Monsecco

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Many years ago, in the late 1970s, I remember drinking bottles of Monsecco Gattinara from the 1960s and early 1970s (most particularly the 1971 and 1974) with extreme glee. Powerful yet graceful wines that shone a bright light on another corner of the world of Nebbiolo, a fitting companion to the Barolos from Brovia, the Barbarescos from De Forville and the Caremas from Ferrando. Then, all of a sudden the wines of Monsecco disappeared from view. The Monsecco estate was history! So, I was pleased when I spoke with Giorgio Zanetta, whose family has a long history of producing wine in the Alto Piemonte, to hear that it was the family’s objective to revive the royal name of Monsecco.

For many decades, Lorenzo Zanetta, grandfather to Giorgio, had worked as a negociant in the wine trade, specializing in producing wines from the neighboring zones of “Coste delle Sesia” and “Colline Novaresi” in the area known as the Alto Piemonte. His sons, Sergio (father to Giorgio) and Valter, decided, in 1993, to revive the name and image of Monsecco, dedicating themselves to the task of producing the finest versions of the local wines using only local grape varieties. To that end and over time, they purchased five hectares of vineyards and currently rent an additional three hectares where only Nebbiolo, Vespolina, Uva Rara and Croatina are planted. From these assorted sites, they craft in the most traditional manner a series of wines culminating in their formidable standard-bearer: the grand Gattinara.

There is almost a religious reverence in the Alto Piemonte for Monte Rosa, the mountain that hovers over the region, the grand eminence that protects and nurtures the region. It is visible from all points whether one is in Gattinara or Sizzano or Ghemme, an eternally white-topped mountain whose melting snows form the Sesia river that splits Gattinara from Ghemme. The soils of these hills are marked by the mineral salts and the glacial moraine from millennia of geological movement. Further, sitting in the foothills of this part of the Alps and neighboring the great lakes of Orta and Maggiore, the vines are exposed to large variations in temperature, warm days married to cool nights: an ideal ambience for the noble Nebbiolo and the other local varieties, all of which benefit from the long growing season to reach proper ripeness while maintaining a lively acidity.

Monsecco-Massotondo Massotondo Colline Novaresi Uva Rara: This wine showcases the Uva Rara grape, known in other regions of Italy as Bonarda, and typically found as a small percentage of Alto Piemontese blended wines. The grapes are hand harvested in September, undergo a short maceration of six days, and ferment in temperature controlled stainless steel. As with the estate’s 100% Vespolina, a short maceration and aging regimen in stainless steel make for a wine that is fresh and zesty. With its bright, forward red fruit and hints of rose petal, the wine’s fine tannins are in harmony with its lighter frame, and overall elegance.
Monsecco-Borgoalto Borgoalto Colline Novaresi Croatina: Croatina completes the Monsecco single variety collection. A grape that brings darker, purple fruit to the blends it graces, this is the most lush, soft and forward-fruited of the three. Hand harvested in September, with a short maceration of six days, a six month long fermentation in tank, and spring bottling, this wine is ready to drink now, and should ideally be served with a light chill.
Monsecco-Barbatasso-Vespolina

Barbatasso Colline Novaresi Vespolina: The juice undergoes a 4-5 day cuvaison followed by six months of aging, and is bottled in spring.

