Saturday, December 30, 2023

An evening in Boston with the wines of Oltrepo Pavese

Before the end of the year I wanted to highlight the Lombardy wine region and share a wine dinner I attended a couple months back in Boston sponsored by the Oltrepo Pavese Consorzio and wine friend Susannah of Vigneto Communications.  You may remember me highlighting some wines from the Oltrepo in Lombardy awhile back, which I will also rehighlight at the bottom of this article.  It was a splendid evening in the North End of Boston, the Italian section of Boston, at Forcella with great food and wine pairings, great conversation and a reminder of interesting and diverse this region really is.

food and wine tasting with Oltrepo Pavese wines at Forcella Boston
Susannah (Vigneto Communicatiaons), myself, Carlo (Consorzio), David (Cooking Chat) and Alison (Artisan Wine Group)
The Oltrepo Pavese, pronounced ol-tray-po pah-vay-say, sits in the southern part of the Lombardy about 25 miles outside of Milan. It’s uniquely shaped within Lombardy looking like a cluster of grapes.  The vineyards cover 32,000 acres across 7 denominations with the flagship DOCG, and only DOCG, being the Oltrepo Pavese Metodo Classico Pinot Nero DOCG.   The Oltrepo receives a Mediterranean climate from the nearby influence of the Ligurian Sea and has more of a continental climate with the Po Valley.  Due to these factors, and others, there is a large diversity in the styles of wines produced in the Oltrepo.

Whether you have heard of the Oltrepo or not you may be surprised to learn that this wine area actually accounts for 65% of the wine production within Lombardy.  So much of the Oltrepo has changed over the years.  In 1884 the Oltrepo had 224 native vines with 59 grapes.  Today this area has 10 native vines with a much more limited amount of grapes.  It’s primary grapes grown and what it is known for are Barbara, Riseling, Croatina and especially Pinot Nero.  The Oltrepo Pavese is actually 3rd in the world, besides Champagne and Burgundy France, for the production of their Pinot Noir.  Other grapes also produced within the Oltrepo Pavese include Uva Rara, Pinot Bianco, Cortese Bianco, Vespolina, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Malvasia and Mueller Thurgau.

There are 4 valleys in the Oltrepo from west to east including Valle Straffora, Valle Coppa, Valle Scuropasso and Valle Versa.  Pinot Nero is frequently grown in the Valle Scuropasso.  Barbera you will find mostly within Valle Straffora and Valle Coppa.  Riesling does well in the calcareous soils of Valle Coppa.  Croatina is found in the central valleys eastward. 

We opened the evening with the lovely Ca’ di Frara T4 Brut Nature.  The 2022 Bruno Verdi Pinot Grigio was surprising as I never would’ve pinned that wine if tasted blind, although I’m far from an expert.  The texture and fruit profile in the wine reminded me of a Riesling.

Ca' di Frara T4 Brut Nature

2022 Bruno Verdi Pinot Grigio
Although I didn’t take specific notes on these wines during my dinner with the Consorzio I have to say that some of the pairings that we had complemented one another very well.  The star pairing was the La Travaglina Rugiade Oltrepo Pavese Riesling DOC paired with a cacio e pepe dish.  
La Travaglina Rugiade Oltrepo Pavese Riesling DOC
Cacio e Pepe wine pairing with Oltrepo Riesling
Also, the Castello di Luzzano Sommossa Bonarda Frizzante with the pasta Bolognese surprisingly paired nicely with a slight frizzante.
Castello di Luzzano Sommossa Bonarda Frizzante

pasta bolognese wine pairing with Oltrepo Pavese Bonarda

Have you enjoyed wines from the Oltrepo?

Here are some of my previous articles on other wines of the Oltrepo Pavese.

You can find Oltrepo Pavese wines at Wine.com. 

 
 
*I may receive commissions if any wines are purchased directly from the above site to support the operations of Vino Travels.  
 

