Picks from Piemonte
PUBLISHED: 19:30 11 March 2016
Piemonte is a region of Italy bordering France and Switzerland that sits at the foot of the Alps is renowned for its sophisticated cuisine and wines such as Barolo. Visually, the rolling mountainous landscape is a sea of vines punctuated by the red roofs of the houses set in the hillside or on top of the ridges.
There are many small producers interspersed with some of the largest co-operatives in Italy all of whom have the same objective; namely to maintain the high reputation of the wines of the region for quality and value.
Poderi Colla is one of these small family owned producer based in Alba. It was founded in 1993 by Tino and Federica Colla, brother and daughter of the legendry Beppe Colla. Beppe was not only the passion behind the Prunotto name but a leading public figure in the development of the Alba DOC’s in the 1960s. The wines come from three outstanding sites in Alba and cover nearly the entire spectrum of Albese styles. The Colla family, especially Pietro, makes wine in the vineyard, with a non-interventionist approach to wine making giving each wine a unique expression of site and vintage.
Cascine Drago, the site of the winery and museum, has 12 hectares under vine, from which the densely planted Dolcetto and Nebbiolo form the incredibly complex and structured Bricco del Drago. This wine was first made in 1969 and was the first ‘Super Vino da Tavola’ in Piemonte, possibly the first in Italy. It is an exceptionally elegant bouquet with notes of blueberries, plums and cherry with hints of dried herbs and sun baked earth. On the palate the wine reveals rich, sweet, plummy fruit alongside cherry and fresh redcurrants. There are also hints of spice, coffee, bitter chocolate and some complex savoury notes. A beautifully balanced wine with the concentration and structure to mature over a decade or more. It ages in a combination of French and Slavonian oak, new and two years old for 12-18 months.
They also produce Tenuta Dardi Le Rose from the Bussia hillside of Barolo’s Monforte d’Alba district, is Nebbiolo at its best, rich and complex with fascinating perfumes and textures.
Usually, the finest and most delicious and fascinating white Italian wines are made from some of the countries many native grape varieties but one of Poderi Colla’s most interesting wines is Colla Riesling which is unusually, a dry Riesling with appealing citrus fruit notes combined with gentle spicy characters.
Compare this to Araldica, Piemonte’s largest and most progressive co-operative based in the Monferrato hills and which is owned and run by Claudio Manera. Despite having 700 co-operative members and producing some high volume generic wines such as Piemonte Cortese and Barbera under their own labels and also for many supermarkets they manage to retain a small company feel. They bottle 80 per cent of their production in their own winery and so manage to guarantee the quality of all their wines.
They also own two small estates: La Battistina in Gavi where they are the region’s largest landowner and the beautiful Il Cascinone estate renowned for its top quality wines especially those from the estate grown Barbera grape such as Rive Barbera d’Asti Superiore, and the d’Annona Barbera d’Asti Superiore that are both made in relatively small volumes in the Cascinone winery.
They are both made from grapes grown on some of the oldest vines that are 50 years old in the Monferrato Hills and aged on large oak vats and smaller French barriques for 18 months.
Claudio believes that effective management can preserve that most important concern for the customer - value for money: “Our intention has never been to follow an idle dream of making a great wine that is then impossible to find or difficult to afford. Our broader ambition has been to provide a range that is both understandable and accessible. Quite simply, wine for drinking and enjoying whether from large scale production or small boutique wineries.”
Quality is thus the watch word and it is great to see that as Barolo continues to the region’s greatest legacy with world recognition for its style and expensive market niche there are many other contenders for space on our tables at more affordable prices without compromising on quality form both small and large winemakers.