👨‍🚀 Join Our Wine Club and Become a Winestronaut Today! 👩‍🚀
📡 Two Natural Wines Monthly 🥂 10% Off Everything 💰 Spellbinding Write-Ups 📖 Free Monday Night Flights 🚀

Sette - Barbera d'Asti - Monferrato, Piemonte, IT - 2020
Sette - Barbera d'Asti - Monferrato, Piemonte, IT - 2020
Load image into Gallery viewer, Sette - Barbera d'Asti - Monferrato, Piemonte, IT - 2020
Load image into Gallery viewer, Sette - Barbera d'Asti - Monferrato, Piemonte, IT - 2020

Sette - Barbera d'Asti - Monferrato, Piemonte, IT - 2020

Regular price $48.00

Unit price per 

only 12 left in stock

Sette produces two different wines made entirely of Barbera grown inside the Nizza DOCG, within the comune Nizza Monferrato (from the same 5.8ha plot that’s been under organic conversion since 2017 and biodynamic culture since 2020), on a south face composed of calcareous marls and sandstones. One is bottled as Barbera d’Asti DOC, made from vines of 20 to 40 years old, on chalk and sandstone, with a yield no higher than 5,500kg/hectare (~2.5 US tons/acre), and the Nizza DOCG from mostly 80-year-old vines on sandstone, limestone and chalk. For both wines they use an old Piedmontese winemaking technique of waiting for the must to reach 10-11 degrees of alcohol and then use a wooden grid to submerge the cap for a gentler infusion for the latter two-thirds (or more) of the maceration time to softly extract while the wines reach their textural balance as it is tasted daily. This process lasts between 30 to 50 days, depending on the vat and the year, with Nizza always a bit longer than the Barbera d’Asti.

Following the pressing, the Barbera d’Asti makes at least a year of aging in the cellar with concrete vats prior to bottling and release, while the Nizza is aged for a year in a 30hl Stockinger Austrian oak barrel followed by six months in concrete. The result for both of these wines is a softer structure than the typical Barberas from the Langhe, but also with more savory notes and more profound depth. Sette’s Barberas are extremely serious wines with massive potential; they’re on the more technically tight craft side without sacrificing their approachability and friendliness.

The Monferrato/Asti area is Piemonte’s new wine laboratory, and experimentation is particularly extensive at Sette, where they’re looking to expose new dimensions of their local indigenous varieties. The comedic and talented duo that includes the experienced wine trade pro, Gino Della Porta, and well-known enologist, Gian Luca Colombo, founded Sette in 2017 with the purchase of a 5.8-hectare hill on Bricco di Nizza, in Nizza Monferrato. Immediately, a full conversion to organic farming began, followed by the implementation of biodynamic techniques in 2020, the latter being a vineyard culture still considered somewhat radical in these parts. The wines are crafted and full of vibrant energy with focus and only a soft polish. There’s the slightly turbid and lightly colored, juicy, fruity, minerally Grignolino, and their two serious but friendly Barberas, among other goodies that will trickle in with time. Sette’s game-changing, progressive approach and delicious wines (with total eye-candy labels) should ripple through this historic backcountry and bring greater courage to the younger generations to break out of the constraints of the past and move full throttle into the future.

Barbera in Chablis?

