Close to the centro of Alba is the venerable company Prunotto, established in 1904, and originally formed by Alfredo Prunotto in 1923.

He bought a bottle shop which presumably made its own collective of wines known as “Vini delle Langhe” or in Aussie speak Langhe Wines; Langhe being the general collective geographical allocation to all the top red grape regions on the southern side of the Tanaro River which bisects the region.

To the north is the Roero Hills known mainly for the white arneis and volumes of the early-drinking barbera variety.

On a sunny October afternoon I visited Prunotto’s new cellars (relocated in 1972 says Tiziana Gallo, my guide and commercial presenter) now on Alba’s outskirts where it is easier to receive grapes than it was in the historic city centre (with its narrow streets, restricted traffic and wine grape deliveries which have anti-tourism needs).

Tiziana says the season’s last harvest was just in, as a tractor and trailer pulls up on the weighbridge beside our tasting window, loaded with selected, black-sheened, hand-harvested nebbiolo.

A tour of Prunotto’s barrel storage below ground told me about how the company’s red wines are aged; as this contributes so much to the original character and aroma of the young wines, and significantly to the aging trajectory of the more highly regarded vineyard wines.

Slovenian oak casks in the range 2000-5000 litres made by the Venetian coopers Gamba are essentially used, plus hogsheads (300 litres) and puncheons (500 litres) of French and Hungarian oak (owner Antinori appears to have a cooperage interest in Hungary). There has also been a sliver of small American oak used for the past two years.

Prunotto Roero Arneis 2009, (89), 12.5%, USD 26 from the southern Monteu Roero sites is a delightful drink. Unwooded, all the sole grape variety, made in stainless steel with cultured yeasting, it is fruity in the lemon/nectarine, crunchy palate fashion. Just so good to salivate over with a plate of Piemontese raw veal topped with tuna sauce (tonnato).

Prunotto Pian Romualdo Barbera d’Alba 2006, (90), 13.5%, USD 61.50, is a single vineyard barbera from the Monforte region in Alba, owned since 1955, and released for the first time as a single wine from 1961 (Prunotto’s first ever single vineyard release). It is cherry-red, has a serious nose now that some small oak has been applied since 1996. The wine has 50 percent large, 50 percent small

barrel aging for 10 months then off to bottle for eight months before sale is considered. Modern barbera: fresh pippy fruit, oak sweet, acid at its normal high level, soft grainy tannin gives style.

Prunotto Costamiole Barbera d’Asti 2007, (92), 14%, USD 46, is a more recent single vineyard barbera from the Asti sub-region, a 27 hectare vineyard in the Agliano region of Nizza after this sub-zone became recognised in 2004-2005. This wine has substantial new oak aging, 100 percent in barrique and the winemaking cleverly manages the balance between fruit and oak sweetness. Aging profile is 3-5 years.

Prunotto Occhetti Nebbiolo d’Alba 2007, (90), 13.5%, USD 28 is a single vineyard wine from Monteu Roero, arneis country, pretty swish nebbiolo regional wine, has lighter colour as a vineyard trait, is made traditionally with that “old dumb oak” nose from 70 percent in large oak, 30 percent small oak (2nd and 3rd fill). This is soft nebbiolo, shows my telltale “baked/treacle” character from a warm year like 2007 where aging on the palate is now obvious.

Prunotto Barbaresco 2006, (92), 13.5%, USD 47.50, steps also into the traditional “oak-seasoned” aroma characters, good perfume still (the rose clone jutting out), lots of tannin, a touch minty which is long and green. This is a blend of grower vineyards from the region, 95 percent large oak, 5 percent small, one year in barrel, one year in bottle (which accounts for its liveliness-less oak time, fresher wine). The rationale with oak is with high tannin parcels, why add more from oak tannin from new barrels, just use large stuff to allow softening time. Age span 8-10 years, (2014-2016), the essence of Barbaresco type wine.

Prunotto Barolo 2006, (92), 13.5%, USD 54.50, cherry red, never too dense in sync with the nebbiolo grape, oak sweet nose, spices, roses, has concentration, palate quite fine and quite elegant, surprisingly less tannin than its Barbaresco running mate. The Barolo is a grape supplier wine from vineyards in Monforte, Serralunga and Castiglione Ferrato.

Prunotto Bric Turot Barbaresco 2006, (95), 13.5%, USD 63, is a 5 hectare single vineyard wine, has some special qualities, including freshness and modernity, one year in barrel (10% barriques), the rest bottle and the careful handling shows. It has subtlety, still sweet oak and long, unobtrusive, silky tannins which make it ultra-fine.

Prunotto Bussia Barolo 2006, (92), 13.5%, USD 81, more old fashioned, is a 5.5 hectare single vineyard wine, lots of funk collected from its old barrels, complex, soft and long; supple, now aging a little, and I suspect, an earlier maturer than its Barbaresco mate.

Alfredo Prunotto retired in 1956, sold to a younger winemaker Beppe Colla, who later sold to Antinori in 1989, who added international distribution from that time, and winemaking responsibility from 1995 when Beppe retired.

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