Ettore Germano Herzu Riesling 2010
A tall medieval tower dominates the village of Serralunga, on the south-east edge of the Barolo appellation, giving fair warning of the character of the wines grown there: structured, substantial, uncompromising. Sergio Germano, whose winery is a few minutes walk north of Serralunga, completed six years of study at the School of Enology in Alba, then made wine for a few years at Fontanafredda, one of the larger wineries in the area, before returning to the family estate in 1993. The winery is still named after Ettore, Sergio’s father, who grew grapes, made a little wine for private customers, and was known throughout the area for his skill in grafting vines.
In a traditional appellation like Barolo, a modern winemaker needs to have the scientific understanding of winemaking, while still respecting the traditions. Sergio Germano is just such a winemaker, and his Serralunga Barolos will never be creamy, international-style wines. Great wine is always made in the vineyard, and Sergio does much of the fieldwork himself, with the help of his wife Elena and a small crew. Some of the wines are 100% traditional, made with long macerations and big barrels, and some are made with medium-sized barrels or barriques, but they all express the best of these local grape varieties. Sergio has vineyards in two quite different areas, which allows him to make an unusual range of wine types; in addition to the classic regional wines like Barolo, Dolcetto and Barbera he also makes one of Italy’s best Rieslings, and some excellent sparkling wines.
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.