Why Petterino is Essential
For producers and wine lovers, devotion to Gattinara is a waiting game. This small DOCG at the core of the Novara and Vercelli hills (better known to wine folks as the Alto Piemonte) has a reputation for austerity right out of the bottle. The grape here is Nebbiolo — referred to as Spanna locally — and to say that it requires a few years to reveal its thoughts in the glass is an understatement.
Fortunately, we have Petterino, a tiny traditionalist estate that stubbornly holds on to its wines until they think they’re ready to drink. That doesn’t always mean that releases are chronological. Like I said: Petterino is traditional, and we’re not just talking about their use of botti. You won’t find a website, let alone an Instagram account to follow, as Marco Petterino and his brother Giancarlo keep their focus on the slow-and-low craft of making exquisite wines emblematic of their territory. Nothing more, nothing less. In a way, it is an artisanal approach that is quintessentially Italian: if you are going to do one thing, do it to the level of mastery.
In fact, there is only one wine to find. Depending on the vintage you locate, it is either a Gattinara or a Gattinara Riserva, and there are less than 2,000 cases produced annually. Of all the producers listed on the Essential Winemakers of Italy, this is perhaps the rarest. Certainly, it represents the biggest time warp. But for those who can hunt down one of these surprisingly well-priced wines, the rewards are vast. Upon release, this is a glimpse of Gattinara’s complexity, grace and vibrant energy, without the waiting game. Cheers to that.
Wines to Seek Out
As noted earlier, there is only one wine from Petterino: their Gattinara, which comes from a combined 2.5 hectares of vines in three of the appellation’s most choice parcels: Castelle (pictured above), Permolone and Guardie. After a two-week maceration, the wine spends three years in large botti casks before it is moved to stainless steel for clarification. Because of this length of time, the wines now carry the riserva designation.
Petterino Gattinara Riserva
So what does Petterino’s one wine taste like? Right upon opening it reveals the gorgeous, red berry-side Nebbiolo can sometimes show when it has mellowed with time, as well as ample flowers, earthy leather and truffle, and distinctive roasted note that reminds me of walnuts. But it is the finely polished tannins that give this wine its distinction, which — coupled with poised swaths of acidity — lend the wine a heightened versatility at the table. You need not save this wine for the rare occasion of a lamb or beef pairing; just open and enjoy. But also, you ought to realize that, given the wine’s rarity, it may be a while before you locate another bottle. Savor it.
Visiting Petterino at this time is limited to members of the industry. Since the winery does not have a website (near as I can tell), inquire with the consorzio.