Cantine Elvio Tintero Arneis 2018
In 1900 a Frenchman named Pierre Tintero set out for Piedmont in search of work. He found an opportunity to do odd jobs at a small estate where widow Rosina Cortese was struggling to handle all the work herself. Pierre, called “Pietrin” by the locals, quickly became a vital part of the estate and also fell in love with the widow, whom he married two years later. The couple continued to work the vines together and bottled their own Dolcetto for the first time just as war fell in 1914. Years later their grandson would find a stash of this vintage hidden within the walls of the cellar, certainly a precaution against ransacking troops who passed through the area.
Pietrin and Rosina’s two sons, Giovanni and Carlo, eventually took over the estate and expanded it by purchasing adjacent vineyard plots. Moscato was just a tiny part of their production since it is only practical to produce it in large quantities, but after the Second World War giants Cinzano and Martini began producing the wine, so the brothers planted more of the variety to sell to these negociants while they continued bottling their still wines themselves. It was not until the 1980s that Carlo’s son Elvio began experimenting with the challenging process of frizzante wine production, allowing the family to take advantage of the grape’s special affinity to the local terroir. Elvio has now handed the reins over to the next generation, but he continues to help his son Marco and daughter-in-law Cinzia run the estate.
The commune of Mango is the heart of Moscato country, and 20 of the Tinteros’ 30 hectares are planted to this grape. Their largest parcel is in the Sorì Gramella vineyard, whose full southern exposure and gradient of more than 20% pamper the grapes with many long hours of sunshine, without even casting shadows from one row to the next as is the case in most vineyards. The resulting wine is delightfully fizzy and slightly sweet, an irresistible combination that makes it a universal favorite. Marco also maintains that same spirit in his other wines, which are all fresh, easy, and fun to drink with friends.
Set upon a backdrop of the visually stunning Alps, the enchanting and rolling hills of Piedmont are the source of some of the country’s longest-lived and most sought-after wines. Vineyards cover a great majority of the land area—especially in Barolo—with the most prized sites at the top hilltops or on south-facing slopes where sunlight exposure is maximized. Piedmont has a continental climate with hot, humid summers leading to cold winters and precipitation year-round. The reliable autumnal fog provides a cooling effect, especially beneficial for Nebbiolo, Piedmont’s most prestigious variety.
In fact, Nebbiolo is named exactly for the arrival of this pre-harvest fog (called “nebbia” in Italian), which prolongs cluster hang time and allows full phenolic balance and ripeness. Harvest of Nebbiolo is last among Piedmont's varieties, occurring sometime in October. This grape is responsible for the exalted wines of Barbaresco and Barolo, known for their ageability, firm tannins and hallmark aromas of tar and roses. Nebbiolo wines, despite their pale hue, pack a pleasing punch of flavor and structure; the best examples can require about a decade’s wait before they become approachable. Barbaresco tends to be more elegant in style while Barolo is more powerful. Across the Tanaro River, the Roero region, and farther north, the regions of Gattinara and Ghemme, also produce excellent quality Nebbiolo.
Easy-going Barbera is the most planted grape in Piedmont, beloved for its trademark high acidity, low tannin and juicy red fruit. Dolcetto, Piedmont’s other important red grape, is usually ready within a couple of years of release.
White wines, while less ubiquitous here, should not be missed. Key varieties include Arneis, Cortese, Timorasso, Erbaluce and the sweet, charming Muscat, responsible for the brilliantly recognizable, Moscato d'Asti.
Yielding a dry and subtly scented wine, Arneis is the star white grape of Piedmont. Though the grape has been local to Roero since the 1400s, it didn’t experience real popularity until the 1980s when local demand for white wine exploded. Somm Secret—A few key Roero producers are also focusing on exploring the ageability of high quality Arneis. It is only grown outside of Piedmont to a very limited extent.