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Purveyor of uncommon wine, spirits & beer.

Best Wine You've Never Heard of #003


Cantine Valpane "Euli" Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese

Monferrato, Italy. Top of the boot, so to speak, where the land surges up toward the towering Alps to the west. This is the Piedmont, or Piemonte, a region best known for its two big 'B' names—Barolo & Barbaresco—but which has a rich wine tradition that extends well beyond the borders of those famed microclimates. Along the northern border of the Piemonte runs the Po River, where we find the charming town of Casale Monferrato. The climate here is warmer than Alba or Asti to the south, the land lower, making it ideal for late ripening grapes like the odd, delicate red varietal Grignolino.

The bowl-shaped property at Cantine Valpane has been planted with vineyards for hundreds of years. But at the turn of the 20th Century a young man named Pietro Giuseppe Arditi wheedled his way into a sharecropping agreement that, two years later, landed the estate squarely in his hands. Valpane has been in the Arditi family ever since.

Today, Pietro Giuseppe's grandson, also named Pietro, holds the reins. Pietro the younger is a major proponent of Barbera del Monferrato, which he says is more expressive of the true character of Barbera than the wines of his Southern neighbors. But one of the wines that sets Cantine Valpane apart is Pietro's Grignolino, called "Euli" (the name is a play on the German word for the owls living in the barn on their property, and on the name of the indigenous tribe that inhabited the Grignolino vine land in ancient times).

It's a perfect summertime red—lowish in alcohol, brightly refreshing and yet a touch musty, making it a welcome companion to grilled foods. It's really not like many reds I've had otherwise. Euli is delicate and floral, like a Fleurie (cru Beaujolais), and brimming with intense fruit, like a basket of tart wild berries that has maybe sat in the sun for a day too long. Strange? A little, but that's what makes this wine so seductive.