Castello di Verduno Basadone Pelaverga 2017
Winegrower: Castello di Verduno
Region: Piedmont, Italy
Grape: Pelaverga Piccolo
If Italy has an indigenous equivalent to Pinot Noir it’s Pelaverga Piccolo. This unique native grape has been present in the region of Barolo since 1600 and flourishes only in the commune of Verduno. Castello di Verduno was the first estate to vinify this grape as a single variety saving it from extinction and their Basadone Pelaverga is the flagship wine of this grape. Pelaverga Piccolo is an extremely rare oenological pearl and is grown in small quantities in the shadows of its more revered Nebbiolo relative. This is one of the most food friendly wines you’ll enjoy. Pelavegra’s international popularity has grown significantly over the last few years and continues because of the increased interest in Italy’s indigenous grape varieties but it’s not easy to find. From Hong Kong and London to New York, sommeliers use it to impress other sommeliers and restaurant servers who have access to it love it because it’s rare, delicious, and at $35 well priced for its quality. This wine practically sells itself and closes the deal with its remarkable aromatics and flavours.
Verduno’s Basadone Pelaverga has a bright ruby red colour and an intense nose – on the more fragrant end of the Pinot Noir spectrum – with aromas of strawberries, cherries, raspberries and white pepper. The fruit carries through on the palate along with spicy notes, good minerality and balance. It is delicious, refreshing and has a long, persistent finish. The name Basadone originates from the local dialect meaning, "lady kisser" because the Pelaverga grape is said to have aphrodisiac qualities. Given that this is a smooth, savoury, and delicious wine that typically comes in at around 13.5% alcohol there's no doubt such a myth would persist.
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 centre 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 the first Nebbiolo was vinified into the dry wine we call Barolo. The current owners of the estate, the Burlotto family, purchased it from the House of Savoy in 1909. Gabriella Burlotto and her husband Franco Bianco now manage the estate. They work tirelessly with their three daughters and staff on their vineyards and intervene as little as possible in the cellar. 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). Pelaverga is planted on about 6 hectares of vineyards but this is increasing as the demand for the wine grows. Total annual production of Pelaverga wines from what amounts to a handful of producers is just 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 section of their Massara vineyard to Pelaverga.
Today’s Basadone Pelaverga 2017 comes from the Massara and Olmi vineyards in Verduno, which face southeast and are mainly composed of white limestone. The grapes were handpicked 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 minimal SO₂ added.
This wine is traditional in style but never rustic. It is, in fact, the opposite, retaining elegance and purity. It’s bright ruby in the glass with appealing aromas of wild red fruits and white pepper with a touch of nutmeg, cedar cigar box, rosemary and thyme. These carry through onto the palate along with considerable savoury characteristics, and with its silky tannins offers a persistent finish. Its fine, bright acidity ensures the wine refreshes but never tires the palate. This wine is great to drink now but will get even better in a couple years as its savoury characteristics become more pronounced. Critical praise for past vintages from Gambero Rosso awards it 2 out of 3 glasses and the Bibenda Guide to the Finest Italian Wines gives it 4 out of 5. Not bad for a $35 wine! Serve at 16˚ to 18˚ in Burgundy stems to fully release its beautiful aromatics. This wine is incredibly versatile at the table and pairs beautifully with all manner of food including young cheese, prosciutto and melon, all sorts of pastas, pizza, mushrooms, pork, poultry and roasted game birds, and fish like this salmon sashimi served with ginger and hot sesame oil. Saluti!