The temperatures are rising and the buzz in the piazzas from people sipping their aperitivos in the warm Italian summer evenings can be heard. Although we are living in the land of Barolo and Barbaresco, we are more likely sipping on cool and crisp sparkling wines without straying from our region.
You see, Piemonte is coming out with some of their own amazing sparkling wines! Why this new trend? I have reflected on this topic at length and have come up with some ideas as to why we are experiencing this new “bubbling” trend.
Piemonte’s long history of making sparkling wines.
Most of you probably think of big reds when you think of Piemonte. However, way back in 1806, Thomas Jefferson described a sparkling wine made from Nebbiolo as a “superlatively fine” wine. On his previous trip to Turin in 1787 he describes it as “about as sweet as the silky Madeira, as astringent on the palate as Bordeaux, and as brisk as Champagne”.
Jumping forward to the 1850s, Carlo Gancia, after his return from France was so enthusiastic about French Champagne that he decided to use local Moscato vine as a base for his own, giving birth to the first Italian sparkling wine.
With the winery Gancia becoming one of the biggest companies in the area along with Contratto, Coppo and Bosca (all based in Canelli), Piemonte became widely known for their sparkling wines. Now you see that sparkling wine in Piemonte is nothing new!
A global thirst for sparkling wines
When people used to think of sparkling wine, they thought of Champagne, something to pop for special occasions, black-tie affairs, something to break the bank on. Thanks to more economical alternatives like Prosecco, Cava, and sweet Moscato d’Asti our perception has changed and consumption has increased.
Since 2011, Piemontese Moscato d’Asti sales have risen 73% in the US by consumers under age 45 while Prosecco overtook Champagne sales for the first time in 2014. These easy-to-appreciate and more affordable wines are appealing to all levels of wine drinkers, and driving the global demand up.
With this new overall interest in bollicine or “bubbles”, I think Piemontese winemakers are inspired to make their own ultra fine wines and enter into this budding category.
Age of Experimentation
Why not make what you like to drink?
The younger and upcoming generations of winemakers are also appreciating sparkling wines themselves. Chardonnay has been present in Langhe for quite a while now and luckily finding the right equipment has even become more readily available.
Making wines in either a charmat or classic method are both great challenges for winemakers who want to push themselves or “stretch their intellectual muscles” as quoted by an American wine importer. By making sparkling wines, one can reinvigorate their passion for winemaking by doing something new!
The Alta Langa Consorzio
The creation of the Alta Langa Consorzio (DOCG wine) was founded about a decade ago with the idea to promote, support and aim towards producing great metodo classico wines in the area.
Perhaps this has been the most recent launchpad for producers wanting to make their own premium sparkling wines. With a newfound knowledge and easier accessibility to the special equipment required, a new movement has begun.
Recently there has even been talk about a new group of winemakers who are making a spumante metodo classico called Nebbione. They will use only the tips of the bunches where the grapes are more acidic. Because these wouldn’t be ideal for grandiose Barolos anyway, it becomes a win win situation.
It’s not to say that the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato areas, known all over the world for their reds, will not find a new fame for their classy “bollicine” as well. It is an exciting time, so keep your eye out for some Piemontese bubbles!
If you’d like to lean more, discover all the Italian sparkling wines and become an expert on bubblies.