A Cultural Shift in Italian Wine

The Ladies of the Langhe Have Arrived

 


Gearing up for a whirlwind tour of the who's who of Nebbiolo producers in Piedmont, I realized I would be meeting quite a few women. Nine of my 18 visits would be with or include women. 
 
This struck me. In one generation, many of Piedmont's cellars have transitioned from conservative, male-dominated dominions. Whereas women who worked with the family used to stick to business, many today also work in winemaking and viticulture

Piedmont still holds onto its roots (quite literally), having received this June UNESCO World Heritage status for its vineyards. However, these hills have transformed radically in the last 50 years from high-production, négociant growing to single vineyard, precision growing. 
 
The tragic 1986 methanol scandal was a big catalyst. Angelo Gaja estimates that before, 80% of the region’s grapes were sold. (Today, it’s the inverse.) Afterward, more producers began bottling their own wine. Then, Gambero Rosso began awarding their coveted “tre bicchiere”, or “three glasses”, to new producers. This was particularly important for those who needed to sell wine today that wouldn’t be drinkable for a decade. The aspiration for drinkability brought on roto-fermenters and the advent of “modern” Barolo.
 
Whether evolution or revolution, the dust won’t settle soon here. To understand where the region is today, shop for these stunning wines from some of today’s Ladies of the Langhe:
 
From 100% limestone in Serralunga d’Alba, Silvia holds this wine back a few extra years so that it can unwind. It’s definitely generous in tannin, but a forgiving succulence of ripe boysenberries and mulberries provides equilibrium today. 
 
From the Terlo hill in Barolo, this wine’s nose has a dramatic punch of firm tannins along with a generous dose of spice rack. For those who find Nebbiolo too bitingly lean, this is a welcome respite.
 
It turned out I met Angelo instead of Gaia as she was in Asia on business. He was thrilled to hear my slight preference for Barbaresco over Barolo. This one shows why: it’s lacey in texture, tangy in acidity and more reserved in tannins. It smells enticingly of brown sugar, crunchy red fruits and steeped tea.
 
This house always makes a wine composed of all the vineyards of Barolo, not just one commune or vineyard. This one is savory with barbecue spice, tar and raspberries and is already suavely integrated.
 
This historic Castiglione Falletto vineyard shows up in archives as far back as 1666. It tastes of damp tea leaves and red cherries, and its gentle structure is almost more Pinot Noir than Barolo.
 
The Cannubi Boschis vineyard is an exception in the Barolo commune as it produces bigger wines. This is characteristically dense in flavor with lots of new oak spice and generously ripe fruit.
 
The Scavinos purchased these vines in 1990, and Elisa says 2008 and 2010 are the most astonishing vintages she has seen. This beauty offers damp earth, balsamic, fruitcake and fallen leaves. There’s loads of strucutre, and this should last another 20+ years.
 
From the highest part of the Barolo commune, 45-60 year old vines produce this fragrant wine that smells of roses and new leather and has a feathery palate texture.

Mentioned in this article

Comments

  • This is a trip I'm dying to take!

    Feb 26, 2015 at 4:51 PM


  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 3,997

    I was there last May with Greg dal Piazand it was great. Maria Theresa, of course, has been making the wines at Bartolo Mascarello for years, first by her father's side, then on her own. Her winemaking is resolutely traditional and brilliant. Chiara is a charmer, and she's dialing back the use of barrique. She continues to upend the sexism of the "Barolo Boys" revolution--she should get equal billing with them. So those are established women who have been doing this a while.

    Elena is an important part of G. Mascarello, but Mauro is still the winemaker, so I think you are jumping the gun there. But why leave out Cristina at Oddero? Heck, Snooth just had a photo of her in one of the articles. She's as much a part of that operation as Elena is at G. Mascarello. How about Paola and Piera Rinaldi at Francesco Rinaldi? How about the Elena and Cristina at Brovia, who are the second generation of females to more or less run the show?

    In a way, the traditionalism of Barolo and the restrictions on selling off your land work in favor of women. Instead of bidding for land or brand names against foreign corporations or rich executives, they keep working the land and handing down family traditions. And the great traditionalists are more concerned about passing on their traditions than making sure they fall into the hands of a male. So Lorenzo Accomasso is hoping to hold out long enough that his nine-year old great niece will want to take over. If her cousins want to use barrique, or sell the land, forget about them--she'll take over. If your daughter marries a winemaker, like Valter Fassore (Nadia Cogno's husband), great, but most Barolo makers are more concerned with traditional winemaking than traditional gender roles.

    Feb 26, 2015 at 6:01 PM


  • Snooth User: spiritz
    1805825 14

    India's widely appreciated magazine dedicated to <a href="http://www.spiritz.in/"><b>Alcobev Industry</b></a>. A unique media option for brand promotion and for enhancing market image of your company.

    Feb 27, 2015 at 3:32 AM


  • Snooth User: spiritz
    1805825 14

    India's widely appreciated magazine dedicated to Alcobev Industry. A unique media option for brand promotion and for enhancing market image of your company.

    http://www.spiritz.in

    Feb 27, 2015 at 3:33 AM


  • Snooth User: Daomack
    615431 18

    We were so fortunate to have experienced a wine dinner in Dublin, Ireland, at which Giueppe Vajra talked about his family's wines. He described with such passion how they all contributed to running the business from growing the vines to barreling the wines. Starting with a delicious fresh Riesling followed by their beautiful entry Barbera and Nebbiolo up to their georgious Barolo and Kye Freisa, we drank each paired with a choice course. An evening to remember.

    Mar 04, 2015 at 5:31 AM


  • If you are coming to Piemonte don't forget the wonderful wines from Alto Piemonte. Nigel Brown, Torraccia del Piantavigna

    Mar 04, 2015 at 2:48 PM


  • Snooth User: Daomack
    615431 18

    It is a dream to come to Piemonte. I have a work colleague, Luciano Milan, who grows some vines there and I hope to visit sometime in the not too distant future.
    Certainly I will visit all those houses you mention.

    Mar 04, 2015 at 6:35 PM


  • If you are coming to Piemonte don't forget the wonderful wines from Alto Piemonte. Nigel Brown, Torraccia del Piantavigna

    Mar 23, 2015 at 12:55 AM


Add a Comment

Search Articles


Best Wine Deals

See More Deals





Snooth Media Network