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White wines from Piedmont. Erbaluce to be rediscovered

White wines from Piedmont. Erbaluce to be rediscovered

Of the native grapes of Piedmont, the production of Erbaluce is particularly concentrated in the Canavese area (Turin), a completely different territory to the Langhe and Monferrato. It is a plateau at an altitude of 200-350 metres, bordered to the west and north by the Alps, and to the east by Serra Morenica di Ivrea, a morainic ridge. The soils are morainic, skeletal and silty: a difficult terroir, with high rainfall, but good drainage, ideal for vinegrowing.

Arbour training system to control vine vigour

Vinegrowing in the Canavese area is typically with the arbour training system, with long pruning for Erbaluce, a very vigorous variety which needs to let itself go during the vegetative season. When it ripens (the first week in October), the berries turn almost copper in colour, with a rather slow accumulation of sugars and enviable levels of acidity. What saved Erbaluce from oblivion was the tradition of making it as a dried-grape wine; it was only in the 1970s that it established itself as a dry white. Erbaluce lends itself well to Traditional Method sparkling winemaking, particularly because of its acidity; it has mineral aroma precursors which express themselves after a long rest on the lees.

Cieck and Traditional Method Erbaluce

Today about 1.2 million bottles of sparkling wine are produced, mainly by two wineries: Orsolani and Cieck, both in San Giorgio Canavese (Turin). The Calliope Brut of the latter, after years of experimentation since 1985, ages for 36-42 months on the lees, has limited dosage and the typical, vibrant freshness of the cultivar. Orsolani stands out for the longevity of its Erbaluce wines. “For four generations, starting in 1894,” explains Gigi Orsolani, “my family has grown and vinified this great variety. Today Erbaluce is the only DOCG (Caluso) and monovarietal variety, for which a dry white, dried-grape and sparkling wine version is allowed. We have been producing sparkling wine from this grape since 1968; it was a choice made at the time that can now be defined as having great foresight.”

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