Carema is a tiny, picturesque appellation located in the foothills of the Alps at the very Northwestern edge of the Piedmont region, bordering the Valle D’Aosta. Almost all of the 13 Hectares total of vineyard holdings in the area are tiny parcels cut into the mountainsides on steep terraces with each parcel usually owned by a different family. Unfortunately many of the vineyard owners are very old and there has been a lack of a younger generation to take up the reigns of the appellation, having more and more chosen work in the cities or in more traditional office jobs. Up until recently, essentially all of the grapes from the myriad of these tiny parcels ends up either with estate of Luigi Ferrando, or with the fine, small local co-op called the Produttori di Carema.
Il Sorpasso is finally a change in that trend. The winery was started by a young couple from the area – Vittorio Garda and Martina Ghirardo. Vittorio had been working for a winery in the nearby Canavese area and grew up surrounded by wine. In fact, his father was a restaurateur in the area who had developed a friendship with Teobaldo Rivella of Barbaresco who introduced us to this dynamic, talented couple.
Vittorio and Martina’s dream started in 2012 when they rented their first vineyard in Carema. In the beginning, the work was a daily challenge due to the steep, rocky terrain. So much so, they didn’t start making wine until two years later, in 2014. Since that time, they have increased their holdings to one hectare total. In addition, for their first two vintages, they had to vinify outside the area as their cellar was not yet ready. They had been renovating an old house from the 1800’s that was to serve as their home as well as the winery. They managed to get it ready just in time to vinify the 2016 vintage.
Their goal is to continue and to safeguard the viticultural tradition of Carema by increasing the biodiversity in their vineyards. They farm organically, but are also champions of not only the mainstay grape Picotendro (local varietal of Nebbiolo) but also finding parcels with seldom seen native varieties such as Neretto and Ner d’Ala. Given the steep terrain with vineyards between 350 and 700 meters, farming in Carema is very hands-on, and often back-breaking work. At harvest, grapes are gathered and carefully transported down the mountain in small baskets. In the cellar, the wine is fermented using a pied de cuve of natural yeast from their vineyard. After the fermentation, there is an extended maceration of 2-3 months after which the wine is aged for a few months in stainless steel, followed by 20 months in 100% neutral wood casks.
The resulting wines are classic, traditional “Mountain Wines” with bright, lifted dried cherry aromas intermixed with mountain herbs and minerals. Given their tiny patchwork of vineyards, Il Sorpasso will always very small by any winery standards. That said, while they hope to slowly add to their holdings, the little bit we get will always be considered cherished amounts!