Piedmont

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Azienda Agricola Fontechiara: 45.698944, 8.462454
Tenuta Grillo: 44.808962, 8.541665

Piedmont is world-renowned for its age-worthy stunning wines made from Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto.  Like Burgundy, prices can reach the stratosphere, but with some careful searching we have found some lovely wines that taste more expensive than actually are.


Azienda Agricola Fontechiara

Located in the northeastern portion of Piedmont, in the town of Borgomanero, Azienda Agricola Fontechiara, run by the Ferrari family (no relation to the carmaker or to our Irancy producer – that we know of), is a small (3.5 hectares) producer who makes gorgeously perfumed wines.  Their densely-planted vineyards (1 meter x 2 meters) are rooted on southeast-facing slopes in the foothills of the Alps, in the Colline Novaresi, leading to cold nights and warm days.  Perfect for balanced grapes.

Any and all chemicals are banned from the vineyards and only natural methods are used to maintain the health of the vines and the soils.  Biodiversity is encouraged as the family feels this is the best way to guarantee the future well-being of their vines and the quality of their wines.  Harvest is by hand, and wild yeasts are left to their devices to ferment the wines.  Fermentation is done in stainless steel, after which time the wines are aged in French oak barrels.  No SO2 is added as the wines are already so stable that there is no need for it.

WINES

The Fontechiara Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo is a bright, perfumy expressions of the grape, with rose petals, tar and beautiful dark fruit on an elegant frame that ends with a long, long finish.  Our first sample bottle lasted several days open as we went back to it over and over again.  We couldn’t believe how gorgeous it was.


Tenuta Grillo

Guido Zampaglione and his wife Igiea both come from agricultural families: his farmed grains in Calabria and made wine for personal use, hers actually had a small winery where, as Guido says, he “learned what NOT to do…”  Guido’s grandmother owned the plots where he makes his wines now in Gamalero, at the far eastern edge of Piedmont, near Alessandria.  But it was an internship at famed natural winery La Stoppa that exposed Guido to how well quality natural wines can age.  He became a believer, bought his grandmother’s estate, and began planting and making wine naturally.

Guido has a full-on 80-acre farm with grains, animals and of course vines, though only 17 of those acres are dedicated to the grape.  Vines are densely planted to sandy, silty soils, and absolutely no treatments are used in the field aside from copper and sulfur.  He is meticulous in the field as well as the winery, his sole goal is to showcase the grape’s purity and the land’s terroir.  He is very aware that he needs to get the cleanest fruit to ensure not only initial quality but also long-term drinkability.

The vines here are between 35 and 45 years old, they’re all hand-harvested with an incredibly strict selection in the field and at the winery, then there’s an extended skin maceration  (40-60 days depending on vintage conditions) because he recognizes “that the richest part in all fruits is in the skin or close to it. In this way we protect our wines without adding any chemicals (only extremely limited amounts of sulphur are used, usually less than half the organic limit allowed).”  Finally, there’s a slow wild-yeast ferment in cement and steel before being aged 12-18 months in neutral barrels.

WINES

The Pecoranera 2004, aka Black Sheep, comes from 35-45 year old vines that are densely planted to sandy, silty soils. It is a Freisa blend of 75% Freisa, 10% Dolcetto, 10% Barbera and 5% Merlot because he feels that blending gives extra life, structure and complexity to the wine.  After aging in neutral casks it is bottled unfined, unfiltered and with less than 15mg of SO2. It offers funky, earthy strawberries, leather, on a medium frame that ends in a long tannic finish. How cool is it that we’re enjoying a 13 year old Freisa that’s still awesome?  Seriously?

Igiea 2006 is named after Guido’s wife because he thinks it’s one of his best wines. This amazing aged 100% Barbera comes from 35+ year old vines that have barely seen Organic treatments (copper, sulfate) in the field, grown on sandy and silty soils.  It offers spicy cherries, blue fruit, earth, mushrooms, leather, all on a shockingly bright and fresh frame that ends in a long finish. Plus, how awesome is it that we’re drinking an 11 year old Barbera that’s still fantastic?