Borgogno – The History, Place and Wines

Walking into the Borgogno Winery is like going back in time, with the original historical cement tanks (il vecchio cemento) flanking the winery walls. My continuation forward reveals the pristine cellar that is reminiscent of a wine museum. This is Borgogno – the history, place and wines. This great place was also the inspiration for my development of the Notes to Savor journal.

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Started by Bartolomeo Borgogno, the Borgogno Winery is one of the oldest in the region dating back to 1761 and sitting in the heart of the Barolo village in Piedmont. Quaint local shops, historical buildings, cobblestone streets and the Barolo Wine Museum surround the winery. You can’t miss Borgogno’s prominent stature when walking through Barolo village. Until this day Borgogno makes wines using its original, traditional methods.

In the early 1900s Cesare Borgogno took over the management of the winery from Bartolomeo and had the great foresight to export Borgogno wines outside of Italy, which expanded the markets for Borgogno. This gave wine lovers outside of Italy the ability to enjoy its selections. With Cesare’s passing in the mid-1960s, his granddaughter Ida and her husband Fraco Boschis took the helm. Later their children Cesare and Giorgio Boschis joined them and ran the business from the mid-1980s until 2008, when the famed Farinetti family acquired Borgogno. The Farinettis started the well-known Italian company Eataly, with locations worldwide.

The Farinetti family revitalized and made enhancements to the winery, including converting to all organic practices, while keeping the classic and traditional practices such as the use of original concrete fermenters. Borgogno received organic certification in 2019.

The Red Grapes of Borgogno

Piedmont is home to the renowned area Barolo, where the main grape Nebbiolo grape thrives. It is the grape that Borgogno uses to make its DOC Nebbiolo wines and the famed Barolo wines. Borgogno’s land holdings include approximately 93 acres of land with 20 acres covered by natural woods and the remaining planted to vineyards. Borgogno’s vineyards span across the regions of Barolo, Alba and Monleale.

They committ more than 60% of the vineyards to the Nebbiolo grape, while Borgogno plants a smaller percentage to Dolcetto, Barbera and Freisa. They plant an even smaller percentage to the white grape varieties Riesling and Timorasso. Timorasso is a native white grape variety that many had forgotten until a group of producers including Borgogno started its revitalization.

Nebbiolo is often the shining star in Piedmont and at Borgogno, giving way to various Barolo wines. Nebbiolo produces powerful full bodied, somewhat tannic wines that allow for great longevity. Yet the color and body are as light as Pinot Noir.  Nebbiolo takes its name from the root word nebbia which means fog in Italian, possibly because there is a plethora of fog surrounding the area. Borgogno produces various Barolos with each reflecting the land in which the grapes grow. Some of these single vineyard sites are the most renowned such as Cannubi.  Their final taste profiles are reflections of their aging and maturation processes which include both Slavonian and French oak barrel regimes allowing the wines to cellar for more than 15+ years.

Borgogno also produces three different Lange Nebbiolos, different from Barolo, including the famous “No Name” Nebbiolo DOC. All the Nebbiolo-based wines are great partners for classic Piemontese cuisine of braised meats and wild game meats. They also pair perfectly with other international cuisine of roasted pork, beef stew and hearty, fatty fish like Salmon. 

The lesser-known grapes Dolcetto and Freisa are also part of Borgogno’s wine list. Dolcetto, directly translated as “sweetie,” is a lighter skinned grape that gives off bold, almost tart flavors. Unlike the Barolos and Nebbiolos that age in oak barrels, the Dolcetto ages only in concrete tanks and then bottle. It is a fresh style of wine that we should enjoy young, within one to two years of the vintage on the bottle. It is a great food partner for roasted tomatoes with eggplant. The Dolcetto’s acidity marries well with the acidity in the tomatoes and eggplant.

Langhe Freisa is a unique varietal that is little known outside of Piedmont. An ancient varietal, it is a relative of Nebbiolo and makes a wine more on the rustic side. It has high tannins and acidity which make it a good wine for pairing with food. Borgogno’s Freisa ferments in concrete and then rests in oak barrels for about 10 months before sitting in bottle before release.

The White Grapes of Borgogno

Borgogno makes a small amount of both Riesling and the ancient native grape Timorasso. Timorasso is a focus now of some producers revitalizing its growth and production. Only a select number of producers, including Borgogno, are making Timorasso. Derthona is the name of the wine made from the Timorasso grape varietal, which was once the main grape of Colli Tortonesi. The production of Timorasso is particularly low due to some challenges in its growth.

Borgogno Dethona Timorasso grows in the Monleale area as well as the hills that surround Tortona. It undergoes fermentation in concrete tanks and then further refinement in stainless steel tanks for 10 months. After this it rests for additional time in bottle. The result is a wine of medium body with a beautiful round mouthfeel and just the right amount of acidity pushing through. It has a prominent bouquet of white florals, peaches and pears. The mouthfeel is rich, warm and inviting with a good honey quality to it and round texture at the end. I love it paired with grilled white fish dishes, the typical veal and tuna dish of Piedmont – Vitello Tonnato. It also dovetails well with creamy style cheeses.

Then we end with Borgogno’s DOC Langhe Riesling Era Ora. This is a diversion from a sweet German style Riesling. The Era Ora is dry and beautiful with a crisp, vivacious mouthfeel. Its fermentation occurs not in concrete but stainless steel tanks. It then rests on its “lees” (dead yeast cells) for 6 months to gain complexity and weight and then another 6 months of aging in stainless steel. It lastly sits for an additional time in bottle. This style Riesling is a great partner for fresh green vegetables like asparagus and roasted brussel sprouts, shellfish, grilled white fish and hard Italian cheeses.

The plethora of wines that Borgogno produces shows us their great versatility in the vineyards and cellar. These are only overshadowed by the company’s family and great history. Find and shop Borgogno wines from The Savory Grape.

Learn more about Italy. Read the blog post on Tuscany’s Cafaggio.

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