Wie kent hem niet, de Erbaluce?
De meeste mensen dus, inclusief een hele schare professionals. Reden genoeg om extra aandacht te besteden aan deze de autochtone druif uit Caluso, de kleine wijnstreek in het noordwesten van Piëmonte op de grens met de Valle d’Aosta.
Erbaluce, who doesn’t know it?
Right, most people haven’t heard about it, including many professionals. All the more reason to pay some extra attention to this autochthonous grape from Caluso, a small wine region northwest of Piedmont at the border of Valle d’Aosta.
Who says Piedmont, thinks primarily of Nebbiolo, Barbera and Moscato, secondarily of Dolcetto, Arneis and maybe even also the Cortese or the Favorita, but rarely somebody will mention the Nascetta, Timorasso or Erbaluce. That’s a shame, because they have so much more to offer than assumed.
The producers from the region surrounding the little town of Ivrea organized, in collaboration with Gheusis, International Press Relations, a closer introduction to the area, the winemakers and a wine they were happy to present as ‘a fairytale wine’. It turned out to be a fascinating, well-organized wine trip with, indeed, a number of fairytale elements.
Ivrea is a relatively small town in the Piedmont region of Turin and the unofficial capitol of the hilly area Canavese. Straight through the city runs the river the Dora Baltea, well-known for its rafting circuit. East of the town there is La Serre, a 25km long morene rampart that terminates the composition of the soil as well as the climate of the region and its vineyards.
Ivrea was already in the 9th century an important place because of its strategic position along the road crossing the Alps between France and Italy. It owes its name to the House of Ivrea, a French originated dynasty. In modern history Ivrea is better known as home to the Olivetti-concern. Thanks to Olivetti Ivrea grew and thrived for several decades, but it also hit rock bottom after the decline of the company. Olivetti’s presence still lingers here, sometimes in a positive way, sometimes not.
To the last accomplishments, that can be attributed to Olivetti, belong the restauration of the San Bernardino church in Ivrea and the preservation of the wines from the district Carema. Since the company was drawing practically every single employee from the surrounding area to Ivrea, viticulture in Carema risked extinction. As counterpart, Olivetti took care of rehabilitation and maintenance of the vineyards and revitalized the cooperation and ensured that the DOC Carema could live on.
Glaciers didn’t only form the lake of Viverone, but also beautiful, indigent terroirs containing clay, pebbles and shale, rich in phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. Combined with the moderate temperatures in the valley (on average about 13°C and even in August hardly rising above25°C) it’s ideal for white wines, particularly for the Erbaluce. The grape lends its name to three types of wine: Erbaluce di Caluso, Caluso Passito (including Riserva) and Erbaluce di Caluso Spumante. This variety immediately indicates the versatility of this grape, the additive Caluso refers to the location of the very best vineyards.
The history of the Erbaluce grape reaches back to at least 1606, in that year it is mentioned in a book by jeweler Giovan Battista Croce, at the time of Carlo Emanuele I. Its name is based on the pale pink (up to even shades of amber) color it shows at the end of the season.
Typical for the Erbaluce is itsfresh character, partially based on a vivid, natural acidity. Its versatility is fully expressed in a broad series of wines, sparkling as well as dry and still and sweet. Obviously a grape with many advantages, because:
– Both grape and wine are autochthonous
– Both grape and wine are unique in Italy
– Both grape and wine are made exclusively in this area
– Quality on average is good to extremely good
– The wines are highly digestible and easy deployable in gastronomy
– The wines age well
– The wines are in general very affordable
About 20% of all Erbaluce is used for sparkling wines, all made on the classical way. The core however is used to make dry still white wines, pleasant, invigorating facilitators to numerous lighter but also more pronounced dishes. Sweet Erbaluce is a so called Passito, so it’s made from dried grapes, very fine wines to accompany rich courses, not just desserts. And the fact that the regional cuisine matches the several Erbaluces so well, is of course no accident.
Without any doubt, one of the top producers in this region is Orsolani. During a visit I got closer acquainted with the very enthusiastic Gian Luigi Orsolani, the current owner of the family business.
Although their history dates back to 1894, Orsolani is not one of the oldest wine families, but it’s one that’s inignorable. The founders were Orsolani Giovanni and his wife Domenica, who returned from America to start the inn “Locanda Aurora”. Domenica worked in the kitchen and Giovanni took care of the vineyards and the wines. Initially, the wine was sold only in their own inn, but soon the demand grew and production had to be extended. Slowly but surely making quality wines became their core business.
Of course, Orsolani made the traditional sweet Erbaluce, but in 1968 they introduced a sparkling version, the first in the region. In 1985 this was followed by the ‘La Rustia’, his answer to the demand for top quality dry white Erbaluce. Over the years, Gian Luigi conducted many experiments to improve its wines and, of course, the use of barriques is part of it. He is currently managing the influence of oxygen during vinification and aging. His principles are clear: oxidation is bad, aeration is good.