My first interaction with a wine from Sette was at a restaurant in Chablis. I accompanied Romain Collet, one of the two Chablis producers we import, to an invitation from Jasper Morris, the well-known Burgundy writer and author of the exhaustive reference book, Inside Burgundy. We were met by three other young Chablis producers who’d been invited to Jasper’s tasting, which involved some filming and was to be televised on a British network. After the filming, the restaurant owner offered everyone a blind taste. As an unexpected invitee, I kept silent while the growers stretched to figure out the wine. Hanging with the film crew, seizing the opportunity to talk about their artistic métier. The standoff started gently. “Seems like a Burgundy…,” one timidly said. Another took it further, “It could be from Corton, or maybe Pommard.” Back and forth, they dug into Burgundy’s limestone and clay terroirs, but the acidity was impossible for Burgundy, and the color a stretch.
Ink-black with red trim, and deeply complex, its full and tense acidity and focused flavor was impressive. No sign of new oak—another affirmation that mostly ruled out Burgundy. Quickly it began to reveal its hand to me, the nearly indescribable mark of a Piemontese red, a note all Piemontese junkies know. Once I’d landed on Piemonte, the dominoes instantaneously fell. Leaning over to one of the film guys, I whispered, “It’s not Burgundy. It’s Barbera.” A bottle with a gorgeous Asian-inspired piece of modern art for a label (pictured above) was revealed to disbelief followed by a flurry of the uniquely constructed onomatopoeia only a native French speaker can say without sounding vulgar or pretentious. They were impressed by the wine, and so was I. Keeping quiet, I intended to tuck this rare blind tasting victory in my back pocket when the film guy pointed at me and announced, “That’s what he said!” Well, occasionally lightning strikes. After a quick search on Instagram, I made contact with the producers and the rest is, well… you know.

The “Old Couple”

As a self-described “old couple,” the dynamic duo, Gino and Gian Luca have great chemistry; longtime friends that flow naturally together, one finishing the other’s thoughts, often teeing up the start of a joke for the other to smash with his driver, on cue. Gino Della Porta, born in 1973, sports the big hipster beard known as a _Garibaldi _(a term I only recently learned). Mellow like The Dude and constantly wearing a sheepish smile, he’s always ready for the next punchline. A resident of Pisa, he does the long commute to Nizza for cellar movements, important work in the vineyards and during the harvest. Originally from a small village about seventy kilometers north of Rome, he moved to Pisa for university. He fell in love with this Tuscan city famous for its tower, became a sommelier in 1997 and then opened a comic book shop (1998-2003)—a man after my own childhood, which also involved a comic-book addiction that was also replaced by wine. (Gino admits that his interest in comics and superhero art heavily influenced Sette’s beautiful labels.) In 2003, he started selling wine for one of Italy’s new-wave importers/distributors followed by working with one of the most important Italian importers from 2010 to 2017. He also developed a small company that manages marketing and sales for a few very recognizable Italian estates, like Le Boncie and Cappellano. Inspired by his past work with the old vintage Barbera wines of Trinchero and Scarpa “La Bogliona,” he and Gian Luca bought a perfectly situated 5.8-hectare vineyard in Nizza, and Sette was born.

A fast-talking, thoroughbred enologist with an ever-present mischievous grin ready to pounce on the next gag with Gino, Gian Luca Colombo’s Barolo client list is long and diverse, with names like Reva, Diego Conterno, Garesio and Castello di Perno. His early exploits include top prize as the first recipient of the “Gambelli Award for Best Young Italian Enologist,” in 2014, and in 2011 he started to bottle his own miniscule production of wines made in the cellar underneath his house. In 2017, his organic and biodynamically farmed Segni di Langa – Gian Luca Colombo project was labeled and his cantina was made official.

One Vision

Gino and Gian Luca have different skill sets but their vision for Sette is clear: to make wines free from cultural and regional expectation while using the most ecological methods possible inside organic and biodynamic culture. Constantly pushing Gian Luca to further open the throttle on experimentation, Gino explains, “We know we have to produce naked Barbera that explains our terroir, but we have to experiment to find our way.” He also knows this generation of wine professionals and consumers are the largest collection of the most open-minded supporters of experimentation in the history of the wine business. G and G know that they also must adapt traditions to today’s circumstances; the climate isn’t what it used to be, and neither is the interest of the market; they don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just adapt it to our times. While some wine regions (temporarily) benefit from climate change, from one year to the next, others yield grapes with increasingly more underdeveloped tannin and acidic balance than in the past, so traditional methods of farming and cellar techniques must adapt. Some wines of just two decades ago, though made the same way today, have changed dramatically.

