Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Val d'Ossola: Cool-Climate Nebbiolo in Piemonte

The Nebbiolo plantings in Valle d'Aosta and Valtellina are grown under challenging conditions but these pale in comparison to the conditions experienced by the hardy growers who ply that trade in the Val d'Ossola. We examine this most northerly Nebbiolo outpost in this post.

Val d'Ossola is the mid to upper portion of the northernmost Piemonte province, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, and consists of a main valley and a number of tributaries branching from its 83-km length. Verbano lies along the left bank of Lake Maggiore while Cusio is to its west and south. The 33 municipalities that comprise Val d'Ossola sit at average elevations of 1290 m (3870 ft).

Map of Piemonte with Verbano-Cusio-Ossola province
circled in red (Base map from wineandvinesearch.com)

Verbano-Cusio-Ossola in more detail

The climate of Val d'Ossola is Alpine but is mitigated somewhat by Lake Maggiore to its southeast.

A total of 45 ha in the region is dedicated to grapegrowing. The vineyards (map of the Val d'Ossola vineyards) are small terraced plots clinging to the steep southern slopes of the valley walls at elevations ranging between 300 and 500 m. The vineyards are located on the slopes of the valleys associated with the River Toce and its tributaries Anza, Ovesca, Metizzo, Isorno, and Diveria.

A total of 60 hardy growers farm the land with an average plot being 0.75 ha in size. Vines are trained on pergolas supported by old stone columns hacked out of local granite quarries. This training system is called "toppia" locally. All work in the vineyards is done manually and this heroic viticulture rarely yields in excess of 60 quintals/ha, half of which is consumed locally.

Nebbiolo is the most widely planted grape in the region and the resulting wines are displayed in the table below.

Wine Variet(ies)y Alcohol (%) Yield (hl/ha) Aging
DOC Ossolane Rosso Croatina and/or Nebbiolo and/or Merlot (Min 60%), Other Authorized (Max 40%)

DOC Ossolane Nebbiolo Nebbiolo (Min. 85%), Other Authorized (Max 15%)

DOC Ossolane Nebbiolo Superiore Nebbiolo (Min 85%), Other Authorized (Max 15%)
13 mos (6 in barrel)

One the more interesting plantings in the region is Prünent, an ancient Nebbiolo biotype that is planted on 5 ha distributed between the River Toca (1 plot) and the tributaries Metizzo (4 plots) and Isorno (1 plot). These Prünent vines are very old (in excess of 100 years) and have only recently been revitalized having suffered the double whammy of phylloxera and industrialization. The wines are 100% Prünent fermented on skins for 7 days, aged in barrel for 12 to 13 months, and then for another 12 months in bottle.

The region also produces a Bianco which has a minimum 60% Chardonnay and maximum 40% of other allowed white varieties.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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