When you travel from the Piemonte region into Valle d’Aosta, you pass through the pre-alpine growing areas of Caluso and Carema. Unfortunately, as you drive along the road, you’ll notice many abandoned terraces. There’s now a few less, grazie to Matteo Trompetto and his farm, Terre Sparse.
Matteo’s given love to those abandoned terraces, and life to a small traditional farm. Bees buzz and make a wide range of honeys, including a wonderful Chestnut one. It’s just the thing to spread on your morning toast; so is some of quince preserves. Animals make their home here: goats, sheep, angus cattle, ducks, donkeys, and a bevy cats and dogs. There’s much work to be done and Terre Sparse is an ambitious undertaking. It’s an area we don’t usually see many new wine producers popping up, let alone ones with working farms. And that’s a shame, since the soil and climate here are unique and warrant our attention. Along with Nebbiolo, you’ll mostly find the white wine variety Erbaluce that’s known to age, like Timorasso, Fiano, Verdicchio, and Carricante.
The Caluso DOCG sits a bit lower than the Carema DOC, which is more Alpine in nature. Both are located in a natural morenic amphitheatre, whose soil composition tends to be sand and other elements renders it alkaline, producing wines with low alcohol and a savory quality. Matteo’s wine making reflects the ethos of his small organic farm, the wines have minimal intervention and use native yeasts. Sulphur levels are around 48 mg/l total and coming down each year as he gains confidence (and feeds the family). We’ve decided to begin with his old school Erbaluce ‘Diverso’ that has some skin contact (13 days), and so – in the confusion that continues in understanding Italian wines – can’t use the Caluso DOCG designation; yes it’s ‘different’ from other erbaluce in the area, but not in an extreme way. More savory than sauvage.
The Uva Rara variety that makes the rosato is called ‘Rarissima’ and is not often seen bottled by itself. It’s a fun wine, with some flower and bitter notes. Like the Erbaluce ‘Diverso,’ it’s 12% alc. These wines are not glou-glou, they have too pithy of a texture, and the savory notes have a tinge of bitter, which, alas, maybe is a hallmark of many Italian varieties. These wines go down easy after day of hard of work on the farm, or a day at the desk typing.
Speaking of typing, if you do travel here, the town of Ivrea is worth a visit. It was once famous for being the base of the now defunct typewriter manufacturer, Olivetti, the Google of its time.