2011 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Ghemme DOCG, Anno Primo, Alto Piedmonte, Italy.
The Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo “Cantalupo Anno Primo’” Ghemme DOCG is a dark and powerful example of these Nebbiolo based wines of the region and this one really delivers for the price, showing you why these Alto Piedmonte wines are now all the rage with savvy Nebbiolo drinkers with a deep and pure sense of the grape thing through on the ful bodied palate. This Anno Primo crafted from the older and more prized selection of vines is made up of mostly Spanna (Nebbiolo) along with a small percentage of rare other local varietals, notably Vespalina, which helps give a bit of pigment, perfume, spice and an exotic fruit expression without taking away from the classic Nebbiolo charm and character, along with a tiny amount of Uva Rara, an ancient native grape that is almost never done in a single varietal wine. Slightly less tannic and brooding than the more gripping 2010 wines, this 2011 has a bit more supple fruit and feels wonderful in the mouth, but it is no softy and offers plenty of classic underlying muscle with great definition and a sturdy backbone that holds up the beautiful dark red fruits. The profile is evolved with brandied raspberry, damson plum, dried cherries and mulberry leading the way along with subtle earth, spice, mineral and cedar notes, as well as licorice, blood orange, pipe tobacco, delicate rose petals and a hint of herbal amaro. Barolo and Barbaresco fans will be well served to check this winery out and search out this exceptional effort by winemaker Alberto Arlunno and put Cantalupo on their watch lists, in particular this serious and age worthy Anno Primo, and the lighter fresher styled Agamium, Colline Noravesi DOC, a wine that is delicious and a steal at under $20.

Alto Piedmonte, including Ghemme, Gattinara and is one of Italy’s major hot spots for Nebbiolo with well draining rocky soils and old vines, with Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo being one of the new stars in the region. The terroir here was formed in ancient times as the great Monte Rosa glacier receded leaving morainic rock, sand and alluvial deposits, making it a perfect place for high quality Nebbiolo, with the vineyards being rich in quantity minerals, scattered with pebbles. The cooler climate here and long sunny days have seen it become a highly coveted zone for top vignerons, in fact many classic producers in Barolo and other more well known areas have started buying up sites here. Ghemme is planted mostly to Spanna, as noted, the local name for Nebbiolo, with about 80% of the vines dedicated to this noble grape, but it shares space with Vespalina and Uva Rara, lesser known red varietals which also make up a minority of the blends here and they add aromatics, color and a light fruity note to the very structured and complex Nebbiolo. Alberto Arlunno, of Cantalupo, uses stainless tanks to ferment his carefully de-stemmed grapes and he ages mostly in large Slovenian oak casks, in traditional fashion, but also employs a small amount of French though usually reserved for the top Ghemme offerings, like this one, giving some extra luxurious personality to the more concentrated wines. I have enjoyed my limited experience with these Cantalupo wines, and this one certainly leaves an impact, it is beautifully crafted wine with a nice gracefully maturity settling in, it should be rewarding for many years to come as well. The 2011 might be hard to get at this point, but the 2012, another very solid vintage, is still current and easier to find, and I will be getting a few bottles myself!
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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