Valle Roncati 2013 Sizzano Riserva 'San Bartolomeo'

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This is one of Alto Piemonte's microscopic DOCs, a mere 7 hectares in total. However, the wines are notably different from its nearest neighbour, Fara. Here the wine is spicier with more balsamy notes with refined red fruits. There are small amounts of Vespolina and Uva Rara varieties in the blend to support the major variety Nebbiolo, adding other dimensions to the wine. The wine is semi-mature and is entering its secondary phase with well developed aromatics, and a fullness to the palate but, no mistaking, this wine will seriously take some age.

This Month's Mixed Cases

The Wine Region



Piedmont is, without fear of contradiction, Italy's most exciting wine region. Home to Barolo and Barbaresco, two of Italy's finest and most long-lived wines, being the ultimate expression of the world's greatest grape variety: Nebbiolo. OK, I might be going a bit far with that one, but it's my favourite. This variety has, perhaps even more so than Pinot Noir, an in-built ability to transmit its terroir into the glass with laser-like precision and clarity. Perhaps this is why there are 170 named, single-vineyards in Barolo alone (what we now call the Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive, or MGAs for short). Barolo is, without doubt, worthy of its title, 'The King of Wines, The Wine of Kings'.

The hills of The Langhe, where Barolo and Barbaresco are found, is also home to other wonderful varieties: Dolcetto is a delight when the winemaker can get the balance of tannins correct, Dogliani being the favoured zone; Barbera is juicy and fruitful with many examples reaching lofty heights of quality; Freisa is light but deliciously complex. There are white varieties too: Arneis is making some kind of come back, since it nearly disappeared entirely: Favorita is the local version of Vermentino; and of course, who could forget Moscato?

Elsewhere, the wines which are receiving the most attention, are those of Alto Piemonte: Gattinara, Ghemme, Sizzano, Fara and many other microscopic DOCs where you can often find pure Nebbiolos, or ocassionally mixed up with Vespolina and Uva Rara. These are not the 'poor man's Barolo', these are distinct wines, worthy of merit. There is also the ubiquitous Gavi di Gavi, one of the few Italian whites with a household name.

The Producer

Valle Roncati

Valle Roncati

Valle Roncati is a small producer based in the village of Briona, about 20KM from Novara and 40KM from the start of the Alps. They work with a number of small DOCs and one DOCG, Ghemme. We have selected the wines from two of these.

One is Fara, a tiny DOC which is only 5 hectares in size, amongst the smallest in Italy. The wines are based on Nebbiolo, but peppered with other varieties from the region, namely Vespolina and Uva Rara. The former of these is a black-pepper spicy black variety and the latter, also known as Bonarda Novarese, is also rich and dark, so these varieties bring another dimension to the elegant Nebbiolo.

The other DOC is Sizzano, a sub-region which you will be forgiven for having never heard of before. Also a Nebbiolo with a splash of Vespolina and Uva Rara, but these two wines couldn't be more different from each other, and that just goes to show 'terroir' at work.

The Grape Variety



Nebbiolo is a black grape variety primarily grown in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. It is considered one of Italy's most important and noble grape varieties and used to produce some of the country's finest and most sought-after wines, including Barolo and Barbaresco, and the now fashionable wines of Alto Piemonte.

Nebbiolo grapes produce wines that are typically full-bodied and high in tannins, with high acidity and complex flavours that often include notes of cherry, violet, liquorice, and truffles. The wines are known for their ability to age well, sometimes for decades, and for their intense aromas and flavours.

Nebbiolo is a sensitive grape variety that requires specific growing conditions to thrive. It prefers sloping vineyards on southeast-southwest exposed sites and well-drained soils, such as those found in the Langhe region. The variety is also grown in smaller quantities in other regions of Italy, as well as in some other countries, notably the USA, Australia, and Argentina. However, Nebbiolo wines produced outside of Piedmont are often quite different in style from their Italian counterparts, rarely with the same degree of nobility.

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