Yearning for the Langhe

Godello in Cherasco

My kingdom for an Albese plate of Tajarin at Osteria dei Sognatori or a platter of Plin at Ristorante La Libera. What a wine writer would not do for a Langhe reprise, a Piedmontese redux, a tasting of any Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Dogliani, Alba or Langhe Barbera and Nebbiolo, Langhe Roero Arneis, Na’Scetta e Favorita. Were things normal and they most certainly are not, but were life being lived now as it was one year ago we would be convening in Alba in two weeks time. What I would not give to break bread with a winemaker, colleague or friend in Piemonte.

Related – Barolo DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2016, Riserva 2014, 2006 and Riserva 2004

Mark these words. The two specialized and specific DOCs of Nebbiolo d’Alba and Langhe Nebbiolo will gain prominence and become a two-headed beast in 2021. The world will gather to exult, raise up and drink these fine and vastly underrated examples of classified nebbiolo. Of this I became truly privy to one year ago but also throughout 2020 as more and more nebbiolo came to be assessed across my desk. Yes it was back in January 2020 when I travelled to Alba in Piemonte for Nebbiolo Prima 2020 and Grandi Langhe. I tasted more than 600 nebbiolo, dolcetto, barbera, arneis, freisa, chardonnay, pelaverga and even riesling during the eight day work staycation. Grande.

Grandi Langhe 2020

Related – Barbaresco DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2015, 2007 and 2005

Nebbiolo Prima and Grandi Langhe Trade Fair are a back-to-back cumulative by the work of many, not the least of which are organizations such as Consorzio Albeisa, a.k.a Unione Produttori Vini Albesi, Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Dogliani, Consorzio Tutela del Roero and Regione Piemonte. During that trip I tasted and reviewed 230 Barolo: DOCG 2016 (197), Riserva DOCG 2014 (6), DOCG 2006 (20) and Riserva DOCG 2004 (7). For Barbaresco the number was 92: DOCG 2017 (59), DOCG 2015 (15), DOCG 2015, 2007, 2009 and 2005 (18). As for Roero DOCG, 38 notes: DOCG 2017 and 2016 (33) and DOCG 2006 and 2007 (5).

Related – Roero DOCG Previews and Retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2016, 2007 and Riserva 2006

Here’s to hoping for a return at any point in 2021, or in 2022 for the 25th Nebbiolo Prima followed by Grandi Langhe, if that’s how it will be. In the meantime here are 44 further reviews of wines tasted in and around Alba back in January, 2020. Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, Barolo DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG, Barbera d’Alba DOCG, Verduno Pelaverga DOC, Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC, Langhe Favorita DOC, Roero Arneis DOC, Langhe Rosato DOC, Vino Rosso and Birbét. Care Langhe, spero di tornare presto.

Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC

Diego Morra Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC 2016

F.rom northern facing vineyards that receive no direct sun so essentially a cool Langhe climate. Nebbiolo that sees a short maceration and French wood. Not your everyday or expected nebbiolo in a really light and transparent style. Extremely fresh and refreshing, taut, high-toned and yet this creamy texture. Richer than half-and-half, perhaps like 20 per cent fat though lactose free and not enough to be whipped. So different. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Nebbiolo d’Alba Doc Bric Merli 2017

From the vineyard directly in front of Bric Volta. A lighter, but far from unstructured nebbiolo with a new and certain grace and still unmistakeable Canale DNA. Here you can mark another reference point, not to mention the genetic and torch passing material provided by 650 years of history, information and accumulation in experience. The demeanour is confident and gracious. Who would not want a glass every night? Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC Parigi 2017

Comes from the same type of marly soil as the barbera, here out of vineyards located in the villages of Alba and Diano d’Alba. The vines are around 20 years of age and the wine sees one year in (30 per cent new) American 40L and French 30L barrels. The idea is to draw out soft and elegant tannins, especially by the American oak. That much is true in a nebbiolo heading towards that direction though not quite yet there. A return in two to three years should do the trick. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Nebbiolo Langhe DOC

