Proprietors Dieter Heuskel and Peter Di Poli have spent the last few
years restoring Le Pianelle, a property in Bramaterra that had fallen
into disrepair, which is sadly common in these parts. Vinous readers
will recognize Di Poli for the superb quality of the wines he makes in
Alto Adige. Di Poli has a classic-leaning palate that favors structured
wines, so it is no surprise to see the style he is pursuing at Le
Pianelle, one of the most exciting new estates I have come across in
years. Readers who can find the 2010 Bramaterra should not hesitate, as
it is fabulous. From Exploring Northern Piedmont (Mar 2014) by Antonio
A Different Shade of Nebbiolo: Exploring Northern Piedmont
The Nebbiolo-based reds of Northern Piedmont remain some of the most exciting, under-the-radar wines in the world.
Barolo and Barbaresco get most of the attention in Piedmont, but the
best wines of the north are equally deserving of attention.
Specifically, Gattinara, Fara, Lessona, Ghemme and Carema – all tiny
appellations – are capable of producing gorgeous, age-worthy reds loaded
with class and personality.
For decades, these small towns, especially those in the provinces of
Vercelli and Novara, had been the victims of rampant industrialization
and the growth of the textile sector that lies at the heart of the
global economy. Over the last 10-15 years, a small number of passionate
winemakers have worked to restore these once-neglected vineyards and
bring them back to their previous glory. As readers will see, the reds
from this undiscovered corner of Italy have never been better.
The wines of northern Piedmont are generally medium in body and
intensely aromatic, but also surprisingly structured and ageworthy,
often deceptively so. The soils, which are defined as‘Morainic,’ are of
glacial origins and give the wines bright, sometimes piercing acidity.
As growing seasons get warmer, these appellations may turn out to be
advantaged, as the wines always retain a measure of freshness. Nebbiolo
(known here as Spanna) is often blended with other local grapes,
including Vespolina, Croatina, and Bonarda (also known as Uva Rara),
which gives these wines much of their unique personalities.
One of the things I love most about the Nebbiolo-based red of
northern Piedmont is the way they shine at the table, where they pair
beautifully with food. Because most estates release a later than is
common in other regions, the wines have a bit more bottles age when they
appear in the market. So far, the wines remain largely undiscovered, so
they tend to be available for several years after release. I often look
to northern Piedmont on restaurant lists, where these wines deliver
outstanding value and offer the added benefit of being closer to their
optimal drinking windows than so many other choices. Many estates age
their top wines in cask, making northern Piedmont a fertile ground to
explore for readers who like classically built, structured reds.
I hope readers will take the time to explore the small appellations
of northern Piedmont. The wines have never been better than they are
today. Hopefully the burgeoning Renaissance in this once-neglected part
of Piedmont is just the beginning of things to come.
-- Antonio Galloni, Vinous