could be the right time. Perhaps later this Spring. Five more Malvasia varieties to describe. This is my 169th post in this series….

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia di Casorzo Nero (Piedmont)

Piedmont

This week’s variety hails from the province of Asti in Piedmont and is known as Malvasia di Casorzo Nero. This Malvasia belongs to the same family of grapes that we have been visiting each week but this one is a red grape.

This Malvasia can be made into sweet wines, either frizzante or spumante versions or more infrequently into a passito.

Malvasia di Castorzo

I found a couple of producers who describe the wines made from this grape as being fruity and floral but who swear it is not unctuous and cloying. There is a historic Cantina Sociale Sometimes the wine is made with a percentage of Barbera which gives it a more sapid note but often it is made from 100% Malvasia di Casorzo.

Antichi Giochi

On wine-searcher.com, I was able to find this wine and the price which was about $15.

Malvasia di Casorzo Nera seems to lack a presence in the U.S. for the moment but that may change as more people turn to sweet red wines. When I think about the popularity of Bracchetto d’Acqui, I smile and think Casorzo has a future too.

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Discover Off the Beaten Path Nebbiolos from the Carema and Canavese DOCs

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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.

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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.

Blog and Chat With Us!
Our group will get together for a chat on Twitter 10-11am today, Saturday, February 4th  to discuss our finds. Join us at #ItalianFWT!!

  • Jill from L’occasion shares The Test in Life is Unity: G. D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo
  • Susannah from Avvinare shares Discover Off the Beaten Path Nebbiolos from the Caluso, Carema and Canavese
  • Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares 2015 Cantalupo “Il Mimo” Rosato Nebbiolo
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares Zuppa di Cipolla al Vino Rosso + Bava’s “Gionson” Nebbiolo
  • Mike from Undiscovered Italy shares Let’s Go Grumello
  • Jen from Vino Travels shares The Land and Soul of Ceretto
  • Gwen from Wine Predator shares Silver and Gold: Nebbiolo from Santa Barbara and Italy
  • Jeff from FoodWineClick! shares Nebbiolo Grows On My Desert Island
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    Filed under #ItalianFWT, Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta, wines

    Wine of the Week: Rosso Ansj’ from 460 Cascina Bric

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    I tried this wine from 460 Cascina Bric earlier this year. I remember it being full bodied, juicy and elegant. I also remember distinctly the bottle it came in. A small stout bottle that is particular to this winery. I wondered at the time whether or not it would be welcomed on US shelves where bottles tend to be typical sizes rather than unique formats. I am sure it will find a home in places in the states, just like the one I mentioned yesterday but the bottle makes this a real hand sell wine. It is made by Gianluca Viberti. His family have been making wines from their Nebbiolo vines in Vergne, a hamlet of Barolo, since 1923. In 2010 Gianluca started his own estate called 460 Casina Bric, with ‘460’ referring to the altitude above sea level of the vines. Cascina Bric in Piemontese means the winery on the hill. The wine pictured is a blend of Nebbiolo and Barbara. Gianluca has 10 hectares on which he makes his wine from one of the highest vineyards in Barolo in the Langhe, on Bricco delle Viole. According to his website, the plot “date back to the Napoleonic era at the end of the 1700s, when it was home to a monastery.” Perhaps it was in fact the mountain fruit that made this wine supremely elegant. I really enjoyed it and look forward to seeing it on US shelves soon. It retails on a global level for $17 while the Barolo is more in the $60 category, both completely worth the cost.

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    Italian Indigenous Varieties: Lambrusca di Alessandria and Lambrusco a Foglia Frastagliata

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    Lambrusco is one of the most widely discussed and maligned grape varieties grown in Italy, together with Albana and Pinot Grigio. There are many different grapes with Lambrusco as part of their name, mostly grown in Emilia Romagna but not all. It is likely that they are related to a wild grapevine that was already known to both Pliny and Virgil in antiquity. The first one mentioned today in fact does not grow in Emilia but in Piedmont and Lombardy. It was much more amply planted before phylloxera hit but after was less widely seen. Today it is often blended with Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa and Bonarda.

    The latter grape, Lambrusco a Foglia Frastagliata is grown in Trentino and is more widely known by the name Enantio. I actually tried this wine a few years ago but only recently learned of its connection to Lambrusco. This one is often used for making rose wines.

    A fellow blogger who often writes on Italian wines, Jennifer Martin on Vino Travels published this article on Lambrusco ahead of Lambrusco day which was apparently June 20. It’s a good read and a good primer on Lambrusco.

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    Women In Wine Fridays: La Mesma

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    Earlier this year I attend the Slow Wine event and tried some fantastic wines. Among them were wines from La Mesma. The wines were all made from Cortese, the grape used to make Gavi. This metodo classico, or traditional method sparkling wine was amazing. It rested on its lees for 18 months. It was fruity and had beautiful floral notes and great acidity. I found all of their wines to be persistent and intense with lots of white flowers and almonds. Three sisters run the winery – Paola, Francesca and Anna. They are very attentive to the environment and don’t use any products on the vines that could be toxic. Instead they use a method called “sovescio” which means they do controlled grass and legumes and other organic fertilizer treatments between the vines. They also are energy sufficient using photovoltaic panels and biomass. I loved these wines and look forward to trying more of them if they are at Vinitaly this year.

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