Monchiero Carbone have been making Roero “Printi”since the 1997 vintage, one of the most interesting of the decade. The selection set out to produce a wine that could measure itself against the more structured Piedmontese reds, and deal confidently with decidedly long periods of ageing without forfeiting the elegance that is typical of the Nebbiolos originating on the steep slopes of the Roero. Here, on the limy, east-facing soil of Frailin hill, the grapes can benefit from dry, hot summer days, as well as enjoying the last lingering lukewarm rays of the setting sun in autumn: something which is often forgotten as being essential for a late-ripening variety such as Nebbiolo. Grown following traditional local mthods, the grapes are picked in the middle of October. The fermentation is always long and slow so as to allow all the natural ingredients contained in the grapes to develop in the wine. It is then drawn off into different fill barrels, where it completes its malolactic fermentation and remains for at least 24 months. After a further year of maturing in the peace and quiet of our old cellars, the wine is bottled in preparation for its release. With its expansive, fruity nose, followed by length and body on the mouth, though the taste is dominated by the elegance of Roero tannins, it will continue to improve with lengthy aging in the bottle.
The Monchiero Carbone winery is located in Canale, in the heart of the Roero hills where its foundations were laid in 1987 when the large farmhouse in via S.Stefano Roero was purchased. Well-established winemaker Marco Monchiero was returning to his home town after many years working away in various Italian wineries, and the decision to buy was certainly influenced by the allure of an extensive wine cellar which had been built beneath the house by a rather well-to-do local family towards the end of the 1700s.
Marco and his wife Lucetta Carbone brought together two families whose wine-making traditions dating back to the early 1900s had been interrupted for several decades before this venture was taken on.
Production finally began again here in 1990, aided and abetted by their son Francesco who had recently started studying winemaking and shown an unmistakeable desire to take on the family vineyards.
Though this may all seem relatively recent, the origins of both families and their links with vinegrowing actually go much further back into the past.
It was as long ago as 1918 when Clotilde Valente, great grandmother on the Monchiero side, purchased the Monbirone vineyard with her own dowry. She then proceeded to tend the vineyard for the rest of her days, initially while awaiting the return of her husband after he emigrated to America and was then engaged in the Great War, and then while enduring the solitude of early widowhood. The Monbirone vineyard still lends its name to a barbera which has been bottled since 1960.
It was also in the early 1900s when Enrico Carbone, nicknamed Ricu, married the young Lucia Gioetti: beautiful, tall and graceful, and known as ”the Blonde”. Daughter of the Count of Canale’s wealthy tenant farmer, Lucia was accompanied by a dowry that included a good sum of money, and this was naturally used to purchase a piece of land. Located on a hill in the village of Vezza d’Alba called Tanon (Tanun in the local dialect): Ricu immediately decided to plant a vineyard of Arneis, to bring out the best in the fragrance and appeal of a wine which - in keeping with the tastes at the time - was produced as a sweet white to be enjoyed during both moments of celebration and time spent in the company of friends.
Two vineyards, two terroirs.
Monbirone, with its hard and limy - almost chalky - soil, where just two drops of water are all it takes for the ground to become as slippery as soap; a vineyard that is as heavy to work and hard to mould as the Monchieros themselves, but is ideal for bestowing structure, power and grandeur on the barbera variety.
And the light and dry, sandy soil of Tanon, which seems to have been specially designed to bring out all the fragrance and appeal of Arneis, and is as warm and friendly to work with as the Carbones.
These events linking the lives of forebears to the history of a vineyard were those passed down through stories told around the hearth. They testified to the fact that land was everything for those generations of farmers: the whole family felt involved in choosing a vineyard, and they farmed it for generations driven by a feeling hovering between necessity and pride.
Later it was Francesco Carbone, known as Cecu d’la Biunda - son of Ricu and ”the Blonde” -, who transmitted to his grandson Francesco Monchiero this feeling of pride and belonging to country values. Now at the helm of the estate, Francesco decided to express his gratitude to his grandfather by dedicating to him one of the Roero Arneis wines still produced on the Tanon vineyard: ”Cecu”!
In the last few years Francesco has continued along this journey with determination, giving the utmost importance to what has almost become a ritual selection, taking the greatest care over the identification of land as it is recognized as being the true source of quality in the wines.
So the estate has grown over the years, with the planting of a number of vineyards: one of Arneis on the Renesio hill in the Commune of Canale, where the Arneis grape-variety is thought to have originated according to several documents dating back to 1478; a prime Nebbiolo site in the Anime district; doubling of the Monbirone vineyard; and Printi, which Francesco ”fell in love with” at the tender age of twenty. Finally, the latest vineyard recently purchased in the village of Priocca, closer to the river Tanaro on the Genestreto cru: around 10 hectares on a gentle hillside surrounded by wild camomile, where the clayey soil packed with magnesium aroused his winemaking imagination, and the first - somewhat surprising - results provide grounds for expecting a future revelation soon to make its debut among the winery’s labels.