Old Spanna and more from an Italian Private Cellar

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We had a batch of these wines earlier this year and they sold so quickly that we never got around to tasting most of them (this is the wine merchant’s eternal dilemma –if we bought everything we wanted for ourselves there wouldn’t be much left to sell – to say nothing of problems with the bank). We did try the Pertinace Antico 1964 (in the days when Barbaresco was hard to sell, this was an approved alternate label for what would otherwise be DOCG Barbaresco) and it was good – not great - but sound, with some fruit, a bit light, but fun to drink, and where else can you buy a more-than-potable 1964 for $39.99? Reports back on the Berteletti wines ranged from interesting to rapturous. Clearly these are not – and never were – profound wines, but they do offer the chance to try properly cellared old Nebbiolo at relatively painless prices.

The less familiar wine districts named here – Gattinara, Ghemme, Spanna, Sizzano – are in the eastern part of Piedmont near the border of Lombadia and not far from Milano. Nebbiolo is the base for all of the wines, but (unlike in Barolo and Barbaresco) it’s permitted to blend-in as much as 50% of some other local grapes: Bonarda, Croatina, and Vespolina, which all more-or-less give body, color, and plummy fruit character to the leaner Nebbiolo. Color is a good clue, since even most young Nebbiolo is not deep in color, but it’s difficult if not impossible to tell exactly what the wine is, especially many years later. It’s likely that most are not Nebbiolo by itself – “in purezza”; persistent rumor has it that even wine from southern Italy has sometime found its way into ostensibly northern bottles…

 

 

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Minuto 1964 Pertinace Antico Nebbiolo / Barbaresco

Described by Wasserman as "made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes grown in the Barbaresco Zone". Why it's not Barbaresco is anyone's guess. Pertinax, Roman Emperor for about 3 months in 190 ad, appears on the label. Pertinace carries on as the name in Barbaresco of a small wine growers coop.

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