Alta Langa Docg, the first Italian sparkling fermented in bottle

Author: Marco Negro

­­Sentieri di Vino now examines the theme of the noblest Italian sparkling wine, the one fermented in the bottle. The Italian sparkling wine produced by refermentation in the bottle is called “Metodo Classico”. 155 years have passed since Carlo Gancia learned the art of sparkling wine production in Reims, the so-called classic method or champenoise. Back in Piemonte, Sir Gancia brought with him not only the secrets of sparkling Champagne, but he also promoted the spread of new vineyards of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. With his foresight, he saw Piemonte as a favorable terroir to produce wines fermented in bottle like the French ones. Thanks to his foresight and a great determination, Carlo Gancia becomed the father of Italian sparkling wines. The Italian sparkling wine route starts from Canelli, in Piemonte, to spread over the hills of Pavia (with the extraordinary Oltrepó Pavese Docg from Pinot Noir) and more recently in Trentino (Trento Doc) and in the hills of Brescia (Franciacorta Docg). Drinking a glass of Alta Langa Docg means recognizing a tribute to the history of Italian oenology.

Alta Langa

Alta Langa, territory and Docg rules

The controlled and guaranteed denomination of origin (D.o.c.g.) “Alta Langa” is reserved for sparkling wines, obtained from Pinot noir and/or Chardonnay grapes. The Alta Langa wines must contain at least 90% of those grapes.  For the remaining 10%, the producers can decide to add other grapes (non-aromatic) from Piemonte region.

Alta Langa Chardonnay Pinot

The vineyards admitted by the disciplinary are concentrated in a vast area of ​​Piemonte which embraces three provinces (Asti, Cuneo and Alessandria) forming a long hilly belt in the southern provinces of Piemonte. The perfect terroir for these wines is areas with good temperature ranges and low humidity. In this regard, the chosen lands cannot have an altitude less than 250 meters above sea level and the marly soils must be calcareous-clayey, with moderate fertility. The minimum aging period required by the Docg is 30 months from the harvest, but almost all the 20 producers age their wines longer. Both the white and rosé versions of this Classic Method sparkling wine can be produced.

fermented bottle
fermented bottle

As with all the sparkling wines fermented in the bottle, at the time of the dégorgement each winery has the possibility of characterizing its production in a unique way, using an own liquer d’expédition, with a strictly secret formula.

The sparkling wines of the Alta Langa are elegant wines with a fine and persistent foam, with a complexity due to the refermentation in the bottle and with a sweet and harmonious fragrance in the mouth.

The terminology relating to “Classic Method” sparkling wines is commonly maintained by all and in almost all languages, in French.

dégorgement à la glace: French term for the removal of the yeast (skimming, de-yeasting). The process is carried out after remuage (shaking), during which the yeast residues are successively conveyed into the bottle neck.

liqueur d’éxpédition: The liqueur that is added to Champagne bottles, replacing wine lost by expelling the plug of yeast from the bottle. Liqueur d’ expedition is wine that may or may not contain sugar and/or brandy. The amount of sugar present in the wine will determine the type of sparkling wine. The result will range from a dry “brut” to a sweet sparkling wine.

Tosti: two centuries of traditions

The first winery we are going to talk about is the historic Tosti 1820. For over seven generations, Bosca’s family has been producing Italian sparkling wines appreciated all over the world. Tosti was one of the first companies from Piemonte to produce the Alta Langa Docg. These bubbles are for the company the highest expression of the Piemonte area. “Giulio I Riserva is an extra brut classic method made from 100% Pinot Noir. After the wine is fermented in bottle (second fermentation), the finishing process takes 72 months in a natural cellar. The long aging on the lees makes this sparkling wine unique, which behind an apparent simplicity and freshness conceals the aromas of the area.

The dégorgement à la glace usually takes place with the use of a liqueur d’éxpédition aged in wood. The foam is soft, abundant. The perlage is exceptionally fine and persistent. The scent is very intense and elegant, complex, with floral hints that are complemented with hints of ripe fruit. The taste is fine, sapid, elegant, with an aftertaste of floral notes that are caught in the long finish. Behind every sip there is the beautiful story of the Bosca family who for years have been carrying on with passion and tradition. The winery also produces other Alta Langa Docg, all of these using 100% of Pinot Noir.

Cocchi: with all the heart

Giulio Bava is the owner, with the family, of the centenary Giulio Cocchi winery. The company has been producing Sparkling Wines for more than 120 years. The best example of Alta Langa expression we can find in the sparkling “TotoCorde”. What an appropriate name for this great wine wich translation litterally means: “With all the heart”. It clearly represents the passion and the commitment of the producer in making this wine. It is a classic cuvée of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. After the wine is fermented in bottle, the process is completed with a long maturation in the cool and dark for 4 years. It is a wine that is particularly fresh and intense at the same time, with the same aromatic notes that go from the nose to the mouth. When you drink it, do it with all your heart if you want to take the pure essence of the producer’s expression.
Giulio Cocchi also produces Alta Langa Docg using 100% of Chardonnay and a “pas dosé” version.

Deltetto Alta Langa Docg: outstanding

When old and new generation decide to melt together, the result is the maturity of experience combined with the freshness of ideas. Exactly what you can find in the Alta Langa sparkling wine fermented in the bottle. In the eighties it was the young Antonio to start the production of sparkling wines, his personal passion. Antonio says: “I still remember my first bottles of Spumante, I had produced no more than 1200 and I had given them to friends and customers. It was amazing how many people called me to thank me and to tell me to continue on that path”.

The blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is fermented in bottle (second fermentation) and aged for at least 30 months. The result is an Alta Langa Docg which combines some delicate fruity scents with the more complex notes typical of long aging. It shows character and elegance. The color is mainly straw yellow, with fine and persistent perlage. After the first notes of ripe fruits, complex notes of bread crust and yeast, blossom. In mouth it is dry, sapid and well balanced. The aftertaste is long and persistent. Thanks to its versatility, it is perfect as an aperitif or throughout a meal.

The Anglo-American magazine Decanter  has recently recognized Alta Langa Docg Brut 2016 as the best Italian sparkling wine, giving this wine a score of 95/100 and the mention “outstanding”. An evident sign of how Alta Langa, the first born among the Italian sparkling wines fermented in bottles, is an undisputed player on the international scene of wine lovers.

08th December 2020,

Marco Negro

Picture of Marco Negro
Marco Negro
Expert of communication of Italian wine. He has a knack for connecting people.
Picture of Marco Negro
Marco Negro
Expert of communication of Italian wine. He has a knack for connecting people.

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