Gattinara and other Alto Piemonte Nebbiolo

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Tasting these wines has shown us, time and again, that they can age almost as long and beautifully as Barolo and Barbaresco. In Alto Piemonte, producers are permitted to include small quantities of Uva Rara (also called Bonarda, Bonarda Novarese, and Croatina ) and  Vespolina, which add color and body to the wines (which nowadays must be 85% Nebbiolo, and which, just to continue the Italian tradition of local names for grapes, thus complicating our lives, is called Spanna in the region). In the past (even perhaps in the not-very-distant past) it was commonly thought that some wine from southern Italy was also added to Spanna (also called Nebbiolo, just in case you’d lost track) but the local blending grapes usually do the trick of enriching the wine and rounding-out some sharp edges. Whatever was done, the wines live a long time, and the blending may explain why they tend to show well even in less good vintages. AND they are relatively reasonably priced, so they can be delicious and thrilling alternatives to Barolo and Barbaresco.

A detail of the new map of Gattinara by Enogea.it                                                               
Gattinara is about an hour west of Milano - an easy day trip!                                                 

 

This offer includes producers who still make very good wine - Antoniolo, Cantalupo, Nervi, Travaglini, Sella, Vallana - but lots of the old wine makers packed it in over decades of shrinking vineyards and diminished production in Alto Piemonte. Their wines are also very good and well worth trying – Fiore, and Francoli, for example. Jamie Wolff

 

Spanna in the always-festive 3.78L size. Even these large bottles were made in
the tradtional distorted form.                                                                                

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Francoli 1970 "Expo" Riserva

This wine is Gattinara — so says the previous owner, who we trust entirely — but is labelled in celebration of the 1970 World's Fair in Osaka, Japan. It wasn't easy to sell Gattinara in 1970, so the creative vendor tried some novel approaches... We don't know if it worked, but we do know that old Francoli is worth a try. JW

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Nervi 1965 Gattinara

Although 1965 was a far from acclaimed vintage in the Alto Piemonte, this Nervi wine is a testament that producer can overcome the shortcomings of nature. Quite developed, there's secondary and tertiary flavors of stewed black cherry, pipe tobacco, and beef bouillon cube. The fruit has firmly resolved, but there's still prominent acidity and structure in this more than fifty-year-old wine. Jonas Mendoza

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