For the second month in a row, I’m straying from the familiar frontiers of France for the esoteric appellations of Italy. This time around I’m grabbing a bottle from Ghemme, a small appellation in the Alto Piemonte where the revered nebbiolo makes its all-but-forgotten home located about 80 km north, northeast of Barolo, 40 km northwest of Milan.
My pick this month is a special one – a 2008 from the prime sector of Ghemme called Chioso dei Pomi. Producer Rovellotti’s roots go back for over four centuries in the southern part of the region, occupying four sites, of which Chioso dei Pomi has been recognized as an elite home for nebbiolo since the 1600s.
The Alto Piemonte, situated in the foothills of the Alps where the view to the north is draped by snow-capped peaks, was once the most celebrated region in the world for the noble nebbiolo. Then - as the story so often goes – the phylloxera epidemic wiped it out. Most growers did not have the means to replant on the steep slopes. To compound the problem, the region was nearly abandoned altogether after WW II, as industry drew workers from the countryside to the city with promises of higher wages.
Fortunately, the region has been seeing a renaissance over the last two decades. Family members are reclaiming their old roots, buying up vines and revitalizing the appellation. The ones who stuck around are slowly regaining the praise & attention that their vineyards knew over 100 years ago.
Like the wines of Barolo & Barbaresco, those of the Alto Piemonte are cellar-worthy and of exceptional quality. As the appellation is still relatively unknown, they offer great value (the Rovellotti is currently selling for $40, an absolute steal for such a remarkable wine). In terms of style, wines from Ghemme tend to be more readily aromatic than their revered siblings from down the road.
Starting in the 1980s the Rovellotti family implemented a farming regiment developed by the University of Milan, in effort to completely cut out the use of chemicals in the vineyards and regain a natural balance. Their Chioso dei Pomi bottling blends a little vespolina with nebbiolo.
I was fortunate enough to celebrate Easter dinner with a bottle of the Rovellotti and was charmed by its elegance and complexity at first acquaintance. Cinnamon spice lifted high above precise, cherry red fruit. The texture was silky yet well-structured. Notes of menthol and crushed rose petal gave great depth and lingered delectably after each sip. The 2008 popped directly out of the bottle and opened up to reveal savory red fruit after a couple hours. It could easily age for another 15-20 years.
Rovellotti Chioso dei Pomi
Ghemme, Alto Piemonte, Italy