February 2024 Two Bottle Wine Club

~ pictured above, Bruno Giocometto from the importer, The Piedmont Guy

This month’s club features a couple more wines from Piedmont because deep dives can be really helpful, and also, we really liked the wines. The once again very informative notes were written up by staff-member Irene Lozach. 

Happy sipping! And happy almost spring!

The foothills of the Alps and vineyards in the Erbaluce di Caluso region, Piedmont, copyright BKWine / BKWINE PHOTOGRAPHY

Bruno Giacometto Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG 2022 $26.99

Region: Alto Piedmont / Viticulture: Organic / Soil type: Complex glacial sediment / Elevation: 200-400m /
Grapes: Erbaluce / Method: skin contact; selected yeast; cooled stainless steel fermentation; lees aging w stirring

Erbaluce is an indigenous grape from the northern Piedmont region of Canavese. It is one of those grapes, naturally high in acidity that, while rare today, could well become a superstar in this era of climate warming.

The finest expression of Erbaluce is realized from the Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG which sits within the morainic amphitheater of Ivrea at the base of the Alps. The DOC designation was granted in the 1967 and DOCG in 2010.

Vineyards and a lake in the Erbaluce di Caluso wine region in Piedmont, copyright BKWine Photography

Through millions of years the descent and retreat of glaciers across the Alps lapped as far south as the site where Caluso is today. This glacial activity left a land formation in its wake known as the Ivrea Morainic Amphitheater, the most prominent such formation on the European continent. The moraines formed by the Baltea Glacier, now flank the Baltea River valley and contain rocks from all the major strata of the Alps. Among these are rare granulites from the deepest part of the continental crust, near where it meets the Earths mantel!

Before the grape blights (powdery mildew, oidium, and phylloxera) that swept European vineyards in the late 19th century, and the two World Wars of the early 20th, the Canavese region was a hot bed of sub-Alpine grape growing. After these disasters the expense of re-planting vineyards was often to great. Fortunately, the Olivetti family opened the Olivetti typewriter manufacturing company in Ivrea where they’d lived for many generations. So, the growers were able to became factory workers who tended vines on the side. This is a fortunate outcome for the region which did not suffer the typical population exodus in pursuit of industrial jobs in ‘the city’ but were able to get those jobs right at home. Uncommonly, the region retained its viticultural knowledge base which has been reinvigorated by the next generation.

Erbaluce di Caluso growers are again searching out the best sites for the grape. Now they strive for sites that can achieve balance of acidity, sugar and flavor development; farm to control yields for greater fruit intensity; and experimenting with techniques like skin contact and barrel aging.    

There are only 242ha of Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG plantings today and that number is rising. Even so, many newer vineyards continue the traditional pergola vine training method with tall vine trunks supporting a six-foot-high canopy under which the grape clusters hang. This trellising method dictates hand vineyard work including harvest. Bruno Giacometto is one of those pergola proponents.

Here is what he has to say about his process:

“I produce the Wine Erbaluce di Caluso or Caluso DOCG using the most modern techniques of the cold. When the Erbaluce grapes have a pH of 3 and acidity around 9, the grapes are harvested immediately and placed in boxes in cold storage for 4/5 days at a temperature of 3-4° C. This phase leads to the cold grape cryomaceration (from the Greek kryos, "cold"). This process aims to produce a wine with fruity characteristics , as well as give them greater smoothness and longevity, while also allowing less use of sulfites. The cold grapes are pressed, the wort is floated for a first clarification before the alcoholic fermentation is carried out at 13/ 14° C in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats which ensure a controlled fermentation to preserve and enhance the characteristics of the Erbaluce grapes. At the end of fermentation, after about a month, the wine is decanted , and left on the lees until bottling and periodically I do a battonage (stirring the yeast lees).”

What I found in the wine:

Erbaluce skins are quite dark and that comes through in this wines deep yellow, almost golden color. That is likely also due to the maceration period as is the wines texture which is a bit of a tannic grip. The aromas and flavors are intense with honeyed elements and white flowers along with pit fruits, apples and pears. There is also a hint of green grass clippings (!) and wet stone with just a hint almond skin. And boy they are not kidding about the acidity level which is a match for the fruit and textural intensity. Go to your fish monger and get something super fresh to enjoy with this one. Should you find yourself with fresh squid, try this NYT recipe for Calamari with Herbs and Polenta

Vallana “Campi Raudii” Vino Rosso 2018 $20.99

Region: Alto Piedmont / Viticulture: Organic / Soil type: Ancient glacier sediment, porphyrite rock / 
Elevation: 400m / Grapes: 75% Spanna (Nebbiolo), 25% Vespolina / Method: Spontaneous fermentation, matured for 2 years in cement tanks

Continuing our look at Alto Piemonte wines, these sub-Alpine vineyards are on the same site as a long ago battle ending in a Roman victory over the invading Gauls from 101B.C.E.. Perhaps that is why the site is called Campi Raudii? Or is it a reference to wild, untrellised vines the same Romans planted in the Alto Piemonte? Either way, Campo Raudii is Latin for Red Field so choose your favorite story.

~ both Vallana images are from their very informative and fascinating site

The current generation of the Vallana family, Giuseppina Vallana and her children Miriam, Marina and Francis, carry on a quality tradition established in 1937 when Antonio Vallana along with his son Bernardo, then only 17 years of age, establish a winery to expand on a small wine trading business of Antonio’s father, Bernardo the elder. The younger Bernardo possessed an exceptional palate and his wines of the 1950’s were firmly on par with the top Barolos of Bartolo Mascarello and Giacomo Conterno.

Bernardo’s grandchildren—Marina and Francis—are again crafting wines that would make their ancestors proud. They are wines of classic character that make no concessions to fashion and are true to their place and history.

The grapes are hand-harvested to small boxes, followed by a strict selection. Fermentation takes place in antique 150-hectolitre concrete tanks, where the gradual temperature changes allow site and season to leave their full imprint. Extraction through pumpovers is gentle for fine tannic structure. And aging is strictly in old oak botti, reflecting the family’s belief that “the soul of Alto Piemonte Nebbiolo lies in its elegance and delicacy which can easily be overwhelmed by a strong oak character” according to Vallana’s west coast importer, The Rare Wine Company.

Here is my tasting note on this wine:

The color is translucent garnet with some orange flecks while the aromas and flavors are tar, licorice, lead, cherry, vanilla, pipe smoke, leather. There is plenty of mouthwatering acidity to lighten the fairly firm tannins. Maybe get a few bottles of this to try over the next couple of years. While it has the beginnings of development I think it has plenty of what it takes to evolve nicely in bottle for a few years to come. I’m thinking leg of lamb or an aged steak with this.

Members receive a 10% discount on regularly priced wines, regardless of whether or not the wines are part of a club pack. This discount does not apply to sale items, blue-tag wines, or boxes/cans/alternative packaging and cannot be added to any other discount or promotion. The discount is good on wine only, and is active for the duration of the club membership. As of now it can only be used in-store or over the phone; it will not work online. Twelve bottle case discount remains 12%.

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