One could easily say Gattinara is the most well known wine appellation of the Alto Piemonte. 150 years or so ago, there were apparently roughly 1600 acres planted to vine in Gattinara. Today, I am told there is but only 230 or so acres still planted. Undoubtedly the most revered estate of Gattinara (& some would say in all of Alto Piemonte, as well) is Antoniolo. The estate was founded in 1948 & Gattinara was granted DOCG status in 1990.
This venerable estate is run by 3rd generation brother/sister–Alberto Antoniolo/Lorella Zoppis. Alberto seems to be very quiet & reserved. Lorella is quite outgoing, charismatic in a no nonsense kind of way, knowledgeable & VERY articulate. She is a force & clearly has a vision & the tenacity to fulfill the promise. Yup, this is some kind of wunderkind estate, much deserved of their highly revered status & their wines really impress & totally back up their reputation fully.
It was a crazy time, being harvest & winemaking & all. We were so thankful for her time AND even her showing us their vineyards, despite the winemaking craziness & the onslaught of rain.
Today they own 18 hectares, 14 of which are working vineyards–focused on 5 parcels–(the soils are still very volcanic in origin, but mixed with many combinations of matter which vary from location to location)–
—Osso San Grato–5 hectares, south facing, replanted in the 1974–very rocky, reddish soils with 1 foot topsoil–resulting in a more austere rendition with serious mojo & structure. Typically in aged for 36 months in large 2500 liter barrels & 1 year in bottle.
—San Francesco–3.5 hectares replanted in the 1974–more sand & rock, west facing–resulting in a more feminine, floral, pretty, ethereal rendition. This wine is typically aged for 3 years in wood–16 months in OLD 350 liter & 500 liter barrels & then further aged in large 2500 liter barrels for 20 months.
—Castelle–1 hectare–more of a west facing hilltop with deeper soils, less rocks & more sand to the mix, which was replanted in the 1985. Typically the resulting wines have more color, more power, more forward & immediately pleasing & higher alcohol levels). Typically 24 months in barrique & 1 year in 2500 liter barrel.
Each of these 3 parcels are bottled as single vineyards when warranted as well as used for their Gattinara normale bottling (36 months in large 2500 liter barrels). These wines definitely have something to say AND profoundly so.
The fruit from their Borelle & Valferana vineyards is used more for their Nebbiolo “Juvenia” & the Bricco Lorella rose bottlings.
Our next stop was to Franchino Mauro, also of Gattinara. Franchino was one of Alto Piemonte’s true winemaking vignioli/icons, & passionately worked his vineyards *& made his wines, mostly by himself. The estate is now run by nephew, Alberto Raviciotti. They own roughly 3 hectares of vines (the core planted in 1967, the same year Gattinara was first granted DOC status) in Gattinara, roughly at 1350 feet elevation, southwest facing, on the banks of the Sesia River. The soils are rocky granite intermixed with clay, iron, potassium & other minerals. His Gattinara & his Nebbiolo “Coste della Sesia” are Nebbiolo made in the a traditional style in an old, stone cellar near the center of town. A true garagiste. The Gattinara spends 18 days on the skins, fermented without skins in concrete & spend 3 years in large, old botti (barrels) & at least 1 year in bottle before release. While there is a new generation of winemaking helping to resurrect the wines of Alto Piemonte with a very different thought on what Nebbiolo can be, this is, in comparison, a more classical, wildly rustic, burly, robust, hearty, somewhat leaner style of Gattinara. The 2015, in fact, was a throwback for me of how I remember Piemontese Nebbiolo to be–lighter in pigmentation with a dusty, dead leaves/humus, roasted chestnut, slight cocoa character with good acidity & drying tannins, which is proudly Gattinara.