Elvio Cogno Nebbiolo Langhe DOC Montegrilli’ 2018

A name taken from Valter Fissore’s grandfather’s vineyard in the Roero, not Barolo and yes this is a nebbiolo and a wine to drink. Immediately gratifying in so many ways. From vineyards on the other side of Novello, southwest exposure and very sandy soil with just a minor amount of sandstone. Fragolina di bosco and white raspberry, a juicy wine that can quench your thirst. Just a minor grip and chalk of tannin. Hardly causes any confusion and allows you to sip and sip and sip. Grill some fish and Montegrilli’s your friend. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Nebbiolo Langhe DOC 2018 ($27.95, Le Sommelier Inc.)

From two vineyards, one in La Morra (estate) and one in Roero. Less than a year in old, large barrels and a purposeful one, for early and often drinking enjoyment. Bright fruit, easy, forward and will surely solicit many a happy palate for dual-drawn, doubling down pleasure. Floral, well made and proper. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Bollito Misto, Sinio

Azienda Agricola Taverna Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2018

Declassified nebbiolo from Barbaresco with mildly candied fruit, slightly oxidative, but charming. Only been in bottle maximum one month. Drink 2020.  Tasted February 2020

Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2018 (454017, $32.95, Le Maitre de Chai)

Youngest vines in the Basarin Vineyard at 18 years old grown in sand and clay at the foot of Neive. The Langhe nebbiolo sees 20-30 days on skins (as opposed to 30-40 for the Barbaresco), ferments naturally and at low temperatures. Glaring as a vintage with a big grin on its face, unprecedented concentration, healthy extraction and completed by elevated dry extract. Incredible intensity for the appellation, something already noted in 2015 but bears repeating, like a mantra, for kicks, compliments, giggles and kudos. The Piedmontese maceration brings so much texture and chromatic accents; tangerine, vermillion, sorrel and umber. Longer maceration, less wood (four months) and no love lost for aging, not to mention waxing rhapsodically on. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Osteria dei Sognotori, Alba

Barolo DOCG

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Pichemej 2015

Pichmej is a combination of two vineyards, Bussia and Santa Maria, what Valentina and sister’s Serena and Denise Marrone call “our grandfather’s wine.” Who happened to be Carlo. A nebbiolo that you really can drink now but then again that’s the thing about young Marrone Barolo. They and this ’15 Pichmej display a sense of the ethereal in their youth. Nature in conjunction with nurture, a delicate touch and phenolic regulation to near perfection. If you would like to access the portal into the reality of how nebbiolo needs to be made in modern times then begin right here and know what’s what in 2020. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Bussia 2015

Compared to Pichmej this nebbiolo from Bussia is a step up in concentration and also structure, the latter being in kinship with Bussia 2016. That said there is absolutely zero compromise to the stylistic execution that makes for a Marrone Barolo. Simulates the phenolic beauty of Pichmej and of ’16 but the fullest, deepest and most complete journey happens here. Enologist Donato Lanati has coaxed the fruit but not the bitters while the sisters Marrone find excellence in completing Bussia and all the rest. Lightness of being is also accrued while the wine clocks in at a hidden 15 per cent alcohol. Magic happens and success follows. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Baudana 2015

From Serralunga d’Alba and the apposite Barolo cru, forceful, grippy, demanding, always mired in posit tension tug. That alone explains no differing opinion but pay attention to the kind of “tensione” Adelaide’s creates. The numbered beats are off, out of time, or at least not understood in fours, yet orchestrated and aligned as they should be. As in five or taking the fifth, with a spoonful of notes, lines, vocalizations and structural arrangements feeling like they are unanswered. A vintage that men are dumbfounded by but girls can tell. Baudana is a hyper real get together of brushy aromas, dedicated flavours and highly functional architecture. This one stretches and creates an elastic musculature, flexible and persistent. Wouldn’t mess with Baudana. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted January 2020

