The history of Alto Piemonte, or Northern Piedmont, reaches back 300 million years to when a super volcano rumbled, shuddered, and exploded with violence. This event created a unique geological site that would ultimately contribute to the varied expressions of Nebbiolo planted on top of it. The region’s modern story has unfolded with a series of events that are less dramatic yet still unequivocally influential in shaping the area’s status today as a re-emerging producer of fine yet affordable Nebbiolo. Before Barolo or Barbaresco, there were Ghemme, Gattinara, Lessona, and Bramaterra. Located northeast of Turin, these sub-Alpine regions produced Nebbiolo-based wines that enjoyed popularity at home and abroad.
At 450-500 meters above sea level, Boca is another of these lesser known alto-appellations, and it is the highest winegrowing region in all of Piedmont. It was once the heart of a vibrant wine-making community until industrialization arrived and the farms and vineyards around Milan began to be abandoned as people left for the city and the easier money of factory work. It went from 40,000 hectares under vine in 1950 to less than ten in 1998. Today, the region is making a slow but quality driven comeback, and producers like Le Piane are an important part of the revival.
In the 1990s, Swiss wine importer Christoph Kunzli was introduced to this forgotten area by Paolo di Marchi, owner of the famous Chianti estate, Isole e Olena and Lessona's Proprieta Sperino. Inspired by the history of the region and legendary Boca producer Antonio Cerri, Christoph established Le Piane estate and released his first wine in 2002. Today, he farms his 15 hectares in a labor-intensive, chemical free way, planting cabbage to aerate soils and clover as green fertlizer. The vines are trained in the traditional "Maggiorina" system, where four vines grow upward in the four points of the compass to form a goblet. The 2015 Le Piane Maggiorina Vino Rosso is a hand-harvested unique blend composed of more than 13 different grape varieties from 25 separate vineyard sites. Co-fermented and raised in tank, it consists mostly of 40- to 100-year-old Nebbiolo, Croatina, Vespolina plus nine other indigenous varieties, and some white grapes. Deft on the palate, the Maggiorina's Nebbiolo component imbues just the right amount of grip to frame the wine's bright, cherry-fruited core, while notes of smoke, minerals, cherry blossoms, and tangy herbs serve to make the wine savory, delicious and impossible to resist. With its purity of fruit and high altitude tension, this is an especially food friendly red that can be enjoyed year round with a slight chill. Enjoy with all things Piemontese, especially rich pastas, mushrooms, long simmered sauces, grilled white and red meats, and creamy soft-rind cheeses.