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DWWA 2014: Piedmont insights

Hear from our Piedmont Regional Chair Paolo Basso on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

Piedmont is keeping up its progress in quality, and it’s exciting to note that the medium level is rising. Twenty years ago the stars of this region, who are still on top today, had the hard task of not only improving their wines but, through them, to make them Piedmont better known and appreciated abroad. The region is now benefiting from their efforts. Two decades on and the new generation is bringing a broader vision and renewed energy to wine production. Highlevel wine tourism is being developed, and Piedmont is finally becoming a must-visit destination for every wine lover.

What should we buy from here?

Nebbiolo – be it from Barolo or Barbaresco. Our sole Trophy this year went to a 2007 Barolo – somewhat of a let down compared to the four Trophies for Piedmont in DWWA 2013. But with four of our five Golds also Barolos, from 2009 and 2010, this bodes well for possible promotion in future competitions. With their pure and exciting tannins, Piedmont wines based on the Nebbiolo grape are an essential match with game and generally well suited to rich winter cuisine, especially dishes with a sprinking of truffles. The Silver-winning Ascheri Barolo from Sainsbury’s is a great-value starting point for newcomers. In the past few years, Barbera has become a wine of great quality and reputation – with the caveat below about Barbera d’Asti.

What should we leave on the shelf?

In the past, Gavi has benefited from a great reputation – led by excellent wines from the star names – but there has not been an even and solid improvement so far. The same goes for Barbera d’Asti: there are still too many quality differences between producers; a clear sign that renewal here needs more time to filter through. Equally, some of Piedmont’s rediscovered native vines lack much interest and don’t conform to the high-quality standards seen in more noble grapes. Ruché is an example and remains interesting as a local curiosity only.

What should we keep an eye on?

Barbera d’Alba: its quality is steadily increasing, strengthening the reputation of the whole Langhe region. However it pays to know yor producer, as quality levels do vary. We had a Trophy last year and a few solid Silvers this year; fingers crossed for 2015. Finally, the appellations of northern Piedmont, such as Boca, Lessona, Gattinara and Ghemme are now experiencing a new quality revolution. Their wines were well-known even in the 1800s and actually held in higher esteem than Barolo and Barbaresco. The industrial revolution at the start of the 19th century took away resources for agriculture; viticulture all but sunk into oblivion, taking these appellations with it. Now, thanks to passionate investors (often from outside the region and even Italy), northern Piedmont’s past magnificence is being restored. I look forward to seeing producers enter wines from Boca, Lessona, Gattinara and Ghemme in future years.

Written by Decanter

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