10 Of The Best Piemontese Wines To Try
Barolo and Barbaresco
1. Roagna Barbaresco Pajé DOCG 2007
White-hot Roagna’s prices are skyrocketing, but the wines remain classically understated. Luca Roagna, whose vineyards resemble abandoned heaths more than birthplaces of greatness, is a die-hard traditionalist. The wines take a little while to blossom, staying tight and forbidding for their first decade, but precocious 2007 is starting to reveal gemlike strawberry fruit under its burly leather exoskeleton.
2. Azelia San Rocco Barolo DOCG 2012
Burgundy lovers will adore the new generation of silky, “Burgundian” Barolo styles that don’t need 10 years of ageing. With eyewatering Burgundy prices, under-the-radar Barolos like Azelia from Luigi and Lorenzo Scavino are the perfect way to establish insider cred with wine geeks. Single-vineyard San Rocco introduces itself with a diaphanous, perfumed red berry smile but follows with a firm, confident handshake.
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3. Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia Riserva DOCG 2000
One of the most counterfeited Barolos for good reason, this reserve bottling—made only in outstanding vintages—remains a pinnacle of Barolo-dom. There was a warm 2000 vintage and many producers overshot the harvest, but master of balance Aldo Conterno managed to perfectly capture the year’s lushness. Generous cascades of velvety red and purple fruit give a succulence to the tannins.
4. Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo Riserva DOCG 1988
Though known for its prodigious age-worthiness if stored well, Barolo’s risk of failure rises with older vintages. Borgogno is a definite exception; I’ve never had a dud, going back to 1947. The 1988 vintage is just crossing into “mature” territory, with fresh fruit and sinewy tannins giving way to a melting mouthful of medicinal herbs, liquorice and dried strawberries.
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5. Franco Martinetti Gavi di Gavi DOCG 2015
I was first introduced to Martinetti’s Gavi in a vertical going back to 1985, which was still buzzing with energy. Unlike many Italian whites, and particularly Gavi, which suffer from a reputation for light, refreshing inanity, this is a white of substance that still won’t put off your casual quaffer. Mineral (i.e., not super fruity) and citrus bright with a subtly grippy palate texture and cleansing acidity.
6. Braida Bricco dell’Uccellone Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015
Often dismissed by snobs as the “pizza wine” of Piedmont, fruity, tart barbera reaches new heights in the wines of its greatest believer: Giacomo Bologna. His family have continued his legacy of ageing barbera in oak to give it structure, yielding a wine as refined and seductive as a black liquor cherry coated in single-origin Valrhona. A great BYO for any Chinese roast meat feast.
7. Elvio Cogno Mandorlo Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2017
Similar to syrah, dolcetto’s purple fruit and blocky tannins can be plodding and graceless in the wrong hands. Cogno’s delightful rendition resembles burying your nose in a bouquet of violets (or the scent of classic Dior lipstick), with fruit that’s chewy and concentrated without thickness and appealingly powdery tannins. Vibrant and energising enough for an aperitif.
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8. Vigneti Massa Timorasso “Derthona” 2016
Not for everyone (a dear wine-loving friend once described a different timorasso as “an oxidised style with no redeeming characteristics”), timorasso is a great pick for the mustache wax and ironic braces set. That said, it’s also a surprisingly versatile food wine—its clover honey and apricot goldenness are reined in by a chewy, sensuous texture that makes it great for risotto or anything else rich and fatty.
9. Dacapo Majoli Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2016
One of Italy’s “aromatic reds”—a foreign concept outside the country—ruchè is a mind-bender of a grape variety. With lychee, rose petal, white pepper and kyoho grapes on the nose and a slightly savoury red fruit confit in the mouth, it’s like pinot with its perfume dialled up to 11. A positively poetic start to any meal.
10. Le Piane Boca DOC 2011
For any fellow worshippers of huajiao (aka Sichuan peppercorn), the biting floral tingle lent to this nebbiolo (called “spanna” in Boca, in northern Piedmont) by bonarda and vespolina grapes is like catnip. Translucent, bright-fruited and just a little exotic, this will win over anyone who’s long-abandoned wine for hoppy craft beer or artisanal cocktails.