Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Gattinara, small but historically important wine region in the hills between the towns of Vercelli and Novara, producing nebbiolo-based red wine in the north west of Piemonte (see spanna for more on its neighbours). It was important enough to have been classified in the 16th and 17th centuries but had only 95 ha/234 acres of vineyards in 2011. In the 19th century, these hills were far more widely planted with Nebbiolo than the langhe, and the wines were more highly prized than either Barolo or Barbaresco. The long decline of viticulture here was halted when Gattinara was awarded docg status in 1990. In 2004 an overarching DOC, Coste della Sesia, including the Lessona and Bramaterra zones, was created in an effort to safeguard its wine production. Although production regulations faithfully reflect the historical practice of blending in the local uva rara and/or vespolina grapes, used in the past to compensate for unripe Nebbiolo grapes in cool vintages, practically all Gattinara is now made of 100% Nebbiolo, a sign of improved viticulture, lower yields, and, possibly, climate change. Gattinara is a seriously ageworthy wine with long mandatory ageing of 35 months (47 months for Riserva), and single-vineyard wines are the rule rather than the exception. The region as a whole did not escape the fashion for barrique ageing entirely, although most wines today are aged in large oak casks. Gattinara tends to be lighter and a little more acid than Barolo, yet more perfumed with tangy acidity and a long ageing capacity while still representing excellent value.