The first wine tasted is the 2012 Barbera Piemonte. 11 April, 2014. (tasted earlier in the week at VinItaly, then again while visiting the estate, consistent). Energetic, clean aromas of ripe plums, light spice and dusty soil. Acidity seems low-ish at first, but the back and mid-palates fill out quickly revealing some youthfully tannic bitterness and the overall structure becomes more clear; stemmy, dry and coiled, but shows good promise. Medium finish, correct and more weighty than the (Nebbiolo, so no real surprise) Campi Raudii of the same vintage. Should be at its best in 2015-2017. 12,5% abv. Great value. recommended/**
Marina continues to explain the diversity of the soil. Much of it is lost on me. I’m not an agronomist, not an agriculturist. I’m no one other than a student, and this pink-tinged soil, that’s dry and dusty, compact-looking, yet brittle to a firm touch looks both foreign and unable to support vegetative life; how wrong I am. But I’m pretty used to that by now.
The soil gets its pink-ish tone from thousands of years of geologic activity. It’s not from the nearby Monte Rosa, though a troglodyte like me might assume so. In case you’re wondering the mountain’s name, yup, you guessed it, loose translation is Pink Mountain, but that’s because of the pink glow it can sometimes give when seen from far away. The soil has nothing to do with that ‘pink’, its properties are based on the glaciers that moved through the area during the last Ice Age, and the mineral deposits those glaciers left behind (below, a sampling of the many different types of stone found just in the nearby area).
We drive from Boca to their vineyard holdings in Gattinara, but first, a brief stop at a recently replanted vineyard, and then to lunch. People should see a replanted vineyard. They should know it’s not always full of pretty vines, lush canopies of leaves, and perfectly ripened, postcard worthy images of grape bunches hanging there without a care in the world. The reason they should see it, in my opinion, is to give them a sense of just how much time is needed, how much has to be invested, before the vines are both ‘pretty’ but also before they’re producing high-quality fruit. Things take time in Italy. Some more than others. Some things take forever. (below, very recently replanted vineyard, the various plant parts that were as small as your pinky finger, or smaller)
Only a few hundred meters (below photo) away from this plot, are some older, established vines. The comparison between the two – one seemingly barren, the other, full of life and vigor (and beauty) is stark. Beauty takes time. World-class wines take time.
The second wine tasted is the 2012 Antonio Vallana e Figlio Spanna Campi Raudii Vino Rosso. 11 April, 2014. This Vino da Tavola displays a light>medium garnet core, and follows with clean, fresh aromas of spice, cedar, cherry and soil; flavors largely follow the nose. Enters light and easy, rewards with medium finish. Nothing contemplative here, it’s just as it says, a table wine. Another superb value. Best after 60 minutes aeration in decanter. 12,5% abv., drink now and for the next few years. recommended/**
All this learning stuff has me hungry, so we head to the village of Borgomanero, about 15 (slow, dirt road) minutes away, and have a lovely lunch at Trattoria dei Commercianti. If you’re in the area and want really good, really authentic food in a relaxed atmosphere, this is your place (below).
Marina’s got class. She doesn’t order a Vallana wine at lunch, she could have, there’s some on the list. Instead she orders a competitor’s wine, the 2011 Azienda Agricola Fontechiara Vespolina Colline Novaresi. She understands I’m here to learn, and she wants to show what her region produces, and how well the wines are with a meal. She’s proud of her land, and of what she does, and she should be.
I don’t take any (tasting) notes, I just enjoy the conversation. I can tell the past few hours have set Marina back, there’s work to do, it’s piling up. But again, she’s classy and doesn’t mention it or look constantly at her watch as some might. I’m very grateful, for everything, but most especially her time.
The third wine tasted is the 2011 Antonio Vallana e Figlio Spanna Colline Novaresi. 11 April, 2014. This follows the 2012 Raudii, with its darker garnet core. Very fresh and open on the nose, with sweet cherries, herbs and soil. Open and appealing, but not high-toned or gratuitous. Medium>medium+ body, with a wonderful first attack that moves confidently into breadth and complexity. Firm, fresh tannins show class; nothing bitter here. Focused and pure, with welcome structure to boot. 13,0% abv., drink now or the next 5-7 years. best after 30 minutes aeration in decanter. recommended/**
When I return, I’ll take you to the cellars for the grand tasting the family has prepared. But before we get there, a stop at their vineyard site in Gattinara, a good 30 minutes away by car.