This is not just a write-up on a wine, it's also a lesson about one of the greatest red wine varieties on the planet. The 2020 Boniperti Nebbiolo 'Carlin' hails from the Alto Piemonte (more on that later), and it is one of the finest value expressions of the grape I've ever encountered. Beautifully scented, medium-bodied, and fine-grained on the palate, Gilberto Boniperti is a grower and producer on the rise.
With this wine, I'd say he has actually already "landed," but the price on this thoughtful, well-made, and expressive wine has not caught up with the quality.....yet. Trust me, with climate change altering the landscape of Italy's Piemonte region, these cooler and more northern vineyards are the future of this heralded and noble grape variety. Taste this, and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.
2019 Boniperti Nebbiolo 'Carlin'
Drinks like Barbaresco at half the price!
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What is the Alto Piemonte, and how is it relevant to this wine? About 90 miles northeast of Alba is the winegrowing region of the Alto Piemonte. Hidden at the base of the Alps, the region acquired its name due to its elevated vineyards set in this Alpine paradise. From the 17th to the mid 19th century, it was Italy's largest and most important zone for Nebbiolo production. Sadly, in the late 1800's, the region was devastated by phylloxera, and most growers did not have the means to replant these costly, terraced vineyards.
Those who did have the financial capability to replant were dealt a new blow some 40 years later, as the Alto Piemonte was virtually abandoned during and after World War II. The war doubled in its disaster of the region, as troops were called from their vineyards to fight, and after the war, Italy's industrial revolution saw many workers moving to the cities for higher-paying jobs. By the time the dust settled, the once 40,000 hectares of vineyards was diminished to less than 600 hectares. The region's vineyards and vignerons, for the most part, laid dormant for the next 50+ years.
It was in the late 1990's that the area experienced a new renaissance, led by high-quality estates like like Vallana, Castaldi, and Antoniolo. Gilberto Boniperti came on line at the dawn of the 21st century, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. The previous two generations of his family sold almost all of their grapes to the local cooperative, but Gilberto decided to set out on his own and make estate-bottled wines. I am very happy he made this decision, and I am incredibly excited about the resurgence of the Alto Piemonte, one of Italy's great terroirs for Nebbiolo.
What also makes the Alto Piemonte so exciting is the relative cool-natured situation of these Alpine-influenced vineyards. While Barolo and Barbaresco certainly produce a stellar version of Nebbiolo, those sites are equally informed by the cooling Alps and the warming Mediterranean, and climate change and hotter temperatures are making themselves known. We are already seeing wines from these two famed zones broach 14.5% alcohol levels, we're seeing more supple tannins in the wines, and we're seeing reduced acidity. For now, it's all good, but if things continue to head in this direction, it could be disastrous for the cool weather-loving Nebbiolo.
That is where the Alto Piemonte comes into play, as it receives much less of that warming Mediterranean influence. To me, Boniperti's Nebbiolo, at 13% ABV, reminds me a bit of the Barbarescos I cut my teeth on back in the earlier days of my career. There's a wonderful red fruit and floral character here, combined with an ethereal sense of place and Alpine minerality. With Boniperti's Carlin Nebbiolo, the tannin is super fine yet the acidity is super fresh, almost Pinot Noir-like in its silky energy. Gilberto refers to this as the perfect, mid-weight, pizza-friendly, everyday Nebbiolo. Sorry Gilberto, I think you've "slightly" undersold your wine my friend. While this stuff is quite easy to knock back, it also provides that "Nebbiolo Nirvana" experience that many lovers of the grape look for.
I'll wrap it up for today folks. This is one of the most exciting and engaging red wines I've tasted this year. It will have a broad appeal to wine lovers who love everything from Barolo and Barbaresco to Red Burgundy and Oregon Pinot Noir. I could drink it all day without food, but I am craving Bolognese, and I think that's in the near-term plans.
With just 10 cases up for grabs, I highly recommend you grab some of this before it sells out and while it's so affordable. I can guarantee you within 5 years, this bottle will be fetching $40+. You know what to do next!
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