Let’s Talk Wine: Emerging wines from Northwest Italy

Last week, I met with Cristiano Repellino, owner/winemaker at Bric Castelvej, to taste his wines from Roero, a wine region in Piedmont, Italy. He is the third generation to work at the family’s winery. His grandfather started the winery in 1956, and his father took over in 1982. They own 16 hectres (about 40 acres) of grape vineyards and produce 250,000 bottles of wine each year. The winery is state-of-the-art with solar panels. Cristiano is very passionate about his wines and his homeland.

Piedmont is the largest region on the Italian mainland, but produces the least amount of wine. Although the region is famous for its rich reds, it is also an excellent region for whites -- Arneis, Spumante (the famous Asti is here), Vermentino, and Moscato -- a sweet dessert wine.

Roero, until now, lived in the shadows of its neighbor, Langhe, the area where Barolo and Barbaresco come from. Today, Roero is an emerging wine region in its own right, and a great destination for exploring wines. The region is very close to Alba, on the west side of the Tanaro River. Roero is named after an important family who ruled the area during the medieval period, and was once an ancient sea, called the Golfo Padano. Therefore, there is a large quantity of sand and marine fossils in their soil.

In Roero, the soil is sandy, crumbly, and brownish/yellow in color. As the seasons change, the vineyards constantly change color, surrounding the Roero’s ancient castles and towers with myriad hues. The abundance of medieval buildings in the region capture the dynasty of families that lived among the hills during the Middle Ages.

The landscape is diverse with steep-sided hills and deep valleys, making the region one of the loveliest and most fascinating places in Northwest Italy. The grape vineyards are planted on hilltops (the tops known as Bric) guaranteeing a better quality of wine. Roero earned DOCG status in 2005 and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.

Traditionally, Roero was better known for fruit trees and white truffles than it was for its wines. However, there is evidence that wine production dates back to the years before Christ A focus on quality and promoting the wines of Roero - Arneis and Nebbiolo - seriously began in the 1980s and has grown since then.

In Roero, Arneis is its signature white wine - and the grape native to the region. The wine is dry, fragrant, medium- to full-bodied that is usually best enjoyed young, but some of the best examples age well.

The Nebbiolo grape located within Roero takes on a rich, softer and more fruit-driven character than its nearby neighbors. This is due to the soils which are heavier in sand and lighter in clay than the other well-known regions.

Wines tasted produced by Cristiano Repellino of Bric Castelvej:

2016 Langhe Favorita

100 perent Vermentino - a refreshing white wine with good acidity and minerality that offers aromas of peach, citrus and dried herbs.

2016 Roero Arneis Superiore, Vigna Bricco Novara

100 percent Arneis - an elegant full-bodied white with a beautiful bouquet of apricot and apple, leading to notes of honey and lemon.

2016 Barbera D’Alba

100 percent Barbera - an earthy well balanced red wine with sweet and sour cherries but not too over-powering.

2014 Roero Riserva, Panera Alta

100 percent Nebbiolo - very refined and intense with aromas of cherry, violets, raspberries and blackberries, along with hints of violets.

The wine industry is changing, sommeliers, journalists, and millennials are looking for unique wines from newly discovered and undiscovered wine regions to taste. The Roero is one such region.

Keep your eye and taste buds out for these wines which will be available soon. They pair extremely well with our New England cuisine - cheese, shellfish, venison, etc.

If you’re planning a visit to Piedmont, be sure to visit Bric Castelvej and the region of Roero where the wines and truffles are the finest in the world. www.briccastelvej.com


JoAnn Actis-Grande travels to many great wine regions all over the world writing about wine, travel, and curious lifestyles. She lives in Portsmouth and can be reached by email at j.actisgrande@gmail.com. Find more of her Let’s Talk Wine columns online.