What I’m Drinking: Obscure Gems of Italy’s Piedmont

Deborah visiting the vineyards of Barolo in 2009

Deborah visiting the vineyards of Barolo in 2009

The usual suspects? You know that’s not what I’m all about. Sure, with cuisine, I’m always excited to try a different take on a classic (it’s seldom I’ll turn down a meatball simply because I’ve had a million of ‘em). But with wine, there are just too many options these days to want to stick with a regional “old faithful”.

Anyone who has entered into a conversation with me about Italian wine, for instance, knows that I can geek out about the north, enthusiastically cutting a broad swathe across the regions to highlight my favorites. It soon becomes clear that Alto Adige, Veneto, Lombardia and Vallee d’Aoste are home to many of the unsung vinous gems of Europe (most of which were near impossible to find in the US just a generation ago), while Piedmont harbors the definitive northern staples, most notably Barolo and Barbaresco. But dig a bit deeper into Piedmont, and expect the unexpected….Piedmont’s “vini oscure”, if you will. Allow me to introduce you to the great wines of Piedmont via the back door, with 3 sub-regional examples that are perhaps less familiar, but not to be missed. I recently discovered them on the shelves of WAC’s strategic partner Suburban Wines & Spirits, who can ship them right to your door should you feel daring enough to investigate them. Additionally, if you want to learn how to discover wines like these on New York City’s great wine lists, join me on March 26th for an intimate workshop on Wine List Navigation.

La Giribaldina “Ferro di Cavallo” Monferato Bianco ’12 ($23)

Rare in the Monferrato district, and anywhere in Piedmont for that matter, is the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety. Here it is, feeling right at home….toned-down from all of its extremes, but dialed up as far as complexity. Herbs, hay, gooseberry and almond oil hints can all be detected in this classy, unforgettable white. Purchase Here.

Trinchero “Terra del Noce” Barbera d’Asti Superiore ’08 ($20)

Brothers Serafino and Secondo Trinchero craft an “ultra-traditional” Barbera in the Asti section of Monferrato, and hold the wine back a few years before release. The results are old-style Piedmont: savory, earthbound fruit with secondary layers of rosemary, pencil box, licorice, tobacco, and cacao notes across the nose and palate. Well-developed, yet age-worthy. Purchase Here.

Ca’Nova Ghemme ’05 ($35)

Piedmont’s commune of Ghemme is where some of Italy’s best Nebbiolo is grown. Tar, fresh roses, anise, lamb’s blood and savory rustic fruit personify this versatile food-paring red. Nebbiolo this compelling grown in Barolo would cost twice as much. Gimmie some more Ghemme! Purchase Here.

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