Monday, November 21, 2016

Gattinara 1958

The northern Italian region of Piedmont is famous for, among other things, the long-lived Barolo and Barbaresco wines made from the Nebbiolo grape. What is less well known is that in the northern part of Piedmont is a gathering of other DOC and DOCG areas, in the Vercelli hills a long way north-east of Turin. Perhaps the best of these is the Gattinara DOCG. Here, they also make Nebbiolo wines, but under the local name of Spanna. In the past, the Gattinara wines have been at least as admired as those of Barolo for their longevity; but this reputation has slipped in the modern world. A recent visit to the region is described by Quentin Sadler on his wine page.

Old bottles of Spanna can still be found, as indicated by the recent tasting of some 1964s recorded on the Barolista blog.

A bottle of 1958 Berteletti Spanna

Gattinara 1958, Spanna del Castello di Lozzolo, from Fratelli Berteletti
Purchased on eBay (in July), for €35 delivered to my door from Italy

When first opened there was only a faint aroma, but after a few hours with a cork lightly inserted in the neck (the Fran├žois Audouze method for opening old bottles of wine) the aroma had increased remarkably. This wine was very much still in its prime. On pouring, the wine had a pale amber hue, fading significantly towards the edge of the glass. The aroma showed plum, honey and toast, with hints of prune, peach and plum jam, along with an earthy tone. In the mouth, there was still plenty of fresh acidity, with low tannins of course, balanced perfectly with flavors of plum, lemon, prune, almond and tobacco, all complemented by a long aftertaste.

This wine was among the best old wines I have tasted. It was every bit the equal of a more expensive 1958 Giacomo Borgogno Barolo Riserva, tasted back in August 2009. Indeed, 1958 was among the best of the old Piedmont vintages, and there are still quite a few bottles available even now.

The wine was drunk with a dinner of meatballs in tomato sauce and parmesan cheese, but it went especially well with the pre-dinner Pecorino Smeraldo, which is a Sardinian sheep's cheese.

[Tasting notes by Susanne Stenlund.]

Note: Among the 1964 Spanna wines tasted by Barolista was also a bottle from Fratelli Berteletti, which received a tasting note very similar to the one above:
A stunner from the first pour until the last sip. The nose is big, mature and velvety with notes of dried black cherries, liquorice, asphalt and dried flowers. Very deep. Some coffee ground notes after a while. Very much alive and kicking. The taste is broad and steady with notes of black olives, dried mushrooms, rosehips and warm gravel. Long and rich. This is really good. Given this blind I would have guessed it to be from the 80s. Will go on for another 20 years.
Viva Spanna!

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