Forgotten Piedmont: 1996 Petterino Gattinara

Posted by Joe Salamone

Forgotten Piedmont
1996 Petterino Gattinara

North of Barolo and Barbaresco, there is the "Alto Piemonte." This is a land where Nebbiolo takes on its most feminine and delicate forms. And because it's been all but overlooked, the wines are simply a steal.

Consider a bottle of Nebbiolo, one of Italy's most noble grapes (the same grape used in Barolo and Barbaresco), from one of the great vintages of the 1990s, from a tiny, 2.5-hectare estate, organically farmed, traditionally made and cellared perfectly for well over a decade at the estate.

Finally, consider responding to this offer quickly because these will disappear.

Petterino's Gattinara is one of the purest expressions of this appellation; it is one of the most complete expressions of Nebbiolo. Think of Gattinara as representing a middle ground between the alpine, floral briskness of Carema and the muscular intensity of Barolo or Barbaresco.

At one point, it should be mentioned, Gattinara had a reputation for complexity and longevity that rivaled Barolo and Barbaresco. At 17 years of age this wine is just coming into a wonderful complexity; this is an expression of Nebbiolo that only age reveals. There are no shortcuts here, which is of course what makes this so special.

The 1996 still has a considerable mid-palate of spiced dark fruit, though the real show is the floral complexity, the high-toned notes integrating perfectly with darker soil tones and a still-brisk minerality. While the wine is powerful, it is wonderfully finessed and precise.

In the relative obscurity of Gattinara, without the serious financial obligations of the rockstar appellations like Barolo and Barbaresco, Petterino is able to follow the old-fashioned practice of holding some wines back and releasing them when they are starting to hit their early maturity.

Make no mistake - this is a luxury and it is something that will, inevitably, disappear as more and more people seek the values of these overlooked DOCGs and snap up the cellar-treasures that have been overlooked and underpriced.

1996 is largely considered one of the top vintages of the 1990s - especially for purists who prefer more classically proportioned wines. For us, this is a good part of the charm of the wine. As with Burgundy and Germany, the site-specificity of the grape, the transparency and complexity is what makes these wines so fascinating

As mentioned, Gattinara's have an impressive track record for aging. Bottles from the 70s are still drinking well today. Obviously we can't guarantee the 1996 will age similarly, but given the structure, it certainly has 5-10 years ahead of it.

While offers like this serve as a potent reminders of just how unexplored the Northern Piedmont can be, please keep in mind that this is changing quickly. We'll likely talk about offers like this wistfully in the near future.

To order, please email us at or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Joe Salamone
Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits

1996 Petterino Gattinara