The Wine Cellar: 5 diverse Piedmonts perfect for that BBQ
When confronted with sultry, humid days punctuated by sudden thunderstorms with torrential rain, only one response seems sensible. Call your friends and fire up the grill. Don’t forget, of course, to open a bottle or two (or three) of tasty vino to keep the fun moving along.
Northwestern Italy’s Piedmont winegrowing region provides plenty of terrific possibilities. Nestled on rolling hillsides with the Italian Alps in the distance to the north, Piedmont’s fame rests on the majestic wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. These fruity, yet tannic reds made from Nebbiolo grapes typically require long cellar aging to come to peak enjoyment. They’re not ideal choices for grilled foods on hot summer days.
Dig just a little deeper into Piedmont, though, and you’ll discover an impressive diversity of wine styles with plenty of good values, too. For the reds, “baby” Barolos also made from Nebbiolo grapes offer a more approachable and drinkable style. Other reds made from either Barbera or Dolcetto grapes also fit the bill for casual grilled foods. Piedmont’s dry white wines typically come from grapes such as Arneis, Cortese and Erbaluce, but a few more obscure varieties also merit consideration with grilled fish.
Focus on talented winegrowers doing the hard work required to produce quality wines.
Consider the following:
• The 2016 Cantine Elvio Tintero, Langhe Nebbiolo, Italy (Luxury 75572; $12.99) comes from Nebbiolo vines planted near the town of Alba, which is the center of Barolo production and the heart of Piedmont’s famed white truffle hunting. The Tintero family ferments the grapes in stainless steel tanks and then ages the young wine mainly in botti — large, previously used oak casks that impart only subtle woody notes.
The wine’s light ruby color offers classic black cherry and floral notes with hints of earthiness. In the glass, the pure, ripe red fruit with medium concentration melds with ample freshness and firm, but fine tannins. This delicious wine’s 14% alcohol by volume allows it to partner with barbequed ribs. Highly Recommended.
• Noted wine importer Kermit Lynch came up with the idea. Work with a good producer and use readily available local Piedmont grape varieties to bottle an inexpensive but excellent red wine. It’s the kind of wine served by the pitcher for immediate pleasure at casual trattorias in the Piedmont countryside. Lynch made the idea a reality by working with Alessandra Bodda and her son Emanuele who farm around 30 acres of local grape vines.
Their 2016 Tenuta La Pergola, Monferrato Rosso, Italy (Luxury 75580; $13.99) uses Barbera di Monferrato, Bonarda, Dolcetto, Barbera d’Asti and Croatina grapes fermented to in stainless steel tanks to capture fruity freshness. The wine’s purple color unfolds aromas of dark red fruits and brown spices. In the glass, ripe black cherry and plum flavors with medium concentration balance with zesty freshness and smooth tannins. Very tasty and easy to gulp served slightly chilled. Highly Recommended.
• The 2018 Paolo Scavino, Vino Rosso, Italy (Luxury 80454; $14.99) comes from wine grower Enrico Scavino and his daughters Enrica and Elisa. They carry on a family tradition of making classic reds emphasizing elegance, finesse and fruity purity over power. This delicious wine provides a perfect example. It comes from Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Merlot grapes grown around Castiglione Falletto, a commune not far from Barolo.
The wine’s ruby color offers plum, cherry and bell pepper aromas. In the glass, ripe red fruit with medium body balances beautifully with fresh acidity and smooth tannins through the pleasantly lingering finish. Absolutely delicious. Highly Recommended.
• The 2017 Mauro Molino, Barbera D’Asti “Leradici,” Italy (Luxury 76562; $18.99) steps up the intensity just a bit. The vines grow in limestone and sandy soils to give the fruit uplifting, fresh acidity. Characteristic of Barbera, it also has some heft with 15% alcohol by volume. Fermentation and aging in stainless steel tanks preserved the wine’s fruit forward personality. The saturated purple color offers ripe black cherry and raspberry aromas with light earthy hints. Juicy black fruit with generous concentration balances nicely with the acidity and soft tannins. Pair it with grilled ribeye steaks. Recommended.
• The 2017 Punset, Langhe Arneis, Italy (Luxury 75983; $19.99) comes from winegrower Marina Marcarino who embraces organic methods to produce this delicious white wine. The Arneis grapes grow on hillsides in Neive, a commune otherwise well known for its Nebbiolo vines. After harvest by hand, the grapes ferment slowly with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks to capture fresh aromas and pure flavors.
The wine’s light golden color offers aromas of ripe peaches and citrus with light floral notes. Ripe citrus and quince flavors with medium concentration balance with bright acidity and just a touch of bitter herbs. Pair this vibrant wine with grilled halibut. Highly Recommended.