Wines from the Foot of the Mountain, Piemonte
Castello di Neive
Castello di Neive, located in Piemonte at Neive is know especially for its Barbaresco wines and is one of the driving forces in the appellation, especially in the Santo Stefano cru. Owners Anna, Giulio, Italo, and Piera Stupino are now the second generation to manage the business. Their father Giacomo Stupino created the original vision for the family. A surveyor by trade, he worked mainly around Neive in Piemonte, where his family had lived for several hundred years, and over time purchased vineyards and land in favorable locations. He made wine for his family and then began to sell it as he increased his grape production. In 1964, just six years before his death, Giacomo Stupino purchased Castello di Neive, a 150-acre estate, where his children and their families now live and make wine on its premises, which were constructed in part for that purpose with high ceilings that allow the use of big barrels. Giacomo’s sons Giulio and Italo transitioned from tenant farming to direct management of the vineyards. Especially Italo, who was trained as an engineer, developed a scientific approach to vineyard management and engaged experts at the University of Turin, to implement new technologies in the vineyards and cellars. The collaboration between Castello di Neive and the University of Turin carries on today with the involvement of professors Vincenzo Gerbi and Silvia Guidoni. Oenologist Gianfranco Cordero and agronomist Dino Bevione are consultants, and Claudio Roggero is the resident winemaker.
Stefano Farina founded his wine business in the 1930s. Although he went on to establish successful industrial businesses, his heart was in the vineyards of the Langhe. He elicited promises from his three sons, Bruno, Giancarlo, and Gino, that they would never abandon what he loved most, winemaking. Giancarlo took his father’s mandate seriously and studied winemaking at one of Italy’s most famous wine institutes in Alba. Today, the business is led by Stefano Farina’s grandson, named after his grandfather. In Piemonte, the family owns vineyards at Diano d’Alba and La Morra and has expanded its enterprise into Toscana with vineyards at Panzano and Subbiano. Lately, they have purchased a vineyard in Southern Italy in Puglia at Manduria. At the same time that the family is expanding its holdings into other important Italian wine regions, its reputation is growing beyond Italian borders. In 2008, Wine Spectator included the 2004 Barolo in its Top 100 list and awarded the wine 91 points.
Italian Wines of the Month
Stefano Farina – 2006 Le Brume, Langhe Rosso
This Langhe Rosso is 40% Barbera, 40% Nebbiolo, and 20% Merlot, a sophisticated blend obtained from well ripened grapes. Aged in French oak casks for three months and for two months in bottle, the Langhe Rosso has fruity aromas and flavors that are balanced with soft tannins and refreshing acid. Serve at cool room temperature with risotto, made with wild mushrooms, roasted meats, and wild game.
Stefano Farina – 2009 Gavi
Made from the Cortese grape, this wine comes from a restricted area between Liguria and Piemonte at the foot of a fortress overlooking the little town of Gavi. This straw-colored white wine has fragrant and delicate aromas, followed by a hint of almond blossoms. The wine is crisply refreshing and complements appetizers, first courses, shell fish, and roasted chicken breast.
Castello di Neive – 2007 Langhe Rosso, I Cortini
Made with Pinot Noir from the Cortini Vineyard, the wine is red garnet in color and shows aromatic hints of berries blended with spices and scents of mountain herbs. The wine is soft and warm without intrusive tannin texture. Aged for eight months in French oak barrels and for six months in bottle, the wine will happily age for another five to eight years but is delicious now. Serve with omelets made with wild mushrooms, with hardy soups, and with spicy fish dishes like paella, and with roasted whole chicken. Decant before serving at room temperature.
Stefano Farina – 2006 Barbaresco
Known as the little brother of the great Barolo, Barbaresco, like Barolo is made from Nebbiolo grapes and takes its name from the village near the town of Alba on the river Tanaro, where the wine is made. This classic Italian wine has a limited production and is ideally served with roasted meats and game dishes. The wine is aged for two years in Slavonian oak casks and has a garnet red color with orange highlights and aromas of violets. Its generous and pleasurable taste fills the mouth and lingers. Decant before serving at room temperature.
Castello di Neive – 2005 Barbaresco
Instead of dense pigment, the 2005 Barbaresco has a brilliant garnet color that is typical of wines made from the Nebbiolo grape. This elegant wine has fresh eucalyptus notes that are typical of the Santo Stefano vineyard and also shows additional notes of withered flowers and sweet spices. The taste expresses a notable harmony between fruit flavors, smooth tannins, and refreshing acidity. Aged for 24 months is French oak barrels and for 12 months in bottle before release from the winery, the wine will age for ten years or longer in suitable conditions. Serve at room temperature with ravioli or with roasted pork, goat, or lamb.
Stefano Farina – 2003 Barolo Riserva
The Nebbiolo vineyards from which this Barolo Riserva is made are located in the south western part of Piemonte at La Morra d’Alba in the ancient county of Langhe. During the harvest, only the best grapes are selected through a meticulous process of hand-picking. This Barolo Riserva is made in limited quantities and undergoes aging for a period of five years, three in Slavonian oak casks and two in bottle before release from the winery. Its color is ruby red with garnet and orange reflections. The intense fruity bouquet is mixed with spices and liquorice, and the taste is elegant and smooth.
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 Langhe 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.