We recently (March 2012) embarked on a journey of rediscovery of the wines of the Alto Piemonte and to start the search we contacted our great friends, the Ferrando family, the producers of the noble Carema. As it turns out, the oenologue who consults with Roberto Ferrando also works with Paolo and Antonello Rovellotti who have vineyards in Ghemme. Thus, our quest began with a fine reference and we were not disappointed. We found a family of proud tradition working in the classic manner.
The Rovellotti family traces its roots in Ghemme to the latter stages of the 15th century. As Antonello Rovellotti proclaimed: “the Rovellotti name is truly ‘Ghemmese’”. Of the less than 200 people in the world who carry that family name, 66 live in and around Ghemme and the rest can be found in other parts of Italy, in France and in Argentina. Ghemme itself is a town of ancient tradition. At its center is the “Ricetto” a walled compound that served as a refuge for people of the area during times of strife and war. This citadel of 12000 square meters was first mentioned in documents dating to the 10th century. Eventually, this brick-built structure evolved into a communal storehouse for the agricultural products native to the area with most of the surface being dedicated to wine. It is there that much of the work of producing the Rovellotti wines takes place … an historic cantina for the ultimate classical wines of Ghemme.
The family vineyard holdings, encompassing fifteen hectares, are found in the Baraggiola zone of Ghemme, the southernmost sector of the appellation. Baraggiola is further divided into four separate vineyard sites: Barragiola Valle d’Enrico where the Erbaluce for the family Passito is planted; the Baraggiola Valplazza planted almost exclusively to the Nebbiolo used in the Colline Novarese bottling; the sector known as “Chioso dei Pomi” in the center of Baraggiola, recognized as a prime site as early as 1600, in which the Nebbiolo used for the Ghemme is grown; and, finally, the “Costa del Salmino”, also recognized early in the history of Ghemme as a site of exceptional potential, is the home of the oldest Nebbiolo vines, replanted by Antonello and Paolo in 1976, which are used to produce the Ghemme Riserva along with Vespolina planted in the same special sector.
Starting in the 1980s, the vineyards have been maintained according to a special regimen applied in coordination with the agricultural faculty at the University of Milan with the express purpose of achieving zero use of chemicals in order to re-establish the natural balance of environmental and ecological elements. The majority of the vineyards are planted to Nebbiolo and are supplemented by plantings of Vespolina (also used as a complementary grape in the Ghemme), Bonarda (also known as Uva Rara) and the white grape, Erbaluce (frequently referred to in the Alto Piemonte as Greco Bianco).
|Rovellotti Innominabile Colline Novaresi Bianco: Made from 100% Erbaluce (known locally as “Greco Novarese”), this wine is called “Unnamable” because according to DOC wine law, Erbaluce may only give its name to a label when grown in the Canavese (ex: the fabulous Erbaluce wines of our friend Luigi Ferrando). In fact, the Rovellotti family’s Erbaluce is very different from Ferrando’s in style, and the contrast seems to attest to the skills of both growers, as well as to the versatility of the grape. From the Il Criccone vineyard, harvested in late September, vinified in stainless steel with a 12 hour maceration on the skins to give phenolic character to the finished wine, this is an earthy yet crisp, medium-bodied example of the grape, with notes of lemon peel, wild herb, and area’s volcanic soil.|
|Rovellotti Ronco al Maso Colline Novaresi Vespolina: Vespolina plays the primary supporting role to the great Nebbiolo-based wines of the Alto Piemonte. Occasionally, an ambitious producer will elect to release a single varietal Vespolina, offering us a portrait of the grape’s character. Rovellotti’s Vespolina hails from is a .40 hectare plot in the Ronco al Maso vineyard, with full southern exposure in the commune of Ghemme. The grapes are harvested in the third week of September. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel to preserve the zesty, fresh, wild berry fruit of the grape, with an eight day maceration on the skins, giving the wine a fine and distinct tannic structure. The wine then spends three months in botti, and is bottled the spring following harvest. Enjoy with a light chill!|
|GHEMME Chioso dei Pomi: The grapes for this cuvée are sourced from the “Chioso dei Pomi” vineyard in the heart of Barragiola. The plot is approximately three hectares in size and the vines have a south-southwest exposure. The ultimate blend of grapes for the Ghemme is 85% Nebbiolo and 15% Vespolina. The Vespolina is harvested normally at the end of September while the Nebbiolo is picked after the first 10 days of October. Harvest is by hand. The grapes are fermented separately in stainless steel cuves and the fermentation extends for a minimum of ten days with frequent “remontage”. The malolactic fermentation occurs mostly in barrel. The wine is aged in large barrels of Slavonian oak for the first twelve months after harvest and then is racked into smaller five hectoliter barrels for an additional eighteen months. The various parts of the wine are assembled and blended together in the spring of the third year. After bottling, the wine is aged in bottle at least nine additional months before release.|
|GHEMME RISERVA Costa del Salmino: The grapes for the Riserva are sourced from the southernmost section of Baraggiola and the blend is 90% Nebbiolo and 10% Vespolina. The best of the Vespolina is selected for the Riserva and is normally harvested at the end of September; the Nebbiolo is harvested in mid-October and is fermented separately from the Vespolina. The cuvaison extends for a minimum of ten days and frequently longer depending on the structure of the vintage. The malolactic occurs partially in stainless steel and partially in barrel. The Riserva is aged for two years in large Slavonian oak barrels of 50 hectoliter size; then the wine is racked into smaller barrels (5 hectoliters) of French oak origin for an additional 12 to 18 months. After bottling, the wine is held for at least an additional nine months before it is released for sale.|
2018 Rovellotti Vespolina Ronco al Maso The 2018 Vespolina Ronco al Maso is bright and exuberant in its first impression, just as nervy tannins make an appearance to remind us of where we are. Succulent dark cherry, plum, spice and savory herbs all race out of the glass. This is an especially fruity, forward style, […]
A REPORT FROM THE ROVELLOTTI FAMILY IN GHEMME I received a note yesterday from my good friend, Antonello Rovellotti, who was brimming with good cheer because of the healthy state of his vineyards in Baragiola, recognized as the top “cru” in Ghemme. He recounted that back when he was a young boy (and he is […]
We will continue posting Neal’s dispatches from his producer visits. Over the next few days he will be in Italy and Switzerland. Here is the first update from Italy. “A quick “wrap” of yesterday’s activity in the Alto Piemonte, 10/21/13 … Monsecco: Greeted by Giorgio and Fabio, as usual. This duo presents a charming and […]
For years we have longed to expand our footprint in Italy, most specifically in Piedmont but also with an eye to southern Italy which heretofore was completely absent from our coverage. With much good fortune, beginning with a casual encounter last December in Rome and continuing through an intense four day exploration we conducted in […]