Piedmont sits on the borders of France and Switzerland surrounded on three sides by The Alps. The capital of Turin is a hub of industry but away from the city, the pretty pastoral landscapes are similar to nearby Tuscany. The mountain towns and villages, however, have an alpine feel and the area offers the opportunity to discover new and unique wines, as well as stunning scenery and many cultural sights.
Piedmont is Italy’s second largest region and it is noted for its wines. The vineyard landscape of Piedmont, Langhe-Roero and Monferrato comprises five distinct wine-growing areas and is nominated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the home of Barolo, The King of Wines, and Barbaresco, but it is not only red wines that are produced in the region, as there are 42 Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and 17 Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG, and Italy’s top wine classification). The styles of wine making are varied and around 12 grape varieties feature in the most important wines of the area, including Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Brachetto, Freisa, Grignolino, Malvasia, Moscato Bianco, Cortese, Chardonnay, Arneis and Erbaluce.
Although around 86% of wine in the UK is purchased at a supermarket, the range offered is limited. If you are trying to find unique premium wines from your favourite region, particularly in these times of restricted travel, an independent wine importer will offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. If you’re looking for a place to begin then these four UK-exclusive Piedmont wines from Independent Wine have all the elements to look for in a fine wine, from a respect for the vine and the grape, to an ethos of quality over quantity.
Francone ‘Patriarchi’, Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOC
The Francone ‘Patriarchi’ is an elegant wine made from Barbera grapes and named for founders, Alberto and Adriano Francone. The award-winning Gallina Vineyard in Neive began in 1892 and continues today under the direction of brothers, Marco and Fabrizio Francone. At Neive they cultivate Nebbiolo, Barbera, Moscato and Chardonnay and the brothers also make Barolo wine from Nebbiolo grapes grown in two other vineyards in La Morra and Monforte.
The wine making and ageing processes are through lengthy fermentation on the skins and a sulphite content 60% below the permitted level. Rather than a focus on numbers of hectares and bottles produced, the focus is on the working in the vineyards by hand, from the winter pruning to the harvest, to make elegant and drinkable wines.
A medium ruby colour, the Francone ‘Patriarchi’ is well-balanced and fresh, with elegant and pronounced aromas of fruits and spices. The grapes are hand-harvested in early October and fermented with traditional maceration for ten days. The wine is matured for 12 months, partly in large French oak barrels that lend a subtle flavour and partly in small Bordeaux barriques which impart the poignant flavours of vanilla and cinnamon.
The intensity of flavor is a complex but mellow combination of red cherry, raspberry and strawberry, this develops with delicate hints of cinnamon, cloves and vanilla. The medium tannins are rounded through careful ageing and the wine is dry and full-bodied with a long and highly enjoyable finish with each delicious sip.
The Francone Patriarchi has the potential to age well for six years, if you are able to keep it that long. It is especially good paired with meat dishes and old or well-ripened cheeses.
The Francone family was one of the first vineyards to offer hospitality to tourists beginning to discover the potential of this emerging winemaking district. Poderi Gallina farm, on top of the Gallina di Neive hill, offers rooms and an apartment in the heart of the historic vineyard.
Prices apartment from €85 for two people for one night.
Francone Valsellera Sparkling Rosé Brut NV Metodo Classico
From the same winemaker, the Francone Valsellera Sparkling Rosé is made with 100% of the powerful Nebbiolo grape normally reserved for the legendary reds of the region. The classic method used is similar to champagne making and the grapes are hand harvested in late summer. After crushing, the juice is left in contact with the skins for a few hours to absorb the distinctive Nebbiolo flavours. Following fermentation at 16°C it is aged on its lees in the bottle for three years. This extended ageing helps smooth the muscular and coarse tannins and enables the wine to develop a velvety, delicate character and a lengthy finish.
The pale ruby colour promises flavour. On the nose the wine is fruity, with aromas of raspberry and wild strawberry, and a hint of vanilla and toasted bread. It is fresh and dry and has a high acidity, a medium body and an intense aftertaste.
The Francone Valsellera is perfect for summer parties and pairs well with Italian cheeses, such as Taleggio, as well as smoked fish, Italian cold cuts and barbecued meat. It is best drunk within three to 30 months.
Scagliola Sansi, Volo Di Farfalle 2019, Moscato d’Asti DOCG
The Scagliola family winery was established by Camillo Scagliola in 1936. Azienda Agricola Scagliola is situated at the top of San Siro hill, surrounded by vineyards.
This iconic sparkling Moscato was the winner of one of the most prestigious titles of ‘Two Glasses’ by Gambero Rosso (2018 vintage) and was awarded 90 points by award-winning wine critic James Suckling (2016 vintage).
Volo Di Farfalle, meaning ‘flight of the butterfly’, is made from the very best bunches of Moscato grapes. Production is by minimal intervention and fertilisation and Moscato Bianco grapes are hand picked at the start of September. The fresh juice is cooled to near-freezing temperatures to stop fermentation. Small portions are de-frosted as and when required and the wine is produced in small batches for the freshest flavours.
A light golden colour, the wine is medium sweet with quite complex floral notes of mountain flowers, wild herbs like sage and rosemary, and honeysuckle. The tiny, persistent bubbles add a touch of spritz and the wine would be perfect with a selection of desserts, antipasto and creamy Italian cheeses. This is a wine best consumed young.
Malvirà Roero Arneis Renesio 2018 | Roero DOCG
The Malvirà is a 100% organic winery owned by the Dalmonte family. It is located in the hills of Roero, the unofficial ‘wine capital’ of the Roero DOCG directly across the river from the legendary Barolo zone. The cellars at Malvirà are deep underground, heated and cooled by geothermal energy, they are naturally carbon neutral.
Each year only around two thousand wines in Italy win the coveted Gambero Rosso’s ‘Three Glasses’ award, and this organic white wine is one of them.
Arneis is one of Piedmont’s indigenous grapes that fell out of fashion in the sixties but has since been revived. This delicately fragranced wine has a silvery lemon colour and aromas of elderflower, jasmine, peach and orange zest, underpinned by notes of dried wild flowers. On the palate the wine is refreshing, dry and medium-bodied with medium alcohol.
The wine has the potential to age well for up to five years. It is excellent as an aperitif or with fish and Asian-inspired dishes.
The Villa Tiboldi is a converted mansion with 10 guest rooms by the Damonte family at Canale. Situated on top of a hill with magnificent views overlooking the vineyards of Roero, the rooms are luxuriously decorated with elegant Italian furniture. There is an outdoor terrace to make the most of the view, restaurant and outdoor swimming pool. www.villatiboldi.com
Independent Wine source and import boutique fine Italian wines, often fourth or fifth generation producers, with independent proof of quality whether an international award or high expert ranking.
Vineyards of Malvirà on the Trinità hill in Roero, Piedmont