Alta Langa has confirmed itself as the true phenomenon of Italian Metodo Classico sparkling wine production in recent years. Several Piedmontese companies (and not only) are investing in the purchase of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards, to expand the range and offer the market a typical and refined bubbly, which is beginning to arouse the curiosity of buyers, even abroad. This is the outcome of the Prima dell’Alta Langa 2022, a unique opportunity to taste 115 cuvées from 46 members of the Protection Consortium based in Asti. And feel the pulse of the Docg.
Nine non-stop hours, Monday 6 June, dedicated to professional operators, buyers, wine merchants, restaurateurs, distributors, barmen and trade press, at the Italdesign Museum in Moncalieri, in the province of Turin.
The vintage being previewed in 2022 is the 2018. But, for the tasting, the producers also brought Alta Langa sparkling wines over 10 years old. All in great shape. The real trend of the 2022 Alta Langa Premiere, however, is the levelling of the appellation towards ‘entry-level sparkling wines’ of unquestionable average quality, positioned on price brackets of high regard, compared to the pyramid of other Italian sparkling wines.
While it is true that within the Asti consortium there are many wineries that invest in long ageing on yeasts, the 2018 vintage can be considered that of the awareness of Piedmontese producers of the critical mass, no longer negligible, assumed by Alta Langa.
Numbers in hand (3 million bottles produced in 2021, on 377 hectares located in the provinces of Cuneo, Asti and Alessandria), Alta Langa is now able to nibble away at the market shares of the undisputed national leaders, Franciacorta and Trento Doc bubbles.
Among the glasses tasted at the Prima dell’Alta Langa 2022, the use of Chardonnay seems to be on the increase. A phenomenon within a phenomenon. The grape variety, which continues to occupy only one third of the total vineyard in Alta Langa, makes it possible to produce more ‘ready-made’ sparkling wines, in cuvée with the full-bodied and muscular Pinot Noir from the hills and high hills. All without losing sight of quality, imposed by strict production specifications.
THE CASE: CANTINA CLAVESANA ‘CONVERTS’ DOLCETTO TO ALTA LANGA
A denomination, Alta Langa, that is also growing thanks to the interest of several ‘bigs’. This is the case of Cantina Clavesana, a Cuneo cooperative in which a real revolution is underway. “We have 200 members and 300 hectares of vineyards,” explains director Damiano Sicca to winemag.it, “and Dolcetto is the variety that has represented us most over the years. Recently, we have chosen Alta Langa as our distinctive product’.
We are witnessing a reclassification of our vineyard park that has led to a growth from 5 to 50 thousand bottles, from 2015 to today. In 2011 we had 480 hectares of Dolcetto. Today we are at 380.
In the same year, over 90% of Cantina Clavesana’s vineyard was planted to Dolcetto, while today it is 75%. The difference is half represented by Langhe Nebbiolo and Alta Langa’.
A response, moreover, to climate change. ‘The reconversions,’ Damiano Sicca goes on to explain, ‘took place in areas with a certain suitability, i.e. from 450 to 600 metres. The objective, if the Consortium is open to hypotheses of an increase in production and hectares under vine, is to go from the current 50 to 100 thousand bottles within the next five years’.
‘Everything,’ Sicca concludes, ‘translates into higher income for the members of Cantina Clavesana. Dolcetto is paid 1 euro per kg, while Alta Langa grapes are paid 1.30/1.40 euro. Nebbiolo is even better, settling at around 1.50, more or less the same as Barbera. For Barolo grapes, the price rises to 3.50 / 4 euro per kg’.
Also in the province of Cuneo, the other cooperative Terre del Barolo is not standing idly by. This year saw the release on the market of two Alta Langa wines from the VinumVitaEst line, for a total of 25 thousand bottles including Blanc de Blancs Brut (pure Chardonnay, 30 months of ageing on yeasts) and the (almost) ‘Blanc de Noir’ Extra Brut (Pinot Noir from a one-hectare vineyard in Diano d’Alba, with 15% Chardonnay).
“We think that the Langa today needs to protect its biodiversity heritage” comments Gabriele Oderda for the winery. “This biodiversity today can be found in traditional varieties and in the search for the best possible terroir based on the variety”.
“Nebbiolo is the master, but it too has its own territories of choice. Other areas of Langa can be put to good use with different projects, such as Alta Langa: an exploration that goes to heights of 400, 500 metres, with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay”.
GROWTH AND STYLE OF ALTA LANGA: THE POINT WITH PECCHENINO
The questions about the future of the appellation also concern wineries that have been experimenting with Alta Langa for years. Such is the case with Pecchenino. The winery in Dogliani (CN) is living a crucial moment in its corporate history, with the entry of the new generations, all ‘pink quotas’.
