Little known wines from Piemonte

October 25, 2010 at 11:44 am Leave a comment

Vigne Regali just released two new wines from Piemonte, one a new release of a sparking wine and one, a release of a red wine made from a variety grown by only four estates in Italy. Both deserve your attention.

Vigne Regali is the Piemonte project of Banfi, located in the province of Alessandria. For years, they have produced Gavi (in several versions) as well as Dolcetto d’Acqui as well as a charming Brachetto d’Acqui (Rosa Regale), a lightly sweet sparkling wine made from the Brachetto grape that is a real delight, especially served with fresh strawberries, peaches or even dark chocolate.

Now they are producing a dry sparkling wine from Piemonte that is quite good and hopefully will help to make this wine type better known in the country. The wine is an Alta Langa DOC, a sparkling wine made in the classic method where the secondary fermentation is in the bottle (as is practiced in Champagne); the new Vigne Regali version is a lovely rosé made entirely from Pinot Nero; the name Cuvée Aurora and the vintage is 2006.

I like the balance and freshness of this wine; medium-bodied, this has appealing flavors of fresh bing cherry, Anjou pear and strawberry backed by good acidity and good persistence in the finish. This has a lively mousse and is beautifully styled for food; I think it would be especially good with duck breast or lighter seafood done in an Oriental style. Enjoy this over the next 1-2 years, especially for its freshness; the $30 price tag is quite reasonable.

The other new Vigne Regali release is something very unique; a wine made solely from the Albarossa variety. Accordging to the press release on this wine, this variety was conceived in 1938 when a professor Dalmasso crossed two of Piemonte’s most famous red varieties, Nebbiolo and Barbera. Apparently, nothing was done with the grape until 2002 when four Piemontese producers – Vigne Regali, Michele Chiarlo, Prunotto and Gancia, joined forces to plant an experimental hectare. Two years later, this planting produced the first cutting and the following year, Vigne Regali produced its first bottling. All four producers previewed their initial releases of their own Albarossa (loosely translated as “red dawn”) at the VinItaly wine fair in 2008.

The new release I tasted is the 2007 “La Lus” Albarossa from Vigne Regali (La Lus is local Piemontese dialect for “the light” or “rising sun”); I admire the red plum, licorice and tar notes and its pleasing ripe fruit. The tannins aren’t there until the finish when they sneak up on you, so while they’re never obtrusive, another 2-3 years of cellaring would help round this wine out. If I have one criticism of the wine, it’s the use of small oak barrels, which is evident, though not over the top. Given that this is a Banfi project, I can’t say I was surprised by the use of barriques, but I would have preferred aging in large casks to allow the varietal character to emerge. This is especially important, as this is a variety that few are familiar with, but again, the oak influence certainly doesn’t interfere with the wine’s pleasures. I’d drink this with most red meats, although I think it’s a bit showy for pastas. The price is $30, which is quite understandable, given the scarcity of this wine.

Thanks to Banfi and the Vigne Regali winery for producing this wine and giving Italian wine devotees a chance to try this rare variety.

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