From north of Torino, bordering the Val d’Aosta, comes Chiussuma of Caluso & Carema.
In 2016 young Matteo Ravera Chion, a tall Anthropology graduate of Torino University, joined forces with locals Rudy & his wife Alessandra to create Chiussuma, named after the waterfall that falls close to their Carema vineyard, which comprises 3ha of Nebbiolo (local Picotener & Prugnet clones) & local Nerd-Ala vines trained high on ‘topia’, trellised across granite/mica pillars that delimit the tiny terraced vineyards at up to 350m asl. The soil is morainic & mica, carried up the impossibly steep slopes from the valley bottom.
In 2020 they released their first Rosso Canavese (2019), ‘Farinel’ (meaning ‘whipsnapper’ in dialect!), all 600 bts of it: a beautifully perfumed blend of Nebbiolo + 10% Nerd-Ala, vinified only in stainless steel & labelled with a picture of a Ghiro, a wild animal with a particularly long tail that inhabits Alpine villages. 2017 Carema is their second vintage, aged in two old barriques & a tonneau; producing 1000 bts total! From vintage 2018, the yield was sufficient to enable them to upgrade to two tonneaux!
Matteo vinifies the Erbaluce from vines in the Caluso village of Piverone – labelled ‘Pajarin’ on account of its straw-like colour – from 1ha of mostly pergola vines that lie in the ancient glacial, acidic, morainic soils close to Ivrea, the grape’s epicentre & source of Piemonte’s first DOC bianco in 1967. Piverone lies near the Lago di Viverone, a volcanic lake. Leggy Erbaluce vines are trellised high on ‘pergola Calusiese’ (at 1k plants/ha) on the splayed slopes of the Serra di Ivrea, in the comune of Palazzo Canavese. Erbaluce is related to Fiano, having been brought to Piemonte by the Romans. Its finest expression is achieved among the Canavese hills north of Torino, in the comune of Caluso, where it looks up the Val d’Aosta & benefits from its dramatic temperature oscillations.
Carema was also awarded its DOC in 1967, & is found 30mins by car up the tight, sheer granite & mica valley on the Piemontese border with the Val d’Aosta, is found the 60ha region of Carema, whose history dates back to 1539 & to the documented works of Papa Paolo III Farnese, in which he celebrated the wines as being worthy of ‘Principi e Signori’ (‘Princes & Gentlemen’). Carema vinification is traditional, preserving the integrity of the Nebbiolo, Picotener & ‘Neretti’ grapes, with skin maceration circa 15 days, followed by 18 mths in 500litre used tonneaux. Production of both wines is limited; notably of the Carema (max. 1200 bts/anno). Their debut vintage being 2016.
Their Carema vineyard is also home to three divine donkeys: Ernesto, Angelica (with long fringe!) & Nerina!
Erbaluce di Caluso ‘Nramia’
2018 Erbaluce di Caluso ‘Nramia’, Ravera Chion – 13% abv. Stainless steel only, with 6 months affinamento on the lees (as opposed to 12months for the previous vintage). 2018 was a more generous vintage, with some notably wet months in May through to July, and then a dryer August. Aromas of stone fruit, orange peel and wild mountain herbs. Lovely ripeness on the palate, quite rich and creamy (did malolactic), yet mineral and with such freshness & purity too. Thick skins are gently pressed, but without skin contact, so keeping the freshness & aromatics alive. Good acidity and plenty of pulpy stone fruit at its core, with notes of wild honey, a gorgeous texture, and fine tannins. To be released in September – very drinkable now but it also has potential to age..
2016 Erbaluce ‘Nramia’ Vino Bianco, Ravera Chion – 12.5% abv, 12 mths affinamento on the lees in stainless-steel, bright pale yellow/miele – the word ‘Nramia’ is dialect for the honey/lemon colour of the wine, but the wine is unofficially Erbaluce di Caluso DOC, as it was in vintage 2015, & it will be again in vintage 2018 (as 2017 was not made due to hail, purtroppo)! The nose is crystalline, Val d’Aosta fresh, snow pure with delicate, lime spremuta, soft, pure, grape & yellow plum fruit notes, with racy, glacial, granite freshness coursing through it – spettacolare! Similarly to the taste, it’s very delicate, with glistening purity, the finest of creamy leesy texture, so transparent & Alpine pure, a hint of yellow pressee/spremuta, of citrus pulp; love its effortless weight, of minerals, mica bright, the most delicate of bianco spina fragrance, layered, yet remains so prim & pretty. Gorgeous, but only 1,500 bts produced. Vintage 2018 Erbaluce di Caluso will be available from Sept’19.
2017 Carema, Chiussuma -14.2%, bottled settembre 2019, differs from the debut 2016 vintage in that it’s: 100% Nebbiolo (80% local Picotener clone), vinified for less time on the skins (15 days vs 20 in 2016), spending 18 mths in one used tonneaux & one barrique, as yields were down to 1000 bts in the dry vintage. Bright translucent, red/orange, there’s a racy lift to this mountain wine, spirited, with orange peel, cold tar, tiny red berries, cold tea & mountain freshness. On the palate, it’s pulsating, electric, such detail & purezza, driven, with pure Nebbiolo lines & refinement, the oak framing the wine, red cherry stones, glistening. A very exciting follow-up.
2016 Carema, Chiussuma -13.5%, bottled spring 2019, an exciting debut release, if only 1,200 bts from 40 yo vines (90% Nebbiolo clones Picotener & Michet, 10% local ‘Neretti’), trellised high up on terraced, stone topia/pillars & pergola at between 300 – 600m asl, aged in two French tonneaux of 500Litri, plus another six months in bottle. A mountain bright, transparent, glistening, intense colour of ruby/rosso/garnet! The nose is similarly just as exciting & uplifting: Alpine fresh & stunningly perfumed, with glacial/ier back cherry, smoky mica/granite minerality, beautifully sculpted/curato, a hint of rose, delicate Pinot-esque tonneaux spice in the background; on the palate, it’s electric, Alpine pure, snow-driven, yet fluid & juicy at the same, plenty of joy here, but pulsating, tingling with (Val d’Aosta?) energy, precision, pace & freshness! Very exciting debut.