In the province of Torino, just below the border to the Val
d’Aosta sits the tiny DOC wine zone of Carema. In this northern climate,
where ripening the local form of nebbiolo
(called picciolo tenero, or tender
) is a constant challenge, vines grow on terraced hillsides along
trellises which are supported by stone pillars to better expose the
leaves to the sun. These pillars, along with the stone walls which
reinforce the terraces, absorb the warmth of the sun and continue to
radiate this warmth after the sun is gone, creating a microclimate in
the vineyards in which the fickle nebbiolo grape can ripen just enough
to produce lean, subtle and earthy wines with tremendous complexity. Pairing the wine with
the richness of braised pork or veal can really be enlightening.
The local enthusiasm for Carema is manifested in the stubborn
maintenance of these vineyards. Landslides from heavy winter rains, as
well as the powerful winds in the Dora Baltea valley can rub out an
entire vineyard, such that growers are constantly rebuilding their
trellises and terraces.
The Carema DOC encompasses slightly less than 40 hectares of
vineyard. That is less than one tenth of the total vineyard space in
Barbaresco, which in turn is about a quarter of the space in Barolo.
Many feel that if nature permitted a larger growing zone for Carema, it
would be considered on of Italy’s greatest reds, but the limited supply
of these wines makes it instead one of Italy’s best kept secrets.