“We found our vineyard deeply disfigured and strongly oriented toward large-scale production. There was an extensive use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and systemic products. For the whole of 2018 and 2019 we avoided intervening in any way, to ensure that the vineyard cleans itself of the excesses of product given in these years.”

In 2019, the beginning of their third year, the second season under organic culture, they planted various cruciferous plants to help clean and regenerate the soil. Despite the dilapidation of the neighboring vineyards, it’s one of the few in the area where it’s still possible to find tall trees and fruit trees. Gino and Gian Luca intend to increase their efforts in recreating a more natural environment with the additional planting of more than forty regional trees (some fruit-bearing) that will further improve its biodiversity.

Monferrato: Piemonte’s new wine lab

Wines from Sicily, Campania, Liguria, Abruzzo, Lombardia, Valle d’Aosta, and even many parts of Piemonte, like Alto Piemonte, existed in relative obscurity up until less than a couple of decades ago. Recession in the late 2000s forced restaurants with deep cellars into a selloff. Furthering the movement toward smaller producers were the reduced budgets restaurants now had as they tried to return to normalcy and refill their cellar bins. They also shifted to much shorter lists with constantly changing selections, which not only opened the doors for those boutique Italian wine importers who had previously tried and failed to break in, but also for young and hungry new importers, like us. To support the uprising and force customers to venture away from Chianti, Brunello, and Super-Tuscans, some Italian restaurants even purposely began to leave them off of by-the-glass lists (and a few off their lists altogether), explaining that if they had a Chianti by the glass it would sell 80% of the time, leaving many other reds to lose their best qualities before the end of the bottle. The indigenous Italian wine market cranked into full boom and it’s no longer a movement, it’s now an establishment.

The wine world has gone completely mad on pricing. Elite and micro-producer prices are embarrassingly stupefying and never worth it (unless money is not a concern), and the wine world’s quietly kept secrets once whispered only among the trade are a thing of the past, seemingly for good. Piemonte’s Langhe wine regions have had a severe uptick in interest and investment in recent years, along with many other European wine regions. Only ten years ago it was easy to procure big-name wines, like G. Contero, G. Rinaldi, G. & B. Mascarellos, and even Burlotto, a readily accessible and inexpensive Barolo that recently jumped in price about 500% (on the secondary market) once one of their 2013s was awarded a perfect score by a wine critic. Many greats of the Langhe seemingly snuck right out of reach in only a couple of years for those of us with modest and medium budgets, just as Burgundy did more than a decade ago. These unwelcome departures left our thirst for the noble tastes and particular house styles unquenched. Truly great Barolo and Barbaresco can still be found at fabulous prices (take Poderi Colla, for example), but there are so many with medium to high prices that are more likely to underdeliver than live up to expectations.

However, today is not a time solely for lamenting the loss of easy access to today’s elites. The horizon is always full of new arrivals from forgotten or overlooked lands that once shined with success before falling out of sight, many of which were showered with praise by the royalty of old, their noble grapes preserved by generations of working-class heroes. With the price increase crisis of the Langhe followed by that of Alto Piemonte, how can any other Piemonte region compete in quality with Barolo, Barbaresco, and the wines of Alto Piemonte?

Monferrato is primed for a breakout performance. But how exciting can Monferrato possibly be? Does the market even take this region seriously? These were regular thoughts when we first began to focus on importing Italian wine in 2016. Prior to that, our company brokered Italian wines in California for almost a decade with a few different Italian importers. The importers we worked with played a quiet but influential role in the emergence of backwater Italian wines. Each had their token price-point Monferrato producer or two, usually a couple Barbera d’Asti, but not much more.

We never set out to plant a big flag in the Monferrato/Asti area. Like the Italian wine importers we once worked with, we were in search of our token Asti producer to supply us with some value Barbera. Then something that we’ve seen many times before happened: we saw big potential that only needed a strong and friendly nudging.

