Alfio Cavallotto is one of the new bright stars to emerge in Italy's Piedmont. However, Cavallotto is neither new to the scene, nor are his wines indicative of the light, modern style of Barbera and Barolo. Cavallotto is a real traditionalist, and his wines make few concessions to the contemporary predilection for technology over technique. Rather, it is this house's penchant for making authentic, muscular, cask-aged Barberas and Barolos that reflect the great terroir of Castiglione Falletto and have caused Alfio Cavallotto's star to rise.
The Cavallotto estate uses only indigenous yeasts and long macerations to extract the fullest representation from each vineyard and wine it produces, and the results are sublime – age worthy Piedmontese treasures that are both structured and ultimately decadent. Cavallotto's most compelling offerings emanate from his premier 10-acre vineyard known as Bricco Boschis. Both Barbera and Barolo emerge from this little gem. Production from this single vineyard cru is predictably small, rarely more than 2,100 cases.
Piemonte or Piedmont
In the north of Italy, nestled just beneath the great Alpine wall as it tumbles out of Switzerland and the gleaming Mediterranean Sea, lies Piemonte (Italy's Piedmont). It is a region of myriad beauty. It is also the region of Italy closest to France in proximity as well as in the sheer quality and variety of exceptional wines it produces. For centuries, Italy's Piedmont remained a prize to be won among warring European powers; no doubt at least in part because of the province's world-famous cuisine that still draws happily on the abundance and quality of local truffles. Yet today it is the superbly made wines of Italy's Piedmont that garner the most international recognition: complex, hedonistic red wines, still delicate whites, and sweet haunting Muscats. With such exquisite fare, should anyone question why the hearty robust delights of the Piedmontese table remain the region's most famous ambassadors to a hungry and thirsty world?
Ask the Panel
Question: It seems to me that Barbera is a wine that is showing up more and more in wine shops and restaurants as of late. But what is a Barbera? Is it a grape or a type of wine?
Response: Barbera is a prolific grape variety whose origin is Italy's Piedmont. It is now grown extensively throughout northern and central Italy, but most of the finest Barbera wines still hail from two traditional Piedmontese appellations: Barbera d'Alba and Barbera d'Asti. The finest wines of Barbera d'Alba are often produced alongside Barolo. In the five villages of Barolo, Barbera vines typically grow on the lower slopes of the appellation's steep hills, while Nebbiolo (for Barolo) occupies the higher ground, but extreme elevation and other factors can reverse this planting. As a general rule, Barbera d'Alba fashions fuller, more age-worthy wines than Barbera d'Asti. However, both appellations turn out exceptional wines, so one's preference for one over the other remains more a question of style than quality. At their best, Piedmontese Barberas display intense flavors of berries, black fruits, and spice, bolstered by a good dose of natural acidity. Today, Barbera is the second most widely planted grape variety in Italy. Furthermore, Barbera has increasingly found favor abroad, especially in Argentina, Australia, and California, which no doubt accounts for its increased appearance and popularity.