Discovering A New Group of Wineries in Piedmont
on 12/01/11 at 11:58 amWine
Driving around the enigmatic, fog-shrouded Piedmont region of Italy, I saw steep vineyards that fall away from the winding, mountain roads, and medieval castles looming out of the haze on every other hilltop. I recalled the great Barolo and Barbaresco wines from this region are made from the nebbiolo grape—and nebbia is the Italian word for fog. Why was I wending my way through this misty part of northern Italy? To learn about wine and terroir—and sales, too.
I recently returned from a visit to the middle of a new venture of winemakers in Piedmont—really the middle, because this group is in the middle of figuring out what they want their wines to be. Five years ago, half a dozen family-owned wineries here decided they could do a better job of getting their wines sold if they banded together. This year, the group of wineries decided to ramp up their efforts.
Their name is Nuove Realtà, which refers to their new mission, their “new reality.” First, they established a logistical center at one of the wineries, where products are stored for order fulfillment. Then, with new logos and labels ready for their bottles, they invited wine buyers and a couple journalists to come taste the wines and meet the winemakers. I was the only US journalist; there was another from Canada, and a writer/buyer from China. The rest of our group was made up of a dozen experienced buyers from Brazil, Italy, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia, Singapore, and Japan. For two days we learned about the geology, climate, and vineyards of Piedmont. We tasted wines, we visited wineries—and ate heartily, of course.
Some producers in the Nuove Realtà group have been selling wine for a long time, while others previously made only a little wine for themselves and sold off the rest of their grapes to large producers. Now it’s entrepreneur time for everyone.
In the US, many of us think of Piedmont only as a region that produces the important Barolo wine. In the past, Barolo producers and importers did not discourage this perception. But over the past few decades, Barolo’s importance has become sidelined as other regions have taken over the limelight.
The Nuove Realtà group wants to increase our awareness of the wines of Piedmont, specifically their wines. For them, it’s not just about Barolo. Each winery emphasizes the individuality of the soils and microclimates of their vineyards, which inform and inspire their winemaking. From the nebbiolo grape, they also produce Barbaresco wines, slightly lighter and more approachable than Barolo, and not aged for as long. Both of these reds are not, in fact, hearty wines, but light in the sense of classic Burgundy, though they have a different flavor profile which is more plummy and not earthy at all.
The producers in this group make Barbera d’Alba as well as other nebbiolo-based wines from various parts of Alba. They also make Ruché in Monferrato, Dolcetto in Dogliani, Arneis in Roero, and a Langhe Chardonnay. A few produce sparkling wines, both the fresh, lightly sweet Moscato d’Asti, and the newer style sparkling Alta Langhe (metodo classico) made with chardonnay and pinot noir.