Monsecco-Pratogrande-Nebbiolo Pratogrande Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo: Here, the grand Nebbiolo takes center stage, a wine made exclusively from this noble grape and harvested from vineyards outside of the Gattinara and Ghemme delimited zones but still in hillside sites on the slopes above and around the towns on the eastern shore of the Sesia river. Manual harvest occurs normally during the second half of October. The Zanetta family gives this wine a shorter maceration than it applies to the Gattinara but then the wine is aged in large (15 hectoliter) “botte” for two years before bottling and then left to age an additional year before being released to the market. It is a fine and elegant wine with subtle tannins, bright cherry flavors and a persistent finish that again emphasizes the complex mineral composition of the underlying soils.
Monsecco-Sizzano Sizzano: From 40 year old vines grown in mineral rich soils, this wine is a blend of 60% Nebbiolo and 40% Vespolina and Uva Rara. A six month long fermentation in open topped, temperature controlled tanks follows at ten day maceration to extract the glorious black cherry, rose, and violet aromas of these varieties. The wine spends 18 months in a combination of old botte and second year French barriques. As with all Nebbiolo-based wines from great terroir, the combination of good acidity and firm, sweet tannins, make this ideal candidate for cellaring for up to 20 years.
Monsecco-Ghemme Ghemme: An extraordinarily age-worthy wine that will mature nicely over 20 years or more in the cellar, in its youth this medium to full bodied wine shows a lovely mélange of red and dark berry fruits, with hints of tobacco and spice and a very long finish. 85% Nebbiolo with 15% Vespolina and Uva Rara of an average age of 30 years, the wine macerates for 12 days before fermentation in stainless steel. The wine is then transferred to a combination of old Slovenian botte, and second year French barrique for an additional 3 years, and to put the finishing touches on its élèvage: a year in bottle before release. A wine such as this is a testament to the glory and longevity of mountain Nebbiolo. Decant for best results!
Monsecco-Gattinara Gattinara: After a manual harvest, the grapes undergo an extensive cuvaison and then are racked into a combination of large “botte” and second year French barrique for at least three years of aging prior to being bottled.
Download Monsecco Tech Sheet
Domaine NameMonsecco
Family/Owners NameZanetta family
How many years has the family owned the domaine?1948: year when the Zanetta family established its company. 1993: year when the Monsecco company was purchased
How many generations?3
How many hectares of vines are leased?5 hectares
How many hectares of vines are owned?3 hectares
Are your vineyards or wines Organic or Biodynamic Certified? The company is currently being evaluated for that, therefore we cannot provide further details.
Describe your vineyard management practices (e.g. low-intervention, organic, biodynamic, standard, etc.).The Monsecco company does integrated farming in order to have the lowest impact on the environment. Grapes are harvested by hand using 20-25 kilogram crates to transport grapes.
Do you practice green harvest? Leaf thinning?We do not do green harvesting. We regularly defoliate in July and August, in order to ensure the best exposure for the plants.
Do you sell off any of your wine en vrac/allo sfuso?The grapes for the production of Monsecco wines are from vineyards we both own and rent. In the past, sometimes we purchased grapes from local grower that we trust.
VINO #1
GENERAL INFORMATION
AppellationColline Novaresi Vespolina DOC. “Barbatasso”
Cepage/Uvaggio100% Vespolina
% Alcohol by volume12.5 % (2015 vintage)
# of bottles produced4500
Grams of Residual SugarLess than one gram per liter
VINEYARD AND GROWING INFORMATION
Vineyard/ name(s) and locationsPellizzane vineyard - town of Ghemme
Exposures and slope of vineyardsWest exposure. Approximately 30° incline
Soil Types(s)Morainic hill that originated from the erosion of the Monte Rosa glacier. Stony soil containing a lot of minerals.
Average vine age (per vineyard)35 years old
Average Vine Density (vines/HA)3,000 vines per hectare
