Western Langhe: the "Other" Langa from Dolcetto to Nebbiolo
Clavesana, Dogliani, Farigliano and the surrounding areas are historically known as the Langhe Monregalesi due to their social relationship with the town of Mondovi, which they consider as a sort of little capital. Today, there are factors that require them to refer to Alba and the entire hill area that has been acknowledged as UNESCO World Heritage. In this sense, we can now call them the Western Langhe, lands of tradition but also of new discovery. A friend once told me that if we have the "Langa" and the "Alta (or High) Langa”, then the Monregalese hills should be known as the "Altra (or Other) Langa". These are hills where the rural spirit still stands strong and the invasion of international tourism has not yet had an impact on life in the towns. The vineyards alternate with woods, fields and meadows where cattle graze, and with wheat and barley. Heading uphill, the roads climb towards the Alta Langa of Murazzano, while the view downwards from the hills is over the Cuneo plain. In the background, the Alpine chain looks incredibly close, starting from Cadibona hill, which divides them from the Apennines, and stretching away to Monte Rosa and beyond. Bang in the middle is Monviso with its familiar shape which, according to some versions of the story, is the mountain that inspired the logo of "Paramount Pictures".For a long time, for centuries even, local viticulture was based on the exchange with the farmers of the plain, who would come directly up to the vineyards in autumn to buy Dolcetto grapes to make their own wine. Dolcetto is a very adaptable and early-ripening grape that perfectly suits the area’s rural culture, with pleasant oenological characteristics that make it an ideal everyday wine. The private or cooperative wineries that have improved and bottled it now have a good market in north-west Italy and elsewhere, but sales are falling in the international commercial context in which it is absolutely necessary to be present.The enhancement of wines thanks to the PDOs - Protected Designations of Origin - still known in Italy as doc and docg, has led to the launch of Dogliani docg, made with 100% Dolcetto, and Langhe Dolcetto, which can contain up to 15% other grape varieties. When we have a wine that is important in terms of structure, alcohol content and ageing potential, then it becomes Dogliani Superiore docg, the category produced by Tenuta Garino.In recent years, however, renewal processes have begun, with the introduction of the Nebbiolo grape, used here to make Langhe Nebbiolo DOC. Thanks also to different and better climatic situations, Nebbiolo is finding very good positions and proving its ability to reach levels of excellence when planted in white marl, found in plentiful quantities here and similar to the marl of the hills around Alba.Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have joined the local wine scene, becoming the base for Alta Langa docg sparkling wine, which is expanding its ampelographic and commercial base.The growing demand for white wines has led to the planting of several varieties, but the absence of doc acknowledgement for Arneis grown in this area has opened up new experiences with Favorita, Viognier, Nascetta, Chardonnay and even Riesling, which has given excellent results and is already being made by some leading estates. The Barbera grape was traditionally cultivated in less favourable positions and was never considered to be of any real importance, but today it produces very pleasant and appealing fruity wines labelled as Langhe Barbera doc. Applications have also been presented to extend the Barbera d'Alba production zone, which could offer this variety a very bright future in the Western Langhe.