I was delighted to taste Travaglini wines in San Francisco recently paired with food at such a perfect place to taste these wine–Perbacco. When I am longing for Italian cuisine in San Francisco this is my number one place to visit.
I looked at my tasting database to see if I had ever tasted a wine from Travaglini or from Gattinara DOCG and surprisingly I had not. While I have learned to not be too surprised anymore it is hard not to feel excitement when tasting something new.
Travaglini is the largest producer of Gattinara DOCG in this 103 hectare denomination of just a dozen producers. The DOCG rules allow for additional grape varieties of Vespolina and Bonarda no more than 10% to be input into Nebbiolo. And Travaglini uses only 100% Nebbiolo. Travaglini was started in the 1920s by Clemente Travaglini and four generation later is still a family operated winery.
I have included the above map to see where Gattinara DOCG is located–NE of Torino (Turin) and NW of Milano (Milan). A natural question is where is Barbaresco and Barolo? These denominations are located to the south.
Nebbiolo is without a doubt a most alluring grape variety–to me it is haunting just like Pinot Noir. Travaglini’s approach is to produce fine wines and to frame Gattinara DOCG as the centre of their painting. Their wines are polished, expressive and, of course, have the capability of aging for considerable time. The bottle is also another nice point of difference (pictured above) is not just a nice touch but also shows the passion of Travaglini to think and produce thoughtfulness at all touch points for their wines.
And this tasting including another first for me which was to taste their sparkling Nebbiolo called Nebolè. This sparkling wine is white and expresses with elegance–to the best of my knowledge this wine is not available in the United States as it is such a limited product.
I was very excited to get fourth generation Travaglini family member Alessia to be part of my interview series. I enjoyed meeting her in person and I also love to learn more about Travaglini via the interview. I hope you enjoy as much as I do.
It was wonderful to meet you in person in San Francisco and taste through your wines! Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed today.
JTWG #1: When was Travaglini founded and were the wine grapes planted at that time Nebbiolo?
Travaglini was founded around 1920s when in Gattinara Clemente Travaglini decided to replant vineyards in Gattinara after years of abandonment of viticulture due to phylloxera and a heavy hailstorm in 1905. Since that moment the Spanna wine (the original name of Gattinara wine) was a blend of Nebbiolo, Bonarda and Vespolina.
JTWG #2: Your DOCG is unique in Italy as it is one of the oldest – how many hectares is Gattinara? And how many producers?
Gattinara obtained the DOC designation in 1967 and the DOCG in 1990. Gattinara DOCG is only 103 hectares with a very restrictive disciplinary that help to preserve the quality. We are the biggest (52 hectares) and the most important winery among the other 12 wineries.
JTWG #3: What are the requirement of Gattinara DOCG? (grapes, aging etc.)
The disciplinary for Gattinara DOCG is one of the most restrictive: to be able to call the wine Gattinara is necessary that the grapes come from the vineyards planted in Gattinara, that all the process from vinification to aging to bottling is made in Gattinara. This help us to protect quality by avoiding trade in grapes and wine. Today it is possible to produce Gattinara wine with a minimum of 90% Nebbiolo grapes and the remaining 10% with Bonarda and Vespolina grapes. we prefer to use 100% Nebbiolo. The aging is in oak barrels of minimum 2 years for the classic Gattinara (we do 3 years) and 3 years for the Gattinara Riserva (but we do 4 years).
JTWG #4: What are the oldest vintage in your cellar?
The oldes bottle of Travaglini Gattinara in the “twisted bottle” is the 1958. We have some Bottle of “Spanna” of 1952.
JTWG #5: What are the challenges with growing Nebbiolo
Nebbiolo is considered one of the finest grape variety in the world for many reasons. One of these reasons is precisely the difficulty in cultivating and getting the best expression of this variety. Nebbiolo cannot grow in all wine areas but only in specific ones which have a specific terroir. Nebbiolo, as it has one of the longest vegetative cycles, does not grow in zones with too cold temperatures, especially in the spring period. Also to better express its noble notes, the need for specific soils. Gattinara is one of the perfect area for growing this great grape variety.
JTWG #6: Is it difficult or easy to talk about your wines when compared to other Nebbiolo wine regions in Piemonte?
To date the answer could be almost “easy”. But if you had asked me the same question 20 years ago the answer would have been different. Gattinara from the last years have been seeing a great growth. The reason is because grew the interest for fine and high-quality wines that you can easily find in Gattinara with an interesting quality-price ratio compared to other areas (for example south Piedmont). Moreover, also the small dimensions of our territory, make of Gattinara a product more and more requested.
