2018 Radici e Filari Langhe Nebbiolo 'Risa'
Variety: 75% Nebbiolo, 15% ancient vine Gamay
Region: Langhe < Piemonte < Italy
Vineyard/cellar stats: Biodynamic farming; 75+ year old vines on clay soils; 15% of the vineyard are own-rooted, pre-phylloxera vines; fermentation and aging in stainless steel; 13.5% ABV
Winemaker: Renato Buganza
Radici e Filari is a multi-generation estate located in the Langhe region of Piemonte, home of the great Nebbiolo grape. But while Piemonte's fame is built on the legacy of this King of grapes, Nebbiolo isn't the only story in this northeastern region of Piemonte. Like the mystery grape partner in this blend, an ancient variety of Gamay. How did this random French grape end up in Italy? The House of Savoy did it. This historic ruling house of Italy and France united a huge chunk of the western Alps, where France, Italy and Switzerland now lie. The French presence in Piemonte helped establish early vineyard and winemaking techniques.
Flash forward to the 1960s, when Radici e Filari started producing and bottling their own wines that are true to their terroir. Preserving biodiversity has always been important to the family, so it makes sense that they gradually moved to completely biodynamic farming. Renato tells a fun story about discovering (and saving) the mystery grape in this blend: "When my father arrived in the Garbianotto farmhouse in 1978, there was already this Langhe Nebbiolo vineyard, which was more than forty years old at the time. In addition to the Nebbiolo rows, the farmer who planted it said there were 2 rows of an unknown grape variety which was called Gamay, but of whose origin we were not sure. According to his grandfather, that unknown grape variety, Gamay, was the typical grape variety in our area before phylloxera! We had saved an ancient native grape variety!"
And we love how this Gamay plays in the 'Risa' bottling -- in addition to those classic Nebbiolo notes of dried rose, black cherry and savory herbs, you get a surprising lift of tart cherry and plums with an almost tongue-tingling electricity and a soft, silky finish. There's enough body to stand up to meaty, porky things, sure, but there's also enough softness here to enjoy Risa on her own, or chilled, with a hunk of aged cheese, at the park. Such a cool bottle!