Wine region

Alto Piemonte: Revival of a Roman favourite (Part 1)

Alto Piemonte, the archaic wine growing region, is making a comeback after a long break. Located at the foot of the Alps, in the north-east of Piedmont, Italy, Alto Piemonte is a wine region worth visiting.

This area, colonised by the Romans in the 2nd Century BC, holds four provinces and 10 appellations, with its famous Nebbiolo grape (locally known as Spanna). The appellations of Alto Piemonte gained a reputation amongst the Romans long before Barolo made an appearance.

The unfortunate arrival of the phylloxera pest, the frost of 1905, two World Wars and an economic depression left the countryside depleted. Whilst winegrowing areas such as Veneto and the Langhe were able to make a comeback in the 60s and 70s, Alto Piemonto’s revival took the journey of a long road.

But starting 10 years ago, the region slowly built a good reputation for its unique Nebbiolo wines, especially among importers and wine buyers in the US.

A good way to get familiar with the diverse wines the region has to offer is the yearly tasting event in Novara: TasteAltoPiemonte. Nebbiolo, Vespolina, Barbera, and, thankfully lovely Rosato can be tasted – most with exceptional value for money!

Collectorbits created a new two-piece itinerary to explore the region with a mix of up and coming, as well as better-known estates, in the region. The wineries can be visited one after the other as they are relatively close to each other.

Stop 1: Gilberto Boniperti

The estate, owned by Gilberto Boniperti, is located in Berengo. It is made up of 4 vineyards and was realized in 2003. The vineyards are situated 250m above sea level, offering breathtaking views, and has heterogeneous soils home to the Nebbiolo, Vespolina and Barbera grapes.

The superior taste of this delicate wine stems from low yields and hand picking of grapes once perfectly ripe. Once bottled, the wine is placed in baskets, ready to undergo the final and most significant refining for a period of 4 months. Boniperti’s wines include: Rosato “RosadiSERA” (100% Nebbiolo), Colline Novaresi Vespolina DOC “Favolalunga”, Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo DOC “Carlin”, Fara DOC (Nebbiolo, Vespolina) “Barton” and Colline Novaresi Barbera (Barbera Grapes) COC “Barblin”.

Via Vittorio Emanuele, 43 – 28010 Barengo – Italy

Stop 2: Conti Cantine del Castello

As a family run winery since 1963, the Conti Cantine del Castello, owned by the Conti family, grows the Boca DOC, one of the smaller appellations in the Alto Piemonte. It holds only twelve hectares, which are spread across five villages (Boca, Maggiora, Cavallino, Prato Sesia, Grignasco) and divided amongst eleven individual vineyard owners.

Boca is a long aging wine, which is made of Nebbiolo, Vespolina and Uva Rara and is required by law to age three years before being released. It has a territorial expression which holds the complexities of its minerality and promises enviable longevity.

The Conti family uses organic farming methods and harvests manually. Indigenous yeasts are applied in fermentation and minimal sulphur is throughout the elevage and at bottling, sometimes none at all. 

Cantine del Castello di Conti Elena, Anna e Paola SNC
via Borgomanero 15 – 28014 Maggiora – Italy

Stop 3: Antonio Vallana

In 1937 Antonio Vallana and his son Bernardoby established the Antonia Vallana estate. The family run business is now managed by Giuseppina Vallana and her three children.

The estate is well known for its Nebbiolo wines made within the Gattinara and wider Piedmont appellations. They do, however, also produce red wines from the Barbera, Vespolina and Uva Rara grapes.

These wines age in oak barrels for around two years after being picked by hand and vinified in cement tanks. Antonio Vallana produce four Nebbiolo wines. The Campi Raudii (which translates as red fields and refers to a historic battle in 101 BC) is priced below EUR 20, which is a good price for its unique flavour. Additionally, they produce Nebbiolo, Boca and Gattinara (a arietal Nebbiolo wine also grown in Boca).

If interested, it is also possible to obtain their vintage wines through their library releases. 

Via Giuseppe Mazzini, 3 – 28014 Maggiora – Italy

View from Vallana’s vineyard: Santuario di Boca ©Antonio Vallana e figlio s.a.s. di G. Vallana & c.

Stop 4: Nervi Cantine

Nervi is the most historic winery in the Gattinara DOCG area, dating back to as early as 1906. Its vineyards are situated in the Alpine foreland of the Monte Rosa (Nervi Molsino, Nervi Valferana and Nervi Gattinara), where the Nebbiolo grape variety covers 28.5 hectares.

Traditions have been maintained, and the pruning is still done by hand. Following this, the wine is fermented in large oak barrels.

In 2011, four Norwegian families with a natural flair for wine and viticulture, and a vast amount of experience in the industry, bought the Nervi property.

Corso Vercelli, 117 – 13045 Gattinara VC, Italy

Stop 5: Travaglini

The focus of Travaglini’s winemaking is the production of the Nebbiolo-based wines. Running since 1920, Travaglini is most famous for its collection of DOCG-classified Gattinara wines: Gattinara, Tre Vigne Gattinara and Gattinara Riserva.

The Nebbiolo grapes, are sourced from rocky, iron-filled soils. Prior to aging in a bottle for 8 months, the Riserva is aged in oak casks for a period of three years. The Travaglini range of wine is complemented by a small vineyard with the two grape varieties Vespolina and Uva Rara. The Cinzia wine label is created from a mix of these red wine grape varieties in combination with the Nebbiolo grapes.

Strada delle Vigne, 36 – 13045 Gattinara – Italy