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Alto Piemonte ‘an incredible alternative to Burgundy’

Nebbiolos from the little-known region of Alto Piemonte in the foothills of the Alps offer “an incredible alternative to Burgundy”, according to Italian wine specialist Walter Speller.

Nebbiolo is traditionally known as ‘Spanna’ in Gattinara

Speaking during a masterclass he hosted on the Nebbiolos of Alto Piemonte at the London Wine Fair, Speller said: “The Nebbiolos of Alto Piemonte offer an incredible alternative to Burgundy as they play in the same corner of elegance and finely grained tannins.

David Berry Green at the Nebbiolo’s of Alto Piemonte masterclass

“Nebbiolo has become a hot topic in the wine industry and with the rising prices of Barolo and Barbaresco, people are starting to look for alternatives.

“Boca is a tiny jewel in Alto Piemonte making Nebbiolos with longevity. Alto Piemonte deserves more attention as the wines being made there are truly unique,” he added.

Lying 90 miles northeast of Alba, Alto Piemonte was once Italy’s largest and most important region for Nebbiolo with 40,000 hectares under vine and wines that commanded higher prices than the top Burgundies at the time.

With Gattinara having been considered the cradle of Nebbiolo, today just 780 hectares of vines remain in Alto Piemonte after the region was hit by phylloxera in the late 1800s.

Led by Paolo de Marchi of Isole e Olena, in the last 20 years Alto Piemonte has experienced a renaissance, with a new generation making high acid, terroir-driven wines with a strong sense of place.

Leading producers in the region include Antoniolo, Vallana, Tiziano Mazzoni, Podere ai Valloni and Torraccia del Piantavigna. The key sub regions are Bramaterra, Gattinara, Boca, and Ghemme.

While Nebbiolo dominant blends are commonplace in Alto Piemonte, Speller would like to see more 100% Nebbiolos being made.

“Wines made from 100% Nebbiolo are possible in all of the sub regions of Alto Piemonte and I’d like to see this happen as it makes their expression of origin even clearer,” he said.

“I’d also like to see the DOs freeing producers of their specific ageing requirements as some are too long,” he added.

Meanwhile, David Berry Green, who runs Italian wine agency DBG Italia, told db at the end of the masterclass: “A new generation of winemakers are coming through in Alto Piemonte with energy and ambition and the fragrant, finely-tuned wines are starting to get noticed.”

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