Honoring the Laghe and Monferrato Hills
The Sartirano family has been in the wine business for four generations, producing the local wines of the Langhe in the Piemonte region since 1871. Today, the business is run by cousins Paolo and Guido Sartirano and has expanded beyond the local market, its wines now distributed throughout Italy and abroad. Sartirano wines are better known in England and Germany than they are in the United States because so few are exported here. The family has also chosen to build its reputation without the help of the Italian wine press, particularly the wine rating board Gambero Rosso, even though Gambero Rosso has lately become powerful enough to create “overnight” success for even obscure wine producers. The Sartirano family is especially proud that its estate vineyards are farmed with organic systems and methods according to the family’s belief “in the value of achieving the right relationship between man and the environment he lives in and is part of.” Some of the wine labels bear the image of a lady bird, “an insect that people have always looked on as a symbol of good fortune, a cheerful, colorful presence which in nature is a sign of a balanced ecosystem.”
Cantine San Silvestro
In 1976, the family built a modern winery, named Cantine San Silvestro after the area in which it is located in Novelo. The winery obtains grapes mostly from the Langhe and from vineyards in the Roero and in the Monferrato regions, including Barbera, Dolcetto, Grignolino, Cortese, Arneis, and Moscato. The wines from this estate have a more modern taste profile with riper flavors.
Costa di Bussia
In 1988, the Sartirano family purchased Tenuta Arnulfo Costa di Bussia, an historical estate in Monforte d’Alba with 15 hectares of vineyards. The estate includes two celebrated crus, Campo del Buoi and Campo del Gatto. The winery’s Barolo “Luigi Arnulfo” commemorates the original owner of the estate, whose Barolo was the first to enter California in 1890 and at the time was imported and distributed by Italian Swiss Colony. Most of the estate is devoted to Nebbiolo, the grape variety in Barolo, with small quantities of Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa, and Chardonnay. The Barolo wines from this estate are more classic in style, designed to age for many years.
The Ghercina estate has belonged to the Sartirano family since 2002. The property includes a small lake surrounded by nine hectares of vineyards, a natural amphitheater which creates its own microclimate. Besides Barbera, Dolcetto, and the Nebbiolo grape used to make Barolo, the Sartirano family highlighted the special qualities of the area by planting a vineyard of Nascetta, a white variety which is native to the village of Novello and recently rediscovered.
Italian Wines of the Month
Cantine San Silvestro – 2007 Barbera Ottone I
The Sartirano family has commemorated the history of Monferrato, where its Sansilvestro estate resides, with three wines, the Ottone I, a bend of Barbera from the Alba and Monferrato areas, the Adelasia, 100% Cortese from Monferrato, and the Aleramico Barbera from Asti. In his time, the Emperor Ottone I of Saxony (912-973) had created the most powerful state in Western Europe, which included Italy. Legend has it that young Aleramo, abandoned by his parents and raised at the court of Sezzadio, became a skilled soldier and fell in love with Adelasia, daughter of the emperor. Because of their class differences, they could not marry. But Ottone promised Aleramo the title of Marquis and donated to him all the land that he was able to ride over in three days. In so doing, Aleramo fixed the boundaries of the Monferrato, whose shield is on the label. And he got his girl.
Medium bodied, smooth, and fruity Ottone I is filled with bright cherries and light berry flavors typical of Barbera, which comprises half the red wine produced in Piemonte. It will pair beautifully with all of your summer foods. If the weather is hot in your neighborhood, try chilling the wine slightly for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.
Cantine San Silvestro – 2007 Cortese Adelasia
This wine is dedicated to Adelasia, whose story you can read above. The Corttese grape, which is typically grown in the Monferrato area, produces a wine with straw yellow color, a beautiful floral bouquet, and a refreshing apricot zing on the finish. Cortese has a delicate flavor, best suited for vegetable-based dishes, like simple pastas and dinner salads and all types of seafood. Fruity and refreshing, it’s an excellent aperitif wine with bruschetta and other finger foods.