Simone Ortale and Giuliana Drocco, Cascina Adelaide

Cascina Adelaide Barolo Riserva DOCG “Per Elen” 2014

A blend of two cru and says Simone Ortale “we choose the best to make Riserva. It’s our jewel.” The same grandi botti (as per Preda and Cannubi) but here 62 months of aging time. The most mouthfeel, filling and the silkiest chalky liquidity, tannins and layering of multifarious, mille-feuille multiplicity. A nebbiolo for the decades. Drink 2022-2035.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Boschetti Barolo DOCG Gomba 2015

A smooth, elastic, stretched and elongated nebbiolo from the Commune of Barolo and Boschetti’s estate fruit. Drawn off of the higher reaches and also some that is sold to Marchesi di Barolo. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2015

Sernìe is the cru inside the cru, a selection within the selection and a word in Piedmontese dialect that essentially means just that. Surely the richer, more concentrated, fully stretched, entirely elastic and truly elongated nebbiolo. Has the violets, purple fruit, foie gras and decadence. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2012

This older version of the cru within the cru comes from a very select parcel and as an estate flagship nebbiolo is only produced in select vintages. The formidable 2012 season made a request that winemakers (in this case Maurizio Delpero) did not try to extract too much fruit which would also mean an excess of tannin. Yet Boschetti’s Sernìe was subjected to a Piedmontese 40-day maceration (a cappello sommerso), a classic technique that eight years later establishes an exaggeration of nebbiolo riches. Was also a generous vintage that saw to healthy fruit and quantity. Serious Barolo right here. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Crudo – La Libera, Alba

Diego Morra Barolo DOCG 2015

From the river between La Morra and Verduno, two plots with separate soils and expositions to combine for a double cru cause and effect. Balanced and dynamic, a nose of power meeting finesse. No winding or cinching but more a zig-zagging, ying versus yang, AC-DC, nebbiolo going both ways. Lovely spice. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Morra Barolo DCOG Monvigliero 2015

From four hectares in the Verduno cru and the three Ms, Mosca, La Morra and Monvigliero. The V in the middle is for Verduno. The 2015 nebbiolo is a really pretty one, floral and understated but of obvious power. Near formidable in its restraint with bursting a real possibility at any near moment. Not quite there yet but it’s coming, it’s real, leaving meaning. “In a room made of stone your future was made.” Wait for it. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Elvio Cogno Barolo DOCG Bricco Pernice 2015

Ages three years in wood, one year further in barrel. One hundred per cent Lampia clone. A little bit more classic in terms of what is Barolo. The partridge is a special hill and a place that gives away these highly specialized nebbioli and 2015 is on the border between a red and a black vintage. More black then red. A vintage that will be so right and so joyous in middle age and ideal for salty (aged) cheese and meat. Splendido nebbiolo. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

With Valter Fissore

Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera DOCG Vigna Elena 2014

Rosa clone of Ravera, not quite yet released (will be in three months), dedicated to daughter Elena. A registered menzione geografica named many years ago so the size on the label is set above the DOCG. More of a Bourgogne style. Rose petals and potpourri. Red fruit and red citrus so obviously a red year. Cured like salumi, bresaola maybe or at least eat some alongside. A touch vegetal and that is ’14, sun-dried vegetable and yes, like pinot noir. The first vintage was 1997. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted January 2020

The quality of the wines gives everyone at Mauro Sebaste every reason to smile

Mauro Sebaste Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2015

Less weight and density in 2015, both in Serralunga fruit and also tannin. Much interest here in how it intimates the richesse of ’16 but not the youthful aggression of the tannin. More freshness, linearity and understanding. No hard edges, really easy to like and enjoy and enough grip to see it develop nicely over the next seven plus years. Might even last longer than imagined. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Barolo Riserva DOCG Ghè 2014