Monferrato advantages

Monferrato’s first advantage has to do with certain expectations about the wines they produce that differ from more famous Piemontese regions, one of the more pertinent being the expectation that they should be cheaper than those of the Langhe. Most importantly, many don’t play the Nebbiolo game, so they don’t have the burdensome weight of navigating the terrain of today’s grape royalty. Nebbiolo-land comes with familial and regional baggage. The iron grip of the most recent generational lines that built the family up from the poorest area in Italy to one of its wealthiest isn’t keen to let the kids wander too far off the path. Ok, they can tinker with Dolcetto, or even Barbera, but Nebbiolo used for their Barolos and Barbarescos? The vignaioli of Barolo and Barbaresco with the big critical press are no longer just grape farmers and winemakers, they’re businesspeople first, and their task now is to push the same game piece, the same direction, every vintage.

Monferrato has their own historical grapes, which means they won’t always be second or third-division Nebbiolo land. They can be first-division in Barbera, Freisa, Ruchè, and what I believe could be the most significant category uptick, they undoubtedly will be first-division Grignolino—a variety that was considered grape royalty for centuries.

Another advantage is that they have the terroir with enough talent to go beyond “good value wine” and into a world-class product. The ingredients are there: limestone and chalk with extremely active calcium, sandy limestone, a great variety of other geological formations, gently sloping hills (preferential to steep ones with looming climate change toward hotter temperatures and the need for better water retention) with great variations of soil grain to put grapes on their most favorable soil types (Grignolino on sand, Freisa on clay, Barbera in the middle), tremendous biodiversity with swaths of indigenous forest between vineyard parcels and sometimes right in the middle of them along with a multitude of intended crops (well beyond the occasional hazelnut grove as seen in much of the Langhe’s prized vineyard areas where grapes aren’t suitable), and a climate that’s conducive to organic and biodynamic vineyard culture.

Monferrato’s freedom from preconceived notions can lead to freer thinking within the community. Freer thinking leads to greater experimentation. Experimentation leads to breakthroughs. Breakthroughs change the game. When games change, people follow.

The x-factor here could be that Monferrato’s growers surely include ambitious and creative kids with dreams to build. Their parents and grandparents lived in relative isolation in this Italian backcountry while other nearby regions went from poverty to wealth in a single generation. Many of the Gen Xs are in the family driver’s seat now, the Millennials are working side by side with mom and dad, the Zoomers are at school, and all three of these generations are exposed to the world around them through their social media feeds, so they’ve witnessed the incredible success of Langhe. They see that their northerly wine neighbor Alto Piemonte is not only rising, but it has also arrived in a big way. They realize the potential of the natural wine movement and many will want a piece of it (but do it cleanly, please!). There are now openings to make whatever style of wine they want because there are fewer shackles; they can stay and improve on the traditional course passed down for generations and/or get creative in their own way and veer from the status quo. Whatever the path they choose, they will likely have more freedom than the average kids of Barolo or Barbaresco, probably even more freedom than any other Nebbiolo-focused region.

Another factor is immigration, and I don’t mean people from other countries, but those from neighboring Langhe. With the increase in frequency of the Piemontese selling their most prized vineyards to foreign investors for fortunes nearly impossible to recoup in the wine business (without flipping it again to another high-bidding trophy hunter), how does any financially challenged Langhe youngster, from a family that works for the landowner or in the cellar, filled with inspiration and great knowhow get out of first gear? They have to move. This is what spurred Gian Luca to partner up with Gino to play ball inside of an appellation with tremendous talent that was still financially attainable, and with a lot of great underutilized sites waiting for the right new owners. Of course, Gian Luca has his own Barolo project, but expansion has proven to be financially prohibitive.

Close (esc)

Popup

Use this popup to embed a mailing list sign up form. Alternatively use it as a simple call to action with a link to a product or a page.

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.

Search

Shopping Cart

Your cart is currently empty.
Shop now