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swirl and savor

Gattinara, Budget Conscious Nebbiolo

Beth Ribblett

While Piemonte (Piedmont) is most know for the distinguished reds of Barolo and Barbaresco, if you travel northward to Gattinara you may be able to squeeze a little more value out of the Nebbiolo grape. One of a string of villages in northeastern Piemonte, Gattinara is the anchor of “Northern Nebbiolo” territory, which extends roughly from Torino to Lago Maggiore. As is its southern cousins, Gattinara wines are based on Nebbiolo but incorporate other wacky northern Piemonte varieties such as Uva Rara, Vespolina, and Bonarda.

The aging requirements of Gattinara are similar to that of Barolo; it is aged a minimum of three years before release, with a minimum of one of those years in wood (Barolo spends two of its minimum three years in wood). And, like Barolo, a good Gattinara is all about the heady, violet tobacco scented perfume of Nebbiolo. Generally speaking, Gattinara wines are a little higher in acid and a little leaner than their southeastern cousins due to their more northern location, but many a Gattinara can rival Barolo in depth and complexity.

The Travaglini Gattinara is very recognizable for its cool, odd shaped bottle. A special design released to celebrate the excellent 1952 vintage, the curve of the bottle is meant to fit naturally in your hand and catch sediment as the wine is poured. The shape was a hit, enough so that they've kept it for the past 57 years! But, what's in the bottle is great as well, with the entry level DOCG Gattinara receiving 91 points and a top 100 rating from Wine Spectator for the 2003 vintage and the 2004 got a Due Bicchieri nod from Gambero Rosso with 90pts. from the Spectator.

The 2004 Travaglini Gattinara is 100% Nebbiolo and is aged for 12 months in French oak, a further 18 months in Slovenian oak, followed by 6 months of bottle aging. Elegant and expressive with the characteristic orangish tinge at the edge of the glass, you instantly know you are drinking Nebbiolo. Aromatics of violets, leather and tobacco with soft tannins and red berries mingle with an earthy minerality on your palate.

So if you want to experience top notch Nebbiolo without the hefty price tag, seek out a Gattinara. We'll be opening the 2004 Travaglini at our tasting on Tuesday 7/14 with Antonio Molesini.

Wine Spectator, 90pts
Delicate aromas of ripe plum, with hints of cedar and flowers. Medium- to full-bodied, with very refined tannins and a long, complex finish of strawberry and spices. Drink now through 2012. 16,000 cases made.

$28.99/bottle/case with club swirl membership