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Back-Vintage Mountain Nebbiolo with Style

Ten years ago, Alto Piemonte still felt like a bit of a secret. Today those beautiful Alpine foothills north of Barolo and Barbaresco are hot.

Roberto Conterno, arguably the greatest living Barolo-ista, now makes wine in Gattinara.

Neal Rosenthal's sleeper favorites, like Ferrando's Carema, are outright stars. Yup, those remote villages and vineyards are having a moment.

And yet, you can still find amazing deals like this 10-year-old, ready-to-drink Ghemme.

But what is Ghemme, exactly?

Even with the recent revival in the region's fortunes, the finer points of the different appellations aren't as well appreciated as, say Barolo vs Barbaresco.

They're worth understanding though.

Ghemme stands out from other parts of the Alto Piemonte for having highly varied soils (including clay, porphyry and sand) left by retreating glaciers. Nebbiolo grown here tends to be on the elegant and fragrant side of things, with classic floral and berry notes married to unique spice and mineral tones.

It is also long-lived: the wines age beautifully, becoming more and more complex with time.

Vintages can be a little different up here from Langhe. While 2010 was a perfect year in the Barolo, up in the hills the warmer 2011 was actually even better.

The fruit ripened perfectly and the wines have impeccable balance.

Bianchi did a great job with the vintage. It's a very old producer (founded in 1785!) and one of the domaines that did the hard work of rebuilding the region's post-phylloxera reputation in the middle of the last century.

They persevered by following the old traditions (sustainable farming without pesticides or herbicides, neutral Slovenian oak for the 36 months of aging). 

Today, the 2011 is a dialed-in gem of an old-school wine with great fruit still, but also evolved umami notes that give it a sexy kind of complexity.
It has the structure to absolutely sing with food. A mushroom risotto would be amazing. But so would a roast pork — even some quality charcuterie would do the job.

We bought as much as we could and we think we'll be able to satisfy all requests, but they will need to be confirmed.

Az Agr Bianchi, Ghemme 2011
When Kerin O'Keefe reviewed the wine she noted "Aromas of ripe dark-skinned berry, truffle and botanical herb waft out of the glass along with whispers of melted chocolate and dark spice. On the elegantly structured palate, taut fine-grained tannins accompany dried black cherry, licorice and tobacco."