Nebbiolo's Alpine Perfection: 2016 Ferrando Carema!

Posted by Mark Grimaldi on Aug 25th 2020

This week, we'll receive our yearly allocation of one of the most special wines we receive here at The Cellar d'Or. One that not too many know about, or even really get the chance to drink--the mountain Nebbiolo from the one and only Luigi Ferrando. This stunning red hails from the small region of Carema in Northern Piedmont, known as the "Alto Piemonte." This is some of the most rugged terroir (please see this article for an explanation of this extreme winegrowing area), and the northernmost winemaking area in Piedmont--bordering the Valle d'Aosta just north. There are just 17ha under vine, and there are only two privately owned wineries there, and one cooperative-grower making wine. This is why we do not see very much of this wine here in the states. For you lovers of Barolos and Barbarescos made to the south, this is Nebbiolo in a different form--this is mountain Nebbiolo. Ferrando's Carema is a wine of elegance and purity, high tones, powerful aromas, and class--a wine that will age gracefully for decades despite this vintage being delicious young.

Please see below for a further explanation of this special region and these special wines as told by their importer, Neal Rosenthal. Neal, now one of the most famous wine importers in the world, has been championing these wines since the beginning. In fact, Ferrando Carema was the first wine imported by Rosenthal!
Northern Piedmont is in the midst of a gradual but palpable renaissance, with winegrowers reclaiming vineyards that had been abandoned through the political and economic woes of the 20th century, and consumers increasingly realizing the value and character of Nebbiolo planted in these cooler climes. This vibrant spirit has taken hold in Carema as well, which totaled 36 hectares when the DOC was created but fell to 14 hectares at its nadir a few decades back. Today, there are 16 hectares under cultivation, with further vineyard expansion—an arduous process on these steep and virtually soil-less slopes—taking place, and even a few newcomers beginning to bottle their own wines. Still, at the heart of it all remains the Ferrando family, the standard-bearer for this singular place since Luigi began bottling his own wines in the early 1960s. Today, his sons Roberto and Andrea work tirelessly for this DOC with which their family name is nearly synonymous, and they are currently clearing out and replanting a 0.1-hectare parcel called Laurey in the old historical heart of the zone.

Visitors to Ferrando’s cellar in Carema are confronted with an unassuming room whose stark simplicity stands in contrast to the dramatic visual splendor of the vineyards themselves. There is no expensive thermoregulatory equipment, no spotless new wood; it is, quite simply, a room full of old oak casks, bare-walled and raw-floored. But three years in this humble cellar transforms the juice of that amphitheater’s fruit into the most ethereal of all Nebbiolo—one which Neal named in Reflections of a Wine Merchant as no less than his desert-island wine. Certainly, in its emphasis on grace over force, on tension over richness, on equilibrium above ostentation, it embodies those characteristics that tend to guide RWM’s choices in this vast world of wine. There is beyond that, however, a certain spirit to the wine; an ineffable quality of itself-ness which only truly great wines possess.

Compared to the broad, authoritative 2015 vintage, these 2016s are sprightlier and more vivacious, though certainly with notable concentration. A cooler growing season led to a relatively late harvest, and Roberto and Andrea commenced picking on October 20th, pulling in fruit of classically vigorous acidity; indeed, 2016 is a more uniquely Alpine vintage than its richer predecessor. With their ripe, sweet fruit, rippling tension, and excellent structure, these 2016s should make old bones.

Wines arrive Friday, August 21st. Quantities are extremely limited. To order, please click here. Curbside pickup and shipping are available, as always. If you have any questions, please respond to this email.

Mix & match for a discount of 10% off 6 bottles, 15% off 12 bottles automatically applied at checkout.

1) Luigi Ferrando Carema "Etichetta Bianca" 2016 750ml
24 bottles available
Sale Price: $74.99/btl!! BUY NOW
6-Pack Price: $66.59/btl!!
12-Pack Price: $63.74/btl!!

"Ferrando’s white-label Carema is arguably the most gorgeously elegant expression of Nebbiolo in existence, and this 2016 is a textbook version. Full of driving, kinetic energy, it presents a lifted and linear palate at this youthful stage which should broaden with bottle age, as well as an intoxicating blast of high-toned spices and mountain herbs. Never an overwhelmingly powerful wine, “Etichetta Bianca” derives its sense of structure more from its acid-fruit tension than its tannins, and that is particularly the case with this 2016. Fermented in stainless steel without temperature control and using only indigenous yeasts, it spent three full years in a blend of large Stockinger botti and smaller well-used French barriques."
94pts, Vinous Media (previous vintage): "The Carema Etichetta Bianca is such a gorgeous wine. Dried cherry, tobacco, licorice, spice, mint and dried flowers give the striking aromatic openness, but there is plenty of mineral-drenched tannic backbone that gives this wine its distinctive personality. Medium in body, taut and full of character, this hits all the right notes. It should also start drinking relatively early and age effortlessly for many years."

2) Luigi Ferrando Carema "Etichetta Nera" 2015 750ml
6 bottles available
Sale Price $97.99/btl! BUY NOW
6-Pack Price: $88.19/btl!!
12-Pack Price: $83.29/btl!!

"The Ferrandos only produce their legendary black-label Carema when the vintage allows for it, and it never comprises more than a fifth of their total production. To be labeled as “Etichetta Nera,” the wine must first be selected in the vineyard as worthy; then, it must pass muster post-malolactic-fermentation; and finally, a third verification is performed at the end of the three-year elevage. Raised entirely in a mix of used 250- and 500-liter French barrels, the 2016 is more profound and lower-pitched on the nose than its white-label counterpart, with blacker fruit and a stronger savory imprint. Its firmly gripping, lengthily tunneling finish promises decades of positive evolution."
96pts, Vinous Media (previous vintage): "The Carema Etichetta Nera is absolutely stellar. In many vintages, I prefer the Etichetta Bianca, but this year, the Etichetta Nera (Black Label) has an extra kick of freshness and body, while the oak is as well-balanced as I have ever seen in this bottling. All of that adds up to a Carema that is positively dazzling from the very first taste. Dark cherry, plum, spice, leather, menthol and licorice develop in the glass, but it is the wine's vertical energy and overall balance that leave the longest impression. This is a positively dazzling wine in every sense"

Mix & match for a discount of 10% off 6 bottles, 15% off 12 bottles automatically applied at checkout.

Wines arrive Friday, August 21st. Quantities are extremely limited. To order, please click here. Curbside pickup and shipping are available, as always. If you have any questions, please respond to this email.