2017 Le Pianelle, Al Forte, Coste della Sesia Rosso DOC, Alto Piedmonte, Italy.
Fast becoming a good to producer in the Alto Piedmonte, Le Pianelle is making some fantastic wines, even with their basic Al Forte Coste della Sesia Rosso being highly impressive with a palate impact that could easily be mistaken for a serious Barolo. The Le Pianelle 2017 Al Forte Coste della Sesia Rosso, made mainly with Spanna (the local name for Nebbiolo) along with small amounts of Vespolina and Croatina, ancient local varietals, is deeply flavored and firmly structured with classic Nebbiolo character, showing earthy black cherry, damson plum, briar laced raspberry and red currant fruits, as well as mineral tones, leather, cedar, melted tar and licorice. This vintage has a powerful and tannic feel, but opens up nicely the reveal pretty floral elements along with sweet and tangy herbs and it expands into a thrilling wine that is best enjoyed with rustic and robust Winter cuisine. This wine from holistically farmed sites in the northern part of Piedmonte that is more alpine and set on complex soils, which has volcanic based Porphyritic sand and ancient glacial deposits with iron rich red/orange soils, along with a cooler climate, imparts a sense of place and energy in these Le Pianelle wines. Typically a blend of 75% Nebbiolo (Spanna), 20% Croatina and 5% Vespolina, the organic grapes in this Al Forte are from a mix of young and old vines and see about 24 hours of maceration and was fermented in conical wooden fermenters and exclusively with indigenous yeasts, all 100% de-stemmed. This vintage, a bit warmer than most, shows off a deep garnet/brick hue and expressive ripe fruit density that makes it very appealing now and it should go on pleasing Nebbiolo lovers for another decade.

The Le Pianelle winery was founded back in 2002 by the German national Dieter Heuskel, who, as I have mentioned in prior reviews, was a huge fan of Piedmonte area and its wines, he took the plunge and bought an old vineyard in the up and coming Alto Piedmonte region near Bramaterra and Gattinara. When this opportunity and challenge of rejuvenating a long-forgotten vineyard was presented to Heuskel and his partner, the well respected Alto Adige producer Peter Dipoli of Voglar, he just couldn’t help himself and jumped at the chance. Now with the youthful and gifted winemaker Cristiano Garella, a native to the region, who it is said has Nebbiolo in his blood, they have created, along with an impressive vineyard team, a truly world class wine estate that is impressing the wine world. Garella uses grapes that are harvested exclusively by hand, with each grape variety and vineyard parcels being fermented in separate small lots with maceration and fermentation in open top Grenier oak vats. After primary fermentation is complete the young wine is racked to wood and matured for up to 18 months in a combination of used small French barriques (barrels) as well as large Austrian oak made Stockinger oak barrels. Everything is done here to promote the natural terroir expression and the true charm of the grapes with Nebbiolo always playing the key role, as is the case with this exceptional 2017 “Al Forte” Coste della Sesia Rosso, it is a wine that way over delivers for the price and it is impossible not to admire its depth and brilliance. Not always an easy find, Le Pianelle is imported by Italian specialist Oliver McCrum, but is well worth searching for, especially Le Pianelle’s Bramaterra DOC, which I reviewed from the 2016 vintage and this Al Forte Costa della Sesia Rosso, with both the 2016 and 2017 versions being ones to look for!
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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