Approximate harvest date(s)Mid-September (2015 vintage). 2015: Winter was mild and Summer months were hot. Most of the precipitation fell in the coldest months. Almost no rain in July. Summer rainfall was lower than average in northern Piedmont. Build-up of heat (Huglin index) was good for the vines, reached and exceeded the average temperatures, thus ensuring the best ripening process. This year is similar to 2003-2009-2011, but with less early ripening. Excellent accumulation of sugar. The acidity level in the grapes was among the lowest ever, due to the mid-Summer heat. The grapes were perfecty healthy and flawless
WINEMAKING/CELLAR INFORMATION
whole cluster, % destemmed, % Fermentation: vessel type and size100 % destalked Stainless steel, controlled-temperature fermentation.
Duration of contact with lees6 days
Select or indigenous yeast?Cultured yeasts
Please describe wine making process such as: pump-overs, punch-downs, racking, movement/transfer of wine done by gravity or pumping?), battonnage, malolactic fermentation allowed, chaptalizationRacking is done for the clarification phase after approximately 30 days. Natural malolactic ferementation with local yeasts and further racking before the end of January. No sugar added.
Elevage: vessel type(s) and size(s)Wine is aged in steel vats for approximately 6-8 months before bottling.
Duration of elevage12 months
Do you practice fining and filtration? Yes, during the vinification and before bottling.
VINO #2
GENERAL INFORMATION
AppellationColline Novaresi Nebbiolo DOC. “Pratogrande"
Cepage/Uvaggio100% Nebbiolo
% Alcohol by volume0.13
# of bottles produced23,000 (10,000+13,000)
Grams of Residual SugarLess than one gram per liter
VINEYARD AND GROWING INFORMATION
Vineyard/ name(s) and locationsPellizzane vineyard in Ghemme
Exposures and slope of vineyardsSouthwestern exposure. 30° incline
Soil Types(s)Morainic hill created by the erosion of the Monte Rosa glacier. Stony soil with a high concentration of minerals..
Average vine age (per vineyard)35 years old
Average Vine Density (vines/HA)3,000 plants per hectare
Approximate harvest date(s)Oct 25. 2013: a year with a long growing season and late harvesting. In the first part of the year there was a lot of rain that helped the vegetation grow, while slowing down the phenological phases. Veraison at the end of August, which happens rarely. From veraison to ripening of the grapes there was a clear inversion in trend, with better weather, even though Summer was not particularly warm. It was a two-speed year, as some said. The final verdict was very positive, despite the initial difficulty. It is a year comparable to 2010.
WINEMAKING/CELLAR INFORMATION
whole cluster, % destemmed, %100 % destalked
Fermentation: vessel type and sizeStainless steel, controlled-temperature fermentation.
Duration of contact with lees13 days
Select or indigenous yeast?Cultured yeasts
Please describe wine making process for EACH wine such as: pump-overs, punch-downs, racking, movement/transfer of wine done by gravity or pumping?), battonnage, malolactic fermentation allowed, chaptalizationRacking is done for the clarification phase after approximately 30 days. Natural malolactic ferementation with local yeasts and further racking before the end of January. No sugar added.
Elevage: vessel type(s) and size(s)30 months in large, 50-hectoliter barrels.
Duration of elevage30 months in barrels + 6 month-ageing in bottles
Duration of bottle ageing before release to US market6 months
Do you practice fining and filtration? No
VINO #3
GENERAL INFORMATION
AppellationSizzano DOC
Cepage/Uvaggio60% Nebbiolo, 40% Vespolina + Rare grapes
% Alcohol by volume0.13
# of bottles produced1,700 ( 2013 vintage)
Grams of Residual SugarLess than 1 gram per liter
VINEYARD AND GROWING INFORMATION
Vineyard/ name(s) and locationsSan Clemente vineyard- Sizzano
Exposures and slope of vineyardsSoutwestern exposure. 20-30° incline
Soil Types(s)It is part of the morainic hill of Monte Rosa, so it is characterized by an abundance of minerals. The soil that produces Sizzano is more clayey than those of Monsecco.
Average vine age (per vineyard)40 years old
Average Vine Density (vines/HA)3,000 vines per hectare
Approximate harvest date(s)April 14, 1900
WINEMAKING/CELLAR INFORMATION
whole cluster, % destemmed, %100 % destalked
Fermentation: vessel type and sizeStainless steel, controlled-temperature fermentation.
Duration of contact with lees13 days
Select or indigenous yeast?Cultured yeasts
