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Principiano – Monteforte D’Alba, Piemonte

Ferdinando Principiano is one of the new crop of exciting young winegrowers to farm Piedmont’s Langhe hills. He graduated from Alba’s Scuola Viticole Umberto I in 1993, joining his father Americo at the Monforte D’Alba domaine following an apprenticeship at both Giacomo Conterno & Roberto Voerzio; the best of both worlds you could say. The former drove his determination to produce a pure and balanced style of Barolo, persuading him that nurturing the vineyard soil and rejecting the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides gives the correct conditions for the vine to thrive in. Voerzio taught him tradition for its’ own sake does not necessarily give you the best results. Initially seduced into making souped-up wines to ‘guarantee’ 100 point scores in America, he changed direction in 2003 when he found these wines undrinkable, falling over with age. Now the yields are not so low, the vineyards rich with wildlife, the roto-fermenters removed, his foot off the gas. Fermentations are shorter and the ripening period extended in his now all-organic vineyards. He keeps sulphur to the bare minimum and has even replaced copper use in the vineyard with algae and aloe treatments – all to enhance the long term health of the vines in their environment. Wines are treated with as minimal intervention as possible – natural yeasts and additions of sulphur at a bare minimum if needed at all.

The Dolcetto Dosset is Ferdinando’s expression of a Piemontese everyday wine. Completely natural with zero sulphur, so early picked and short fermented to protect the juice it comes in at 10.5% alcohol, light, and fragrant with crushed berry and red fruit notes. The riper and fuller Dolcetto St. Anna shows wonderful ripe blackberry and cherry fruit flavours, with a hint of liquorice and spice. Both the Dolcetto and the Barbera Laura are vinified and aged in stainless steel. The Barbera is fine, long and laden with structured fruits from its core of old vines. Now extinct, this is the last vintage of the Barbera Romulada from sixty year old vineyards, located in a sub-area called Pian di Romualda in Monforte d’Alba. Fermentation and maceration without inoculated yeasts and without added sulphur between 30 and 60 days. Ageing takes place for 20 months in 400 litres barrels and then in bottle. The Nebbiolo Coste is made in the traditional Barolo-Nebbiolo style but all in stainless steel so at a fraction of the price. The single commune Barolo Serralunga is the most immediate Barolo, the focus being on balance and restrained ripeness from the meticulously grown fruit. The Barolo ‘Ravera’ is from old Nebbiolo Michet clones ripened on 6,000 square metres of meticulously cultivated land with fifty year old vines yielding around 160 cases. The Barolo Boscareto Cru is the flagship Barolo and is located in Serralunga d’Alba at the foot of Giacomo Conterno’s Cascina Francia (home of Monfortino). A combination of old vines, a south-west facing aspect and high proportion of sand over blue marne bedrock gives a sweetly fragrant, luxuriant mouthfeel and juicy strawberry-like overtones from this harmonious wine.

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