When most people think of fine wines from Piedmont, their minds immediately turn to the usual suspects: Barbera, Dolcetto, Barbaresco, and Barolo from Alba and Asti townships.
The fame of those wines and their popularity among English-speaking wine lovers often elide the many other wonderful grape varieties that are cultivated in Piedmont.
When you travel to the township of Caluso, about an hour and half by car from Alba, you find yourself in the pre-Alps, in some of the highest-elevation growing spots for fine wine in the region.
They grow Nebbiolo up there as well. But they also grow Erbaluce, a white grape whose name translates literally as “grass light,” although no one really knows where the grape name comes from.
Thanks to the combination of elevation and temperature variation during the summer (warm days, cool nights), the fact the Alps protect the area from inclement whether, and the excellent ventilation provided by the mountains, it is the ideal place to make fresh, acidity-driven white wines.
Indeed, Erbaluce is known for its vibrant, “electric” acidity, making it one of our favorite food-friendly wines.
We recently opened some of the Cieck entry-tier Erbaluce and we were blown away by how bright and refreshing it was, a perfect pairing for ceviche and crudo and even salads.
The grapes for this wine are sourced from one of the estate’s top growing sites, the “Misobolo” vineyard in the township of San Giorgio Canavese.
The vines lie at roughly 320 meters a.s.l. and face south-southwest.
The elevation and exposure are ideal for Erbaluce, a variety that needs warm summer days and cool summer nights to achieve its full ripeness while retaining its characteristic acidity.
But the thing that really sets this wine apart is that vineyard, planted in the 1970s, is still trained using double pergola training.
Pergola training began to disappear across Italy during the 1980s. But in mountain growing sites like Northern Piedmont, many growers and winemakers have found the training system to be highly effective.
During the coldest months of the year, the pergola acts as a sort of insulator for the vines. Some vines, in fact, wouldn’t survive the cold temperatures of the winter.
During the summer, the pergola’s canopy helps to shade the fruit and acts as a natural air conditioner by helping the soil to retain water and keep the plants cool.
All in all, this is an entirely unique expression of Italian viticulture, “mountain wine” at its best.
Check out the English-language fact sheet for this wine here (fyi, you have to go to the page and then click the PDF download link at the bottom to get the complete fact sheet for every wine).
And also be sure not to miss the winery’s new website, which it just recently updated with lots of great technical information about these extraordinary wines.