Behind Every Door is a Secret
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. 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.
Azienda Agricola Filippo Gallino is located in Piemonte in the town of Canale. Filippo, Maria, and their son Gianni and daughter Laura share the work in the vineyards and cellar of this small but prestigious winery and produce some of the finest Barbera in the Roero appellation. The Gallino family has been growing grapes and making wine in the district for many generations, and son Gianni is now vineyard manager and winemaker for the estate, which cultivates 20 hectares of vineyards planted with the white Arneis, and the reds Barbera and Nebbiolo. Nearly every year since 1997, one of the family’s wines has received the prestigious Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award from the Gambero Rosso wine guide. “Gambero Rosso” says of the Gallino family, “Behind every great wine lies the skilled efforts of a tight-knit family team.”
Fratelli Alessandria is located in Piemonte, just outside the old village of Verduno. In the last century, Antonio Alessandria, great-grandfather to the current owners, brothers Giovan Battista and Alessandro, began to build this company, dedicated to producing fine wines. As a result, the Fratelli Alessandria wines show a fine balance between modernity and tradition, soft enough to drink now but capable of aging for years. Barolo is their flagship wine and is sourced from two of the best-known local vineyards, Monvigliero and San Lorenzo, which have often been recipients of Gambero Rosso’s highest Tre Bicchieri award.
Azienda Agricola Renzo Castella is located in Diano d’Alba, a city famous for its renowned Dolcetto. The winery was established in the first half of the 1900s, through the hard work of Severino Castella, whose farm produced grapes and other fruit and breed animals. Severino’s son Simone concentrated on grape production, acquiring vineyards that finally reached 10 hectares, six of which were cultivated with Dolcetto, two with Barbera, and two with Nebbiolo, the principal red varietals of Piemonte. His son Renzo studied enology and he and his father shifted the focus to producing wine rather than selling grapes to winemakers in the region. In 2001, the first bottles of Renzo Castella’s Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo were released and are now receiving attention from the wine press, especially “Gambero Rosso,” the foremost Italian wine rating board, which has so far awarded “two glasses” out of three to all of Renzo Castella wines.
Italian Wines of the Month
Filippo Gallino – 2009 Roero Arneis
With its characteristic straw-yellow color, this wine is 100% Arneis with a typical floral, fruity nose that suggests chamomile, apples, and bananas. Very dry on the palate, the wine has good body and balanced acidity. While Pinot Grigio is collecting legions of admirers in the U.S. for its stony freshness, Arneis is yet another of many distinctive and captivating Italian white wines. Like Pinot Grigio, Arneis also displays crisp acidity, but unlike Pinot Grigio, the variety has rich, full-bodied tropical fruit flavors as well. Ideal as an aperitif, this Arneis also pairs well with seafood and vegetable dishes and will stand up to flavorful sauces for such dishes. Another pairing would be with pork and poultry dishes. Serve chilled.
Renzo Castella – 2009 Dolcetto d’Alba, Vigna della Rivolia
This Dolcetto from the Rivolia Vineyard in the Diano d’Alba appellation is vinified in a traditional manner and reflects the characteristics of the Diano hill, which is well exposed to sunshine and rich in sandstone. The wine has an intense and brilliant ruby color, as well as a fruity and floral scent composed of violets and red fruits. Its palate is full but at the same time is soft and textured with fine tannins. Renzo Castella makes two Dolcetto wines. This one from the Rovolia Vineyard is the more powerful and concentrated of the pair, showing intense, warm aromas and a palate notable for its fine-grained tannins and juicy acidity,” according to Gambera Rosso. The wine was aged in stainless steel vats and in bottle for four months before release and showcases fresh Dolcetto fruit. Serve at cool room temperature.
Pilippo Gallino – 2006 Roero Superiore
This 2006 Roero Superior was honored with a “Gambero Rosso” Tre Bicchieri (Three Glases) award. The wine is 100% Nebbiolo, the same grape variety that makes the famed wines of the Barolo and Barberesco appellations of Piemonte. Roero Nebbiolo is characterized by a dense garnet color with orange-tinged highlights. The rich, enticing nose offers scents of violet, cocoa, red fruit, and spices with complex undertones of leather and coffee. Gambero Rosso says of this wine, “Austere on the nose, it broods a little, reluctant to open up, but then shows layered and complex with earthy and fruit notes. The palate is a marvel of almost husky structure were the overwhelming flesh not enveloped in an elegant, silkily mellow profile.” Gambero Rosso has awarded this beautiful wine Tre Bicchierri for multiple vintages, 1998, ’99, 2001, ’03, and ’06.
Fratelli Alessandria – 2006 Barbera Superiore “Priora”
This Barbera from the winery’s Priora Vineyard is defined by an intense ruby-red color, with purple highlights, an intense nose of ripe fruits, especially plums and cherries, with hints of spices, merging into a fine balance with toasted overtones. The Priora starts out on the palate providing a warm feeling of volume and body with a good balance between fruit, soft tannins, and acidity, and continues with a long and warm finish. Aged for 14 months in oak barrels and two months in bottle before release from the winery, the wine pairs perfectly with first courses such a stuffed pasta, strongly flavored chesses and red meat.
Fratelli Alessandria – 2006 Barolo
Made from handpicked grapes grown in the hills of the Monvigliero zone, Alessandria Barolo is characterized by a rich ruby color with garnet highlights. Aged for 24 months in French oak barrels and for seven months in bottle, this elegant wine presents dominant berry aromas with spicy hints of cinnamon, green pepper, and vanilla. A true gem, the wine is a perfect accompaniment to elegant dishes such as braised red meat, stews, wild game, risotto with wild mushrooms, and mature cheeses. Serve at cool room temperature.
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 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 Chiante 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.