This was my fourth time in Piedmont, along with Tuscany, one of my favourite wine destinations, it’s a shame I don’t manage to get out hear more often. There are three main airports – Torino, Malpensa, and Bergamo, hire yourself a Fiat 500 and head towards the rolling hills with a stunning backdrop from the Alps.
The food alone is worth the journey, it represents the local region and Italian food culture. Always seasonal, delicious, and has incredible value for money.
My previous visits had been to larger, more well-known estates, but this time we were here to discover new, exciting, and contemporary takes on Piedmont. Two producers that stood out and that we could get an allocation of were Azienda Agricola Lalù & D'Arcy Wines We were then lucky enough to get a very special visit at legendary producer Aldo Conterno.
- Agricola Lalù
A few years ago, I had dinner with Silvia Altare of the iconic Elio Altare, she had recently taken over the estate and was telling me how lucky she was to own some of the most desirable vineyards in the world. But it wasn’t always like this, she tells me. When she was growing up, the wines of the Langhe weren’t desirable. Young people went off to Turin to enjoy city life, and a lot went to work in factories like Fiat, there wasn’t much for them locally.
Fast forward to today, and friends Lara & Luisa have made the move in reverse, they’re young, creative, dynamic, and keen to impact the region. It’s difficult to walk into any Italian region (especially Piedmont), acquire land and make wine. They earnt the respect of locals and the wine trade through hard work at some of the best estates in Piedmont & Burgundy.
The ageing criteria for Barolo are strict before release – with at least three years of age and at least 18 months in oak. There are grumblings with several producers that they’d like to reduce this. It makes it harder for start-ups to get going, oak is expensive and leaving your wine to rest for three years is bad for cash flow – making it even harder for start-ups.
We were lucky enough to glimpse at their eagerly awaited 2019 Barolo. The wines are everything you’d want from the great wines of the world; techniques and ideas are clearly applied from their time in Burgundy. The aromas are simply intoxicating and deeply inviting. The grapes have such a pure identity and a superb sense of place. And they’re only just getting started, future superstars for sure!
- D'Arcy Wines
Originally from New Zealand Tom Myers has an impressive and varied CV for such a young winemaker. Not only has he worked with some of the truly great estates of the world, but he also has spent time in the army, studying philosophy & linguistics. He started his career as a sommelier working for the legendary Gerrard Basset, getting exposure to these great wines at such a young age is a priceless experience.
After travelling and gaining further experience, he started to focus on a region, settling in Piedmont, after gaining experience with legendary producers, he identified Piedmont as the place to be. The wines have never been better here, the last ten years of vintages are arguably the best and many of the great estates are now strictly on allocation from release
The name of the estate, Cantina D’Arcy, is named after his grandmother, an important nod to Tom’s most loved and, his heritage. He’s putting all his energy into this estate; you can tell how much it means to him.
Tom has made a strong a confident start, his first vintage is 2020, due to minimum ageing requirements, his Barolo won’t be ready for three years, but he’s released a Dolcetto and a Nebbiolo from 2020. I’m only lucky enough to have tried the Dolcetto d’Alba, he seems to effortlessly take this often simple, easy-drinking grape to a new level, only matched by the greats from the region. After visiting the best restaurants in the area, his wines are well represented, and the people in the know, know about these wines. We received an allocation of just nine bottles, this is unheard of for a new producer and shows the demand for his wines.
- Aldo Conterno
There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said about this legendary estate. I’ve read lots and seen the pictures but wasn’t quite prepared for the perfectly preserved history in the cellars. It’s not easy to get a visit here, you can’t just knock on the door, and you’ll be lucky if you get a response to your email
We were greeted by a member of the family who started the tasting like most – tasting the current release. The next Barolo vintage to be released is 2019 and already showing an impressive amount of potential. We continue the tasting with a few other fantastic bottles and vintages. And then, one of the highlights of the trip a rare bottle of 2006 Gran Bussia gets open, a bottle that would set you back the best part of £1200, it’s one of the great wines. We then start the tour with the 2006 in hand, I’m being careful not to trip up as I can’t take my nose out of the glass. We walk down to where the wines are matured, stored and made. The history here dates back to the early 20th century, it’s one of the most impressive cellars I’ve ever seen, a very memorable visit indeed.