Ghè is the Riserva of Cerretta fruit but only the smallest berries are chosen. A mega clonal version per se, a Cerretta of Ceretta. Celebrates and argues the merits of a challenging vintage, spends 36 months in tonneaux and like the Cerretta there is pure and substantial fruit. Acidity and tannin too, more than you might imagine considering the wood. Tension and grace live side by side and this is just beginning to act like it will for its essential and optimum 10 year window. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Palladino Barolo Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba DOCG 2016

A true commune Barolo drawn off of a scattering of vineyards, a Serralunga liqueur warming, comforting and reliable, plus a vintage tannin more stringent and yet to crack. Spent two years in grandi botti plus six further months in bottle. Of roses and tar, youthfulness and tension aboard a nicely balanced and upright frame. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Palladino Barolo Riserva DOCG San Bernardo 2013

The “oriental plot,” from the other side of the Ornato cru and a nebbiolo to speak of extended elévage just as it should. Now into a balsamico cadence and a tartufo lilt. A matter of funghi, acciuga and back to that truffled sensibility. So much umami, the anchovy sitting like a salty and briny slice of maritime butter on toasted crostini with shavings both pencil and earthen nuggets in origin. Oh how the feeling of the block and the greater Piedmontese emanates from one glass of Barolo that only San Bernardo seems capable of gifting. The secondary nature of this nebbiolo is astonishing, if like Christmas come early but why not celebrate now? Should keep developing, morphing, giving again and again. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Renato Ratti Barolo DOCG Marcenasco 2004 (713479, Halpern Enterprises)

Has quite obviously rounded into form, now beautifully rich and preserved. Poured from magnum yet showing all of its age, fruit sweetly hanging in the balance and as a whole an elegant nebbiolo worthy of the reference. Drink 2020-2024.  Last tasted January 2020

Of the famiglie Pola e Ferro is polar as compared to the non of the Burdin. AM and D nose “car exhaust.” I am tricked by its charm and think New World Syrah, but am reminded that the colour lacks gloom. Hugely muscular, girded by plastron and decades ahead of itself. “Leave it open all night and it’ll be amazing” says Dr. C.  Tasted April 2012

Cherasco

Barbaresco DOCG

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Comes from one vineyard, the top part of the hill, Gaia Principe it’s called, one of four that make Barbaresco in the MGA. Quick maceration, only seven days, not very Piedmontese and because the house tradition is to make wines to drink and drink now. A very fresh nebbiolo, sweetly perfumed, clear, pure and precise. Drink this most days. No good reason not to. Drink 2020-2025.  Last tasted February 2020

Very ripe and organized, developed and heading forward with great haste. Acids are brighter than some so there is light streaking through the Neive vintage darkness. Another example that speaks to the great variability in 2017. Drink 2020-2024.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Barbera d’Alba DOCG

Cascina Adelaide Vigna Preda Barbera d’Alba 2016

Same vineyard as the nebbiolo for the Preda Barolo but here the barbera fruit is notable deeper and darker. Spends up to 18 months in big barrel and high acidity for Alba with just the right and deft touch of necessary volatile acidity. Rich, luxurious and lovely. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barbera D’alba Superiore Docg Amabilin 2016

Named after the creator himself Amabile Drocco who as a child was called Amabilin. The name chosen for the wine pays homage to the family’s origins. The yields are ridiculously low (half a kilo per vine) from 3,000 kg per hectare that represents half of the consorzio’s disciplanare rule. So concentrated and a true gem in the Adelaide portfolio, in fact this is truly one of the tops in all of what is labeled Superiore. Includes eight to ten per cent Barolo fruit but not that which might end up as DOC Nebbiolo. High acidity again (as with the Preda) and ultra special tannins. Only 2000-2300 bottles are produced. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Morra Barbera d’Alba DOCG 2016

