Off The Beaten Path of Piedmont
Off The Beaten Path of Piedmont
Benvenuto in Piemonte!
This week, we're bringing you all to Piedmont with a selection of wines that may not be all that familiar from two producers. The first, Azienda Agricola Daniele Ricci is found to the east of Asti in the town of Costa Vescovato which lies in the Colli Tortonesi region of Piedmont. The second, Azienda Agricola Crivelli, is located just north of Asti, in the town of Castagnole Monferrato, which falls in the Asti or Monferrato DOCG of Piedmont depending on the varietal.
Italy has taken its time becoming the state that it is today. While the Roman Empire is a touchstone for any historical beginning to Italy as a nation, the history between is vastly complex, and largely consists as a push and pull between the power of the Pope and the power of individual city states and secular empires. In fact, what we know as Piedmont today was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, an area that included Nice and Savoy, which are in modern day France, as well as the regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, and Liguria, and the island of Sardinia. While the Civil War was getting underway in the United States, Italy was in the midst of Risorgimento ("the resurgence") to unify the country as a whole. Giuseppe Garibaldi is one of the more prominent figures in this period, conquering the Kingdom of the Two Sicily's (which was then made up of Sicily and Southern Italy, His support of the King in Piedmont was crucial to centralizing power, and the Kingdom of Sardinia became the Kingdom of Italy, eventually gaining all of the territory that we know today as Italy by 1870. The Piedmontese would largely rule the country until the rise of Mussolini, and would further rescind their power when Italy became a republic in 1946.
Featured Wines of the Week:
Nebbiolo is perhaps the most recognized of all varietals in the region,a red wine that is known for its substantial tannins and complexity most prominently grown in the towns of Barolo and Barbaresco. You may also have heard of Barbera, or even Dolcetto, as they account for the majority of the red wine grapes grown in the region and are also welcome additions to any dinner table, with Barbera bringing notes of robust fruit and Dolcetto (ironically meaning "little sweet one") bringing a little more peppery, earthy notes. But that is only the big three, there are many more varietals in the region, and we're focusing on Croatina, Grignolino, Timorasso, as well as the classic Nebbiolo.
We'll start with the white. Timorasso was almost lost to the ages until a few growers in the Colli Tortonese, including Walter Massa and Daniele Ricci revitalized the grape in the 1980s. Even now, there are only 100 hectares of this grape varietal and only twenty producers. We've taken a liking to Daniele Ricci's Terre di Timorasso. Given three days of skin contact, this wine is left on the lees anywhere from 12-22 months, resulting in a very complex, mineral-driven white wine that has both citrus and herbal undertones.
Daniele Ricci is a third generation wine grower, and he's been practicing organic wine making since 1999, but was completely certified last year in 2017. The lack of fining or filtering, and the use of little to no sulfur imparts a distinct characteristic on wine and if done wrong can result in highly volatile wines. Lucky for us, Daniele and his team take great care in making sure the quality of the wine is paramount, and this certainly applies for his Nebbiolo, San Martino.
Vinified from a one hectare vineyard, San Martino is fermented in stainless steel tanks before being elevated in multiple passage barriques for 12 months before bottling. The result is sublime, with an almost beguiling palate, bringing both more concentrated fruit that one expects from a Barbera, but still featuring the structured intensity that made Nebbiolo world famous.
And then there's Ricci's Croatina, which is affectionately named "El Matt", derived from the italian "il matto" or the crazy one. Croatina is an interesting case study for Italian varietals, for it is more often labeled as Bonarda, though it is not the same grape as Bonarda Piemontese. Rather, Croatina makes its presence felt with its concentrated yet mild tannins, which make it a welcome presence in blends with Barbera, as well as on its own. The wine here is fragrant, with notes of dried fruit and warming spices, but has a pleasant, lingering finish.
We would be remiss to feature the off beat wines of Piedmont without including a Grignolino. It's the black sheep of the Piedmont red wine family with lower tannins, and flavors of tart raspberries and strawberries that emphasize freshness above all. It is often referred to as "il più' bianco dei rossi ed il più' rosso dei bianchi" (the whitest of the reds or the most red of the whites) for the grapes don't contain a ton of pigment, and is only a shade darker than a rose.
Azienda Agricola Crivelli's Grignolino is a perfect example of what the varietal has to offer, in no small part due to the 33 year old vines that bring vitality and complexity to the finished product. Marco Crivelli has been passionate about elevating the region of Monferrato as worthy of it's own DOCG, but tradition calls for varietals like Barbera and Grignolino to be referred to as Barbera d'Asti and Grignolino d'Asti, though he has succeeded with another rare varietal, Ruché.
We're brimming with excitement to open these wines for you, and as our featured wines of the week, we've taken $5 dollars off the original price of each. Saluti!
For more about the unification of Italy, I highly recommend Tomasi di Lampedusa's The Leopard, a fictional account that is nonetheless the most successful historical fiction in Italy's history.