Once each month, wine bloggers around the world all write about a common theme. It happens on a Wednesday and is called Wine Blogging Wednesday. Today is the 54th installment of this event and the theme is “A Passion for Piedmont” (i.e. wines from the Piedmont region in Italy). Dozens of bloggers will write up their thoughts on wines from Piedmont today, and then in a few days the host of this month’s event, McDuff’s Food & Wine Trail, will post a summary of it all with links out to everyone’s contribution so that you can find—and read—them all.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of wine from Piedmont is Barolo, an outstanding wine made from the Nebbiolo grape. To me, Barolo is the most majestic and enjoyable red wine around. It also tends to be quite pricey… much more pricey than we can afford with our $20 per bottle limit on Cheap Wine Ratings. And so, I had to choose some wines other than Barolo in order to stay true to the principles of affordability this website is all about. I ended up choosing three wines to try, a Barbera, a Dolcetto and a Gattinara.
This month I did something a little different. I picked up three different bottles of Piedmont wines and in addition to taking my own notes, I shared them with some colleagues from my day job after work one day and got thier impressions as well. They were shy about describing the wines (or perhaps just not as geeky as me) but I did find their preferences to be interesting.
Beni di Batasiolo – Barbera d’Alba
Barbera is considered one of the “lesser” red wine varieties in Piedmont—along with Dolcetto. But don’t let that label steer you away because you can find some very nice wines made from Barbera at much more affordable prices than other wines from this region. In fact this bottle was only $10.
Barbera is known for having a high level of acidity, which can be particularly pronounced when the wine is fermented in stainless steel rather than oak. This particular Barbera was oaked, which softened the acidity but the aromas and flavors don’t indicate that it was heavily oaked.
By the way, the “d’Alba” part of the name is a regional designation. Alba is a town in the Piedmont region and that’s all that means.
The nose on this wine is fairly tight at first, but give it a few minutes to open up. It’s not very fruit forward—which is typical for a Barbera. Cedar, loads of mushroom and light cherry aromas make up the bouquet. There is moderate fruit on the palate, with mostly cherry flavors. It has soft tannins and near perfect acidity. The length and aftertaste are both great. In general it’s fairly simple and soft wine that will easily pair with foods.
For the most part this is a varietally correct wine. It lacks a little bit of intensity and complexity, which is why my score came in at an 85. But it’s a very enjoyable wine. In fact, this was the crowd favorite with most of those who tried it with me. And at only $10, it’s a budget favorite too.
Wine: Beni di Batasiolo
Find Beni di Batasiolo Barbera with Snooth
Elio Altare – Dolcetto d’Alba
Similar to Barbera, Dolcetto is considered one of the “lesser” grape varieties from this region… lesser to Nebbiolo is really what that means. Dolcetto is a grape that ripens early and produces a wine that is best consumed young, and for these reasons it is often a second variety grown by Nebbiolo producers. Growers are able to harvest these grapes before the Nebbiolo is ripe and winemakers are able to sell these wines without the aging required by Nebbiolo-based wines.
The name, Dolcetto, means “little sweet one” and although I wouldn’t classify this as a sweet wine it is a lot more fruit forward than the Barbera. Dolcetto also tends to be less acidic and more tannic than Barbera.
The Elio Altare winery started as a family farm and winery when Giuseppe Altare purchased it in 1948. In the mid-1970’s and at the age of 26, Elio Altare began to change the winemaking techniques based on knowledge he gained in other winemaking regions, such as Burgundy. Today the winery is still a family run operation and is producing some outstanding wines—this being one of them.
The first thing you’ll notice about this wine is a dark, inky purple color. There’s loads of intensity on the nose, which is a bit smoky and complex with tar, blueberry, prune, vanilla and licorice. The palate is filled with abundant ripe fruit. Lots of blueberry, plum, black cherry and pepper. Silky tannins and an outstanding finish make this a very enjoyable wine.
Although I thought this was very much varietally correct and an outstanding wine, it wasn’t the crowd favorite. Many of those I shared this wine with found it to be too big for their palates, but if you like big wines this is a good one.
Wine: Elio Altare
Find Elio Altare Dolcetto with Snooth
Travaglini Giancarlo – Gattinara
Like Barolo and Barbaresco, this wine is produced from the Nebbiolo grape, but it is classified as Gattinara based on the region where it is produced. One of the things I like about this wine is that you can enjoy the characteristics of a Nebbiolo-based wine at a more affordable price than most Barolo and Barbaresco—although you can find some rather pricey Gattinara too.
Travaglini is probably the best known producer of Gattinara and they produce a few different labels of it, this one being the most affordable. The bottle for this wine was a crowd pleaser and a couple folks commented that they would buy this just for the bottle. Travaglini claims that the bottle shape serves a purpose too, to hold the sediment in the bottle when you pour the wine.
The nose of this wine is spicy and interesting. It’s very smoky, with cinammon, raisin and pencil shavings. The palate is rich and well balanced, with dried cherry, raisin, black pepper. Velvety tannins lead into a long finish.
To me, this is a great wine and I could drink it any day.
Wine: Travaglini Giancarlo