Piemonte, in the great arc of the Alps and the Apennines
The Pecchenino family has worked in viticultural for over four generations and made the leap from small wine production to a winery of international recognition under the brothers Orlando and Attilio Pecchenino. Today, Pecchenino consists of 54 acres in Dogliani and an additional seven acres in Monforte. Focused on the production of high-quality Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and a few other select varietals, Pecchenino’s vines are painstakingly cared for by hand and farmed without chemical pesticides, urbicides, or fungicides. According to Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso, “The vineyards employ rigorously environmentally friendly methods, but the brothers prefer to think of this as common sense.” In addition to its consistent high quality, Pecchenino distinguishes itself by being the only winery to produce Dolcetto aged in oak, resulting in Dolcetto wines with an aging potential of over 10 years. Pecchenino has won multiple Tre Bicchieri awards from Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso, especially for the Dogliani Siri d’Jermu, Dogliani Bricco Botti and the Barolo le Coste.
The Araldica cooperative of growers, whose winery is located in Castelvero, was originally formed in the 1940s and today has 300 members, who are small vineyard owners, producing the native grapes of the region, such as Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Cortese, Arneis, and Moscato as well as the less common Brachetto and Freisa along with international Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. The vineyards are located in the major Piemontese growing areas of the Langhe, Monferrato, Roero, and in Gavi appellations. Claudio Manera serves as Managing Director and enologist, and most of the work is done manually, including harvesting. The cooperative’s major labels are Araldica, Alasia, Castelvero, Poderi Alasia, La Battistina and Il Cascinone.
The Anselmet family has viticultural roots in Villeneuve that can be traced back as far as 1585. From this background, Renato Anselmet decided in 1978 to expand upon his family’s long viticulatural tradition by producing wines for more than just private consumption. In the following years, the Anselmet wines enjoyed early critical acclaim and soon Renato’s son, Giorgio, would join the family business, spearheading the introduction of innovative winemaking techniques. In the span of 30 years, Maison Anselmet went from a production of less than 100 bottles to being considered one of the benchmark producers in Valle d’Aosta, a tiny region that appears to be incorporated by Piemonte. The Maison Anselmet vineyards are a collection of fragmented properties that represent the full range of Valle d’Aosta microclimates. The vineyards are located from St. Pierre to Chambave and sit at elevations ranging from 1,970 to 2,790 feet. The mountainous terrain demands that all vine care be done by hand. In 2010, a new, streamlined winery was completed, which not only ensures the highest quality in all phases of the winemaking process, but also incorporates green design to limit the energy needs of production and to safeguard this unique patrimony.
Italian Wines of the Month
Araldica – 2012 Gavi La Luciana
The Gavi district is located in southern Piemonte near Liguria in the province of Alessandria, bound by the rivers Bormida and Scrivia and flanked by the Ligurian Apennines. Harvested from the La Luciana vineyard, the fruit is 100% Cortese, the most important white grape of Piemonte. The first fairly detailed description of the Cortese grape can be found in the ampelography of Piemontese varieties compiled by Count Nuvolone, deputy director of the Turin Agrarian Society in 1789.This straw colored wine with aromas of grapefruit, green apple, and lemon is light and fruity with mineral overtones and a refreshing finish. Serve chilled with seafood, and appetizers.
Araldica – 2011 Barbera Albera
Albera is the ancient name for Barbera, once known as “the people’s wine” for its versatility and abundant production. Monferrato is usually cited as the variety’s birthplace. Barbera ripens relatively late, as much as two weeks after Doletto but before the stately Nebbiolo. Its chief characteristic is a high level of natural acidity even when fully ripe. At its best, it is deeply colored with lush plush tastes of cherries, raspberries, and a bit of spice. It is one of the least tannic red grapes in common production. This particular 2011 Barbera Albera is fragrant with pronounced notes of spice. It was aged for 12 months in 60% large oak barrels and 40% in barriques and then blended before bottling. Serve at cool room temperature with winter stews, game, and beef.
