The Ferrandos only produce their legendary black-label Carema when the vintage allows for it, and it never comprises more than a fifth of their total production. To be labeled as “Etichetta Nera,” the wine must first be selected in the vineyard as worthy; then, it must pass muster post-malolactic-fermentation; and finally, a third verification is performed at the end of the three-year elevage. It is raised entirely in a mix of used 250- and 500-liter French barrels.
Northern Piedmont is in the midst of a gradual but palpable renaissance, with winegrowers reclaiming vineyards that had been abandoned through the political and economic woes of the 20th century, and consumers increasingly realizing the value and character of Nebbiolo planted in these cooler climes. This vibrant spirit has taken hold in Carema as well, which totaled 36 hectares when the DOC was created but fell to 14 hectares at its nadir a few decades back. Today, there are 16 hectares under cultivation, with further vineyard expansion—an arduous process on these steep and virtually soil-less slopes—taking place, and even a few newcomers beginning to bottle their own wines. Still, at the heart of it all remains the Ferrando family, the standard-bearer for this singular place since Luigi began bottling his own wines in the early 1960s. Today, his sons Roberto and Andrea work tirelessly for this DOC with which their family name is nearly synonymous, and they are currently clearing out and replanting a 0.1-hectare parcel called Laurey in the old historical heart of the zone.