Every day, my colleagues and I walk past poster-size photos of some of France and Italy’s most distinguished vignerons and vineyard land, and it’s impossible not to feel inspired by these men and women who—and places which—represent some of the pinnacles of wine. At the same time, it has arguably been harder for us to locate the top $15 wines of those countries than the wines that cost several times that amount, even if the latter are made by producers who have earned the widest renown over the years. It makes sense—they craft the absolute best from their appellations and they make relatively little of it, because their land is expensive and the work is hard. But what about value? What about the winemaking family who has done the best you can possibly do for the price of a movie ticket or burger in the Bay Area? About a decade ago, after years of searching, we finally found the artisans in Monferrato who could craft the Italian answer to our beloved KL Côtes du Rhône or Languedoc blends. It’s not that we hadn’t tried to find this before—we had! Several times! But we’re talking about trying to hit the sweetest spot:
A delicious red blend? Check Expressive of the region’s traditions, soil, climate, etc.? Check Made by a family domaine? Check Under $15? Check
Every vintage of the Monferrato Rosso we have imported in the last decade has consisted of a different blend of Piedmontese grapes from the previous vintage, reflecting the unique conditions of each year. Unlike the 2016, for example, which is majority Barbera, with a quarter Bonarda, a tenth Dolcetto, and 5% Croatina, the 2017 is made up of a whopping 90% Barbera and just 10% Bonarda. In spite of that year’s heat wave, the 2017 bottling is remarkably fresh. Intensely aromatic, it evokes frutti di bosco, though it’s not just fruit. On the finish, there are light notes of spice, earth, and tobacco mixed in too. It has a gentle tannin for structure and, largely due to Barbera’s leading role in the blend, great acidity to leave you with a refreshing finish. The 2017 Monferrato Rosso is a wine for all occasions, from barbecues to pizza night to your springtime picnic. It’s the bottle you should always have on hand in the case of wine emergency—it will do the trick no matter your situation. Even though the Bodda family of Tenuta La Pergola may never achieve cult-like fame, at this price, you couldn’t ask for more.
The story of Monferrato Rosso began in a simple trattoria. Dixon and Kermit were on their way to Alba when they stopped for lunch. They were served a pitcher of Arneis that pleasantly surprised them and got the address of the producer. When they visited, they tasted several cuvées of Monferrato Rosso. It has quickly become a staff favorite, not only for its smooth earthiness and genuine regional typicity, but also for its versatility in pairing with a wide variety of dishes. We have high hopes for this everyday cuvée, because it has the finesse of a much grander D.O.C. Kermit says that it reminds him of the Piedmontese wines of old. Simple label, low price, totally satisfying!
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.
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