Elio Perrone Bigaro 2010
By the late '90s, Stefano was looking for new challenges. He recognized that the Asti zone possessed many old Barbera vineyards on steepslopes that would be planted to Nebbiolo if they were just a few miles west. He purchased the great Mongovone vineyard in 1999. With vines planted in 1932, Mongovone gave him the material to produce something special. Yet, just like with his Moscatos, Stefano produces Barbera that captures the ethereal freshness for which the Asti zone is noted. At the same time that he was branching out into Barbera, Stefano produced his first vintages of Bigaro—a softly sweet, gently effervescent salmon-colored sparkler made from Brachetto and Moscato.
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.
Whether it’s playful and fun or savory and serious, most rosé today is not your grandmother’s White Zinfandel, though that category remains strong. Pink wine has recently become quite trendy, and this time around it’s commonly quite dry. Since the pigment in red wines comes from keeping fermenting juice in contact with the grape skins for an extended period, it follows that a pink wine can be made using just a brief period of skin contact—usually just a couple of days. The resulting color depends on grape variety and winemaking style, ranging from pale salmon to deep magenta.