Friday, December 15, 2023

Sparkling Wines from the Alta Langa with Borgo Maragliano

After a couple week hiatus due to wonderful family vacation on a Disney cruise of the western Caribbean, I'm ready to share a recent tasting I had a couple months back including sparkling wines from Borgo Maragliano.  This winery is located in the sparkling wine area of ​​​​Piedmont in northwestern Italy known as the Alta Langa.  They are based in Loazzolo, close to Asti.  We tasted through 6 sparkling wines  mostly based on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and one from the Riesling grape.  Let's explore!

The winery – Borgo Maragliano

The husband and wife owners, Carlo and Silvia Galliano, run Borgo Maragliano along with 2 of their 3 sons.   Carlo is also the winemaker and his wife handles the hospitality portion of their business.  They own about 108 acres in the Alta Langa, which is close to the seaside and therefore has the Ligurian Sea influence and winds over their vineyards.  The winery is situated at about 1,475 feet on steep Langhe hills with the vineyards at about 2,000 feet above sea level.  Their focus is on 4 grapes in particular, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Moscato.  The Moscato grape Carlo shared is the king grape of this particular area in the Alta Langa.  

Galliano family of Borgo Maragliano
Galliano family

The Alta Langa is an area of ​​southern Piedmont known for producing sparkling wines made in the traditional method style, known as the traditional method, with the second fermentation taking place in the bottle.  This is the way in which Borgo Maragliano produces their wines.  Canelli, a municipality in the Asti province of Piedmont, was the first in Italy to use this popular methodology and experiment with it.  Specifically the producers, Carlo Gancia and Conterno, were influential in the beginnings of using the classic style method. 

Carlo explained how they use selected yeasts from France and  use organic practices in their vineyards.  Their soil is meager and poor that gives great acidity to their wines allowing them to stay fresh and be ageworthy.  He discussed what he calls the “pedoclima” as a major factor in the influences of their wines.  This pedoclima is a combination of their altitude, soils and climate.  They have large diurnal temperature swings of 23-24 degrees.

Borgo Maragliano vineyards in Alta Langa

The wines

I'll share the wines I tasted in order of my personal preference.  Most of these wines are named after members of the family.  I didn't find the bubbles to be too bright and bubbly, which for me was great since I'm not a huge sparkling wine fan. 

Borgo Maragliano Alta Langa sparkling wines

The 2018 Borgo Maragliano Dogma Blanc de Noirs Bruit Nature Millesime is made from 100% Pinot Noir.  The wine matured for 48 months on the yeast.  They explained this vineyard as a difficult one and Carlo chose the name “dogma” as a strong word to represent the passion and determination to make these wines.  Aromas of butter and vanilla along with some stone fruit.  This wine was rounder on the palate and fuller bodied than the others with a touch of salinity on the finish. SRP $72

The 2018 Borgo Maragliano Giuseppe Galliano Brut Nature Millesime was the first sparkling wine they made in 1987 that is dedicated to Carlo's father.  They started making 1,400 bottles with the 1st vintage and today make about 8,000-9,000 bottles.  Made from 80% Pinot Noir for body and 20% Chardonnay for elegance from 35 year old vines.  This wine spends 4 years in the bottle and has 0% sugar.  Yeasty aromas with a slight toastiness.  It's dry on the palate with lemon pith and salinity on the finish. SRP $55

The 2019 Borgo Maragliano Giovanni Galliano Brut Rosé Millesime is a rosé made from 100% Pinot Noir.  This wine is named after the great grandfather and one of their sons of him.   The juice contact with the skins lasted about 2-4 hours creating a soft pale pink wine in the glass.  This wine spends 14 months on the lees and had a fine perlage.  A fruity red fruit based nose mostly of strawberries and raspberries with a touch of strawberries delicately showing up on the palate. SRP $57

The Borgo Maragliano Germana Beltrame Brut Nature S.A. IV Editione is named after Carlo's mamma.  Made from 100% Chardonnay from single vineyards across 6 vintages between 2013 and 2018.  This is their only non-vintage cuvee.  Fresh apples with a slight buttery aroma with soft bubbles on the palate. SRP $69

