The Benevelli estate lies just outside of Monforte d’Alba, home to some of the finest Nebbiolo on the planet. Massimo Benevelli, the current vigneron at this family-run azienda, makes powerful, long-lived Baroli from some of Monforte’s best vineyards, but when the occasion calls for a less imposing red, his Langhe Nebbiolo is just right. It possesses the noble floral aromatics we love about Barolo plus a cornucopia of young, inviting Nebbiolo fruit, without the massive structure and gripping tannins that would require years of additional aging to tame. No, this Nebbiolo is ready to go right now, and due to a challenging 2017 harvest in which significant quantities were lost to a very dry summer, the wine is even more concentrated and perfumed than is typical. A short skin maceration and aging only in tank ensure maximum freshness and drinkability, and indeed, this is a Nebbiolo that can be consumed on an everyday basis.
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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