Pecchenino – 2011 Dolcetto Superiore, Siri d’Jermu
Made from the Siri d’Jermu vineyard, this wine is 100% Dolcetto cultivated on 12 acres at the northern edge of Dogliani. The Dolcetto fruit, carefully hand selected, is fermented using only natural yeasts, enhancing the strong personality of the final wine. In addition to its ripe fruit nose, Siri d’Jermu has the deep color characteristic of this appellation. The wine is aged for 12 months in untoasted 25 hl oak casks. In addition to dense fruit flavors, the wine has super fine tannins that contribute to a remarkably fine texture in the mouth. The Siri d’Jermu is the winery’s iconic wine, which Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso describes as follows: “The Peccheninos owe their success to their superlative Dolcetto, whose interpretation is a rich, succulent red wine….” Serve at cool room temperature.
Il Cascinone – 2011 Barbera d’Asti Superiore, Rive
In 1999, Claudio Manera, director and oenologist of the Araldica cooperative of growers, purchased one of the jewels of the Monferrato area, Il Cascinone. During the year 2002, he completed an ambitious series of projects that involved restoration and expansion of the vineyard. In 2004, the cellar was remodeled, and for the first time winemaking took place at the estate. Aged for18 months in French barriques, the Rive Barbera shows deep ruby red color with purple highlights. The bouquet has vibrant aromas of black cherries and prunes with toasty undertones and a touch of mint. The flavor is fruity and dry with well-balanced acidity, all of which is integrated into a creamy and rich nutty texture. This richly layered wine has great structure with flavors that linger in the mouth. Serve at cool room temperature.
Maison Anselmet – 2011 Chambave Muscat Vallee d’Aoste
The Moscato destined for this unusual wine is cultivated in a small vineyard in mid-valley just above the town of Chambave, which sits at the feet of the Italian alps not far from Mont Blanc. A superb dry Muscat, this wine is beautifully aromatic with notes of citrus and flowers, and on the palate, its fruity flavors are balanced by a clean minerality. Serve chilled.
Pecchenino – 2007 Barolo Le Coste
First produced in 2004, Le Coste is one of the few single vineyard wines from this cru available in the United States. Only four acres, this vineyard is home to Nebbiolo vines over 20 years old with very low yields. The final wine distinguishes itself with a clean and vibrant fruit character. Aged 36 months in 25 hl oak casks, the wine has a translucent ruby red color that is typical of Barolo. The bouquet shows ripe fruit with notes of currants, raspberries, and hints of violet as well as pronounced chocolate notes. The
flavor is balanced with silky, sweet tannins, excellent structure, and a long finish. The wine pairs well with red meats and braises. Osso bucco comes to mind. Decant before serving at cool room temperature. Writing for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni gave the wine 92 points.
Pecchenino – 2008 Barolo San Giuseppe
The San Giuseppe is made from Nebbiolo cultivated in two vineyards, totaling just over three acres. The yield from each vine is extremely low, which is achieved by thinning the vines in July and pruning the bottom half of the grape bunches in August, so that the fruit ripens easily and completely. This painstaking process ensures that only the best Nebbiolo makes its way to the Pecchenino winery. The resulting wine is aged in large casks, allowing tannins to round out without masking this wine’s rich fruit bouquet. Aged for 24 months in 25 hl oak casks, the color is a translucent ruby red, and the bouquet is intense with notes of ripe currants and raspberries, accented by hints of truffle and violets. The flavor is elegant and balanced with good body and sweet tannins. Writing for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni gave the wine 93 points and commented as follows: “The 2008 Barolo San Giuseppe is gorgeous in this vintage. Plums, black cherries, incense, menthol, tar and licorice are all woven together in this huge, dark wine. The 2008 boasts stunning inner sweetness, great purity and fabulous overall balance. Firm yet beautifully integrated tannins support layers of dark, textured fruit in this big, full-bodied wine. The marriage of fruit, acidity and structure is terrific. This vivid, harmonious Barolo suggests Pecchenino is quickly moving in the right direction with their Baroli.” Pair with pastas in ragu sauce, braised red meats, and winter stews. Decant before serving at cool room temperature.
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 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.