I have sung the praises of the wines from Piedmont’s less trodden paths more than a few times in these pages, and here’s one more to add to the list: Canavese. Situated about thirty or so miles north of Piedmont’s largest city, Torino, this quite extensive appellation, as I allude to in the title of this post, gets its name from the extensive plantation of hemp (canapa in Italian) to which this sub-alpine territory is so well suited, and as this wine ably demonstrated, grape vines as well.
Canavese as a region is permitted to produce just about every kind of wine you can imagine with exception of sweet wines: still and sparkling whites from the local Erbaluce variety, single variety reds as well as blended reds and rose`wines both still and sparkling. This evening’s wine is a blended bottling which is made up of 80% Barbera, 15% Nebbiolo and 5% of the ultra-local Neretto di Bairo (which should not be confused with the several other and completely unrelated “Neretto” grapes that populate other regions of Northern Italy), but Canavese reds, in addition to these three varieties, can also include Uva Rara, Bonarda Piemontese, and Freisa, alone or blended in any combination of these varieties with the one stipulation that at least one of the varieties in the mix must equal or exceed 60% of the total blend.
This wide range of vine varieties permissible in the Canavese D.O.C., which are allowed to be combined (or not) in such a promiscuous manner, directly demonstrates not only the richness of the grape types that populate this region’s vineyards, but also the peculiarity of, and faith in this area’s terroir which is a peculiar combination of granitic, glacially derived soil, high elevations, numerous lakes, cold, damp nights and warm, sunny days, drying east/west winds, and its situation in a sheltering “bowl” of hills that guards the area from the colder Alpine gales that push down from the north. All of these factors conspire to provide a unique territory that turns out some very fine wines (including the miniscule and prestigious Carema D.O.C.) not to mention some pretty sweet, smokin’ good “rope” too…
Because of Barbera’s down to earth character and its acidity, and Nebbiolo’s and Neretto di Bairo’s aromatic natures, this wine made a really fine companion to a eggplant-topped Margherita pizza (fresh, handmade mozzarella and fresh basil).
Orsolani Canavese Rosso “Acini Sparsi” 2010
Just transparent, blackish/brown garnet color. Elegantly rustic nose of grilled plums, dried blueberries, black cherry, toasted walnuts, old leather, dark caramel, smoldering red flowers, chalk, sandalwood, and subtle barnyard notes. The palate is medium-full with a chewy texture, very dry, fine sandpaper tannins and a vivacious acidity that stalwartly frame notes of black currants, blood orange, toasted brown spices, black truffles, licorice, black pepper, and a hint of pickle juice. Long and strong blackberry finish. A lot of wine for the green.