The Wine: Il Provinciale Langhe Nebbiolo 2016
San Fereolo Il Provinciale Langhe Nebbiolo is a red natural wine made from 100% old-vine Nebbiolo grapes farmed biodynamically in the Langhe area of Piedmont. An incredibly complex wine that starts off rather muted; let it breath – decanting is recommended – and it will reveal itself in its finesse. Small red berries, violet, a touch of tamarind. Firm tannins are well-integrated into a savory palate.
The Producer: San Fereolo
Nicoletta Bocca has been the driving force at San Fereolo since she acquired the property in 1992, during which time she has mastered the terroir of her Valdibà subzone and completed the conversion to certified biodynamic (Demeter).
The estate is no doubt be among the greatest references for the terroir of Dogliani, which is located immediately south of Barolo in the Langhe. The Dogliani DOCG is home to some of the greatest Dolcetto vineyards in the Piemonte, and this appellation accounts for the majority of the estate’s 12 hectares under vine.
The oldest Dolcetto vines were planted in 1936, while the youngest date back to 1978. The finest sources are destined for the flagship “San Fereolo” cuvée, while the balance of the Dolcetto vines comprise the “Valdibà” bottling.
In addition to the Dolcetto holdings, San Fereolo has several important parcels of Barbera, which are assembled with a touch of Nebbiolo for a Langhe Rosso cuvée known as “Austri.”
Rounding out the holdings are additional small Nebbiolo parcels, as well as an unusual north-facing plot of Riesling and Gewurztraminer immediately adjacent to the hilltop estate.
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, Piedmontese 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.