Do you have a partiality for distinctive Burgundian wines brewed from the best grapes and aged in the best of Italian winemaking tradition? If so, you will find Gattinara a perfect choice. While Gattinara is not the most instantly recognizable wine from Italy, the world’s largest exporter of wines, it nonetheless boasts noteworthy qualities.
But before delving into the nitty-gritty of why we recommend Gattinara for both wine aficionados and those who only indulge on special occasions, a proper understanding of where the wine is produced, its flavors, plates, and varieties is essential.
What is Gattinara?
The commune of Gattinara is to the northwest of the city of Novara in the Piedmont region of Italy.
It is part of the climatic profile which gives these grapes their rich taste characteristic with earthy overtones.
The Nebbiolo wine may be blended with a selection of other grape varieties grown in the region. The most common alternative is Bonarda di Gattinara. However, Vespolina grapes have become increasingly popular in the formulation in recent decades.
In 1969 Gattinara was granted a designation of origin (Denominazione di Origine controllata e Garantita – DOCG) status. It was to comply with newly passed European Community rules on designating food and agricultural products produced within member countries in the economic region. The DOCG specification for Gattinara denotes that at a minimum, 90% of the wine’s blend must be from the Nebbiolo grape variety known locally in the commune as Spanna.
In its most common formulation, Gattinara is aged in oaken barrels for a year. After it is bottled, Gattinara is aged further for at least two years before it is available in the consumer market.
Gattinara is also brewed as a riserva (reserve). Generally speaking, reserve wine is brewed to a higher consistency, using the best of grapes grown under prime conditions. Reserve wine also undergoes a lengthier and more labor-intensive aging process. The reserve version of Gattinara is usually aged for three years in barrels. Further aging for at least two years is done after the wine has been bottled.
Gattinara’s defining characteristics
Gattinara is a wine that is brewed with a patently happy-go-lucky philosophy. The concept is rooted in an Italian winemaking tradition that refers to being carefree or exhibiting behavior that is unscripted and lackadaisical. It is chiefly the reason why Gattinara has such an enduring appeal for the young, urban-dwelling, tech-savvy, and upward-mobile demographic. This was a consumer group that wine producers ignored for a long time. However, in recent years, their increasing spending power has meant that it has become economically sensible to reel them into the wines and fine drinks market.
The Best of Piedmont Red Wines
Piedmont is synonymous with the best Italian alpine cuisine, including wines. Indeed, Piemonte, the region’s Italian name, offers a revealing glimpse of the local gastronomic reputation. It means “food of the mountains.” There are over 60 unique wine varieties produced in Piedmont alone, more than any other wine-producing region in Italy.
The best of Piedmont’s winemaking grapes is produced on the alpine hillsides. Here the climate is harsher than more low-lying regions with the winters cold and summers hot and dry. Nebbiolo grapes acquire the best winemaking properties when they “struggle” in the process of growth.
Red wine produced from grapes grown in the Piedmont region has a long-standing reputation of quality including a unique taste as well as aromatic profile. Moreover, the region where Gattinara is produced: the Vercelli hills on the Novara highlands and the western bank of the Sessia river, is steeped in wine culture folklore for its distinctive grapes. The red wines produced in this area have attained worldwide recognition for their excellence of taste and longevity. This is why Gattinara has as much a reputation for quality as Barbaresco and Barolo, the other DOCG red wines produced in other areas of the Piedmont region.
Blended for the discerning palate
Gattinara is a blend of two burgundy-inspired crus known as Guardie and Lurghe. Cru is a standardized quality wine made from particular grapes grown in well-defined climatic, soil, and weather conditions. This blending gives Gattinara its distinctive pale, mid ruby tint with a bricky rim. Connoisseurs describe it as having a considerably tight, somewhat savory aroma that has a suggestion of sweetness on the nose. When tasted, the Gattinara gives a rich tangy flavor rather reminiscent of juicy cherry fruit backed up by a powdery tannic spine.
The fine blending done in making the Gattinara has a Burgundian style and complement that is unmistakably authentic. It ensures a long and deep flavor/ aroma characteristic that is nonetheless unostentatious.
Reasons why you should try Gattinara
There are many reasons why you should consider trying Gattinara. Here is a selection of the five we consider most impressive.
A Barolo at a fraction of the price
For many people, the term red piedmont wine refers to Barolo, the light-colored burgundy from the province of Cuneo, to the southwest of Alba. However, Gattinara has a feel of gravitas that matches that of the best Barolo blends. Best of all, though, a bottle of Gattinara retails for a fraction of the price on most Barolos. It is not that Gattinara is a poor man’s version of Barolo. On the contrary, it is best described as a wise man’s alternative to Barolo.
Suitable for taste across the divide
Gattinara has a profoundly rich taste and aroma profile. This makes it a perfect choice for a host looking to offer a drink that appeals to a wide variety of drinkers. In some drinks this kind of appeal is often based on ambiguity but in this Gattinara variety, it is a marker of remarkable formulation and spontaneity.
Available selection of well-aged bottles
The red wines from the Nebbiolo region have a well-earned reputation of improving in their flavor profile the longer they are aged. This is more of a character attached to the bottle aging process rather than the one which happens in wooden barrels. Perhaps owing to the variety having lower demand compared to other more famous Italian red wines, you are more likely to find a well-aged Gattinara than you are likely to find a Barolo or a Barbaresco. Indeed, you are just as likely to find a Gattinara boasting up to ten years of age with a price tag in the lower double digits than otherwise.
A perfect balance for the palate
The taste profile of red wines, especially those produced in and around the Piedmont region of Italy, tends to vary between the distinctively feminine to the pronounced masculine flavors. Many connoisseurs agree that Barbaresco, with its delicate flavors, is the epitome of the feminine taste profile while the more intense character of Barolo renders it the more masculine of the two. The good news is that Gattinara offers the best compromise for those who do not have an overarching preference for either of the two. Its balanced formulation is, therefore, a way for you to enjoy the best of both worlds as you indulge your palate.
Great for food pairing
A good wine, especially red wine, is essentially one that is naturally suited for serving at the dinner table. Because of its firmer structure and consistency of its blend, Gattinara retains its characteristic flavor even when taken along with very strong and distinctive flavors. This means it is a good accompaniment for a wide variety of meals, not just those with a tinge of Mediterranean or continental European cuisine. This means that, even if you haven’t got plenty of experience matching food and drinks, you cannot go too wrong when you opt to pour Gattinara the next time you are entertaining.
The bottom Line: Gattinara
A bottle of red wine is a great compliment. It can be taken as an accompaniment to food or as a serving on its own, Gattinara is a wine variety that will be a great addition to your collection. It is a quality formulation that brings out the best of Nebbiolo winemaking prowess. But you do not have to take our word for it. Acquire a bottle of one, and once you have it uncorked and the rich flavors hit your taste buds, Gattinara will easily become your favorite wine experience of the year.