Roddi is the source and direct sun exposure provided for a terroir-varietal relationship that is necessary when you consider acidity rates, ripeness measurements and structural assets. Here barbera gets into beneficial bitters, speaks with assuring alacrity and extolls the virtue of a mainly steely exterior. Really spirited, fresh and alive. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted January 2020

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Bricco Dei Merli 2017

Single vineyard, aged for one year in wood. The hilltop of the blackbird and a wine nosing succinctly of black cherry. No way this is simply the wine of the osteria or the honky tonk bar. The maturation here is set so high on both fronts, first sugar and then phenolic. Acidity is supportive and there is no burn. There is no jam. What shows is body strength, spirit and a soft finish. Comes from elevation where the wind blows and you can feel the cool breeze running in the veins, like cool water. Picked late September and we are thankful for that. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

The view from Elvio Cogno

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Pre Phylloxera 2018

Pre-Phylloxera because of these barbera vines’ ability to survive with thanks to sandy soil and 500m of elevation. A red soil that was not inhabitable to the louse. The vineyard is rented from Marcarini and Valter likes to farm it to to keep the history of his family’s work alive. Lower acidity, higher concentration and an affinity with northern Rhône syrah. Cool, smooth, silky, crystal clear and the pinnacle of barbera beauty. Incredible texture. Only 2,000 bottles made. Drink 2021-2029.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera d’Alba DOC Giardono 2018

From a single vineyard, eight yearsold and aged in concrete, for a reductive environment and more important a low, natural and slow ferment. A rich deep cherry barbera to be fair, sure and completely honest with a modernity of acidity that belies the reasons why barbera fell out of favour and became hard to sell. This will do the yeoman work to continue the resurrection. A spice market from a time gone by connects Giardino to a loyal and traditional wine. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera D’alba DOC Mezzavilla 2015

From 75 year-old vines in the Mezzavilla Vineyard, located between the villages of Cisterna (towards Asti) and Canale. Just a few percentage points of oak because the fruit demands it and concrete will keep freshness but doesn’t quite do enough for this fruit. Such a soothing acidity and a presence that speaks to the sand and the clay of the land from whence it came. Taste this fruit and you will understand. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Barbera d’Alba Doc “Legattere®”‎ 2017 ($24.95, Le Sommelier Inc.)

A selection of barbera vineyards of soils calcareous/clayey, maceration of six days, fermented in steel, aged in French oak. Just a classic, pure red fruit, high acid and smooth texture/tannins. Round flavours, big yet somehow understated. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Centobricchi 2016

On the hill just above Alba on the way to Serralunga, of low yields that produce just about one bunch per vine. Spends one year in new French oak to gift spice, savour, silk and palate fineness. High acidity, at times too high but necessary to foil the hedonism. A piqued and plentiful barbera that in the end comes down to farming. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Palladino Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Bricco delle Olive 2017

Big barbera, 15 months in (50 per cent new) tonneaux with violets and spice smothering all else. Despite the enormity of it all this is barbera in a balanced varietal world and Bricco delle Viole is clearly a Superiore terroir from which to approach with great ambition. All assets are encouraged and flaunted  within the grand scale of this particular Alba spectrum. Will improve with some further wood integration. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbera d’Alba DOC 2018

The red fruit juiciest and most succulent Barbera d’Alba with great acids. Make you wish more varietal wines like this would align, draft and glide alongside. Fresh and just lovely. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Verduno Pelaverga DOC

Diego Morra Pelaverga DOC 2018

Diego Morra’s pelaverga ’18 is clear, concise and pure, lying with a varietal heart at its most effusive. Prim as is imaginable while a big expression for a light and silken grape. From a “normal,” manageable and consistent vintage. A wine executed with molecular gastronomy to an end forged by a grape-wine relationship. Social, artistic and technical pelaverga, investigating the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur in farming and then, winemaking. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Vino Rosso

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Donna Costanza Cardunaj Vino Rosso 2017