Please describe wine making process for EACH wine such as: pump-overs, punch-downs, racking, movement/transfer of wine done by gravity or pumping?), battonnage, malolactic fermentation allowed, chaptalizationRacking is done for the clarification phase after approximately 30 days. Natural malolactic ferementation with local yeasts and further racking before the end of January. No sugar added
Elevage: vessel type(s) and size(s)30 months, 24 months in wood. 2/3 of the wine is aged in large, 150-hectoliter Slavonian oak barrels. The remaining 1/3 is put into 5-hectoliter, French oak tonneaux of second use. Wine is then aged in bottles for 6 months.
Duration of bottle ageing before release to US market12 months
Do you practice fining and filtration? No
VINO #4
GENERAL INFORMATION
AppellationGhemme DOCG
Cepage/UvaggioNebbiolo:85%;Vespolina + Rare grapes:15%
% Alcohol by volume0.135
# of bottles produced5000
Grams of Residual SugarLess than one gram per liter
VINEYARD AND GROWING INFORMATION
Vineyard/ name(s) and locationsPellizzane vineyard in Ghemme
Exposures and slope of vineyardsSouthwestern exposure. 20-30° incline
Soil Types(s)It is the portion of the vineyard located on the plateau of Ghemme. The soil is more compact and deeper than the soil on the western side. High concentration of minerals, with granite stones, porphyry and gravel.
Average vine age (per vineyard)45 years old
Average Vine Density (vines/HA)3,000 plants per hectare
Approximate harvest date(s)April 17, 1900
WINEMAKING/CELLAR INFORMATION
whole cluster, % destemmed, %100 % destalked
Fermentation: vessel type and sizeStainless steel, temperature-controlled fermentationa.
Duration of contact with lees18 days
Select or indigenous yeast?Cultured yeasts
Please describe wine making process for EACH wine such as: pump-overs, punch-downs, racking, movement/transfer of wine done by gravity or pumping?), battonnage, malolactic fermentation allowed, chaptalizationRacking is done for the clarification phase after approximately 30 days. Natural malolactic ferementation with local yeasts and further racking before the end of January. No sugar added.
Elevage: vessel type(s) and size(s)48 months. 36 months in wood. 2/3 of the wine is aged in large Slavonian oak barrels, 1/3 in French barriques of second use. Then, the wine is aged for 12 more months in bottles.
Duration of elevage48 months
Duration of bottle ageing before release to US market6 months
Do you practice fining and filtration? No
Approximate harvest date(s)October 3. 2011: it is a well-structured and powerful wine, as in all warm years, with intense floral notes and a clear fruitiness. Acidity is perfect, noticeable and decisive as must be in the Nebbiolo wines of northern Piedmont; at the same time, it is not overpowering, as it was softened by warm weather. It has a good body and balance on the palate. I deem this vintage outstanding compared to the previoius five years.
VINO #5
GENERAL INFORMATION
AppellationGattinara DOCG
Cepage/Uvaggio100% Nebbiolo
% Alcohol by volume0.13
# of bottles produced3000
Grams of Residual SugarLess than 1 gram per liter
VINEYARD AND GROWING INFORMATION
Vineyard/ name(s) and locationsAlice - Gattinara Vineyard
Exposures and slope of vineyardsSouthern exposure. 30° incline
Soil Types(s)Volcanic, rocky soil with a high concentration of porphyry and iron, which gives a reddish color to the soil. The amphitheater-shaped hill protects the vines from the cold winds and the Monte Rosa glacier.
Average vine age (per vineyard)30 years
Average Vine Density (vines/HA)3,000 plants per hectare
Approximate harvest date(s)April 19, 1900
WINEMAKING/CELLAR INFORMATION
whole cluster, % destemmed, %100 % destalked
Fermentation: vessel type and sizeStainless steel, temperature-controlled fermentation.
Duration of contact with lees18 days
Select or indigenous yeast?Cultured yeasts
Please describe wine making process for EACH wine such as: pump-overs, punch-downs, racking, movement/transfer of wine done by gravity or pumping?), battonnage, malolactic fermentation allowed, chaptalizationRacking is done for the clarification phase after approximately 30 days. Natural malolactic ferementation with local yeasts and further racking before the end of January. No sugar added.
Elevage: vessel type(s) and size(s)48 months. 36 months in wood. 2/3 of the wine is aged in large Slavonian oak barrels, 1/3 in French barriques of second use. Then, the wine is aged for 12 more months in bottles.
Duration of elevage48 months
Duration of bottle ageing before release to US market6 months
Do you practice fining and filtration? No

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