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The Queen of Piedmont

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Since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, the Apennine Peninsula had largely remained divided until the second half of 19th century. Longstanding division persisted through the Migration and medieval periods, the Renaissance and modern eras. Each region of Italy, therefore, is somehow a kingdom unto itself, at least œnologically.

Bordering the Swiss cantons of Valais (French-speaking) and Ticino (Italian-speaking) as well as the French regions Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Piemonte (“Piedmont” in English), itself one of the 20 regions of Italy, is perhaps most famous for their Holy Trinity of FIAT, Juventus and… Nebbiolo.

The name Nebbiolo possibly came from nebbia, (literally: fog), referring to the weather conditions when the grape is harvested in late October. Noble grapes tend to be low yielding, late ripening and sensitive to terroir, but Nebbiolo re-defines the notions of being finicky and pernickety: it does not travel well, demands excellent drainage and prolonged growing season – perhaps only possible in sub-alpine Italy – at 200m to 400m above sea level, preferably south-facing for best exposure.

Separated by merely 15km apart, Nebbiolo from Barolo and Barbaresco are noticeably different in style. With a comparatively moderate and maritime climate, Barbaresco tends to be more elegant and refined than its masculine and robust sibling, as in the cases of  Sauternes and Barsac, Pauillac and Margaux, as well as Rheingau and Mosel. Both Barolo and Barbaresco have a semi-official cru system in place, testing and teasing the minds and palates of connoisseurs from around the world.

With the revered cru of Cottà as it beginning, Azienda Agricola Sottimano has grown from strength to strength in the last 40 years, now including 4 other crus: Basarin, Currà, Fausoni and Pajorè. Without using artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides since 1990, Sottimano’s applies strict yield control and eco-friendly methods, and wines are bottled without filtering and fining.

To discover the finest Piedmontese gems, contact Mr Tom Wan of Golden Vintage International Ltd; W: www.golden-vintage.com.hk; E: tomwan@golden-vintage.com.hk; T: +852 2808 1791 / 9194 1922

Sottimano Barbaresco Cottà 2007
Rating: Antonio Galloni 95/100; James Suckling 93/100; Stephen Tanzer 92/100; Vinum Magazine 17/20
Price: HK$965 (retail)
Bright garnet with crimson tinge, the fragrant and subtle nose radiates cranberry, strawberry, dried redcurrant, sous bois and Biluochun tea, embellished by iris. Possessing lively acidity and juicy tannins, the fleshy and ripe palate exudes red cherry, hawthorn, wolfberry, blackcurrant leaf and toasted oak, enriched by hints of kirsch. Medium-bodied at 14.5%, the elegant entry carries onto a refined mid-palate, leading to a delicate finish. Suave and stylish, adherents of Chambolle-Musigny would prefer Cottà. Further cellaring would be beneficial.

Sottimano Barbaresco Pajorè 2007
Rating: AG 95/100; JS 90/100; ST 90/100; VM 17.5/20
Price: HK$965 (retail)
Bright garnet with carmine tinge, the aromatic and measured nose offers cranberry, raspberry, wild mushroom, game and tar, adorned with rose. Providing vivacious acidity and tasty tannins, the herbal and savoury palate presents redcurrant, morello cherry, dried prune, nutmeg, rooibos tea and oaky smoke. Medium-bodied at 14.5%, the energetic entry evolves into a focused mid-palate, leading to a nuanced finish. Balanced and poised, enthusiasts of Nuits-Saint-Georges would prefer Pajorè. Further cellaring would be advisable, and beware of developing sediments.

Sottimano Barbaresco Fausoni 2007
Rating: AG 92/100; JS 92/100; ST 91/100; VM 17.5/20
Price: HK$965 (retail)
Bright garnet with cardinal tinge, the scented and reserved nose reveals blackberry, red cherry, eucalyptus, liquorice and sandalwood, infused with truffle. Boasting jaunty acidity and hearty tannins, the rich and spiced palate delivers black cherry, plum, pomegranate, cinnamon, eucalyptus and basil. Medium-bodied at 14.5%, the potent entry continues through a concentrated mid-palate, leading to a discreet finish. Commanding and confident, devotees of Gevrey-Chambertin would prefer Fausoni. Further cellaring is necessary, and beware of developing sediments.

Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages.

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