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Thus far - after several quite organized surveys of the topic - when it comes to the older wines of Alto Piemonte, Antoniolo is our favorite producer. Along with Vallana, they produced the best Spanna* (the Santa Chiara, named after the former monastery where they have a cellar) of the region. As for many others in Piedmont, 1964 was spectacular at Antoniolo, and 1967, 1971, and 1974 were also great vintages. If you follow our decanting protocol for old Nebbiolo, these will all be a great treat. Jamie Wolff
* Spanna is the local name for Nebbiolo; grapes for wine labeled Spanna could come from anywhere in the region, and were almost always blended with (a theoretical maximum of 15%) of other local grapes (Bonarda, Croatina, Vespolina). In 1990 Sheldon Wasserman** wrote "Many producers... blend in anything they have handy, including wine and / or grapes trucked in from southern parts of the peninsula. This is not a new practice; it is something of a tradtion here, where the name Spanna on a label came to mean pretty much whatever the producer wants it to, no more, no less. Many of the best wines labeled Spanna were made with a high proportion of fine southern varieties, like Aglianico, which contribute body and richness to the wines." This might explain the character of some old bottles labeled Spanna that we have tasted - delicious wines in their way, but not very obviously based on Nebbiolo. On the other hand, the Antoniolo wines we've tried are distinctly Nebbiolo.
Veronelli writes that the Antoniolo Spanna Santa Chiara comes from the Gattinara vineyards called Osso, San Francesco, Bugianette, and Borelle; the blend is made from Nebbiolo, Vespolina, Bonarda, Greco, and Croatina.
** Sheldon Wasserman's "Italy's Noble Red Wines" (2nd edition published 1990) is still an invaluable book.
On Sale - was $99.99!
It's not very often that a Google search yields no information at all; neither do any of our books, so we're at a loss to describe this wine. Our friend has sent an image to Antoniolo, so we'll update when possible...