Carema is a small mountainous area neighboring the Aosta Valley in the far northern corner of Piedmont, in north-western Italy. This unique viticultural landscape is situated in the province of Turin and was awarded its DOC classification in 1967.
Similar to the steep, coastal region of Liguria, Carema is a notoriously challenging place to grow vines and much patience and determination is needed – a skill acquired over centuries of vinegrowing in the area. It offers a total potential vineyard area of 300 acres (120ha), although in the early 2000s fewer than 32 acres (13ha) of vines were planted. The vineyards sit 2460 ft (750m) above sea level on a series of terraces (known as tabbie in the local dialect) that rise dramatically toward the mountains. The vines are supported by granite columns, and the thin topsoil often gives way. This means the producer has the ardous task of bringing the soil back up from the valleys, rebuilding the terraces and stone walls and replanting the vines at the same altitude.
Although the wine is barely known internationally due to its limited production, it has been held in great esteem by wine lovers for centuries. In the courts of Savoy, it gained considerable status among the popes and cardinals. According to Pope Paul III, it was "an excellent and perfect beverage for princes and lords".
Carema is a red winemaking zone and boasts the king of Italian red grapes, Nebbiolo, as its leading varietal. The wine must comprise 85% of this variety, the remainder made up of a maximum 15% of authorized Piedmont red grapes. Ageing requirements are 36 months, of which 24 must be in wood, while the riserva must spend an extra six months in oak.
Due to the cooler mountain climate the grapes don't ripen as well as further south in Barolo and Barbaresco, so the wines tend to be less powerful, with slightly higher levels of acidity than those from the Langhe. However they are still full-bodied reds with earthy overtones, and lean towards a more aromatic and delicate style of wine. Like many of the Piedmontese reds made from Nebbiolo, they display a bouquet reminiscent of rose petals and have great ageing potential – although they often require more time to age than their more famed Nebbiolo counterparts. They are an excellent match with the mature hard cheeses of the area, such as Grana Padano, or game.