Even among the shortest of lists of the world’s great wine regions you will find Piemonte, or Piedmont as we call it here in the States. The wines of Barolo and Barbaresco have put this region, where wine has long been made, on the map as home to some of the greatest red wines in the world made from the grape Nebbiolo.
The rolling hills, vineyards and red tiled roofs of the hilltop towns in the Langhe region give one a sense of an ancient heritage of wine cultivation, and that is certainly true. Yet the wines from here, particularly the wines of Barolo have been tremendously impacted by modernity. Nebbiolo produces intensely aromatic and flavored wines, wines with ample tannin and structure that come to elegance as they age. Barolo, a wine endowed with great ageability has in the past been nearly unapproachable without a few years to mellow the wine. A departure from tradition was initiated in the 1980s and a kinder, gentler Barolo lead to worldwide popularity, and sky rocketing demand.
While the newly groomed Barolo has wine critics swooning, the more traditional wines of the Langhe make for an authentic wine experience that begs to be paired with the region’s outstanding cuisine. Dolcetto, Barbera and the Nebbiolo based wines; Barbaresco and wines bottled as Nebbiolo can be exceptional from this region. They can also be surprisingly well priced.
Cantina Pertinace was founded in 1973 as a wine cooperative. It is named for a locality in the village of Treiso, which is one of the villages located within the Barbaresco DOCG. That has long been the cooperative’s focus, yet they also make other wines under the d’Alba designations. The cooperative works with seventeen different growers and all but one or two of the wines, come from the Langhe region.
Dolcetto is a massively misunderstood wine by American wine drinkers. While the grape means “the little sweet one” the wine is anything but. It’s likely that the name speaks to the grape’s lower acid profile in comparison to the other Alba grape Barbera. The wine is usually quite tannic with intense fruit character. The Pertinace Dolcetto d’Alba is a classic and at this price for the uninitiated it represents a great opportunity to learn a bit more about an underappreciated gem.
The Pertinace Dolcetto spends six months in steel in an effort to let the wine become a bit more showy. The aromas are intense with tight wound black and blue fruits, and hints of spice. The palate is sappy, montmorency cherry, dried fig and well wound fruit. There is not an abundance of acid but the wine shows as fresh and fruity and perfect for food.
Barbera is probably one of my favorite unsung food wines in all the world. It has soaring acidity and a fruity freshness that is often unrivaled. The grape grows in the Langhe hills around the Barbaresco and Barolo regions and is in many ways the everyday staple here. Like Dolcetto it is seen as an easy, immediate drinker that does wonders with food.
The Pertinace Barbera is a really lively wine. Aging in smaller oak casks for six to eight months does take the edges off the wine but it remains a vibrant, zippy food wine. Aromas of early season blackberry, raspberry and fresh mint introduce a fresh palate that does not overwhelm with its acidity. Flavors of currant, strawberry and wintergreen make for a perfect match for Piedmont’s famous cuisine.
Nebbiolo is the noblest of the grapes of this region responsible for the world famous wines that hail from here. This wine though is a declassified Barbaresco of sorts. The same grape, and similar vinification methods with less aging make the difference. The wine is a ridiculous value at under $20 and for those not willing to splurge a bit on a Barbaresco can get a taste of why they might want to.
The Pertinace Nebbiolo comes from Treiso one of the famed Barbaresco villages. It’s spent eighteen months in large Slovenian oak casks, the more traditional oak aging choice for this part of Italy. The wine is aromatically intense. Notes of spice, anise, and dried violets along dense black fruit. The wine rolls out a palate that offers complexity and generosity of fruit. Flavors of black cherry, fig and hints of mocha powder. The wine is friendly and ready to drink now but can age for probably a half dozen years to its benefit.