A digestif wine, a Brachetto vinified dry and so curious. A dessert wine with no fizz and just a touch of sweetness. A moment’s Amaro bitters but no sense of liqueur. Odd to be sure. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Método Classico Vino Spumante Di Qualita

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Pas Dosè Método Classico Vino Spumante Di Qualita

A 50-50 nebbiolo and arneis mix, seven years on the lees, from the 2012 vintage and disgorged in October 2019. Yes you read this properly, seven years on lees. The Malabaila connection to the Esterhazy royalty in Austrian indirectly bridges two estates and you can’t help but think about the Blanc de Blancs made in the Burgenland. Zero dosage means lean, direct, sharp and energetic bubbles with remarkable precision. These are Grandi Langhe bubbles from Roero, not to be missed. First vintage was 2010. Can’t be Millesimato because it’s a blend. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Langhe Rosato DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Rosato DOC 2018

From Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila with perfectly typical Rosato colour for nebbiolo taken from Roero lands. ’Tis a coppery hue, sexy rusty, mimicked in flavours with a note like lemon tisane. Steep in some currants and sweet herbs and you get the picture. Poured from magnum and good thing because a table of six would have otherwise gone very thirsty. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC

Elvio Cogno Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC Anas Cëtta 2019

Cold stabilization and some wood aging but in botti, no longer in barriques. I have yet to put the nose to my glass and the aromatics are coming out. A semi-aromatic grape with here in 2019 from peach, elderflowers and high level acidity. I would imagine it’s most akin to chenin but even that is a stretch. The drinkability meeting complexity is off the charts. Once you go tactile-textile nascetta like this you may never go back. Approximately 16,000 bottles produced. One of now 30-plus producers in the Langhe. Barrel Sample tasted January 2020.  Drink 2020-2023

Le Strette Nas-cëtta Langhe DOC Pasinot 2018

Nascetta, or Nas-cëtta, as they say in the commune of Novello with fruit out of Pasinotti, Bergera, Pezzole and Tarditi at altitudes of 350 to 420m. Planted over many decades, in 1948, 1983, 2009, 2014 and 2016. The Piedmontese grape rarity likes the sandy, calcareous clay and its emission is semi-aromatic. This example sits somewhere between riesling and gewürztraminer though truth be told seems closer to friulano what with its glycerin and off-dry sentimentality. Novello is the place and the heights help bring about the oiliness and preserved citrus notes from the grape. Needs another year to fully bloom. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Langhe Favorita DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Favorita DOC Donna Costanza 2018

A label made by Lucrezia’s father (who passed away in 2010) for his wife and her mother. Endemic, full of drive, a touch of a sweetness and in a way a cool, northern example that is linked to inzolia, or even zibbibo. More texture here and alloy notation. Lingers with herbs and sweet citrus. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Roero Arneis DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Roero Arneis DOC Pradaj 2018

Pradaj in Piedmontese is “A valley with grass and flowers” and clearly a reference to the aromatics in the grape variety from this place. A perfectly correct and referenced arneis indeed and an ideal match to the local Plin agnolotti filled with herbs. When the arneis from Roero speaks clearly it does so like this, unadorned, floral and calm. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Birbét

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Birbét Donna Costanza 2018

Mosta d’Uva parzialmente fermentato or, grape must partially fermented to five point five per cent alcohol. Served traditionally as dessert though it could certainly be employed in aperitivo format, as Brachetrto d’Acqui often is. Very cherry, lightly carbonated and sweetly herbal. Simple pleasure. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Good to go!

godello

Godello in Cherasco

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WineAlign

Twenty mind-blowing wines of 2020

Related – Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

There are times when you do it just for the continuity because time marches on, no matter the circumstances. There is no disputing how different 2020 was and frankly the flip to 2021 will not bring about significant change or any semblance of a return to what was, at least not in the first several months. Yet the compelling urge is there, to quantify and qualify this annual Godello list of wines that opened, expanded and blew a mind in 2020. The concept for a year-end summation was launched in 2012 though it was the publishing of 14 in 2014 that made it very official, if only in the mind of one Godello. Matters little whether this qualifies as the seventh or the ninth because in wine one should always eschew semantics for the liquid truth found inside the bottle, elixirs they are of most profound, ethereal and honest propriety.