The 2019 Borgo Maragliano Federico Galiano Blanc de Blancs Brut Alta Langa DOCG is made from 100% Riesling, a clone of the Rheingau.  This is named after another of the sons.  The soils of these vineyards are about 85-90% limestone, which Carlo described as these wines showing an intensive mandarin nose and producing a wine that is clean and direct.  This wine did have intense aromas of petrol and pear.  The bubbles were small and quickly dissipated. SRP $72

The 2019 Borgo Maragliano Francesco Galliano Blanc de Blancs Brut Alta Langa DOCG is made from 100% Chardonnay named after their 2nd child.  The grapes come from a single vineyard planted in 1983.  The soils contains 40% limestone, a white soil that absorbs the water.  This wine spends 34 months maturing on the yeasts.  This wine showed notes of grapefruit pith showing a slight bitterness along with yellow flowers. SRP $50

Have you tried the sparkling wines of the Alta Langa?



*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are always my own.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Gavi: One of Piedmont's Great White Wines

As we round out these last couple weeks of November, this week I'm focusing on the Piedmont wine region and one of its great white grapes, Cortese, specifically the wines produced from the Gavi area. You can find this area located in the southeastern corner of Piedmont where Piedmont merges with the region of Liguria within the provinces of Monferrato and Alessandria. The landscape of this area not only has hills and valleys with the Ligurian Apennines nearby, but it’s only about 30 miles north of Genoa with the Ligurian Sea influences.

wine map of gavi wine region

Wines have shown up in documents within the area of Gavi since 972 AD, but this region had historically been based on red wines. By the 17th century documentation shows that the vineyards had completely converted over to the Cortese grape. After phylloxera had hit the area, producers chose to replant their vineyards with the Cortese grape over the Dolcetto grape. Much success and attention was drawn to the Cortese grape driven by the producer La Scolca. 


In 1974 Gavi earned the DOC certification. In the 80’s Cortese’s quality declined due to its high yields and production of neutral, acidic wines. Into the 90’s Cortese’s quality recovered earning the Gavi DOCG certification in 1998. The Gavi DOCG wines hail from 11 communes within the Alessandria province produced from 100% Cortese. You may also see the wines labeled as Gavi di Gavi and those are wines that come specifically come from the Gavi commune.  


Legend has it that these wines were named after Princess Gavia. In 528 she fled the wrath of her father, Clodomiro the King of France, due to her love for a young page that he disapproved of. She fled to the hills of Gavi to seek refuge from the troops and hence this area was named after her. Not sure of how much truth there are in these legends of these names come about, but it is always a fun read. 

Cortese grapes for Gavi wines

The area in which Gavi is grown has a moderately continental climate with cold winters and warm summers. There is great air circulation with such close proximity to the Ligurian Sea. The wines of Gavi will show better in warmer vintages as they will have more body and flavors than those in cold vintages that tend to be more lean. Cortese tends to be a grape that has nice crisp acidity with subtle aromas showing notes of citrus, almond and minerality. It’s a wine that is meant to be drunk in its youth. The Consorzio Tutela del Gavi descibes the Cortese grape as “elegant and a delicate bouquet, with hints of fresh fruit and white flowers, with notes of citrus and bitter almonds, enriched with age by mineral scents and complexity”. 


I don’t have a particular wine to share with you today with the chaos of the holidays and preparation for my family vacation coming up, but you can check out some of my prior blogs on Gavi wines. 



I’ve written a number of times about Michele Chiarlo’s wines here including my feature last week on the Michele Chiarlo Barbera, the Gavi featured above and others. It’s unfortunate to hearing of his passing November 18th at the age of 88. It’s beautiful to see his sons carry on the family’s traditions and Michele’s love and passion for wine.  

You can find other Cortese and Gavi wines at Wine.com. 

 

Information and pictures sourced from the Consorzio Tutela del Gavi. 
 
*I may receive commissions if any wines are purchased directly from the above site to support the operations of Vino Travels.  
 

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Classic Barbera with Michele Chiarlo

As we’re approaching the Thanksgiving holiday we all look forward to good times with family and friends along with good food and of course good wine. The question every Thanksgiving that folks wonder is which is the best wine to pair with your turkey and all the fixings. It’s a tough question considering the variety of flavors all mixed in on our dishes. The simple response is to drink what you like. Although, there are wines that will pair well on your Thanksgiving table due to their versatility. One of those grapes is the Barbera grape and that’s what I’ll be sharing today. 

