Castello di Verduno Verduno doc Basadone 2016
Winegrower: Castello di Verduno
Region: Piedmont, Italy
Grape: Pelavegra Piccolo
Available: Fall 2017
We often talk about those bottles that are the “first to be emptied” when we’re imbibing with our fellow wine geek friends. Many of these are humble in terms of price and reputation but over deliver in the pleasures they bestow. Today’s offer is another such wine. This oenological pearl is produced from the extremely rare Pelavegra Picolo grape which is grown in tiny quantities in the shadows of its more revered red relative in the Barolo wine region of Piedmont. It is as close to an indigenous Italian equivalent to Gamay as it gets, and our version from Castello di Verduno is by far the finest. This is one of the most food friendly wines I’ve tasted and will slake your thirst for adventure while being incredibly delicious but not weird. In Hong Kong, London and New York sommeliers use it to impress other sommeliers and restaurant servers who have access to it are all over it because it’s rare, delicious, and at $28 reasonably priced. This wine practically sells itself and closes the deal with its remarkable aromatics and flavours. Pelavegra’s international popularity has grown significantly over the last few years and continues to do so because of the increased interest in Italy’s indigenous grape varieties, but it’s not easy to find.
Castello di Verduno is a historic estate and one of the top producers of classic Barolo and Barbaresco wines of exquisite complexity and depth. Constructed in the early 1500’s by the Cerrato family, the castle sits in the center of the medieval hilltop village of Verduno and has panoramic views of the Langhe hills and snow covered Alps. Ownership changed in 1631 when it passed to the House of Savoy, and it was here in 1838 that Paolo Francesco Staglien first vinified Nebbiolo into the dry wine we now call Barolo. The current owners of the estate, the Burlotto family, purchased it from the House of Savoy in 1909. Franco Bianco and his wife Gabriella Burlotto now manage the estate. They work with their three daughters and staff to care for the vineyards as best as possible in a natural way and to intervene in the cellar as little as possible. Because the village of Verduno is located in the northern most commune of Barolo and produces less than 5% of all Barolo wine it has flown under the radar for years. But as the popularity of Barolo has soared the superb vineyard sites of Castello di Verduno have become more recognized and have taken their place alongside the other great Barolo producers.
Pelaverga Piccolo only grows in the countryside of the picturesque village of Verduno (pop 500) and was first noted in the 1700s. Total annual production of Pelavegra wines from what amounts to a handful of producers is a mere 120,000 bottles and our supplier, Castello di Verduno, releases about 15,000 each vintage. They've grown and made tiny quantities of wine from Pelaverga for decades to use themselves, give away to friends and to supply a small local market. The grape had nearly disappeared by the 1970s, but the Burlotto family rescued it in 1972 when they were the first to plant a vineyard dedicated to Pelaverga. In doing so they made this wine the flagship of the varietal. They make two other excellent wines from this grape, a white and a sparkling.
The Verduno doc Basadone 2016 came from 2 organic vineyards located in the village of Verduno. The vineyards face southeast and are mainly composed of white limestone. The grapes were hand-picked and fermented with indigenous yeasts. Maceration lasted for 10 days in stainless steel tanks with regular punch downs of the cap. The wine was then aged for 9 months in stainless steel tanks and bottled unfined and unfiltered with only minimal SO₂ added. This wine is traditional in style but never rustic. It is, in fact, the opposite, retaining elegance and purity. It’s a pale, bright ruby in the glass with appealing strawberry/raspberry aromas and intense spicy characteristics. These carry through to the palate along with considerable savoury characteristics, and with its silky tannins offers a persistent finish. Its fine acidity ensures the wine refreshes but never tires the palate. When young it has complex aromas, not only the fruit undertones often encountered in Piedmont’s better known red wines but also herbs like rosemary and thyme. The wine is great to drink now but I think it is best after 3 or 4 years because it then displays even more savoury characteristics than young red wines typically do. Serve this wine at 14˚ in Bordeaux stems if you like, but I prefer Burgundy stems to better release its beautiful aromatics. This wine is incredibly versatile at the table and pairs brilliantly with all sorts of food including young cheese, Prosciutto and melon, all sorts of pastas, mushrooms, beef and pork, poultry and small game birds, and fish like this salmon sashimi served with ginger and hot sesame oil.