Orsolani is enthusiastic, motivated and convinced of the usefulness and necessity to make authentic wines. “Winemaking should never be an industry”: he says. “Wine is culture and industrial wines are an insult. Our goal is to expand the legacy of our rich history and improve where possible. We don’t need international grapes like Cabernet and Chardonnay, and we shouldn’t use them. They are not the reason for our existence. We and our wines have our own identity and are beyond compare. We have at most a similar position as other original wines like Gavi, but with our own unique characteristics. The style and character of our wines is still the same, but we see a change in the valuation. Five years ago nobody knew our wines and now they are suddenly given Tre Bicchieri in the Gambero Rosso guide. To us a confirmation that patience and quality is rewarded, even if you need to wait ‘a little while’ for recognition. The granting of the DOCG status for our Erbaluce is a new highlight in our history and emphasizes that we are on the right track. This also applies to our nurturing of old values. Retaining the pergolas and “Alteno Canavesano” for example. This arosing is no coincidence, it has a specific reason and a clear effect. They are less susceptible to night frost and the bunches are protected against abundant sunlight. We are not against Guyot, but first we do want to understand why these modern methods should suddenly be applied everywhere instead of our own traditions. We do not even know enough of the pergola and further studies seem like a logical step and better than to just go on Guyot “. Who tastes Orsolani’s wines, know that this is not just something Gian Luigi says. The proof that he’s right, is in the wines he makes.
A small selection of different producers from the region:
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, Le Chiusure, 2008
Beautiful intense fragrance, filled with spicy aromas, mineral tones, floral accents and quirky fruits, persimmons, melone Cottone, pomegranates, full flavor, juicy, filling, good acidity, clean aftertaste, rich wine, poor glow in finale
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, Le Chiusure, 2010
Fresh, alpine herbs, clean and pure white fruit, mineral touch, tension and juice, beautiful rounded acids in finals, good length, foodwine
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, Cariola, 2001
Full color, golden, beautiful fragrance, ripened, but still fresh, beautiful buttery tones, buttercup, white dried fruit, tropical accents, in the mouth full of juice, balanced with a lot of juice and flavor, length, excellent balance, clean finale, with impressions of orange, honey, good acidity, full and pleasantly dry finish, very nice.
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, Cariola, 2009
Beautiful intense scent, youthful, full, hints of banana, melon, blossoms, spicy with good acidity, very young, foodwine with much length, very good.
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, Cariola, 2010
Full color, clearly a wine with oxygen influence, young, strong, opinionated, very juicy and with tension, many minerals, flint, beautifully.
– Caluso Passito DOC, Cariola, 1999
Deep golden brown, lots of juice and flavor, length, caramel, mocha, much tension, coffee, chocolate, figs, perfectly balanced, sweet and acidity, great length, exemplary wine
– Caluso Spumante DOC, Cuvee Tradizione Gran Reserva, 2006
Full round, rich fragrance, beautiful floral tones, blossom, acacia honey, powerful flavors, youthful, full of character, good acidity, mature foodwine
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, La Rustia, 2009
Nice smell, full, soft, good tension, showing lots of ripe notes, rounded, fine dry finale, enough tension and length
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, La Rustia, 2010
Spicy aroma, fresh, spicy, floral tones, pear, green apple, full of flavor, energetic, good acidity, length and grip, fine bitters, complete wine, very successful
Cantina Sociale del Canavese
– Caluso Passito DOC, Morenico, 2003
Relatively light color, smell of fresh pineapple, honey, full of sweet, fair acids, average tension, mocha and coffee in aftertaste, small bitter, correct
Cantina Sociale della Serra
– Caluso Spumante DOC, Serra Classic
Soft, smooth, rounded, accessible, good tension, a bit sweet, easy
– Caluso Passito DOC, 2004
Brown Yellow color, roasted caramel, coffee, light oxidative tones, cinnamon, nut, ends with a certain dryness, digestable, gastronomical
– Caluso Passito DOC, Pescarolo, 2006
Clearly influence of oxygen, a lot of candy and roasted tones, grillee, full sweet flavor with good acidity, good tension, average refinement, ending with a lot of sweet, more than just correct
Caretto Loris Livio
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG 2010
Neat flavor, good balance, lighter structure, ends bone dry, aperitif style with character
– Caluso Spumante DOC, Cellagrande Brut, 2003
Full, rich color, very fruity fragrance, fresh apple, partially dried, lot of taste, clear, mature, nice filling, good tension, foodwine, impressions of apples remain, tarte tatin
– Brut Rosato 5% nebbiolo
Soft pink color, fruity aroma, good flavor, fresh, hint of tannin, bite, nice and dry, stimulating, opinionated aperitif
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG 2010
Full flavor, well characterized with floral tones and spicy accents, some honey, in the mouth pretty tight, dry, firm, mineral touch, firm acids and bitters, very young
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, Misobolo, 2009
Slivered white almonds, persimmon, nice juice, a little alcohol, good acidity, hint of caramel, which ends drying
– Caluso Passito DOC, Alladium 1998
Relatively light color, golden, sparkling, honey, elegance, refinement, lot of sweet, nice fruit, remarkably youthful, somewhat drying with wood accents, beautiful mineral touch, lots of length
– Caluso Passito DOC, Alladium 2004
Brown yellow in color, bit neutral in the nose, orange zest, mocha, great juice, some drying accents with wood, good acidity, sufficient fruit
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG 2010
nice smell, fruity, floral flavor, good juice, fresh acidity, misses a little youth for a 2010, but has filling and length
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, Macaria, 2007
Rich, ripe aroma, hint of white nuts, floral note, lots of juice and flavor, good balance, good acidity, great length
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, Macaria, 2009
Nice smell, somewhat subdued, millefiori, spicy touch, buttercup, soft, almost sweet start, hint of mocha, candy, honey, nice balance, youthful, less size and strength than 2007, but beautiful
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, Del Bric, 2010
Good clean smell, fresh white fruit, racy style, lean, bone dry, good balance, rather aperitif style than foodwine, like most, with good length, very clean
– Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, Muline, 2008
Powerful fragrance, mineral, spicy, Alpine flowers, nice and dry, wood, slightly drying finale