French-Swedish online wine dealer Caviste, with a habit of selling mixed cases from one producer at a time, shocked his faithful customers by moving outside of France, to Italy, Piedmont and the producer Ferdinando Principiano. Admittedly, if a shortlist of “non-French wines most Francophiles approve of” is drawn up, the wines of Piemonte will definitely be on that list, at least those produced using Nebbiolo grapes. Or as I once heard a highly opinionated Swedish wine writer say: “I don’t like Italian wines, but Piedmont is in France”… 🙂
Principiano is a producer who have worked with both traditionalists and modernists, and for a time in the 1990s he produced his own modernist wines, which means wines with powerful concentration built on vinification using a lot of extraction, small oak barrels, and quite a bit of new oak. In the early 2000s, he changed his views and aimed for a more non-interventionist style and lighter wines. This means that he comes close to the traditionalists, but I get the impression that his style is more “light and polished” than what may come to mind when some hear the term Piedmontese traditionalist, and several of his wines are in a style that is approachable already on release.
On the labels, Principiano writes his name in the order surname first name, which makes some erroneously believe that he’s called “Principiano Ferdinando”.
These were my impressions of the wines:
2013 Dolcetto d’Alba Sant’ Anna
Grape variety: Dolcetto. 10 months in steel tanks.
Nose with cherries giving an impression of morellos and fresh cherry juice, slightly flowery and with some violet-flavoured candy. A berry- and juice-dominated palate with cherries, in particular morellos, high acidity, some cherry and cranberry bitterness, some tannins, and a long and berry-dominated aftertaste. Should probably be consumed in this young and berry-tart state, 85-86 p.
Considering the typical French style of Caviste, this is a wine that is likely to appeal to those that enjoy young Beaujolais in the “modern, elevated quality” style.
2013 Barbera d’Alba Laura
Grape variety: Barbera. 10 months in steel tanks.
Nose with cherries, red currants, hints of dried red berries, hints of resin and pine cones in the background, as well a light perfume note. Palate with cherries including morellos, hig acidity, some stony minerality, some tannins, a berry-dominated aftertaste with some tannins and tartness. Can be consumed now if a slightly tough style is preferred, but would probably benefit from some cellaring, 86-87 p.
Compared to the Dolcetto, this Barbera isn’t quite as juice-styled – neither in the nose nor on the palate. Altogether, it is also somewhat firmer and slightly tougher.
2011 Barolo Serralunga
Grape variety: Nebbiolo, from young vines. Raised 24 months in big oak barrels (botti) of 2000-4000 liters.
Clear light red colour with a paler edge. Very elegant nose with strawberries and other red berries, orange peel, noticeably flowery notes, some dried petals and notes that hint at development. Palate with ripe red berries including cranberries, rather good concentration, stony minerality, high acidity, prominent tannins, definitely a tough mid-palate and finish, and an aftertaste with red berries and powerful tannins. Much younger in the palate than in the nose. Young, should preferably be given a few years of cellaring, 89+ p.
In the nose, this showed quite a bit of Pinot Noir feeling, but the palate is definitely more Nebbiolo/Barolo. (It’s more common to find a similarity between Piedmont and Burgundy in mature wines.) The nose indicated that this wine has potential to reach quite high.
Another top wine from the same producer was sold separately, in a small amount:
Rather light red colour with slightly paler edge. Elegant nose with ripe red berries including cranberries and red currants, rose hip and some dried berries, some orange zest, noticeably chalky minerality, perfumed and flowery notes with rose petals. Palate with cranberries, good concentration of berries, chalky minerality, high acidity, noticeable berry-tart feeling, some tannins, aftertaste with cranberries, some minerality and some tannin. Rather tough palate but also some smoothness. It grew in the glass, which indicates that cellaring will be rewarded – which is as it should for a “higher” Barolo from a classical vintage. Young, would benefit from further cellaring, 92(+) p.
This wine showed a “heavier” flowery note, than the 2011 Barolo Serralunga and showed more dominance of minerality in the nose as well as on the palate. Despite being a “bigger wine”, I actually consider it more drinkable than the 2011 at present, since the smoother palate “makes less resistance” – for being a Barolo.
In summary, Caviste may have left France this time, but not his typical style! These are wines that are on the somewhat lighter and fresher side for this region. None of them showed any oaky notes, which in a way isn’t too surprising since the first two aren’t oaked and the two Baroli were only raised in large old botti.