Firstly, apologies for the second offer of the day, and the second Italian one at that – we are normally careful not to bombard you with emails, but my enthusiasm has got the better of me here!
Someone once told me that I would be impressed by the wines of Carema quite a while back…I didn’t get around to following it up until recently. He was certainly right, I tasted the 2016 Carema Riserva from Produttori di Carema the other evening and I was immediately struck by the Burgundian character of the wine. It was very much Barolo meets Chambolle-Musigny, and the wine just got better and better in the glass.
Having been blown away by the quality of the 2016 Carema Riserva, I needed to find a map to locate exactly where this wine was from. The picturesque village of Carema essentially marks the divide between Piemonte and the Aosta Valley, about 50 km north of Turin. This historic village is surrounded by terraced vineyards that cover the rocky slopes up to an altitude of 600 metres. It is Nebbiolo that is planted on these terraces, trained over pergolas supported by the traditional pillars known as ‘pilun’, which are made of stone and lime. These vineyards have been cultivated in this manner for hundreds of years. The wines of Carema have received notable mention over the centuries; the bottler for Pope Paul III commented in 1539, that it was ‘an excellent drink, perfect for princes and lords’. In the same century it was mentioned as being served at the table of Popes, to the Dukes of Savoy and to French Royals. I think you get the picture!
Returning to the wine itself, what amazed me is that this wine was made by a cooperative. In many areas of Europe, we consider wines produced by cooperatives to be more commercial and straightforward, but there are notable exceptions and a good number in Italy such as Produttori del Barbaresco and Cantina di Terlano in Alto Adige. I will happily add Produttori di Carema to my growing list. It was formed in 1960 by ten producers, who decided to pool together their production and bottle under one label. Today it has 101 members, of which 71 contribute their grapes – what’s more, they are all part-time producers with an average age of 55.
It is fair to say that these wines represent a different interpretation of Nebbiolo – the tannins are softer, rounder in nature, and there is an emphasis on elegance rather than power, though there is no lack of intensity. Rather than making a bold statement, the sense of concentration gradually builds, perhaps leading to a nod towards Burgundy. Certainly the 2016 Carema is easier to taste than a great many Barolo would be at this stage of evolution. Whether it is due to climate change or not, these more northerly appellations of Piemonte are really coming to the fore. I am finding it fascinating and am keen to become more familiar with these wines, many of which previously enjoyed far greater reputations than Barolo. Antonio Galloni commented recently that ‘the Produttori di Carema cooperative has been on a tear in recent vintages’ adding that ‘these traditionally crafted mountain wines offer so much Nebbiolo character.’
The Carema Riserva (known as the white label) is aged for a minimum of three years, of which 18 months are in large oak or chestnut wood foudre or botti. You could be fooled by the colour into thinking that this was an older wine as the colour is garnet and brick-red, almost amber to the rim, but Nebbiolo can be comparatively light in colour, particularly after extended ageing in old oak. The aromas reminded me of autumnal leaves, sweet red fruits, mint, all with a rose-like overlay – beautifully complex even at such a young stage. The fruit on the palate follows a similar interplay of elements, with sweet nuanced red fruits, maybe a touch of tobacco, wild, gamey, savoury elements too, but it is this haunting silkiness that keeps alluding to Burgundy, hence the Chambolle-Musigny comment in my opening paragraph. There is so much pleasure to be had here, and the wine could be enjoyed now, but it has the pedigree to age for a couple of decades and I would be fascinated to see how it evolves. For me, this is easily one of the bigger surprises of the year, and one of the more eye-catching bargains to boot at just £110 per 6 bottle case in bond.
Please see Antonio Galloni’s note below.
2016 Carema Riserva, Produttori di Carema
£110 per 6 bottle case in bond
95 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com
The 2016 Carema Riserva is another knock-out effort from the Produttori di Carema, the local cooperative that has really been on fire these last few vintages. Open-knit and inviting, but with all the complexity that is so typical of the appellation, the 2016 is superb. Crushed flowers, mint, sweet tobacco, cedar and licorice are all woven together in a super-expressive Carema that offers tons of complexity in a relatively accessible style for a young wine from the appellation. The Riserva is a selection of the best casks in the cellar, with the wine aged for an added year in cask, so three years’ in neutral oak in total. That extra year in oak vis-à-vis the Classico does take with it some of the fruit while emphasizing more savory and mineral qualities. Power and finesse come together so well in this textbook Carema. 2024-2041.
Please let us know of your interest and I promise no more offers today!
All the best,