Barbera grapes from Piedmont
Barbera grapes - copyright of Consorzio Barbera d'Asti

The Barbera Grape 

Over the years I have featured a couple wines from the known Michele Chiarlo winery of Piedmont. I won’t dig too much into the winery today as you can reference it in my previous article. The Barbera grape shows appearance in historical documents in Piedmont since 1512. Initially it was a grape that farmers used for their own personal consumption. As the word got out about Barbera and spread throughout the provinces it made it’s way on the theAmpelografia” list of Piedmont vines from the Count Nuvolone in 1798 and started to creep into international markets. 

In the 1980’s multiple producers devoted much effort to increase the quality of Barbera through their extensive work in the vineyards and cellars. Barbera is the most abundant grape fo the Piedmont wine region in northwestern Italy occupying 30% of the vineyard acreage

The wine I’m featuring today, the 2017 Michele Chiarlo “Le Orme” Barbera d’Asti DOCG, is grown from the Asti area as the designation insinuates in its name. The wines of the Barbera d’Asti DOCG are grown in the hills of the Monferrato and Asti hills. Originally this grape comes from Monferrato, but is grown mostly in the provinces of Asti and Alessandria. It was originally recognized as a DOC in 1970 and received the DOCG designation later in 2008

In 2000 3 sub-areas were delimited to express these areas true identity of Barbera d’Asti that comes along with stricter regulations. These sub-areas include Tinella, Colli Astiani and Nizza. Nizza was upgraded to its own DOCG designation starting with the 2014 vintage. 

map of Barbera d'Asti production zone
Copyright of Consorzio Barbera d'Asti
The Barbera of today is produced in a variety of styles whether it spends time in stainless or wood, but overall this is a grape that produces wines with freshness, pleasant acidity and great fruit mostly red fruits towards darker skinned fruits. The usage of wood will add vanilla nuances, spice and possibly some balsamic notes.  You’ll also see this grape grown throughout Italy and the world exemplifying it’s terroir, but in my opinion Piedmont will always be its home. 

The Wine 

Michele Chiarlo works with 4 of the classic, native grapes of Piedmont including Barbera, Nebbiolo, Cortese and Moscato. This week I tasted the 2017 Michele Chiarlo “Le Orme” Barbera d’Asti DOCG this week is made from 100% Barbera. This is considered their flagship wine and a classic Barbera. The name given to the wine, Le Orme, translates to the footsteps. In my opinion it represents the mark that Michele Chiarlo leaves behind him in serving over 60 harvests in the family’s business, especially working with this special grape in the region.  

The grapes that make up this wine are sourced from the family’s all 4 estates in the Nizza area including the esteemed La Court vineyard.   The soils are considered “Astian” soils that is sandy soil rich in limestone. The grapes spend 10 days macerating with the skins and are fermented in stainless steel. They are further refined for an additional 16 months with 3 months in oak and the rest in stainless steel and time in the bottle. 

The 2017 Michele Chiarlo “Le Orme” Barbera d’Asti DOCG had a little age on it, but was still drinking nicely. Ruby colored with a touch of purple hues. Aromas of plums, blackberries and black cherry. Medium-bodied and fresh on the palate. Cherry, blackberry and savory notes creating a pleasant wine where the flavors and elements are in harmony. A touch of tannins that are elegant towards the lingering finish. ABV 13.5% SRP $12.99

2017 Michele Chiarlo Le Orme Barbera d'Asti
I paired this wine this week with a bacon wrapped filet with a side of roasted butternut squash.  I also tried it with pork gyoza potstickers I got from Trader Joe's.  All pairing lovely with this Barbera d'Asti so explore and try it with a number of dishes and you'll experience it's versatility as well.

Do you have a favorite Barbera?

You can find Barbera wines as well as the wines of Michele Chiarlo  on Wine.com. 

 

Information sourced from the Consorzio Barbera d'Asti e Vini del Monferrato
 
*I may receive commissions if any wines are purchased directly from the above site to support the operations of Vino Travels.