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“I’ll reach out to you if I have more questions,” I can type into the Facebook chat. “If I can answer ☺️… ” Pietro responds.
I like him immediately. Pietro Arditi is the owner of a humble winery known as Cantine Valpane. Located in Piedmont (Italy), it’s a small, 11 hectare (27 acre) estate in Monferrato focusing on Barbera and other local varieties. Cantine Valpane is an under-the-radar estate, but when Kermit Lynch is your importer in the USA, that’s a big fat stamp of approval.
His wines are not fruity and explosive but savory and sensual. Still, they are no means austere, all have that Piemontese flair that I love. The estate produces mostly Barbera but Pietro is passionate about all the local grapes.
“I don’t have any particular preference (variety). I like to work with our autochthonous vines, the ones my grandfather used to cultivate,” Pietro says. “Each vine has its own characteristics. I produce more Barbera because it is better known and has a bigger market. Grignolino and Freisa are known by very few people and it is difficult to sell them.”
Barbera, Freisa, & Grignolino
The Barbera’s are excellent but the Grignolino and Freisa impress me deeply. In fact, the latter opens my eyes. Both of these grapes can be surprisingly Nebbiolo-esque with bottle age. “Freisa and Nebbiolo have the same DNA, in fact maybe Freisa is one of the daddies of Nebbiolo,” Pietro says.
Both grapes are produced to make young wines that the locals consume. However, ever since visiting Monferrato a few years ago, I’ve become enchanted with the varieties. When made delicately and with care, they can achieve similar floral, perfume, and tarry notes that make Nebbiolo so haunting.
If you’re a Northern Italian wine nut but the prices of Barolo and Barbaresco are getting you down, give these wines a try. All of them can be found around the world for around 20 USD (with the exception of the Cantina Valpane, Valpane). And if you see a bottle of Freisa with some bottle age, don’t hesitate on scooping it up.
Pietro closes our conversation with, “Many producers in my area plant Nebbiolo (actually, my grandfather also had some shoots) because it is a grape that has more of a market. Instead, I think that Freisa is ‘our’ Nebbiolo.”
- Cantine Valpane, Canone Iverso 2012
The Cantine Valpane, Canone Iverso is made from the grape Freisa. Usually, this grape is used in blends or made to be drunk young. This example is aged in stainless steel and bottle for several years. It has a very classic Piemontese nose with cherry, leather, hazelnuts, and dried strawberry. While the nose is very complex and has layers of savory notes and leather, the palate delivers a surprising jolt of red fruit. This is medium-bodied and has some big tannins but then again, it’s meant to be paired with braised meats. A complex take on an under-appreciated variety. Score: 90+/100
- Cantine Valpane, Euli 2017
The Cantine Valpane, Eurli is 100% Grignolino del Monferrato Caselese. It’s aged in stainless steel and concrete before being bottled. This is a variety that I’ve come to appreciate throughout the years. Light in color, there are flavors of raspberry, earth, white pepper, and a hint of dried strawberry. It’s not as floral as some examples I have come across. On the palate the forest red berries take over. It seems like an easy, juicy red but the tannins start to build with every sip. They are Nebbiolo-like. A very good example of this grape and it might blossom into something even greater. Score: 89/100
- Cantine Valpane, Euli 2015
Another vintage of this Grignolino. It’s aged in stainless steel and concrete before being bottled. This is starting to show some brilliant bottle age. Notes of raspberry, sour cherry, and a hint of forest mushrooms. Some might think it’s Pinot Noir thanks to the color. The palate is layered and delicate. It acts very much like a Pinot Noir at first until the tannins start to build. Lengthy finish, this may be the best example of the grape that I’ve tasted. Score: 91/100
- Cantine Valpane, Rosso Pietro 2017
The Cantine Valpane, Rosso Pietro is a Barbera del Monferrato that is aged in stainless steel and concrete. It has that classic Barbera nose of cranberry, sour cherry, white pepper, and even a touch of mocha & meatiness. Very complex for a red that didn’t see wood. The palate is fruity and generous. There’s an intensity to the red fruit here. Chewy tannins and good length. At this price, this is a gorgeous red that should even elevate higher with food. Score: 90/100
- Cantine Valpane, Perlydia 2012
The Cantine Valapne, Perlydia is a Barbera del Monferrato Superiore that’s aged in a combination of stainless steel, wood, and concrete before being bottled. The wine is showing some bottle patina but the fruit still is the focus here. Notes of dried cranberry, dried cherry, baking spice, and mocha. It almost smells like an intense, freshly baked brownie with plenty of dried red fruits. On the palate, it’s more savory than the Perlydia. There’s a little more complexity and length here too. Casual drinkers may prefer the Rosso Pietro slightly more while those who want more savory reds will opt for this. Score: 91/100
- Cantine Valpane, Valpane 2009
The Cantine Valpane, Valpane is the flagship wine of the estate. It is a Barbera del Monferrato Superiore. It is mostly Barbera that was aged in large cask with a touch of Freisa that saw only stainless steel. This wine is held back in the cellar before being released. It smells surprisingly young for the bottle age. The fruit is denser here with notes of prune, plum, and dried cherry while notes of leather and a little violet peeks its head out. It gets more interesting with every swirl of the glass. The palate is rich and full-bodied. If this was given to me blind, I might not pick Barbera. Big chewy tannins and respectable length. This is for those who want bigger, richer reds. Score: 90/100
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Cantine Valpane provided tasting samples. The opinions expressed in this article are unsolicited and have not been paid for in any way by governmental bodies, enterprises, or individuals. We do not sell editorial content as that would destroy the legitimacy of our reviews and the trust between Exotic Wine Travel and its readers. On occasion, we extend the option of purchasing the wines we review or/and the products we spotlight. Some of these product links are set up through affiliate programs, which means Exotic Wine Travel gets referral credits if you choose to purchase these items via the links we provide.