Wine trip to Piemonte: Dogliani, Roero, and Barbera d’Asti

I am a member of the Dutch association of Vinologists (Verenigde Vinologen Nederland) and for the first time I went on a wine trip organized by them. Piemonte is a large region and we did not visit all of it, so it would be more accurate to call this a trip to Langhe, Monferrato, and Roero. Our guide for the trip was Fred Nijhuis, wine writer, and ambassador for the wines of Piemonte in the Netherlands. This is the last article in a short series, in which I describe the last two days in which we visited Dogliani in the Langhe, Roero, and the part of Monferrato where Barbera d’Asti is produced. The first days were to Nizza and Barbaresco, and to Barolo.

To get an overview of Dogliani DOCG, we visited the Bottega del Vino Dogliani DOCG, an association that promotes the wines of the appellation. Francesco Boschis, one of the producers of Dogliani, gaves us a lecture about Dogliani. The production area for Dogliani is located just south of Barolo. It is too cool there for Nebbiolo, but it is a perfect climate for Dolcetto. This grape variety does not have the kind of reputation as Nebbiolo, and the name can confuse some people to think that the wine is sweet (because dolce is Italian for sweet), which is not the case. This is why the appellation changed its name from Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC (which was established in 1974) to just Dogliani DOCG in 2011. The DOCG status was already awarded in 2005. Dolcetto is often a lighter fruitier wine than wines from Nebbiolo, and is more suitable than Barolo to drink by itself or with charcuterie or cheese.

The difference between Dogliani DOCG and Dogliani Superiore DOCG is that the vineyard has to be declared as Superiore with a higher minimum of vines per hectare, the maximum production is 10% lower, and the wine needs to be aged for an additional year. Dogliani DOCG is more fruity and meant for early consumption, while Dogliani Superiore DOCG is often a more concentrated, spicier wine with hints of undergrowth and a longer aging potential. Both have a characteristic almond aftertaste. Dogliani also has 76 Menzioni geografiche aggiuntive (MGA) that are printed on the label if all grapes are from a single MGA.

Contrary to Langhe, where the best vineyards are planted with Nebbiolo, in Dogliani the best vineyards are planted with Dolcetto. Dolcetto is planted on the top of the hills, because wind is needed to create the best ripening conditions. The vinification of Dolcetto is difficult, because the amount of oxygen during the fermention needs to be controlled precisely. Too little or too much oxygen will destroy the characteristic fruity aromas of Dolcetto. To retain the fruitiness, Dolcetto is made in stainless steel or sometimes large wooden barrels, never new barriques.

At the Bottega we tasted Dogliani and Dogliani Superiore from different producers and vintages. This included a 2006 Dogliani, to show that Dogliani can age remarkably well. Generally speaking, Dogliani from 2019 is more astringent and wines from 2018 are softer, with 2020 somewhere in between. 2017 was a warm vintage with the harvest 3 to 4 weeks earlier than usual and more tannins in the wines.

During lunch we had the opportunity to taste even more wines. Here is a full list of the wines we tasted:

  • Cascina Monsignore, Vigna del Vescovo, Dogliani DOCG 2020
  • Einaudi, Dogliani DOCG 2020
  • Anna Maria Abbona, Maioli, Dogliani Superiore DOCG 2019
  • Boschis Francesco, Pianezzo Vigne Sori’ San Martino, Dogliani Superiore DOCG 2018
  • Pecchenino, Bricco Botti, Dogliani Superiore DOCG 2017
  • San Fereolo, Dogliani DOCG 2006
  • Produttori in Clavesana, Terra, Dogliano DOCG 2019
  • Cascina Corte, San Luigi, Dogliani DOCG 2020
  • Caraglio, Dogliani DOCG 2020
  • Chionetti, Briccolero, Dogliani DOCG 2020
  • Eraldo Revelli, San Matteo, Dogliani Superiore DOCG 2020
  • Osvaldo Barberis, Puncin, Dogliani DOCG 2020
  • Boschis Francesco, Vigna dei Prey, Dogliani Superiore DOCG 2016
  • Boschis Francesco, Vigna del Ciliego, Dogliani Superiore DOCG 2012
  • Boschis Francesco, Vigna del Ciliego, Dogliani Superiore DOCG 2017
  • Valletti, Vescu, Dogliani Superiore DOCG 2017

We had lunch across the street from the bottega, at Osteria Battaglino. The antipasto was baccalà (salted cod) with a sauce of letucce. Since it was truffle season, we could not resist and had tajarin with fresh white truffle. The tajarin were only dressed with an egg yolk and the truffle (no parmigiano, as that would surely overpower the truffle). To finish we had cheese: Castelmagno (local blue cheese that is very dry), Toma Piemontese (local firm goat cheese), and brie (?!).

After lunch we crossed the river Tanaro to Roero, to visit Malvirà, the winery owned by the Damonte family. On the map you can see that Roero is located north-west of Barbaresco and Barolo. Roero DOCG is produced from 100% Nebbiolo, but there is also Roero Arneis DOCG for white wines from the local grape variety Arneis.

Sandro Minella, who gave the interesting lecture about Barolo the day before, also works for Malvirà, and presented the wines to us. The climate of Roero is similar to that of Barbaresco, and the sandy soils provide good drainage. Following the example of Barolo and Barbaresco, Roero is also using Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive for wines from a single geographic area. Although the wines from Roero are not as famous as those from Barolo or Barbaresco, they can offer very good value for money. Although Roero is larger than Barolo, less wine is produced.

Roberto Damonte gave us a tour of the cellar. Because Sandro was busy with the wines we had ordered, I volunteered as interpreter as Roberto doesn’t speak a lot of English.

