Christy’s misadventures in Italy’s Piedomont
In the North-West corner of Italy lies the stunning wine region of Piedmont. Home to some of Italy’s most prestigious wines, Barolo and Barbaresco being the two most celebrated. The etymology of Piedmont meaning ‘at the foot of the mountains’ or ‘mountain foot’ very much informs and shapes the experience of this beautiful land. Furthermore, its proximity to the Mediterranean creates a dramatic variation in temperature vis-a-vis the Alps, which leads to extensive early morning fog blanketing the land, this phenomenon has also given the regions most cherished grape its name, Nebbiolo.
In the middle of March this year I was lucky enough to go on a whirlwind tour with one of our suppliers, Astrum, to this incredible region of Italy. Which is famous for its incredible cuisine in addition to its world-class wine, in particular its internationally-renowned truffle harvest.
Our first port of call off the very early plane into Turin, was Poderi e Cantine Oddero, located in Santa Maria, La Morra. With around thirty-five hectares of vines overlooking the Langhe hills, they farm and produce some Piemonte’s most sought after wines, all under the watchful and talented Mariacristina, aided by son Pietro and niece Isabella. They began practicing organic farming methods in 2008, and have continuously expanded this philosophy, with 18 hectares being organically farmed as of 2017, primarily in their Nebbiolo plots. This commitment is truly brought to fruition in their wines, helping to show the characteristics of the depth and versatility of their terroir. In the afternoon we had a truly wonderful meal at Le Torri in the hilltop village of Castiglioni Faletto, serving refined traditional Piemontese dishes, and an extensive wine list. This meal was the perfect amuse-bouche for our tasting with the Oddero family at their remarkable winery.
A classic Nebbiolo, a lovely bouquet of raspberry, cranberry, and touches of violets. On the palate, touches of wet stone, white pepper, and dusty tobacco, with present yet fine tannins and good structure.
Oddero, Gallina Barbaresco, 2019
A single vineyard wine which expresses elegance and refinement, a finessed nose of soft red fruits, strawberry, roses, and pepper, intense yet incredibly fresh, with fine tannin and great balance. A firm structure and definite power, this is already showing signs of being superb!
Oddero, Barolo Classico, 2018
Sourced from three different plots and vinified separately and blended after maturation. Beautiful light ruby in colour, with aromas of cassis, strawberry, balsamic, and a little spice, the palate has great length and persistent finish with a lovely balance of acidity adding freshness. Already superb and will only improve!
Only released in exceptional vintages, it shows intense garnet-ruby colours, with soft red berries, raspberry and forest herbs. On the palate, mushroom, smoked meats, forest floor and an elegant minerality, firm yet expressive tannins and elegant structure. Terrific!
Our second excursion was to the fantastic Barbaresco producer Albino Rocca, a family run winery founded in 1955, and currently run by the three granddaughters of the founder Albino Rocca, Daniela, Monica, and Paola, and their winemaker Carlo. They farm around eighteen hectares, composed primarily of Nebbiolo, but also includes a number of other classic Piedmontese varietals. They seek to farm using viticultural methods that conserve natural resources and protect the landscape of the region through natural agricultural methods and using as few chemicals as possible, thus allowing them to “reflect superior quality that is authentically tied to our territory”.
Albino Rocca, Piemonte Cortese, 2019
From the southern Barbaresco Alba commune, this unusual Cortese spends 4-6 months in French oak, expressing notes of Granny Smith apple core and a sub-tle toastiness, balanced by gentle acidity. Whilst still quite fruit forward, this will be a beautifully balanced wine in 2-3 years and can be aged for 10-15 years.
Aged solely in stainless steel, this delicious young wine is vibrant and fresh, with cherry, wild strawberry and flashes of Mediterranean herbs, soft integrated tannins with great balance and finesse. The kind of wine to go with anything, especially good friends!
Albino Rocca, Barbaresco Ronchi, 2019
A deeper, denser more muscular wine than other cru’s, a fantastic concentration of meaty, peppery yet delicate redcurrant fruit and floral hints, and a juicy acidity to balance. Bright and intense, whilst drinking now with time it could well be truly spectacular!
The end of our brief excursion ended with a stroll and hazelnut gelato around the streets and piazzas of the beautiful medieval town centre of Alba, which holds an annual truffle festival and auction in October, an experience I intend to experience very soon.