“Our project in Alta Langa started in 2010” Lisa Pecchenino reveals to winemag.it, “with the purchase of a few hectares in Bossolasco. The first Alta Langa vintage dates back to 2014, with the registration of the vineyards to the DOCG”.
“We have always loved the personality that this sparkling wine can express, but lately we have been reasoning about the company’s style, thinking of replacing small woods with large wood for the Pinot Noir, for the base wines. The territory in which we live allows us to experiment on all denominations, even in sparkling wines”.
From 8 thousand bottles in 2014, with the 2018 vintage Pecchenino will reach 18 thousand. “The tendency of the Consortium is to close to new plantings – Lisa Pecchenino further explains -. If this serves to protect quality, I agree. However, I think that, in the face of a strongly growing denomination, it is also right to have the bottles to meet the growing demand”.
Also growing are small realities like the Azienda Agricola Terrabianca in Mango (CN), which signs one of the Alta Langa with the most interesting ‘terroir’ expression, at an altitude of 600 metres. “We started in 2016 – Andrea Alpiste comments to winemag.it – reaching 3 thousand bottles with the 2018 vintage. With the 2021 draught we will reach 10 thousand. Only Chardonnay at Terrabianca’s debut, now flanked by Pinot Noir”.
CERRUTI: “THE ALTA LANGA? A PHENOMENON”
Debut in Alta Langa with the 2018 vintage also for Mascarello Michele e Figli. Having reached a quota of 10 thousand bottles, the winery in La Morra is aiming straight at 15 thousand. With a very precise objective: “To offer sparkling wines that are easy to drink, in the style of our Barolo wines”, Fabio Mascarello tells winemag.it.
Also contributing to the growth and affirmation of Alta Langa is Daffara&Grasso of Calosso (AT). “We started with 7, 8 thousand bottles – Walter Daffara comments – continuing to see the bases to other producers. For us, the core business was and remains Moscato, with over 100 thousand bottles. But we were so fascinated by this classic method that we decided to also produce a Riserva, vintage 2014, 80 months on the lees, which will be on the market starting this summer”.
The leap was also exponential at the home of one of the Fivi winemakers of Alta Langa, Cascina Cerutti. “We started with 2, 3 thousand bottles – Gianmario Cerutti stressed to winemag.it – and today we have reached 6 thousand. From next year we will reach 10 thousand. Alta Langa is in a dynamic phase of growth and the policy is the right one: grow slowly, with moderation”.
“The great thing is that we are many companies, with customers waiting for our sparkling wines. It is a phenomenon, the result of a beautiful alchemy between the territory, which demands it, and the market appreciates it. We are in a magical phase that we could never have predicted, not even with a well thought-out marketing plan! Just say ‘Alta Langa’ and people try it. And then they buy it again, convinced by the quality”.
THE BEST ALTA LANGA AT THE PREMIERE OF ALTA LANGA 2022
Vintage 2018 (preview)
- ViteColte – Brut “Cinquecento”
- Tenuta Carretta – Pas Dosé “Airali”
- Terrabianca Winery – Extra Brut
- Mauro Sebaste – Dosaggio Zero
- Amerio Cellars – Pas Dosé
- Pianbello – Rosé Brut
- Pecchenino – Pas Dosé “Psea”
- Matteo Giribaldi – Extra Brut
- Roberto Garbarino – Rosé Dosaggio Zero
- La Fusina – Extra Brut (best recent disgorgement – 2022)
- Avezza – Dosaggio Zero and Riserva 72 months
- Deltetto – Brut
- Enrico Serafino – Extra Brut Parcellaire
- Calissano – Pas Dosé
- Rizzi – Pas Dosé
- Banfi – Cuvée Aurora Rosé Extra Brut
- Tosti – Extra Brut 2012 “Giulio I Reserve
- Matteo Giribaldi – Pas Dosé 2016, 2015, 2013 (magnum)
- Ettore Germano – Extra Brut 2016
- Fontanafredda – Rosé Brut Riserva 60 months “Contessa Rosa”
- Fontanafredda – Blanc de Noirs Pas Dosé Brut Nature 72 months “Vigna Gatinera”
- Coppo – Riserva 2016 Extra Brut
- Enrico Serafino – Brut 2017
- Enrico Serafino – Riserva 2009
- Enrico Serafino – Zero 2014 (Best in show – Before Alta Langa 2022)
- Cocchi – Brut 2016 Totocorde
- Cocchi – Brut 2016 Bianc’d Bianc
- Cocchi – Blanc de Noirs 2015 Pas Dosé
- Brandini – Brut Rosé 2016
- Banfi – Cuvée Aurora 2011 Pas Dosé