Spotlight on Nebbiolo: Luigi Ferrando Carema “Etichetta Nera” 2006

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Sub-Alpine hills and Italian wine: strange bedfellows. And yet it is with the climatically picky Nebbiolo that these two opposites chime in unison. The Carema DOC in northern Piedmont sits well above the Po river in the mists of the foothills of the Alps. Amazingly, dispite a few growers and a co-operative, Luigi Ferrando is the only independent producer in these parts. Making wine grown on terraced plots in this northern region is a challenge but Ferrando makes one of the most idiosyncratic and exciting Nebbiolo’s I’ve yet tasted.

Farming and Vinification

The Ferrando winery was founded in 1890 and is still owned by the same family. Everything is hand harvested here and the farming is extremely “bio-sensitive” without actually trying to be officially organic or biodynamic. All the wines are stainless steel fermented and then aged in oak. While most of the wines see only more neutral large oak barrels, this wine, his top “Black Label” reserve, does see some new oak, though I’d say they know what they’re doing.

The Alps in Italy

With such a northerly climate, you would expect harsher tannins and higher acid. And these properties can indeed be present in some wines from the North. Ferrando’s wines, however, have none of these detriments, instead being impeccably smooth and balanced. With the cooler climate, though, he manages to coax out even more ethereal aromas than are the norm for Nebbiolo.

Floral and lively on the nose, the higher acids and firmer tannins integrated perfectly with about 1 hour of decanting. The lift is astounding and the aromas, almost herbal like thyme flowers and mountain pollens, remind me more of Alpine grasses and air than anything I traditionally associate with Italy.

A fascinating, stunning Nebbiolo that is more lifted and elegant than Barolo and seems brighter and clearer than most of the more southerly Piedmontese examples. There is a lot of fruit to the wine as well, but it is the wine’s textural seamlessness and tremendous aromatic lift, particularly at this young age, that make it a very special wine. One of the most exciting Nebbiolos I’ve tasted in this spotlight and at a killer price for such legendary quality.

Excellent to Excellent+
~$60 USD at Arlequin Wine in SF

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