Broadly speaking, a rule of thumb in Piedmont is that a vintage that is good for wine producers isn’t great for truffle hunters, and vice versa. Vintage 2014—wet and temperate—was an excellent one for truffles in these hills, but happily, it also turned out to be an impressive year for Massimo Benevelli. Because it was a cool summer and Massimo’s parcels in Ravera face southeast instead of due south, there is a generous amount of acidity here that will play well on your table and in your cellar. Floral, with notes of cherries, leather, and orange zest, this Barolo is beautiful now and will be glorious in five to ten years.
It was in 1978 that Piero Benevelli started out with five hectares of vines in Monforte d’Alba and focused on the traditional grapes of Piedmont: Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, and Barbera. His son, Massimo, started his training in the vineyard at age 14 and quickly learned the core principle that still guides him today—to make great wine, you must first have great grapes. The young Massimo Benevelli has developed into an extremely talented Piemontese grower. He exhibits a total command of the production process, from vine to bottle. When tasting his production during various stages of aging there is a consistency, a touch, an intangible quality that is the mark of something great. His wines show character, soul, and originality.
Kermit’s love affair with the great reds of Piemonte dates back to the early days of his career: the very first container he imported from Italy, in fact, featured legendary 1971 and 1974 Barolos from Vietti and Aldo Conterno. Regular visits since then have seen our portfolio grow to now nine Piemontesi estates, with a strong focus on the rolling hills of the Langhe.
Nebbiolo rules these majestic, vine-covered marl slopes, giving Italy’s most mystifyingly complex, nuanced, and age-worthy reds. When crafted via traditional production methods—long macerations and extensive aging in enormous oak botti—the powerful, yet incredibly refined Barolos and Barbarescos provide haunting aromatics of tar, raspberry, incense, tea, roses, and more. At times austere in their youth but well worth the wait, they pair beautifully with the hearty local cuisine starring veal in many forms, braised beef, pastas like tajarin and agnolotti, and of course, Alba’s famous white truffles.
Surrounded by mountains on three sides, Piemonte’s climate is continental, with baking hot summers and cold winters. Nebbiolo is only part of the story here: juicy, fruity Barberas and Dolcettos represent the bread and butter throughout the region, and other native grapes like Freisa, Croatina, and the white Arneis are also noteworthy. Value abounds in the Monferrato, while Alto Piemonte also has its share of thrills to provide.
Every corner of Piemonte is rich with tradition, especially when wine is concerned. It’s no wonder we have been singing the region’s praises for over forty years.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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