In years gone by Piedmontese farmers could expect at best, two great vintages in a decade. The years spanning 1940 to late 1970 were challenging. But the climate is changing, Silvia Altare tells me the region faces more sudden, dramatic weather and a general shift toward less and less normality. Despite frost in late April 2017, Barolo saw the hottest summer of the last 150 years. Hail storms, having typically been common in summer, now crop up in Spring and Fall. Despite this, the vigneron remain both positive and optimistic. The Langhe people are resilient, over the years much has changed, now more than ever they demonstrate their hardy nature. With the help of some of the regions most lauded producers, I explore viticulture in Piedmont, discovering how they are working with the vine through a changing climate.
In 1894, Domizio Cavazza created Barbaresco’s first cooperative, the Cantine Sociali. Cavazza recognised that Nebbiolo from Barbaresco differed from Barolo, and for the first time, acknowledged this on the label. In 1920, fascist rule forced the Cantine Sociali to close, it wasn’t until 1958 that a cooperative reemerged in Barbaresco; the Produttori del Barbaresco. Today, in a good vintage, the Produttori (consisting of 54 growers and 250 acres of vineyards) bottles nine single vineyard wines, a Barbaresco DOCG, and a Langhe Nebbiolo DOC. My appreciation for the Produttori, and Piedmont as a region, came to be in 2015. I received as a gift, a bottle of 2008 Produttori del Barbaresco Pora: the wine was ethereal, seductive and poised. Last year I visited the Produttori and in this article get to grips with what makes this cooperative the best in the world.
Returning to Piedmont was inevitable, my first visit in October of 2019 lit an unquenchable flame. The region is captivating. For many of the same reasons as Burgundy, wine lovers are drawn like moths to a flame. Generations of history, innovation, stylistic turmoil and nuanced intricacies between vineyard sites. Piedmont is also home to some of the most influential women in the world of wine and I was lucky enough to meet two of them this week.