We’re getting a little wine nerdy this week as we learn about biotypes of wine. Recently I had a pleasant tasting with the export manage, Erika Abate, of Enrico Serafino wines of Piedmont. Erika felt like a long lost friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time, but we’ve never met. Some Italians can be so welcoming and warm. I tasted a number of their sparkling wines from the Alta Langa of Piedmont. My type of bubbly with soft, fine and elegant bubbles. Although, I’m here to share a unique tasting of the 2017 Enrico Serafino Picotener wine.
The winery ~ Enrico Serafino
Enrico Serafino winery was established back in 1878 in Canale d’Alba within the Cuneo province, where it still stands today. The winery exchanged hands in 2015 to the Krause Gentile family of Piedmont. I’m dying to know if there is some relation as my maiden name is Gentile. Family discount maybe??? The Krause family is dedicated to producing sustainable wines, expanding the vineyards and making advancements and upgrades within the winery. It’s always sad for me to not see future generations of the Serafino family take over the family business, but there is a time and place for everything and I’m sure the Krause family will carry on their legacy.
Enrico Serafino primarily produces sparkling wines from the Alta Langa along with barolo, barbera, gavi di gavi and the picotener I’m sharing today. Why is this picotoner so unique? It’s a biotype of nebbiolo and is a grape that has been rediscovered and that is rarely seen.
So what is a biotype? We’re going to keep it surface level here as I’m not a scientist and don’t want to bore you with the nitty gritty details. In laymen’s terms it’s when a grape is mutated and develops particular characteristics. The most widely used term that many refer to are clones of grapes, but clones share genes with its parents. According to Ian D’Agata in his book Native Grapes of Italy he best describes biotypes as such:
“Once reproductive cycles occur, there is a reshuffling of the parental genes, and the offspring will be genetically different from the parents. Though we habitually describe these new and different grapevines as clones, this is incorrect, as clones are by definition genetically identical to the mother plant. It is more accurate to refer to these new and different plants as biotypes”.
The Picotener that I tried from Enrico Serafino is actually one of the 3 most representative biotypes of nebbiolo along with lampia and michet per the December 2017 issue in the scientific report of Nature. Nature’s article looked at the genetic mappings of nebbiolo and its biotypes and shared the differences in the genetic characteristics. Picotener is originally from the Aosta Valley. According to the article it’s primary characteristics are low vigor and yields, resistance to highly severe climates and it produces wines of intense color, not a characteristic typical of nebbiolo.
Many producers gave up on picotener due to its low yields. As you can imagine in a wine region as well known as Piedmont with much success working with other grapes why would one bother. This is exactly why I love how some wineries dedicate their themselves to reinvigorating ancient grapes, restoring vineyards and digging into further research and experimenting to deliver to us consumers wines like picotener. I think it’s a beautiful example of their passion for what they do.
The 2017 Enrico Serafino Picotener was ruby in color with purple reflections on the rim. Rather floral on the nose reminiscent of cherries, plums and violet. Rather approachable with juicy, ripe dark red fruits with firm tannins and a nice structure. The grapes were manually harvested and kept in temperature-controlled tanks then aged in wood casks for 12 months. Enrico Serafino planted two vineyards with picotener and the 2017 was their first vintage of this wine. Nebbiolo is one of my favorite red grapes of Italy and when I can enjoy one at a fraction of the price of a barolo and barbaresco I’m all in!