Nebbiolo has been an integral part of the history of the Piemonte region in north west Italy ever since the Romans were picking the grapes. As part of our countdown to the second Nebbiolo Day tasting taking place in London on March 5 we talk to one of the producers taking part, Paolo Rovellotti, whose family have been making wines in the region for over 400 years. He explains why Nebbiolo is very much part of his and the region’s DNA.
Paolo Rovellotti will be on hand at the Nebbiolo Day tasting on March 5 to present his wines and explain what Nebbiolo means to him and his family.
Tell us something about the history of the winery and when it was set up and has grown?
The Rovellotti winery is a family-run business that has been devoted to winemaking for more than 600 years, following rules and methods handed down from old traditions. We have now combined them with a modern approach to winemaking focused on both sustainability and introducing technological innovations. Our production is now a benchmark for craft winemaking under DOCG and DOC appellations, and we fully committed to both producing wines of high quality, but which also respect the characteristics and peculiarities of the different styles of grape. The company’s objective is to target those markets composed by conscious and curious consumers who are seeking to experience of-the-beaten-track top notch wines made by passion-driven people who value quality over quantity.
Why do you grow Nebbiolo and what sort of styles of wine do you hope to make from it?
We grow Nebbiolo because this grape is embedded in the DNA of our lands since the time of the Romans and because we love working with challenges. Nebbiolo can be a very difficult varietal to grow, but once mastered it becomes very rewarding as it is a wine that is truly unique both in the way is able to mesmerise in terms of taste and how it is a varietal that defies the ages. Nebbiolo was an award-winning wine back in the 19th century, popular at the royal courts in Paris and Vienna, and it is still winning awards with the plethora of accolades it gets every year.
Last but not least, Nebbiolo accounts for only 1% of the total Italian grape production, we therefore like to believe its scarcity also brings exclusivity and we strive to be exclusive.
The styles we make range from youthful, unoaked Nebbiolo’s through to the premium ones selected for our Ghemme and Ghemme Riserva DOCG that are aged in big oak vessels for 30 and 42 months.
Have the styles of Nebbiolo changed over the years and if so how and why?
There have been constant improvements, particularly when it comes to the technology we use both in the vineyards and during the vinification process. This has helped up produce progressively finer and more elegant wines, yet maintain the traditional structure of our Alto Piemonte Nebbiolos.
What Nebbiolo wines do you export to the UK?
We have recently found an importer who is particularly interested in our Ghemme and Ghemme Riserva DOCG as well as in our entry-level, single varietal, un-wooded Colline Novaresi D.O.C. Nebbiolo Valplazza. We are still at a very early stage, though, so are keeping our eyes peeled so we can evaluate other potential opportunities.
Why do you think they are suitable for the UK market ?
It is clear UK customers are developing more of an interest in lesser known, off-the-beaten-track, family-run premium wineries based on varietals that cry to be unearthed.
As craft wine producers we believe we fit perfectly into that description and because of our extraordinarily complex terroir we particularly feel our Nebbiolos truly represent a prestigious alternative to customers when compared to more emblazoned Piedmontese close varieties.
What are the main price points for your wines and which channels of the market are you looking to sell into?
Our top of the range Nebbiolos (Ghemme and Ghemme Riserva DOCG) stand in the region of £13.00 to £18 ex cellar, whereas Colline Novaresi DOC Nebbiolo Valplazza lies below the £6.00 price point. We are looking to predominantly sell into the on-trade as we don’t have the quantities or the exclusivity to pursue the FMCG arena. We certainly very much like to have our Nebbiolos displayed at premium wine clubs such as the Wine Society.
What other wines do you make?
Vespolina, a genetically close kin of Nebbiolo is the second iconic indigenous varietal we grow and vinify. It accounts for 10% in the blend for making Ghemme DOCG wines giving them a distinctive peppery nose, also helping to prop up the typical faint colour of Nebbiolo. We also grow Uva Rara a.k.a. Bonarda Novarese that we vinify either as single varietal or in blend with Vespolina and Nebbiolo to make youthful, unoaked wines. We also grow our famous “innominabile –unutterable” white grape by which we make our Colline Novaresi D.O.C. Bianco Il Criccone.
What are your other major export markets and why?
We currently export to US, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Switzerland and Russia.
How do you see 2019? What are your big opportunities and challenges?
We see it as bright year ahead. We’re confident we can manage to expand our presence in the UK market and to consolidate the German Swiss Canton in order to penetrate Germany. We have invested in expanding our vineyards and our cellar and we are looking to double our current production of 80,000 bottles by the end of 2020. Our strategy of growth is shared by the whole Alto Piemonte territory which is experiencing a bit of a renaissance, as it has been so long under the spotlight internationally.
Why should a buyer or sommelier come and taste your wines and others at the Nebbiolo Day tasting on March 5?
To keep themselves abreast of the novelties in Northern Italy wines. To understand the goodness of Alto Piemonte as a high-grade option within the overall Piedmontese wine production and to embrace and enjoy a unique and engaging sensorial experience given by Rovellotti’s Nebbiolo’s.
- The Nebbiolo Day tasting takes place on March 5 at the Lindley Hall, Elverton St, London SW1P 2PB including more than 90 winemakers and 500 Nebbiolo wines. It will include in-depth seminars and master classes by Walter Speller ( ) and the guru of Italian wine maps Alessandro Masnaghetti ( ). You can also test your knowledge of the many styles and guess the origin of more than 90 wines on the Nebbiolo Trail. To register go to http://huntandspeller.com