Northern Piedmont is the most under-appreciated fine wine region in Italy. A hundred years ago the area was better known than the Langhe, where Barolo and Barbaresco are produced, but it fell on hard times after the devastation of phylloxera. Today Northern Piedmont is climbing back to prominence. The principal grape, Nebbiolo, is the same as that of Barolo and Barbaresco; however, the soils are varied and quite different from those of the Langhe and the climate is noticeably cooler than that of the Langhe during the growing season, which leads to lower alcohol levels in the wines even in fully ripe vintages. Anyone who loves Nebbiolo should try these wines.
Cantalupo is a family-owned winery in Ghemme, one of the principal appellations in Northern Piedmont. The acidic soils are morainic, which is to say a mixture of materials picked up by a glacier. The wines are traditionally but cleanly made, with most of the important Nebbiolos being aged strictly in large barrels. These are excellent expressions of Nebbiolo, showing aromas and flavors of red fruits, ruby grapefruit, underbrush and a very clear mineral note.
Nebbiolo Rosato 'Il Mimo'
Estate-grown Nebbiolo fruit, crushed and left to macerate overnight, then pressed off and fermented at low temperature. This is the first rosè from Nebbiolo that I remember from northern Piedmont, maybe 15 years ago, and it's just delicious: raspberries, strawberries, fresh acidity. Nice bright flavorful complement to all kinds of foods (salmon, roast chicken, pork, salumi...). Don't hold the price against it!
Agamium Nebbiolo Colline Novaresi
Made entirely of Nebbiolo from three different estate vineyards, normally picked at the beginning of October and macerated with the skins for 6 days. Aged for 12 months in stainless steel, then another twelve months in 900L and 3,000L Slavonian oak barrels, almost all used. In effect this is declassified Ghemme, so the soils are morainic and the wine shows the same mineral character that the bigger wines do, just in a more forward form. Amazing value.
Ghemme 'Anno Primo'
Made entirely of Nebbiolo, normally picked in the middle of October. About ten days on the skins, aged in Slavonian oak casks of 1,500 and 3,000L capacity for 24 months before bottling. If you love Barolo and Barbaresco you owe it to yourself to try this wine; chewy but refined tannins, beautiful texture, very flavorful and aromatic, showing many of the same notes as Barolo and Barbaresco would, but with a mineral overlay that is very attractive. Completely traditional and also completely clean winemaking, my favorite. Drinkable now but will age beautifully for 20 years or more.
Ghemme 'Collis Breclemae'
Made entirely of Nebbiolo grown in the hillside vineyard called 'Collis Breclemae,' picked in the second half of October. About two weeks of maceration with the skins, then the wine is aged for 36 months in used barrels ranging between 900 and 2800L. Very rocky soil, which presumably explains the very distinctive mineral character the wine shows. Very round tannins that remind me of 70% dark chocolate, not at all bitter, just savory; this will age brilliantly, but if I'm eating ribeye now I would drink this with it in a second. Really big wine with excellent balance.