Piemonte has been our destination for most of February; but it’s no surprise since the region is blessed with delicious reds that are perfect companions during the cold of winter.
This weekend we will explore the Alto Piemonte ,the upper NE part of the region, to taste the Vino Rosso from the Cantina Sociale Coopertiva di Gattinara ($19.50). Archaeological digs discovered that vines had been cultivated there from the ancient Roman era. “Gattinara” takes its name from the Latin “Catuli Ara”, Altar of Catullus) in honor of the site where Proconsul Lutatius Catillus vanquished the Gauls in 100 BC. Fast forward to the 1700’s when Gattinara’s reputation for producing exceptional wine was well known and caught the attention of Thomas Jefferson, during his tenure as Ambassador to France. He wrote letters home expressing his great appreciation for this region’s wine and no doubt Gattinara’s wines were well represented in the over 650 bottles that accompanied Jefferson back to Monticello.
In the 19th century, Alto Piemonte enjoyed a period of great prosperity and Gattinara’s reputation surpassed its cousins to the south, Barolo and Barbaresco, and even France’s Burgundy. Prosperity was soon dealt a double punch with the plague of phylloxera that decimated the area’s vines and a ferocious hailstorm in 1905. Gattinara’s vines that once spread over 600 hectares were reduced to 95 vines that exist today. With the economy in ruins, many Piemontese left to work in the cities’ factories or emigrated to America. The region’s fortune changed again with the inception of modern winemaking throughout Italy and in 1908, the Cantina Sociale Coopertiva Gattinara was founded to sustain small growers of grapes to give them stability and independence. Forty families work their own plots over 15 hectares.
In Joe Campale’s book, “Vino”, he writes about how Alto Piemonte has now become “the hotbed of Italian wine today”
For the Vino Rosso, the grapes are co-harvested and co-fermented. Each vintage varies but the blend of grapes is approximately 60% Nebbiolo, 30% Barbera, 5% Vespolina, and 5% Uva Rara. When Emily and recently tasted this wine with our rep, we found it to be semi-dry and light bodied, fruity with good acidity and great complexity. Pair with risotto, meat dishes, or Piazza’s aged and blue cheeses. This wine is a favorite of the locals in Gattinara, who arrive at the Cantina each night with empty jugs to fill up from the tank for their evening meal -my kind of people! You may not be able to bring an empty jug to Piazza’s wine tasting but I can offer you a taste-come join me at Piazza Italian Market on Friday from noon to 5:45 and Saturday from noon to 4:45.