Fine Wine, Legacy of the Savoy Kings
From as early as 1200 A.D., Nebbiolo grapes have been cultivated in the tiny hamlet of Annunziata, known in ancient times as Marcenasco, the earliest settlement in the La Morra zone. Here in Annunziata, Mauro Molino has two of his most prestigious Barolo crus, Vigna Conca, which once belonged to the Convent of Marcenasco, and Vigna Gancia, which is located just behind the winery and aging cellars. Two other vineyards are located in the townships of Barolo and Monforte. The Gallinotto vineyard also produces Nebbiolo grapes for Barolo while the Gattere vineyard produces Barbera. Altogether, the family cultivates 10 hectares and produces about 5000 cases of wine per year. Giuseppe Molino established the business in 1953, and son Mauro has been in charge since his father’s death in 1978. Mauro’s son Mateo and daughter Martina, having completed their studies in Enology, now work full time at the estate. In addition to the indigenous vines of the area, Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto, the estate cultivates Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Barolo Vigna Conca and Vigna Gallinotto as well as the Barbera d’Alba Vigne Gattere have been awarded Gambero Rosso’s highest Tre Bicchieri honor for multiple vintages.
Located in Emilia Romagna near the Piemonte border, the Alfredo Bertolani estate specializes in the wines of the Scandiano region, especially sparkling Lambrusco. Nicola Bertolani is the fourth generation to participate in the business that Alfredo Bertolani began in 1925. Americans became acquainted with Lambrusco in the 1970s when it was mass produced and exported as a cheap and sweet sparkling red wine. But today, Lambrusco is treated as a premium wine by many small producers who tend it with pride, Alfredo Bertolani among them. Lambrusco has its roots in ancient wild grapes first identified in the Second Century B.C.E. When this distinctive red grape was first made as a sparkling wine in the 19th Century, it obtained its bubbles like Champagne with a secondary fermentation in the bottle that generated carbon dioxide. Now, like Prosecco, the wine is made with the Charmat method in temperature controlled stainless tanks and then bottled under pressure so that it maintains its fine effervescence. Although over 60 sub-varieties of Lambrusco have been identified in Emilia Romagna, the principal ones are Grasparossa, Maestri, Marani, Monterrico, Salamino and Sorbara, which are sometimes blended with other indigenous grape varieties. The wines range from sweet to dry and from Rose` to ruby to an even darker, more intense red when the grapes are cultivated in the hills rather than plains. The Bertolani estate employs rigorous systems to control its carbon footprint, including a large underground tank that gathers rainwater, elaborate insulation to control heat loss, and photovoltaic technology to generate electricity, and it farms its vineyards with sustainable methods.
Ogni uss a l’ha so tanbuss.” This Piemontese proverb is on all of the Monchiero Carbone labels. Literally, it means “every door has its clapper,” but the symbolic meaning of the phrase is “behind every door there is a secret,” and for the Monchiero Carbone family, the secret is their winemaking. Monchiero Carbone wine production began during the beginning of the 1900’s when Clotilde Valente, the grandmother on the Monchiero side of the family, purchased the Monbirone vineyards with her dowry. She focused on making high-quality wines intended for ageing, something very unusual for the time. Much later in 1990, Marco and Francesco Carbone began making wine, and three years later, Francesco took over as General Manager. Today, the Monchiero Carbone wines feature some of the finest wines in the Roero appellation.
Italian Wines of the Month
Alfredo Bertolani – 2010 Lambrusco Granarossa, Reggiano
Grana refers to the layer of pink foam that forms as you pour the wine, thus the name Granarossa. This Lambrusco is a blend of Grasparossa and Salamino, different clones of Lambrusco, which are cultivated in hillside vineyards. Although the wine sparkles, its flavor like its color is not timid. Serve it slightly chilled in the refrigerator for about a half hour but not so cold as you would white wine. Pair this unusual wine with foods that are typical of Emilia Romagna, such as grilled sausages, game, and ham, and with aged Parmigiano Reggiano, crafted in the area.
Monchiero Carbone – 2010 Roero Arneis Recit
Native to the Roero where it has been cultivated since the 16th Century, Arneis is one of Piedmonte’s oldest white grapes. ReCit means “little king” in the local dialect and reflects the appreciation that local people have for this delicious wine. Emitting an intense fragrant, Arneis is distinguished by its well-balanced acidity with plenty of body and structure. Serve chilled and pair with appetizers and light first courses and main courses of fish and poultry.
Alfredo Bertolani – 2009 Rosso all’Antica, Reggiano
This sparkling red wine blends Salamino and Marani, two different clones of Lambrusco, together with Ancellotta, which is a different grape variety. Because the grapes for this Lambrusco were cultivated in hillside vineyards, flavor and color are intensified. And the wine is further enriched by barrel aging. Produced in limited quantities, the wine is fermented to dryness and shows fruity aromas and flavors with notes of pepper on the finish. A distinctive layer of pink foam will form as you pour the wine into the glass. Serve slightly chilled in the refrigerator for about a half hour but not so cold as you would white wine. Pair with foods that are typical of Emilia Romagna, such as grilled sausages, game, and ham, and with aged Parmigiano Reggiano, crafted in the area.
Mauro Molino – 2009 Langhe Nebbiolo
This elegantly delicious wine is 100% Nebbiolo. Aged only in stainless steel tanks for 12 months, the wine showcases the vibrantly fresh and fruity flavors of Nebbiolo, unconstrained by oak barrels. Its jewel-like color is typical of lightly pigmented Nebbiolo, while the nose is full with fruit and spice that carry over onto the palate. Serve this beautiful wine at cool room temperature with pasta, poultry, and wild game.
Mauro Molino – 2007 Barolo
Aged for 24 months in French oak barrels, this intensely ripe Barolo is smooth and fruity with rich spice and cherry flavors. Wine guide “Gambero Rosso” makes the following observation about Mauro Molino wines, which can easily be applied to this 2007 Barolo: “All the labels have a fairly modern feel in the sense that the outstanding cleanness of the aromas is lightly nuanced with toasty notes. The sensory profile on the palate tends to softness and a caressing mouthfeel in a wine that can already be enjoyed only a few years after the harvest.”
Monchiero Carbone – 2007 Roero Printi
Grapes for the Roero Printi Nebbiolo are grown on the southwest slope of the hills outside Canale in northwestern Italy. Picked in late October, the Roero Printi is handcrafted to be fruity and ample on the nose and long and full-bodied in the mouth with an ability to be enjoyed now or in the coming decades. Aged for 24 months in barrel and 12 months in bottle before release, the wine is intense and very deep with various aromatic facets. An initial ethereal impact gives way to hints of raspberry and blackberry, which are made more complex by a background of sweet spices and noble wood. “Sumptuous, warm and enfolding . . . a truly great Nebbiolo,” Gambero Rosso has given the wine its highest Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award. The 2006, 2004, 2000, and 1999 were also awarded Tre Bicchieri.
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 region 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 57 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.