Related – Eighteen mind-blowing wines of 2018

This will be a much different list than ever before. While I did manage to squeeze in 25 days of travel in the first 56 of 2020 those were the last of this calendar year. That’s at least 75 short of my normal yearly schedule and so imagine that if an average of 30 wines are tasted each and every day on the road, well then that would tell us that at the very minimum 2,250 wines were missed this year. Not entirely true because at least half that many, if not 75 per cent more were made available to me and my WineAlign colleagues over these past nine month of quarantine, isolation and safe-distancing tastings. Still the make-up of what was tasted has been very different, the most notable being the lack of unrepresented or not found in market wines. Less discovery in 2020 to be sure.

Campo Spritz

Related – Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

According to my personal critic’s database on WineAlign I reviewed 4,450 wines in 2020, keeping in mind that many of those reviews were for wines tasted in 2019. Up until this year I was consistently behind or back-logged with hundreds if not more than a thousand tasting notes in the queue, unedited, unresolved, not yet reconciled, unfinished, not-posted. Since the global pandemic abruptly delivered me home in the dead of a late February night from Faenza to Firenze, through Frankfurt and to Pearson I have not been able to resume travel. These last 10 months have allowed for a massive catching up. There are now a thousand less wines to finesse and publish then there were this time last year, very few raw and rustic songs waiting for the editing process. All the choices on this 2020 list have been solidified and already been opined with confidence for the world to scrutinize. In 2020 there is nothing left on the table.

Related – 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

Slipped outta Dodge under the cover of darkness…

This year’s list is indeed different. The get togethers were few and far between. The travel non-existent. That is why you will recognize more producer names and also a more “archetypal” bent to the choices. The year dictates such a direction and as we all know, you have to listen to what the vintage tells you but also to remember and thank the true pioneers for getting all of us here. Perhaps the greatest influence on how this composition came to be was a conscious choice to omit the older vintages tasted in 2020. There were less to be sure but it just feels like keeping them kind of secretive is the way to go. Let’s hope a connection to that part of this exercise will make a return in 2021. As always, heartfelt thanks to everyone who poured a glass. The producers, winemakers, export managers, friends, colleagues and pirates, so please be encouraged and read on. Alas, Godello’s 20 mind-blowing wines of 2020.

The Heldeberg from Stellenbosch

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (23128, $17.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.)

Gets me every time. Not just one of the finest meets best value chenin blancs available out of South Africa but an example to hang all your hats on no matter where white wine comes from in this world. Still the knowing nod and incredulous head shake that $18 CDN can buy you fruit from six blocks that are mainly 38 years of age but could possibly include 1974 Helderberg planted vines in Stellenbosch. “Core of the business” and arrow through a chenin heart. Great ferment, like a (catherine) wheel. Layers of design, creamy with thanks to secondary lees aging but somehow still texturally chewy. Barrel notes make a point in a vanilla brûlée way and yet each sip is like taking a bite from a piece of firm, ripe fruit. “I need more texture. You need to give me more texture, texture, texture. You need to give me more texture.” Old Vine Reserve obliges every time. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted June 2020

(c) @tiny.wild.world and @WineAlign

Selbach Oster Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2018, Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (17498, $45.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.)

