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In 2010, Eric Asimov of The New York Times and his informal wine panel tasted twenty bottles of 2005 Barbaresco and decided that their “No. 1 bottle, the Vicenziana from Silvio Giamello, was clearly an old-school wine.” Not only did they rate Giamello’s Barbaresco the best among those tasted, but they also named it the best value. If Silvio had been a savvy marketer with a flashy brand, he probably could have leveraged this to become a renowned maker of Barbaresco. But Silvio doesn’t calculate that way. Ten years later, he remains a humble traditionalist, hardly known to anyone in his own region, much less internationally! That is extremely fortunate for you and me, because his wines have retained their outrageously good value. His 2016 Barbaresco, which Anthony Lynch extolled in our February newsletter, remains $45 per bottle, the same price that Asimov paid for the 2005 in 2010. This 2018 Langhe Nebbiolo, meanwhile, comes from the same parcel as his Barbaresco and therefore could qualify for the Barbaresco DOCG. He prefers to keep only the most outstanding, age-worthy juice for his Barbaresco, however, leaving out the remaining, still-tremendous juice for this bottling, which costs half the price. How many producers do you think can affix a more prestigious label to their wine—and make more money—but choose not to? More approachable in its youth than both Barolo and Barbaresco, Giamello’s Langhe Nebbiolo is fresh and vibrant, evoking cherries, roses, and a touch of tar. Nebbiolo’s natural acidity makes this wine incredibly versatile at table, pairing well with roasted squash, sautéed mushrooms, roast fowl, polenta, and pizza, among many other dishes. This just might end up being our value of the year.
Like most families in the Langhe, the Giamellos started out with a polyculture estate that included various small parcels. The bulk of the grape harvest was sold off, but the family made enough wine for their own consumption. This system continued until the 1950s, when farm life became less profitable and many left to find work in the cities. When the economy improved in the '70s, Luigi Giamello was able to return to the domaine, focusing more on wine production and eventually passing the reins to his son and daughter-in-law, Silvio and Marina Camia. This fourth generation continues to make wine the only way they can imagine: all vineyard work is natural and chemical-free, and the vinification techniques are purely traditional.
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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