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2012 Nebbiolo, Costa della Sesia, Antoniotti, Sostegno, Piedmont
Mattia Antoniotti has joined his father Odilio at this historical 18th century cantina that is tucked away in the northern Alto Piedmont village of Sostegno, in the 100-hectare region of Bramaterra among the pre-Alps. They farm 4.8 hectares of Nebbiolo, Croatina, Vespolina and Uva Rara vines, the fruit of which Odilio first bottled in 1970 (prior to which Odilio was selling grissini and pharmaceuticals!). The Bramaterra soils are essentially volcanic porphyry, along with veins of rose quartz and limestone. The wines are traditionally made in cement, stainless-steel and large Slavonian oak botte, along with tonneau for the Nebbiolo wine.
Nebbiolo is the grape behind the Barolo and Barbaresco wines and is hardly ever seen outside the confines of Piedmont. It takes its name from "nebbia" which is Italian for fog, a frequent phenomenon in the region.
A notoriously pernickety grape, it requires sheltered south-facing sites and performs best on the well-drained calcareous marls to the north and south of Alba in the DOCG zones of Barbaresco and Barolo.
Langhe Nebbiolo is effectively the ‘second wine’ of Piedmont’s great Barolo & Barbarescos. This DOC is the only way Langhe producers can declassify their Barolo or Barbaresco fruit or wines to make an early-drinking style. Unlike Nebbiolo d’Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo can be cut with 15% other red indigenous varieties, such as Barbera or Dolcetto.
Nebbiolo flowers early and ripens late, so a long hang time, producing high levels of sugar, acidity and tannins; the challenge being to harvest the fruit with these three elements ripe and in balance. The best Barolos and Barbarescos are perfumed with aromas of tar, rose, mint, chocolate, liquorice and truffles. They age brilliantly and the very best need ten years to show at their best.
Piedmont has been the pre-eminent fine wine province of Italy since Roman times, a reputation reinforced under the House of Savoy – which lorded it over Europe during the Middle Ages from its base in Turin. Piedmont's own fame increased too as this noble House secured its place in history as the driver for Italian Reunification in 1861.
Located in the north-west of the country, with a continental climate, Piedmont is influenced culturally and climatically by the surrounding Alps and Ligurian Apennines. Piedmont's most important fine wine regions are: the Langhe, south of Alba, incorporating Barolo and Barbaresco; Monferrato, comprising the wines of Asti and Gavi; and Novara with its Colline Novaresi and Boca.
Nebbiolo is the grape of Piedmont, and arguably the country as a whole. It is planted in only the most favourable sites, and is the power behind Barolo and Barbaresco. It is followed by Barbera d'Alba or Barbera d'Asti and Dolcetto, an early-ripening antipasti wine produced more seriously around Dogliani. For whites, Moscato is queen, responsible for copious amounts of frizzante, more commonly known as Asti. A far more rewarding, gently-sparkling wine, made in an off-dry style, is labelled as Moscato d'Asti.
A notable red version is also made: Brachetto d'Acqui. Cortese is the white grape behind the region's most popular dry white wine, Gavi, from vines south of Alessandria. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Piedmont has the highest proportion of Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wines, even if it is responsible for only seven percent of Italy's total production (2006).
Recommended producers: La Colombera, Roberto Sarotto, Cornarea, Luzi-Donadei, Antoniotti Odilio e Mattia, Laiolo Reginin, Marinacci, Punset, Luisin, Roagna, Fratelli Alessandria, Casina Bric 460, Trediberri, Vigneti Luigi Oddero, Marcarini, E.Pira di Chiara Boschis, Bartolo