Those who know me, know that one of my favourite wines is Barolo, but I extend that to include wines made with Nebbiolo outside the Barolo and Barbaresco areas, such as in the Gattinara area in Piedmont.
It was back in 2010 when I attended my first Wine Masterclass in Milan. I was very excited as I had done my research and read a lot about the Travaglini family and winery, the producer and the wine maker from Piedmont. I had this feeling that I was going to discover a little gem and had very high expectations… The Masterclass was at the Westin Palace Milan and Cinzia Travaglini (who manages the day to day operations at the winery) was hosting it. I was not disappointed.
Travaglini is located in the heart of the Gattinara area in Piedmont (around 150 km from Barolo), which is a DOCG area (Denominazione di Origine Controllata - the highest quality designation in Italy). Gattinara requires at least 90% of the grapes to be Spanna (the local name for Nebbiolo). Nebbiolo is considered the most noble grape variety in Italy as it is capable of long aging.
The vineyard was established in the 1920s and definitely has an important history and heritage to tell. They have 59 hectares and Nebbiolo is the main grape cultivated, with vines that are between 6 and 45 years old – although Vespolina and Uva Rara are also grown here. All vines are planted facing south and south west to maximise sunlight interception and trained using the Guyot trellis method – in order to achieve the best results. This is one of the most basic systems of cane-pruning/head-training developed in 1860 by Jules Guyot. It requires a vertical trellis where the canes can be suspended, with one spur and one main two-year-old (fruit bearing) cane.
The soil is composed of granite with iron and porphyry – rocky and mineral rich. This certainly makes Gattinara wines more mineral and gives them and a different complexity compared to Barolo wines.
Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures so that the aromatic profile of the grapes is preserved. Ageing and fining of the wine is traditional and in two stages, first in Slovenian oak barrel and then in smaller oak barrels.
Travaglini wines are expression of the land and traditions – all combined with experience and technique. At Travaglini great care is taken at every stage, in the vineyards and in the cellar: the wine is result of hard work, passion and painstaking attention to detail. Small wonder the family is one of the most esteemed producers of traditional, limited production wines from Nebbiolo grapes.
Along with history, vineyard and wines I am very keen to mention the special bottle that was designed in 1958 for a perfect storage and ageing of an exceptional wine. The shape allows the wine to be easily poured without decanting, since it collects the sediment – this shape has proved to be perfect as this is a wine of long ageing and therefore with sediment. The colour (dark coloured glass) prevents light affecting the wine.
The only drawback for us sommeliers is that the beautiful bottle doesn’t fit the rack… as a consequence it always ends up with a special placement in the cellar!
I must say the bottle design is only an added accessory to a unique wine, a very special expression of Italian Nebbiolo.
Since I met the Travaglini family, in ten years I have always recommended their wines: I have never been disappointed or had second thoughts, and my ever increasing expectations continue to be met!
I think that Barolo wines when young can be quite austere and consequently difficult to approach – they need more time to evolve to be fully enjoyed. In comparison Gattinara wines are lighter and more approachable when young, although also aging well, offering a flexibility not found with Barolo.
Recommendation: The wine that I strongly recommend is their Travaglini Gattinara 2015, a nice and warm vintage that produced generous wines. [Available on-line in UK around £27-30/bttl; vintage availability can vary as do prices for older vintages]
The colour is bright garnet. The wine has seductive cherry aromas, fresh raspberry, liquorice and truffle. On the palate there is volume and tension, great acids with fine grained tannins. Plenty of fruits and very long finish with and earthy after taste, perfect for pairing with the region’s famed truffles!
Food pairing recommendation: I would pair this wine with something relatively simple yet rich, such as Potato Dumplings with goat cheese and summer truffle, which will highlight the joys of the wine. The wine acidity cuts through the richness of the dish and cleanses the palate, while the wine’s earthy aromas mirror the flavours of the