If you think that Piedmonte’s wine regions are stodgily loyal to tradition over innovation, think again. Within the various slips and cracks between the established DOCG’s of Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero Arneis and other time-honoured locations, is the Langhe DOC.
This unique distinction consists of wineries that do not conform to the tight restrictions that define the formal DOCG appellations of Barolo and Friends. Rather, the Langhe DOC has looser rules with regards to the use of grape variety, vinification technique and terroir, making it a haven for vintners who want to experiment. The Langhe DOC itself stretches throughout the majority of Cuneo province around the town of Alba. It sometimes overlaps with the Barolo and Barbaresco DOCGs.
One such creation is the Langhe Rosso. The Langhe DOC has cultivated a variety of innovative and unusual reds that are comprised of a range of grape varietals. These include the illustrious Nebbiolo, as well as Barbera, Barbaresco, Dolcetto and Freisa. It also hosts a range of international grape types, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. These grapes – both Italian and international – are often blended in a Langhe Rosso.
This makes a bottle of Langhe Rosso a “lucky packet” wine of sorts, as you never know what you’re going to get! Popular blends consist of Nebbiolo-Dolcetto, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Syrah and even overlappings of Nebbiolo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Many Rossos don’t list what exactly the blend comprises of, so if you’re curious, reference the wine label online.
Other Langhe Rossos comprise 100% grape varietal, but are created using different, more contemporary wine-making techniques. As you can imagine, Langhe Rosso wines have sparked off their fair share of controversy, with many traditionalist decrying the DOC’s manufacture of bastardized breeds of non-traditional red wine. Others, however, have praised the fresh novelty of the products, admiring the exciting possibilities of blending and unconventional viticulture.
An example is the Roagna Langhe Rosso, made in vineyards of Rocche di Castiglione and the cru of Paje. It is a 100% Nebbiolo Rosso, fermented for a shorter period than that of a Barolo. This gives the wine a younger, more ready-to-drink feel that best suits a more casual dinner party. It suits a range of stewed meat dishes, like osso buco, and also works well with medium-ripe cheeses.
Another popular version is the Ceretto Monsardo Langhe Rosso. This wine, cultivated at the famous Bernardina Estate near Alba, consists of a complex Nebbiolo-Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Syrah blend. It has notable spicy aromas, accentuated by features of vanilla. The tannins are soft and sweet. It is versatile enough to complement a range of dishes, but works best with structured meat specialities.
The Villadoria “Cino” Langhe Rosso, on the other hand, marries the grapes of Nebbiolo and Dolcetto. It is viewed as a more economical alternative to Barolo. Medium-bodied on the palate, the wine features a fascinating aroma of flowers and spices. It is commended for its versatility, and is a good companion to grilled red meat, as well as tuna and salmon.
The Ceretto Monsardo Bernardino Estate offers tours of their vineyards and cellars. Here, it possible to sample a variety of the local vintner’s experimentations in red wine and white. You are also welcome to purchase some of their products in their well-stocked wine store.