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Driving through the various towns and hamlets of the Langhe it is impossible to miss the fact: Barolo is big business. Almost every inch of workable land is planted to the Nebbiolo vine, and these vineyards stretch almost as far as the eye can see. Walking these vineyards, one gets a sense they are industrious, and profitable. Standing in Ferdinando Principiano's Ravera di Monforte vineyard the feeling is different, a little more idyllic. Wildflowers grow between the rows, there is a small patch of woodland just by the vineyard from which you can hear the birds sing, and as one enters Ravera there is a hundred-year-old rosemary bush teaming with bees, insects, and other life. Even with my thus-far very limited exposure to the vineyards of Barolo, I could sense there was something special going on here; a little more romantic, a little more inspiring.
Ferdinando Principiano’s family has been farming in the Langhe for generations. At the moment the estate is comprised of 20 hectares, including choice old-vine parcels in the aforementioned Ravera di Monforte and Boscareto, a historical vineyard in Serralunga that abuts the famous Francia vineyard of Giacomo Conterno. The other holdings are of Barbera, Dolcetto, as well as the enigmatic white Piedmontese grape Timorasso. Ferdinando began converting his vineyards to sustainable practices in 2003, and currently the only treatments used in the vines are copper and sulphur, and only when absolutely necessary. In an effort to increase the surrounding biodiversity, Ferdinando has been building a pond across from the Boscareto vineyard, an oasis for migratory birds and other fauna. This dedication to nature extends to the cellar, with minimal intervention and only small additions of sulphur at bottling. The vinification is decidedly old-school, with long submerged-cap macerations and elevage taking place only in older wood barrels of 20 to 40 hectoliters. Across the whole range, the wines are beautiful: fresh yet deep and complex, and exhibiting the same lively energy as the vineyards they come from and the person who cares for them. We are very happy to finally have them back on our shelves.
At the moment, there is only the Dosset (Dolcetto) and the Barolo Serralunga available, but in the coming months we are excited to see more wines stateside, including the wonderful single-cru Barolos and that jewel of a Timorasso. Oskar Kostecki
Principiano's Barolo Serralunga comes from two crus: Lirano, and the younger vine portion of Boscareto, the historic vineyard that abuts the famous Francia. In the 2015 vintage there will be no single cru bottling of Boscareto from Principiano, and so all the grapes are going into the Barolo Serralunga. This wine shows a beautiful light ruby color in the glass, with faint hints of brick red. The nose is deep and complex, with cherry, red fruit, rose and sandalwood combining in a balanced expression of classic Barolo. The palate shows the ripe nature of the 2015 vintage with quite open and approachable fruit, and once again that note of sandalwood and spice. Oskar Kostecki
Cowabunga! A Piemontese wine at only 10.5% abv. I would say that's unheard of, yet here it is. Principiano's incredibly charming and utterly delicious Dosset (the name for Dolcetto in the regional dialect) is a beauty: light, fruit-forward and energetic on the palate, with soft tannins and lively acidity. The Dosset shows vibrant fruit notes of cherry, forest berries, red current and red plum, with beautiful floral tones of rose and violet. Very light when first opened, with some air it fleshes out a bit, and a purple plummy note creeps in, along with a hint of spice. Great with a slight chill, this wine is perfect with a summer barbecue. Oskar Kostecki