And Spanna is that name in northwestern Piedmont parlance, and the home of this installment’s wine by the way. Like many great, old varieties like Nebbiolo, even one with such a relatively limited extension (a good piece of Piedmont, the tiny Valle d’Aosta, and isolated spots in Lombardia, and that’s it.) the existence of a plethora of local names for a vine variety to my mind in some way is a testament to the nobility of that vine, sort of like the way that especially popular people have a big box of nicknames…
All of my musings on vine nomenclature aside, the Spanna-based wines from the colline novaresi, and the more prestigious and finer Ghemme DOCG, represents a very differnt “voicing” of Nebbiolo to those (almost everybody) more familiar with the denser, more powerful Nebbiolo wines from further south – in the Langhe – like Barolo and Barbaresco. The wines from the this colder area with higher average elevations are far more pretty, delicate, and ethereal affairs than the muscular and intense wines from the “Big B’s”. And though both Ghemme and Colline Novaresi can be made with 100% Nebbiolo (as is this one), both appellations’ regulations permit the addition of two other red varieties – Vespolina and Uva Rara – which can both lend a spicy fruitiness to the wines, though their inclusion does reduce a bit the overall longevity of the wines in which they’re found.
The comestible accompaniments were as usual regionally matched, with a first course of risotto with butternut squash, peas, and dried marjoram followed by Caponet – Savoy cabbage stuffed with ground meats, herbs and spices (including unsweetened cocoa!) .
Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo Colline Novaresi “Agamium” 2006
Ever so slightly browned transparent violet/ruby color. Elegant nose of subtle dried herbs, berries, juniper, chalk, mocha, and black licorice. The medium bodied palate is exceptionally well-balanced with a spritely, smooth texture, taut, fine-grained tannins, and a tart, juicy fruit core with flavors of strawberry preserves and cranberry juice, a delicate spiciness, honeycomb, and woodsy flavors that echo out on the long, warm finish.