Ghemme is another of the denominations of the Alto Piemonte. It too is quite small in size with roughly only 210 acres planted to vine, all scattered throughout the undulating hills throughout the region. While porphyric/granite soils are a large influence in Ghemme, there are also vineyards which seem to have a little more clay to the mix, especially on the plateaus.
We were very fortunate to be recommended to visit & walk vineyards at 2 very respected estates from this appellation.
The first was at Mazzoni. I should say, this estate came highly recommended to us, pre-trip, by Gilberto Boniperti & we are so thankful he opened this door. We really loved this estate, the people & the wines. Gilles & Agnese Mazzoni are now the 3rd generation of the family to run this small, 5 hectare estate. Their youngest vines are only 10 years in age & his oldest more in the 35 to 40 year range. One can readily see there is more clay to the soils than others in the appellation. These are grassroots people & one can sense that immediately. Though their winery is very small & actually located in at least 2 spots down an alley, I got strong sense of how organized & aware they are in both the vineyard & the winery. One can tell when someone totally works a project completely from top to bottom & these are those kind of people. I could also sense a real tenderness when they spoke about the first wine we tasted–Vino Bianco “Iris”–as it was named after their daughter. It is 100% Erbaluce, from a just an acre or so, which is fermented in stainless steel using native yeast, after just 1 night on the skins, no malolactic done & then aged on the fine lees for 6 months. The resulting wine had a stony minerality (reminiscent of a wine grown in quartz soils I once tasted); was pure, rounded & a piquant, almond bitterness to the finish at 13% alcohol. The 2018 Vespolina il Ricetto “Colline Novaresi” we tasted next was full of spice, somewhat peppery, with a lightness in the middle & very savory, minerally & very enjoyable. The Vino Rosso “Elia” poured next was quite a surprise. 100% Barbera, 10 days on the skins then fermented & aged for 20 months in 3 year tonneaux barrels. This was a rambunctious, masculine, hearty red wine that had obvious mojo & virility.. The 2017 “Colline Novaresi” is 100% Nebbiolo, which is fermented 1/2 in stainless & 1/2 in barrels with 18 months further aging in barrel. Still quite masculine & savory AND so pure & honest qualities which made it compelling. The 2015 Ghemme is 100% Nebbiolo & sees 24 months in barrels & 6 months in bottle before release. This red has a lot more depth & mojo to its core & even more resoundingly earthy, roasty, savory & compelling. We actually had this wine 3 times on this short trip & was quite taken each time. Really solid wines & great people. Yes, I would readily buy some for VINO.
The next stop was to Francesco Brigatti, another Ghemme producer, again highly recommended by Gilberto Boniperti & again that did NOT disappoint. As a warm up, we savored a bottle of his 2016 Colline Novaresi “Mötfrei” at a small, husband & wife eatery one night at dinner. We were entranced & the wine completely confirmed Boniperti’s high praise. As far I could gather, Francesco is the 3rd generation & currently own 9 hectares of vineyards (6 hectares to Nebbiolo & 3 hectares mixed of Barbera, Vespolina, Uva Rara & Erbaluce) PLUS 1 hectare which they rent. Their vineyards stretch over 3 hills–mostly moraine soils. The Mötziflon is south-west facing with a predominance of a clay component; the Mötfrei has a southern exposure with a red sandy-loamed soil & the Campazzi is more westerly exposed and lies on a looser soil as it contains a higher percentage of sand. Mötziflon & Mötfrei is the home turf for Nebbiolo. When we arrived, Francesco was knee deep in unloading arriving grapes & having them crushed & destemmed. He kindly stopped to take time for us. Walking the vineyards & even tasting some of the grapes still on the vine clearly showed & confirmed how different the results were. It also gave me time to better under the man behind the name. He is a kind man, very thoughtful & respectful. I later understood that even more, when I went to his parents’ home (adjacent to the winery) to help him carry some cheese, salumi, bread & water he graciously offered us while tasting his wines. He was kind, gentle & so caring with his elderly parents & his mother beamed with such gratitude towards her son. I was truly touched by the mutual respect & care they shared. True family values. Plus, we were so thankful for the morsels of food, as it had truly been a very long day of driving here & there, walking vineyards & tasting so many grapes & later wines. Yes, we tasted a whole slew of his wines. 2018 Colline Novaresi “Montbello”–is his one white wine bottling–100% Erbaluce (35 year old vines), grown in more sandy soils. After 1 night on the skins, the wine is wild yeast fermented for 2 weeks in stainless steel, pressed & then aged on fine lees for 3 months. No ML. Bottled in April. I am not yet so hip on the Erbaluce grape variety, but, I do appreciate the white fruit, mineral thing with good frame & acidity….& therefore how vivacious, fresh & alive it is. The 2018 Colline Novaresi “Selvalunga”–is uniquely 100% Uva Rara, done in stainless steel for 6 months & NO stems. It has really pretty, enticing aromatics with prominent strawberry, cranberry, cherry fruit–very light, ethereal, minerally & upbeat. In comparison, the 2018 Colline Novaresi “Maria”–is 100% Vespolina & therefore has more apparent acidity, tannins, alcohol & spice–clove, cinnamon & light pepper. In comparison, the 2018 Colline Novaresi “Campazzi”–is 100% Barbera, aged for 6 months in old 500 liter tonneaux barrels to help round out & frame the Barbera’s wild side. More browning in color to the edge, the core is more fruity, juicy, delicious & much more charming in personality. We then tried the 2016 Colline Novaresi “Mötziflon”–85% Nebbiolo (20 to 35 year old vines grown in more clay soils), 10% Vespolina & 5% Uva Rara which is aged for 20 months in old, 3600 liter Slavonian oak. It certainly had more pedigree & way more bravado–quite masculine, acidic, tannic with lots of tar & savory notes. In comparison the 2016 Colline Novaresi “Mötfrei” is 100% Nebbiolo (30 year old vines planted in more sandy soils) & was therefore more gentle, though still very masculine, virile & structured. The 2013 Ghemme is 100% Nebbiolo grown in more clay soils, fermented & aged on the skins for 3 months in concrete & then after ML, aged for 24 months in 2000 liter barrels. This wine certainly had much more grandeur & class, although still quite macho & vehemently structured.
At the end of the day, we paid a visit to Antichi Vignetti di Cantalupo, also in Ghemme. While historically the roots can be traced back to the late 1500’s, the vines & winery really started in 1969, the same year Ghemme was granted DOC. This is certainly one of the larger wineries we visited on this trip in physical size, owning 35 hectares of vineyards & producing roughly 15,000 cases spread out through 12 different wines/bottlings. The majority of their plantings is Nebbiolo (90%), grown in moraine-clay soils (the core planted in 1977). Sadly it was way too rainy to visit vineyards, but we were so fortunate to taste many different wines. The Nebbiolo is aged only in barrels–a combination of 3000 liters, 6000 liters (Slavonian, 40 years in age) & some in 228 liter barrique. The standout of their current releases was the 2011 Cantalupo Ghemme “‘Collis Breclemae”, a single, steep, very rocky vineyard–100% Nebbiolo raised in those large Slavonian oak barrels for 36 months. Imagine being 8 years old & their current release! The wine was surprisingly harmonious, especially in comparison to most of what we had been previously tasting. We loved its savoriness, texture & harmony. Being more pure & “clean” in style, this will win over lots of new wine friends.