It has been deeply satisfying to witness the surge of interest in the Alto Piemonte in recent years. This beautiful, geologically diverse swath of vineyards in the Alpine foothills northeast of Piedmont suffered particularly heavy losses through the ravages of phylloxera and the growth of the local textile industry (which pulled people away from backbreaking viticultural labor and into more dependable and profitable work) during the late 19th and 20th centuries, with total vineyard area shrinking an astonishing 90+% between its pre-phylloxera peak and its late-20th-century nadir. However, over the past couple of decades, a new generation has invested heavily in the area, reclaiming old vineyards that had been overgrown by forests, as well as resurrecting historically important wineries, and the wines of the Alto Piemonte are finally beginning to reclaim their rightful place in today’s marketplace.
Neal’s early-career experiences with the wines of the Monsecco estate left an indelible impression on him, and the opportunity to represent the house under its new owners—the Zanetta family, a local clan with deep historical ties to the Alto Piemonte’s wine trade—was irresistible. We have been partnered with the Zanettas for eight years now, and it has been a joy to see them gradually improving and refining their craft, bringing an increased refinement to wines that have always been true and honest expressions of their individual terroirs.
Though the estate encompasses vineyards in Ghemme and Sizzano (as well as in the Colline Novaresi, the hills farther east of the Sesia River which bisects the region), it is with the mighty amphitheater of Gattinara that the Monsecco name has the most historical resonance. Since the Zanettas revived Monsecco in the mid-1990s, it has been their goal to produce a top-flight Gattinara that would not only do justice to, but elevate, the estate’s former glory. They purchased a remarkable cellar in the heart of the town of Gattinara—a former nunnery built in 1619 with a dramatic, arched-ceiling subterranean barrel room ideal for the long aging Gattinara requires. And they acquired old-vine parcels in two of the zone’s most coveted high-altitude vineyards: Osso and Alice.
The 2013 Gattinara is a triumphant quantum leap forward for the estate; it is the first vintage of Gattinara from them that includes these two prime parcels, and the first aged entirely in their recently acquired cellar. Gattinara’s vineyards form a dramatic amphitheater just west of the Sesia River, and their soils of red porphyry (Gattinara was once the heart of an ancient volcano) give the Nebbiolo grown there a distinctively powerful, penetrating minerality. The Osso vineyard sits near the very top of the amphitheater, and its particularly rocky and poor soils imbue Monsecco’s Gattinara (100% Nebbiolo) with a vigorous acidity around which the wide range of flavors and palate sensations are tightly coiled. Alice is a warmer site, and the combination of these two vineyards creates a beautiful tension, with aromatic notes ranging from high-toned spice to sexy, feral musk, delivered in explosive fashion with this 2013—a very strong growing season in the Alto Piemonte. The palate carries quite a bit of fruit intensity, but it is a nervy, strict fruit that still manages to come across as supple, and the clarity and definition here are particularly arresting. Fermented in stainless steel, and aged primarily in the 25-to-30-hectoliter Slavonian oak casks, traditional for the region (with a few quite-old barriques as well), the 2013 was bottled in March of 2017 without fining or filtration, a full three and a half years after harvest (Gattinara’s DOCG regulations require just two years of barrel aging). After over a year of resting in bottle, the wine was finally put up for sale, and we are bursting at the seams to share it with you. Only 3,000 bottles were produced, and we have but a mere 100 cases for the United States.