Forteto della Luja "Le Grive" 2017

Barbera-Pinot Nero|Monferrato, Piedmont

Welcome to Forteto della Luja, a World Wildlife Fund "Oasis" Site in the Disney-like village of Loazzolo in Piedmont.

Loazzolo lays claim to Italy's smallest DOC (wine region), the entire wine region covering a minuscule nine hectares – that's for the entire region, not just their estate. Alas, the Loazzolo DOC laws allow only for sweet dessert wine from Moscato, therefore this red falls under the larger "Monferrato" region, which is fitting as the soils here are ferrous iron, echoing the etymology in Monferrato and reflected in the deep earthiness of this "Le Grive" rosso.

The grapes are a field blend of Pinot Nero (a.ka. Pinot Noir) and Barbera, a rare and very successful marriage of grapes resulting in dark plum, Bing cherry, sweet pipe tobacco and loads of toasted sweet spice.

"Le Grive" means "the thrush," a nod to the speckled sparrow-like bird that feasts on the ripe grapes in this bowl-shaped, south-facing set of vineyards at 2000 feet.

I could go on and on about this estate and the wine. They're so beyond organic that it seems a waste of oxygen to write about them. They cultivate a "mother yeast," akin to sourdough starter, to start all of their ferments. Grapes are pressed in a 100-year-old screw press, by hand, and fermented naturally in large, old casks in a stone subterranean cellar underneath the family house.

Distinguished, rare, and immensely pleasing, it drinks superbly now and only gets better with age. This is a full-bodied, graceful, 100% hand-made wine that should be twice the price for the amount of work that went into it.

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