Alta Langa | Raising Italy’s Bubble Bar

Press Review | 2024 Jun 19


Alta Langa | Raising Italy’s Bubble Bar

Is altitude the answer? | 19 June 2024 | by Michaela Morris.

When the question is climate change, Italy’s Vite Colte cooperative is among those who believe that it may be part of the solution to preserving wine styles. Located in the heart of Barolo, the winery recently expanded its range to Alta Langa, Piedmont’s relatively new traditional method sparkling DOCG. While the denomination already imposes a minimum vineyard elevation of 250 metres, the cooperative doubles this, sourcing grapes exclusively from plots located at 500 metres and above.

To launch a new zero dosage bottling from 600 metres, Vite Colte organized a conference looking at the effects of altitude. Speaker and renowned university professor, Attilio Scienza reminded attendees that for every 100-metre increase, average temperatures drop approximately 1° C which helps slow phenolic and sugar ripening. By growing higher, Vite Colte is able to delay harvest by at least 10-15 days compared to vineyards below 300 metres. “This is advantageous for the synthesis of aromas, the preservation of malic acidity, and a low pH,” Scienza explained. All of these are crucial to the production of high-quality bubble.

Nevertheless, not all producers are running for the hills. Scienza outlines risks such as the increased threat of autumn rain and unsustainably low yields. Agronomist and vineyard manager, Daniele Eberle admits that lower altitude vineyards would have been easier. “There are less sites at higher altitude, and they are far apart, so it takes more time and money to work the land.” Nor is it possible to grow vines everywhere. Exposition and soil are equally important considerations alongside altitude.

“The future is not to simply go even higher, but to deepen understanding of the altitudes they currently they have,” concluded Scienza.

To put their wines to the test, Vite Colte also invited Ruben Larentis to the conference. One of Italy’s most distinguished oenologists, Larentis was chef de cave at Trentodoc’s Ferrari estate for decades. He was nothing but honest suggesting how to coax out further complexity. When it comes to traditional method sparkling wine, there are no shortcuts. “It takes 5-6 years at least because you can’t see the results of what you did during that time period,” says Larentis. Fortunately, Vite Colte is in it for the long game.

My recent article on Alta Langa dives deeper into the zone and includes several zippy recommendations. And if you are still thirsty for high altitude wines, try Mount Etna, the Douro Valley and Argentina.

Here’s to moving on up,

Michaela



Recommended

Vite Colte ‘Seicento’ Pas Dosé 2019

             

After dedicated experiments, the Vite Colte cooperative’s first ever commercial zero dosage hails from a few choice vineyards reaching a minimum of 600 metres. It is dominated by Pinot Noir and spends 42 months on lees. I tried this at the end of 2023, a few months prior to its official release and it was still very tightly wound and stern. Nevertheless, suggestions of candied lemon peel and baking bread were promising. Shored up by a steely backbone and brisk acidity, the palate is lean and vertical with tense bubbles. Another few months in the bottle should serve it well.



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