When wine lovers think about Piemonte, or Piedmont, they are mostly thinking of classic Barolo and Barbaresco - reds with an indisputable pedigree, made with Nebbiolo grapes - or perhaps Barbera or Dolcetto. If they think about white wines, the names that come to mind are Arneis, Moscato, or Gavi, although Piemonte is rich in many other varietals and appellations that are not widely explored.
This month, we are celebrating the end of summer with two fresh and unique takes on two well-known Piemonte varietals: Cortese and Nebbiolo. Cortese is from the Gavi, a small area and appellation in the province of Alessandria, near the border with Liguria; the Nebbiolo we will try is from the hills around Novara, in the north-east of the region.
I chose these wines for their freshness and their unusual profiles; I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. With a glass of each in hand, our staycations can taste a bit like vacations.
Elio Longobardi, Italian Wine Specialist
PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Noe Valley
About the Winery: Cascina degli Ulivi produces wines from around 24 hectares of vines that have been worked using biodynamic methods since 1985. The estate has been in the Bellotti family since the 1930’s but Stefano was the one who transformed it into what it is today. Before he took it over, the farm was more or less abandoned. Stefano, a city boy with no agricultural training, effectively started with a blank canvas. Through his own empirical observations, he progressively came to eschew chemicals in his vineyards, eventually leading him to the philosophies of biodynamic pioneer Rudolph Steiner.
The whole farm is truly poly-cultural and committed to the fundamental beliefs of biodynamism. Vines are the main focus of the estate but vegetables, livestock, milk and cereals are all grown and cultivated. An agriturismo is attached to the farm, and practically everything served is raised on the farm.
Sadly, Stefano passed away in 2018, in the middle of the harvest season. He has become a guru of the natural and biodynamic wine movement, and an example of how to live and farm without a snobbish attitude and in harmony with nature.
This wine is the last vintage he made. Enjoy Stefano’s gift with a smile.
About the Winemaking: In 2015, the estate's entry-level Gavi, made from grapes that don't make the single vineyard bottling, along with other vineyard selections, was denied the appellation due to its color. This was a direct result of making an unfiltered, unadulterated product (most Gavis are usually heavily filtered, completely transparent and a pale straw color). With no other choice, the wine was forced into declassification and since 2015 renamed as "Ivag" (get it?) Much to his regret, this forced Stefano's decision to give up asking for the appellation for any of his wines.
Ivag is 100% Cortese from 40 years old vines in deep clay iron-oxide soil.
Direct press of the grapes, alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in 25 hl botti (large oak barrels) for 5 months. No sulfites added. Unfiltered and unfined.
Tasting Notes: This wine welcomes you with a joyous fizziness, which will fade away after few minutes, around its pale golden yellow color. Reminiscent of golden delicious apples, quince confit and vinous notes. The total absence of added sulfites makes for an easy drinking, leaving the mouth clean with a pleasant acidity.
About the Winery: We are in Suno, a small village in the Colline Novaresi area. The history of Brigatti’s estate began in the early 1900s when Alessandro Brigatti, Francesco grandfather and the current proprietor, started to plant some vines to complement the cultivation of cereals.
Motivated by his great passion for wine, Alessandro began to search for a suitable plot of land to plant his own vineyard. During his quest he came across a gently rolling hill, exposed to the south and with a soil rich in clay. In this idyllic place, Alessandro started to cultivate Nebbiolo, Vespolina and Uva Rara, undeniably the three most representative red grape varietals of the Colline Novaresi.
Brigatti’s vineyards stretch over three different hills a.k.a. möt in the local dialect: the MötZiflon, the Mötfrei and the Campazzi, each of them with different exposure and the soil composition. The vineyards are tended according to the strict criteria of the Integrated Pest Management, which implies that every action must be driven by the utmost respect for the environment. All the grapes are harvested manually in small crates to maintain the bunches in pristine conditions during transportation to the estate for being processed.
About the Winemaking: The portion of the hills in the Novara province where the Nebbiolo grapes for this Ghemme are grown are of glacial origin and formed by fluvial-alluvial sediments rich in loam and relatively acidic. Oltre il Bosco (Beyond the Woods) relates to the woodland patch that lies between the local towns of Suno and Ghemme. This south-facing vineyard covers 1,25 acres.
The method of vinification starts with a selection of the best grapes in the vineyard; fermentation occur in concrete vessels with submerged cap maceration and 60-day skin contact. Ageing for 24 months in medium-big sized oak vessels from Slavonia and refining at least 12 months in bottle.
100% Nebbiolo from 30 years old vines.
Tasting Notes: Light ruby red color. Intense and elegant with red fruit and violets reminders to the nose; those sensations are confirmed on the palate with also a spicy hint of underbrush forest floor terroir imprint.
Spezzatino di trota (Steelhead trout stew)
INGREDIENTS (serving 4)
4 Steelhead or farmed trout fillets
1 medium white onion
1 garlic clove
1 sprig of rosemary
1 sprig of sage
1 celery stalk
1 lemon, zested
½ cup white wine vinegar
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 egg yolk
2 Tsp. Flour
50 g golden raisins (let soften in a cup of warm water for 15 minutes)
1 cup vegetable stock
Salt & pepper
Remove skin and bones from the trout fillets and cut in 3-4 pieces each one
- Chop finely celery, onion, rosemary and sage
- Pour the olive oil in a large sauté pan
- When the oil is warm add the chopped herbs, veggies and garlic clove
- Flour the trout, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place the pieces in the pan
- Cook the trout pieces on both sides until golden, a couple of minutes each side
- Add the vinegar, raisins and lemon zest
- Add ½ cup of vegetable stock, turn to lower heat and cook for 10 minutes
- Transfer the trout to a serving plate leaving everything else in the pan
- Remove the garlic clove from the pan
- Mix egg yolk and ½ cup of vegetable stock together and pour in the pan
- Cook at lower heat to obtain a creamy sauce
- Ladle the sauce on the trout pieces and serve warm