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For all the ink spilled on the King and Queen of Piedmont (Barolo and Barbaresco), there is a world of fascinating wines from lesser known grapes made by diligent and soulful farmers that capture our attention just as much. Below is a list of some of our favorites, embodying all we care about at Chambers Street: farming dedicated to protecting the living soils, indigenous yeast fermentations, and unmanipulative winemaking. Some of the wines featured here are bottled with absolutely no additions of sulfur (a relative rarity in Piedmont), and the rest are bottled with very small amounts. We're most pleased to welcome back the wines of Nadia Varrua from Cascina Tavijn, a small property in Monferrato that for the past few decades has been committed to natural wines, and in the past few years has moved to bottling all their wines without any sulfur. Nadia's brilliant expressions of Grignolino and Ruché are gorgeous examples of low-intervention wines from Piedmont that are both soulful and expressive of the wider context of this much heralded region. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do! Oskar Kostecki
Helmed by Nadia Verrua, Cascina ‘Tavijn offers low-intervention wines from some of Piedmont’s more obscure varieties. From her small number of hectares, grapes are hand harvested and are vinified in many different vessels. She uses low to zero-SO2. Her un-sulfured Grignolino, which she has affectionately named after her father, Ottavio, has a rustic, autumnal red color. Aromas of rhubarb and strawberry are coupled with flavors of bitter cherry and spice, and both have a fresh accent of mint and herbs. The wine has soft tannic structure and low acidity, and benefits from a slight chill. David Hatzopoulos
The Teresa bottling is 100% Ruché from a two hectare, organically farmed vineyard, fermented in stainless steel and aged for a year in large, old oak barrels. Continuing Nadia Varrua's commitment to natural wine, this was bottled unfined and unfiltered, with no addition of sulfur at bottling or at any point of the winemaking process. The 2018 vintage is ripe and juicy, showing beautiful forward fruit notes and an exhilarating floral character. The nose opens with forest berry fruit, ripe raspberry, cranberries, red currants, crushed grape skins, orange, orange peel, orange blossom, and an intense floral note akin to violets and elderflower. The palate is open and joyful, with vibrant acidity framed by medium, soft tannins. Paired wonderfully well with some braised pork, this would also be a perfect accompaniment to a cheese and charcuterie plate. Oskar Kostecki
Guido Zampaglione and his wife Igiea farm 32 hectares (of which 17 are planted to grape vines) close to the town of Gramalero in Monferrato. The winery sells most of the grapes they harvest, and only keep the best for their own production, with Guido focusing on natural, low-intervention wines with the potential to age in bottle for a significant time. The 2004 Pecoranera is the current release in the United States, and is a blend of 75% Freisa, with Dolcetto and Barbera making up the difference. With only a tiny addition of sulfur added during racking, the wine is then bottled with absolutely no additives. A bit reticent upon opening, a decant of an hour or more helps reveal depth and charm. On the nose it shows notes of dusty cherry, red currants, red plum, black plum, cranberry, dried orange peel, hints of baking spice, nutmeg, tomato leaf, blackcurrent leaf, earth, forest floor, licorice, and a touch of smokiness. The palate is energetic, with rustic and still firm tannins balanced by lively acidity. Just gets better with time open. Oskar Kostecki
Oltretorrente has produced a wonderful Timorasso since they were founded in 2010 by Chiara Penati and Michele Conoscenti. The vines, planted in 1996, are tended organically with biodynamic practices and the grapes are vinified simply: the bunches are pressed whole-cluster and fermented with native yeasts in steel, resting on the lees for 8 months to lend texture and complexity. A touch golden in the glass, the wine shows strong aromas of ripe peach, honey, beeswax, and yellow flowers. The palate has some weight with a smooth texture, plenty of acidity, and rich stone fruit over a chalky mineral backbone. Simultaneously rich and crisp this wine would bring levity plus flavor to starchy winter foods.
Ferdinando Principiano's Timorasso is one of the most fascinating examples of the grape we have encountered. While some expressions of Timorasso can be a bit heavy-handed and blowsy, this one is extremely lithe and charming. Coming in at only 11.2% ABV, it is still very mouth-filling and expressive. The nose opens with beautiful notes of citrus and stone fruit, white flowers, honeysuckle and a slight herbal character. While the nose smells quite rich, the palate is very finely chiselled and holds a lot of tension, with great acidity. Even more citrus on the palate (lemon and lime) with an introduction of crisp green apple, and even more of an herbal quality (tarragon). A supremely satisfying wine. Oskar Kostecki
Cowabunga! A Piemontese wine at only 10.5% ABV. And no added sulfur! I would say that's unheard of, yet here it is. Principiano's incredibly charming and utterly delicious Dosset (the name for Dolcetto in the regional dialect) is a beauty: light, fruit-forward and energetic on the palate, with soft tannins and lively acidity. The Dosset shows vibrant fruit notes of cherry, forest berries, red current and red plum, with beautiful floral tones of rose and violet. Very light when first opened, with some air it fleshes out a bit, and a purple plummy note creeps in, along with a hint of spice. Great with a slight chill. Oskar Kostecki