Catching up with Ferdinando Principiano in his Barolo Ravera vineyard…


Ferdinando’s been a friend ever since I first arrived in the region, along with his Spanish wife Belen, her daughter Laura and their son Leonardo (a sparring partner for my Patrick!). Indeed it was he who insisted, over a dinner at La Coccinella in Serravalle Langhe a year ago, that I should seek out (not his wines) but those of the Timorasso grape; incidentally a grape he’ll be planting nearby this autumn.

As to his Barolo wine Ravera (from Monforte not Novello), I tasted it only in recent months. For some reason he’d never spoken of it during earlier visits to the cantina/winery; or perhaps I wasn’t asking the right questions. But then he makes a mere 150 cases of it a year, so easily overlooked. Compared to the sandier, iron-richer, more grasso Barolo Boscareto from Serralunga (just below Giacomo Conterno’s Cascina Francia/Monfortino site), the vertical Ravera site is altogether cooler, east-facing, pitted with tons of small lime-stones that break easily to reveal a cool blue marne heart and boasting the ancient, high quality ‘michet’ clone.
I’d been dying to make it over to the site, to see for myself what it was all about, and I can’t wait to return and work it by hand. Being located on the southern fringe of the Barolo zone it benefits from the biodiversity of the Alta Langhe; the wilderness that lies beyond the dense planting of Nebbiolo vineyards. This helps in maintaining a biodiverse balance in the vineyard – just listen to the ‘uccellini‘ , the chattering of little birds in the video; something which Ferdinando now prizes. For it was in 2003 that he made the decision to move away from the world of consultants and their prescriptions, both in the vineyard and cantina. And he’s been rewarded by the purity and drinkability of his wines, notably the perfumed 2008 Langhe Nebbiolo Coste and, for later, the compact mineral 2006 Barolo Ravera.
And as if to re-inforce the uniqueness of the Ravera site, there’s a solitary wild apricot tree standing in its heart, a mass of candy pink flowers against the grassy vineyard with its gnarled old trunks; you might just be able to make it out in the clip. Ferdinando tells me that it doesn’t always fruit, but that when it does…wow! Perhaps that’s the way the vine should be too.
p.s. sorry about the truncated interview; it’s the first time my batteries have fizzled-mid flow!