JTWG #7: Describe the characterization of your wines?
A sip of Gattinara contains in itself the history of the land of the North, the nobility of a vine like Nebbiolo, the unique geology and climate of a place that speaks of ancient volcanoes, rocks and austere mountains. Everything in a glass that seduces the eye thanks to the delicate transparency of an ancient and shiny ruby colour, which conquers the senses with soft floral perfumes, from violet to petal, to take on a dash of spice and balsam as time passes. To complete the fresco with hints of minerals, sometimes ferrous, in a game of meticulous detail and complexity that in this land only Nebbiolo know to give. The pleasure is then sublimated in the mouth with the extreme elegance of a balance between freshness, noble, just outlined tannins and a subtle, infinite persistence of small fruits, flowers and fruit jelly. A wine that has a very long life, refining, in time, its own aristocratic elegance.
JTWG #8: I had never tasted a sparkling Nebbiolo before? What was your inspiration – I am assuming there is a low dosage / I am guessing a Brut style? It is a lovely and memorable wine and taste like no other sparkling wine I have tasted before.
Nebolè is an Idea, a Project, a Wine. Is the result of a surprising and innovative research applied to the cluster of Nebbiolo grapes, made by our oenologist Sergio Molino in the first decade of the years 2000. The idea for this new project was trying to realize another expression of Gattinara and Nebbiolo, not the typical red wine but a white sparkling. This is a Wine made only with the tips of the bunches vinified in white, from our most suited vineyards. After a maturation of minimum 46 months, this Blanc the Noir pas dosè is a synthesis of uniqueness, elegance, freshness, and harmonious complexity. The delicate tannicity of Nebbiolo marries the very fine bubbles of pearl in a thick platinum mist.
JTWG #9: What was you most treasured experience with your wine? A great dinner? A milestone celebration? Traveling abroad? Discovered your wine being poured at a state dinner?
Everytime we have the chance to open an old bottle of our wines of 30-40-50 years old is an unforgettable experience. Every time I think that a wine can have all those years, I’m impressed and speechless. It’s a masterpiece! The last experience we had was some months ago with a 3 litres of Gattinara DOCG 1967 in a restaurant close to Gattinara. Was still in perfect shape with its intense red color tending to copper, expressions of perfumes so complex and tertiary that reflected the taste.
JTWG #10: Your wines are quite versatile and can go from vegetarian to seafood, beef, pork and lamb? What are some of your favorites dishes to serve with your wines?
The The most beautiful feature of Nebbiolo is its versatility. We suggest to drink Nebbiolo in every occasion depending on which of Travaglini wine you decide to drink. for example the Nebbiolo Coste della Sesia is perfect with appetizers or pizza; the classic Gattinara with a pasta or risotto for example with mushrooms; the TreVigne and Riserva is phenomenal with meat for example beef, pork, lamb or game. Il Sogno is still a wine you can drink during an entire meal but express its best with complex dishes like meat or cheeses. It is interesting also to drink to conclude a meal with pieces of dark chocolate (70% or above).
JTWG #11: I love your bottle silhouette–so distinct and I would think of no other producer except you. Can you tell my readers the origins of your bottle design?
This bottle was designed by Giancarlo Travaglini in 1958, because this special shape actually catches the sediments during pouring, allowing the wine to be served directly form bottle to the glass without decanting.
The dark-colored glass prevents light from passing through and impacting the quality of the wine.
His elegant bottle was perfectly designed for storage and aging in the cellar
Today it is a registered trademark (exclusive for Travaglini) in the world by Travaglini and is the symbol of the company itself.
JTWG #12: What are the top countries importing your wines?
We export the 60% of the total production in 42 countries worldwide. One of the most important is USA with which we have been working since 1965.
JTWG #13: What is your Cantine’s total production?
We produce every year an average of 250,000 bottles. Actually, the total production it’s different each vintage.
JTWG #14: What is your favorite vacation destination?
I love traveling. Each place is an experience to live at the best you can from which you have to catch as much as you can and add to your personal culture.
JTWG #15: And lastly, what is your favorite thing about a being a wine producer?
The most exciting thing about being a producer is the opportunities this world has to offer you. is a world so vast that gives you the opportunity to experience, meet people or live special moments. wine gives you the opportunity to share emotions.
Thank you kindly for your time and it was a pleasure to meet you in San Francisco!
Salute e molto grazie,
James the Wine Guy
Travaligni Gattinara website is here.
Travaligni bottle shot is courtesy of Palm Bay/Taub Family Selections.
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