2016 Contratto, Pas Dose Millesimato, Vintage Extra Brut Sparkling Wine, Metodo Classico, Piedmonte, Italy.
The lively and freshly styled Contratto Pas Dose Extra Brut Metodo Classico, Champagne like sparkler is made from 80% Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and 20% Chardonnay from vineyards located in Alta Langa (upper Langhe) zone of Piedmonte and is an elegant yeasty, citrus driven and nutty bubbly that offers a ton of personality and quality, it is much more in the Franciacorta vein than Prosecco and proves this upper part of Piedmonte is a great spot for producing grower producer fizz. Contratto’s caves are located in the little town of Canelli, and it was from here that Giuseppe Contratto crafted the very first bottles of Italian method champenoise back in 1919. Rivetti notes that, the underground cellars at Contratto, were painstakingly dug out manually when the winery was renovated in 1899, it took ten years to complete, and he adds that they are more than 100 feet underground. Interestingly Rivetti’s Contratto, unlike other sparkling wines in Italy, focuses mainly on Pinot Noir and all wines priced here are a minimum of 80% Pinot Noir with the balance being Chardonnay, again faithful to Champagne in many ways. The grapes all come from the mentioned, cooler Alta Langa, in the highest elevation hills of the Langhe. The Pinot Noir adds age worthy structure and the Chardonnay ads dimension and luxurious richness to the Cointratto wines, they also are fabulous with food, especially this one which can be enjoyed with raw oysters and or caviar.

Contratto is one of the oldest sparkling wine labels in Italy and was brought back from oblivion by the visionary and famous Barbaresco legend Giogio Rivetti of La Spinetta, who pushed into some ultra cool vineyard sites that have proved to be awesome locations for high quality bubbly, as this Contratto Pas Dose 2016 vintage Extra Brut shows with its finesse, complexity and energy. Taking a page out of the Champagne grower producers playbook, Rivetti looked for unique terroirs and began focusing on organic farming for his revitalization of Contratto, which has its own beautiful property and cellars where the wine are Champagne style crafted. The sparklers here see first and second fermentation(s) with native yeasts and get zero or low dosage(s) with the wines made using only free run juice. They see long lees aging period with each vineyard and lots done in separate small lot batches and blended into stainless before getting the bottle conditioning and secondary fermentation with this particular bottling seeing a no dosage to end up extremely dry, Extra Brut. The labels for the Contratto Sparkling Wines are the original design of Leonetto Cappiello, who as the winery notes, was considered one of the fathers of belle époque poster-advertisements that remain coveted today and have inspired reprints that grace the walls of may kitchens and bistros throughout the world. I’ve been a fan La Spinetta and Rivetti’s wines for ages, but I have somewhat neglected his Contratto bubbly, which needs to changed, as these are delicious efforts that I highly recommend, with Contratto’s Rosé for England 100% Pinot Noir and this vintage of the Pas Dose Extra Brut being my favorites.
($34 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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