Steve and Teresa O’Bryan were kind enough to give me some space on their website to write about one of my favorite subjects. You guessed it; wine! So, welcome to my first blog post. I want to begin this endeavor by telling you about Travaglini Gattinara, an old favorite of mine.
I first learned about Gattinara a number of years ago from a Matt Kramer article in Wine Spectator about lesser-known wines that represent great value for the money spent. Kramer referred to it as “a poor man’s Barolo” and wrote at length about the tremendous quality of this wine. I kept my eyes open and eventually found the asymmetrical, oddly-shaped, squarish bottle of Travaglini on a wine-store shelf. At somewhere in the neighborhood of $20.00 per bottle, as I remember, it was a bit of a splurge for me back in those days; but at the first sip of that stuff, I lost any buyers’ remorse that I might have had! Matt Kramer was right! It was a fantastic, unique bottle of wine that rocked my world! Although I don’t see it often, I usually buy a bottle when I do because every time I have it I am reminded of the wonder I experienced upon tasting it for the first time.
Gattinara is a tiny DOCG in Piedmont located about ninety miles north of Langhe, the region in which Barolo and Barbaresco are produced. As with Barolo and Barbaresco, Gattinara is made from Nebbiolo grapes (known locally as Spanna), but the region is higher in elevation and subject to greater variation in temperature. Also unlike Langhe, the soil is volcanic which makes it more mineral-rich. The end result of these factors is a wine that has the acidity and tannic structure seen in Barolo and Barbaresco, but with somewhat less complexity and power. Make no mistake, Gattinara is still a complex wine with great structure, but there is a sense of elegance and finesse to it that I really enjoy.
Another benefit is that Gattinara wines do not command the same high prices as Barolo and Barbaresco. While it is true that you can find some entry-level Barolo and Barbaresco for thirty or thirty-five dollars per bottle, you are not getting entry-level wine with a similarly-priced Gattinara. It is also more obscure, as there are only about 250 acres of vineyards as opposed to about 4200 acres combined that produce Barolo and Barbaresco.
Travaglini, Gattinara’s largest producer, is also one of the most respected for the production of quality wine. It is family-owned. The former winemaker, Giancarlo Travaglini, made their wine for forty-five years. The current winemaker is his son-in-law, Massimo Collauto.
Last week, my wife and I attended an industry tasting hosted by Palm Bay International at the Dayton Country Club. On a poster, I noticed the distinctive bottle-shape of Gattinara and pointed it out to Gayle. We both wondered if it was one of the wines being presented. While I was still tasting at the French table, Gayle went to the one for Italian wines. Within about a minute, she was back with a glass of Gattinara and a look of excitement on her face. It was as we remembered it—excellent! When I brought the paperwork back to Daniel, I remarked that they were featuring one of my favorite wines, Travaglini Gattinara. He immediately took me over to the Italian section and pointed to a new arrival—Travaglini Gattinara! What is it that they say about great minds thinking alike!? Of course, I bought a bottle of it!
The 2011 estate-bottled DOCG, which is available at O’Bryan’s for $34.99, is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes. It is aged for one year in French oak barriques, with an additional eighteen months in Slovenian oak, and six months in bottle.
Upon pouring this wine, I noticed its lovely, deep, brick-red color. I was impressed by its great clarity. A quick swirl brought out highly defined legs on the side of my glass, followed by a tart cherry nose with a hint of leather. My first sip confirmed the nose, and I picked-up additional hints of raspberry, as well, with spice on the mid-palate. The finish was medium to long. This wine really developed over a couple of hours, so I recommend a long decant prior to drinking if you really want to see it shine.
This is a very food-friendly wine. It will pair well with grilled meats, robust stews, and hard cheeses. If you enjoy balance, acidity and good tannic structure in the wine that you drink, then I highly recommend that you buy a bottle of Travaglini Gattinara on your next visit to O’Bryan’s. My guess is that, like me, you’ll be back for more.