Something very special about Malvirà is that at the winery you can still buy many older vintages of the wines, from as far back as 15-20 years, and at more or less the same prices as the current vintages! This is great, especially for Nebbiolo wines, that are best enjoyed at least 8 years after the vintage. According to Roberto he has the space and the interest rates are low anyway, so he regards it as a service to his customers. A very nice service indeed!

We tasted the following wines:

  • Rive Gauche Rosé, a sparkling Nebbiolo made with the charmat method (Rive Gauche refers to the location on the left bank of the river Tanaro)
  • Rive Gauche, a sparkling Arneis made with the charmat method
  • Renesio 2020, Roero Arneis DOCG, stainless steel, very elegant and balanced
  • SS. Trinita 2020, Roero Arneis DOCG, 80% stainless steel and 20% oak
  • Saglietto 2018, Roero Arneis DOCG, old vines, 50% stainless steel and 50% oak
  • Saglietto 2013, Roero Arneis DOCG. The Saglietto Arneis has 10-15 years aging potential and this one is very nice, complex and balanced with aromas of saffron
  • Tre uve 2014, Langhe Bianco DOC, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Arneis, stainless steel then wood, 15-20 years aging potential
  • Renesio 2016, Roero Riserva DOCG, Nebbiolo, vinified in stainless steel and aged in barriques (10% new) for 13 months
  • Trinità 2016, Roero Riserva DOCG, Nebbiolo, vinified in stainless steel and aged in barriques (10% new) for 13 months
  • Mombeltramo 2016, Roero Riserva DOCG, Nebbiolo, vinified in stainless steel and aged in barriques (10% new) for 13 months
  • Mombeltramo 2009, Roero Riserva DOCG, Nebbiolo, vinified in stainless steel and aged in barriques (10% new) for 13 months

Of the three 2016 Roeros, in the Renesio the oak was still very prominent. The Trinità had more aromas, more fruit, and a fuller body, whereas the Mombeltramo had most flavor and most tannins.

After the tasting we went up the hill to Villa Tiboldi, the restaurant owned by the Damonte family. As antipasto we had carne cruda (raw veal) with beetroot and hazelnuts, followed by agnolotti con sugo d’arrosto as primo piatto. The secondo was pork tenderloin wrapped in savoy cabbage, with semolina (prepared in the way of polenta) and onion compote. We finished with lemon ice cream and hazelnut crackers.

For the wine we had mostly Malvirà wines, except for the antipasti:

  • Domenico Clerico, Visadì 2018, Langhe Dolcetto DOC
  • Malvirà, Trinità 2010, Roero Riserva DOCG
  • Malvirà, Mombeltramo 2006, Roero Riserva DOCG
  • Malvirà, Bochent, sparkling sweet moscato (but not Moscato d’Asti)

The next day our final visit was to the Braida Winery and Braida Wine Resort, owned by the Bologna Family. Giacomo Bologna was the first to make Barbera in barriques to show that Barbera is not just suitable for cheap table wine made in stainless steel, but can also be turned into a cult wine. The rest is history, as they say, because now Barbera aged in barriques is common and has a good reputation. Raffaella Braida spent her free Sunday showing a group of Dutch vinologists around her estate, and showed us a great time.

She took us on a stroll through the vineyards to the Braida Wine Resort…

…where we tasted the first two wines, accompanied by delicious cheese. The wine resort has nice rooms that overlook the vineyards.

Back at the winery we had lunch, with 5 more wines. The lunch consisted of antipasti, roast beef, and bonet. The food was simple, but delicious and expertly prepared. You could tell that the Bologna family used to own a restaurant before they started a winery. A lady called Maria who used to work at the restaurant had cooked this lunch for us.

The wines we tasted were:

  • Il Fiore 2020, Langhe Bianco DOC, a blend of Chardonnay and Nascetta, a local grape variety that is slightly aromatic
  • Curej 2019, Barbera d’Asti DOCG, 100% Barbera from young vines made with only a short time in oak, the first vintage of this wine, very clean and fresh
  • La Regina 2019, Langhe Nascetta DOC, 100% Nascetta
  • Limonte 2020, Grignolino d’Asti DOC, 100% Grignolino, a local grape variety, a wine that is both spicy and pleasantly tannic
  • Montebruna 2018, Barbera d’Asti DOCG, 100% Barbera, aged for a year in large barrels
  • Bricco dell’Uccellone 2018, Barbera d’Asti DOCG, 100% Barbera, aged for a year in barriques
  • Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG, a red sweet sparkling wine made in the same fashion as Moscato d’Asti from the local grape variety Brachetto

Bricco dell’Uccellone is the cult wine of Braida, the first Barbera aged in barriques that is still famous and rightly so. The 2018 vintage was a bit young when we tasted it and will need some aging to allow the oak, fruit, and alcohol (16%) to integrate. What struck me at Braida was the purity of all the wines, they were all very clean and balanced.

This concludes my account of the wine trip to Langhe and Monferrato. I can’t wait for the next trip!

4 thoughts on “Wine trip to Piemonte: Dogliani, Roero, and Barbera d’Asti

  1. Fascinating, even tho’ you are largely speaking an unknown dialect to me – shall do some evening study ! In spite of the beautiful surrounds and rather special food as far as I was concerned . . . you really worked hard at your knowledge . . . absolutely silly question – what language was used at most of the talks – Italian translated into Dutch or English ? Loved your brief descriptions of the meals as the menus differed from what I am used to reading. Liked the sound of Villa Tiboldi . . . especially th raw veal and the wrapped pork . . . some of the ideas methinks I’ll copy . . . oh, nice new photos of you also . . . thanks !

    Liked by 1 person

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