Cantine San Silvestro – 2004 Barbaresco Magno
Barbaresco, 100% Nebbiolo, takes its name from the appellation where it is grown. The Sansilvestro Magno has a ripe, new-world style with a bouquet of roses and violets while the fruit shows ripe blackberry and cassis flavors. Aged for 18 months in large Slovenian oak casks, the 2004 Magno is bodied and rich with light nuances of tobacco and white pepper spice. The wine compliments all full flavored dishes and pairs especially will with foods that are indigenous to the Piemonte region, like mushrooms, truffles, and full flavored dry and marbled cheeses.
Costa di Bussia – 2006 Barbera d’Alba Campo del Gatto
This beautifully textured wine is 100% Barbera from the Alba appellation. Aged for 12 months in large Slovenian oak casks, the Campo del Gatto (Field of Cats) Barbera has a dark, enticing nose with black fruit, ripe prunes, cherry, and a hint of spice. Full bodied with a well balanced, smooth palate, the wine has velvety tannin texture with lots of flavor and a long finish.
Costa di Bussia – 2003 Barolo Campo dei Buoi
The Campo dei Buoi (Field of Oxen) was the signature wine of Costa di Bussia founder Luigi Arnulfo and was first exported to the United States in the late 1800s. Aged for three years in Slovenian oak barrels and an additional 12 months in bottle, the wine’s broad spectrum of flavors begins with powerful nuances of roses and violets in the bouquet, supported by a rich full body and a complex earth and mineral driven finish. Typical of Nebbiolo from the Barolo appellation, the wine is balanced, complex, and classy and should be decanted before serving with game, roasted meats, and matured cheeses.
Costa di Bussia – 2000 Barolo Tenuta Arnulfo
With the Tenuta Arnulfo, Costa di Bussia has set out to achieve the very best by leaving the finest grape bunches on the vines during the grape harvest so that they can be picked when they will have had the opportunity to ripen still further and will produce a more concentrated Barolo. Tobacco, earth, and prune character turns to flowers and freshly sliced frit with mint undertones. Aged for three years in Slovenian oak barrels and for another
Italian Region of the Month
Almost half of Piemonte, which means “foot of the mountain,” lies in the great arc of the Alps and the Apennines, from which the Po River flows east through its broad valley to the Adriatic. Bordering Switzerland and France, Piemonte and the smaller Valle d’Aosta to the north were part of the French-speaking principality of Savoy between the 11th and 18th Centuries and played a key role in the Risorgimento, the movement that united Italy under a Savoy king in 1859. Famous ski resorts and the wild Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso draw visitors to the majestic mountains in the north, while in the south, vine covered hills around Barolo and vast fields of grain and rice in the Po valley continue a rich agricultural tradition. Torino, the region’s capital, is a crowded industrial city and home to the Fiat car company, but it also offers splendid Baroque civic buildings, palazzi, and museums, one of which is world renowned for its Egyptian collection gathered during the Napoleonic Wars.
The ancient Liguri tribes who dominated the region probably first cultivated the wild vines of the Apennines, but they learned wine making from the Greeks about 600 BC. The Celtic Taurini, who gave their name to Torino, also grew vines in the region. Although the Romans planted vines, they didn’t favor the wines. Finally in the 19th Century, the wines of Piemonte gained distinction when the Savoy and others began to use French methods.
Piemonte has 52 DOC and DOCG zones, more than any other region. Most vineyards are located in two major areas, in the Laghe and Monferrato hills, which are connected to the Apennines in the southeast and in the foothills of the Alps to the north between Lake Maggiore and Valle d’Aosta. In the Langhe hills above the town of Alba are the vineyards of Barolo, one of Italy’s most prestigious wines, “the king of wines and the wine of kings,” although some think that Barbaresco is its equal. The noble Nebbiolo vine produces both wines as well as Gattinara. Barbera and Dolcetto are popular full-flavored reds, while Freisa, Grignolino, and Brachetto are popular pale, fruity varieties often made as bubbly wines.
Whites are equally prominent, the first being Asti Spumante from Moscato d’Asti, the nation’s second DOCG in volume after Chianti and the world’s second sparkling wine after Champagne. Among still whites, Gavi from the Cortese grape has emerged as one of Italy’s most coveted wines, and Arneis is attracting increasing attention.