The Wine: Claré J.C. Langhe Nebbiolo 2021
Winemaker's notes: "The description of Nebbiolo given by Thomas Jefferson in 1787, set us on a journey to dig in the days pre-Juliette Colbert ... What we found was fascinating: from the letters by Anna Riccardi Candiani to Renato Ratti, from Gian Battista Croce, the royal jeweler from the House of Savoy, to Father De Fanti, a friar in Cherasco, and many “winemaking protocols” for Nebbiolo. Here we noticed the preference for light-colored, sparkling, and sweet wines at the time. We discovered a new world…"
Tasting notes: Light ruby color, slightly sparkling and very fresh, eye-catching. Spices and red fruits and a vibrant minerality, the JC is to be consumed fresh and a versatile wine: to be drunk in the summertime and an ideal companion for cold cuts and lightly fried foods. An unprecedented expression of Nebbiolo with which one will be able to surprise even the most skeptical friends!
The Producer: G.D. Vajra
The estate of G.D. Vajra is situated in Vergne, the highest village in the Commune of Barolo. Its vineyards are planted with Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, and Barbera at heights of 350-400 meters, which result in distinctive and aromatic wines. The Vajra family is a group of dedicated, passionate winegrowers, who are also grounded and sensitive to the human role in winemaking. Their philosophy remains faithful to the traditional and authentic wines of Piemonte, and in essence, they regard themselves as the instruments that enable nature and the environment full self-expression through their wines. (photo cred: Vajra)
In 1971, Aldo Vajra, then still a university student, was one of the earliest to adopt organic farming in Piemonte. Vineyards have been nurtured, and soil preserved, by grassing and spontaneous cover crop for almost 50 years now. They are sustainable and organic certified. With an incredible ratio of manual work per hectare, farming at Vajra is a labor of love and “recipe-free” attention. Intense research is also placed into monitoring and improving the biodiversity of both flora and fauna not just in the vineyards, but also in the winery fields and forests.
The Region: Piedmont
Piedmont (or Piemonte in Italian), described by many wine lovers as the “Burgundy of Italy”, is without a doubt one of the most revered wine-producing regions in the world.
Piedmont, which literally means “at the foot of the mountain”, is located in the northwestern part of Italy. It borders with France (west), Valle d’Aosta (north-west), Lombardy (east), Liguria (south). The capital of Piedmont is Turin, its biggest city, and main industrial center.
In this very similar to Veneto, Piedmont's wine landscape is defined by the presence of several indigenous grape varietals, which give a wide array of incredibly unique wines. Piedmont’s traditional winemaking has one main characteristic: grape varietals, native or non-native, are almost never blended.
The association with Burgundy comes from three essential facts:
1 – Great focus on the quality of production over quantity: wineries in Piedmont tend to be very small, mostly family-owned, and are integrated with the environment.
2 – Terroir-driven approach to viticulture and winemaking: vineyards are carefully subdivided in cru (zonazione in Italian), which give unique wines with a specific character.
3 – Nebbiolo, one of the most famous red grape varietals in the world, is vinified following a similar approach to Pinot Noir in Burgundy – for example, it’s never blended.
The Red Wines of Piedmont
Nebbiolo is for Piedmont what Pinot Noir is for Burgundy. There are several Nebbiolo-based DOCGs - Barolo, Barbaresco, Ghemme, Gattinara - and it's safe to say that Nebbiolo is the most representative red grape varietal of Piedmont.
Other notable red grapes are Barbera, in all its incarnations - Barbera d'Asti, Barbera d'Alba, Barbera del Monferrato - Dolcetto - Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba, Dolcetto di Ovada, Dolcetto di Dogliani - and Brachetto d'Aqui.
Less common but very interesting, especially after being rediscovered by a handful of excellent producers, varietals such as Pelaverga, Freisa, and Grignolino, have found a new place in Piedmont's winemaking landscape.
The White Wines of Piedmont
Piedmont is very often, and mistakenly so, identified as a land of red wine – most notably Barolo and Barbaresco. However, among Piedmont’s most exciting wines, there are several whites. Erbaluce di Caluso, Gavi, Arneis are all native grape varietals vinified superbly into exciting white wines.
Moscato d’Asti is another one of Piedmont’s mainstays, famous in its Asti Spumante iteration, the ubiquitous sweet, white, sparkling wine.