When Italian wine ‘Bible’ Gambero Rosso announced Gianni Doglia as its winemaker of the year for 2022, there were many in the wine trade who were delighted that this visionary winemaker from Piemonte was finally getting the critical acclaim he has deserved. Doglia’s wines, including the game-changing Moscato D’Asti Casa Di Bianca, have won the prestigious Tre Bicchieri awards in the past, but being made Italy’s winemaker of the year also takes into account his commitment to sustainability as both a founding member of The Green Experience and as a follower of Italy’s SQNPI protocol. For wine expert Mike Turner it was an added bonus – Doglia was the person who converted him from drinking ‘snakebite’ into appreciating great wine, and is now a personal friend.
“Gianni really has ticked all the boxes of a top winemaker. For Gambero Rosso to have recognised that in such a public way really has left me very proud of my friend,” writes Turner.
In the middle of October, we managed to get down to Piemonte in Italy for a week, our first visit to the region since the Covid pandemic hit the world. With only a handful of days to play with and fully aware that we were there in the final throws of Piemonte’s grape harvest, we planned our visits to winemaking friends well in advance and looked forward to finding out all about this year’s harvest, and what’s new since we’ve last seen them. For one winemaker in particular, the world had just become a very happy place indeed.
I consider Gianni Doglia and his sister Paola to be friends. I hope they feel the same in return. I’d imagine they do, as I can’t imagine people who don’t like you to put up with the appalling Italian I speak to them every time I see them, and still smile at me and welcome me back! So it’s with amazing pride that I get to announce that my friend Gianni has just been named Gambero Rosso’s Wine Grower of the Year for 2022.
What is Gambero Rosso?
A quick one for those of you who might not have come across Gambero Rosso before. Directly translated as the “Red Prawn” (yes indeed), Gambero Rosso’s Vini D’Italia is widely accepted as the go-to guide for lovers of Italian wine. Its annual awards ceremonies each year are hotly anticipated by winemakers hoping to receive the prestigious Tre Bicchieri (three glasses, the highest honour) awarded to their wines that year.
As well as rating and awarding wines from the length and breadth of the country, they also award individuals for outstanding contributions across the course of that year. This year, well for 2022 to be exact, the Viticoltore Dell’Anno is Gianni Doglia.
Gianni Doglia Wines
I met Gianni and his sister Paola (now the winery’s commercial director) on my first ever trip to Piemonte in 2002. Back then I was very much a ‘snakebite-and-black’ drinker, in the middle of my undergrad studies at Bath and very much enjoying the sports club social scene where I was good enough to be in some decent teams, but not good enough that we needed to stay sober for the games.
Introduced by a family friend, the late and great Ezio Rocco, Gianni introduced me to…well…wine! I was about to start saying how he introduced me to Moscato, and to Barbera, and to Dolcetto, and to Grignolino, but back then I was coming to terms that it wasn’t fizzy and wasn’t in a pint glass.
The things that struck me then are the things that still hit me every time I get to visit Paola and Gianni. Firstly, the view from their winery is one that I can still see when I close my eyes, it’s utterly stunning. And secondly, the infectious smile and enthusiasm Gianni has for his job, something I often thought about when struggling with my first career when leaving university.
Back in 2002, when I met him, Gianni was in the process of taking more control of his father Bruno’s vineyards. The family had six hectares of land just outside of Castagnole Delle Lanze, a town in Piemonte that some might recognise as being the main neighbour of Neive (one of the villages of Barbaresco) or even as the home of the famed winery of La Spinetta (Gianni’s direct neighbour a bit further down the hill).
Gianni saw the value in Moscato D’Asti. That might seem a strange choice to us in the UK who still harbour long memories of poorly made versions or of the Asti Spumante behemoth, but let me tell you right now that a good Moscato D’Asti is worth every penny. And few, if anyone, makes them better than Gianni, so much so that he tendered for, and won a contract to supply the Norwegian Vinmonopolet. With both the confidence (and I’d imagine the healthier balance sheet) that came with that, the winery has been developed and modernised and their number of hectares has nearly tripled to 17.
The Gianni Doglia range
Gianni now boasts an enviable range of wines, using a range of native Piemontese grape varieties. They include the famous grapes of Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and Moscato, and the not-so-famous Grignolino, Ruché, and Favorita.
It’s from Gianni’s range that I get my slightly strange and eclectic favourites of Piemontese wines. We all love a well-made Nebbiolo, whether from the communes of Barolo or Barbaresco or somewhere in between, but how many beautiful Grignolino D’Asti have you ever had? Gianni’s explodes with red fruit and floral character, with super short maceration times to control the dangerous tannins, and it’s a wine I could have every day of the week, chilled with my lunch, if I didn’t have stuff to do in the afternoon.
He produces high end wines from Merlot and Barbera, including a Nizza DOCG, Barbera D’Asti Superiore’s new (2014) incarnation in the Monferrato region. These wines are selling well, especially to Japan, South Korea, and the USA – markets looking for quality and value – but slightly less fixated on the famed vineyards of Barolo and Barbaresco.
But his two standout wines for me (and I flatter myself to say it’s the same for Gambero Rosso as well) are his top end Moscato D’Asti Casa Di Bianca and his Barbera D’Asti Bosco Donne. The Casa Di Bianca, about to be renamed under the new Canelli DOCG from the 2021 vintage, is delicate, floral, aromatic, and herbaceous. This is a game-changing Moscato and a previous recipient of a Tre Bicchieri.
He also produces an unoaked, low yield, Barbera D’Asti “Bosco Donne”. One of Gianni’s first fresh ideas, back in 1998, this Barbera is named after the area where the vineyards are grown, the site of an old farmhouse that three women took refuge in during World War One when their husbands left for the Front. Low yields and carefully judged maceration times leave a rich wine, with cherries, plums, hints of balsamic, and near perfect acidic balance. The 2020 Bosco Donne has just been awarded Tre Bicchieri status.
Next generation of winemakers?
It seems strange to talk about Gianni as part of the next generation of Italian winegrowers now that he’s 50, but it was my first experience of a son taking over the family vineyards, so I’m sticking with it. I might be biased, but with his visionary and controlled expansion of the family winery, and his commitment to sustainability as both a founding member of The Green Experience and a follower of Italy’s SQNPI protocol, Gianni really has ticked all the boxes of a top winemaker. For Gambero Rosso to have recognised that in such a public way really has left me very proud of my friend.
For more information
For those of you wishing to try some, a handful of Gianni’s wines are available through Vinarius although neither the Casa Di Bianca nor the Bosco Donne are currently imported to the UK.
For more information on Gianni’s wines, please contact the winery directly on firstname.lastname@example.org