The triad of producer, appellation and vineyard gets no more arch classic than this with a riesling in Spätlese form at the hands of Selbach-Oster. The pitch and sway in this Wehlener Sonnenuhr vinyeard is 2018 dance card perfect, tight and fluid. Succulent acids are burgeoning and urging the fruit forward, sideways and every which way but loose. This is a wine that gets what needs and gives what is wanted. Will only improve with a few years and then there will come a day when an air or vapour trail falls away. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted November 2020

Tyrrell’s Belford Sémillon 2017, Single Vineyard, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, South Australia (14322, $46.95, Select Wine Merchants)

Belford Vineyard (formerly Elliot Farm) is Hunter Valley leader Tyrrell’s single-vineyard leased sémillon with so much promise in its corner. A top varietal vintage for one thing and the well-draining sandy soils for another. Sémillon thrives in these conditions and so what comes from this awe-inspiring wine is exactly what you possibly wish for when selecting from Hunter Valley. This wine is swiftly, justly and perpetually lit, a smoky, paraffin waxy, über salty, elemental, aerified, verified mineral wine. So focused and precise. Mon dieu, Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted June 2020

(c) @tiny.wild.world and @WineAlign

Fresne Ducret La Grande Hermine Champagne Premier Cru 2008, AC Champagne, France ($78.00, Nicholas Pearce Wines)

Hard to believe the age because while this almost certainly achieved an immediately retro toasted and evolved stage in its youth and though 12 years have passed the present day imaginings are dreamed to persist within that very immediate stage. As creamy as it is toasty, the textural body politic in La Grande Hermine is one of great cerebral and figurative impression. You feel, intuit and embrace such honesty and possibility. Drink this vintage dated Champagne all winter long. Its calming presence will preserve you in a state of grace lower than a snowman’s blood pressure. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2020

El Esteco

El Esteco 1947 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina (15082, $24.95, Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.)

From Argentina’s northern desert where some of the country’s oldest vines perpetuate existence while thriving fiercely in a hot climate. So yes it is true that some fruit from 70-plus year old vines, well trees really, make their way into this special Salta wine. Dense and concentrated, Cassis times 10, savoury and truly expressive. Oak is well-managed, not shy mind you but these old vines deserve some added and fortifying structure. Do not miss this. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted August 2020

Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Maipo Valley, Chile (403980, $160.00, Escalade Wines & Spirits)

Though essentially a cabernet sauvignon at minimum 90 per cent, it would normally need saying to never discount the blending attributes of cabernet franc, merlot and in recent years, petit verdot. The nooks and crannies filled by the other grape varieties are some of the senses of wonder that have illuminated and elucidated the magic of Don Melchor. And yet years of such thought is turned on its head in 2017 with a 98 per cent pure cabernet sauvignon Don Melchor and only two bits of cabernet franc. Speaks to winemaker Enrique Tirado’s vision of the varietal and vintage relationship. After all, this is his baby, a passion project that spans 20 vintages, from which he looks to “harvest the beauty of the balance of the Puente Alto terroir.” From Viñedo Don Melchor, D.O. Puente Alto and Valle del Alto Maipo, old vines planted 1979 to 1992, new from 2004-2013. The vintage was above average in terms of warmth, cooler temperatures at harvest preserved acidities and sealed the (near) mono-varietal deal. At 30 years into its tenure Don Melchor hits a new stride and it would be hard to argue against the levels of subtle, demure, balanced and ethereal in this 2017. Perfect fruit? Pretty darn close and a bouquet of fresh picked flower-herb-fruit that merge, meld and grace together. One for this age and to age gracefully, slowly and predictably for 20-25 years. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted October 2020

Taub Family Vineyards Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Napa Valley, California (849434, $235.00, Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd.)

From proprietor Marc Taub who’s family has been prominently part of the Napa Valley wine fabric since prohibition and who in 2013 acquired Napa Valley producer Heritance, later evolving into Taub Family Vineyards. His winemaker is Tom Hinde, a Sonoma and Napa specialist who cut his teeth for seven years at Flowers, but also at Kendall-Jackson, Hartford, La Crema, Lakoya, Cardinale, Stonestreet and Verite. Add in a mere three acres within the historic 300-acre Beckstoffer Vineyard first purchased by Beaulieu founder Georges de Latour in 1928, called Beaulieu Vineyard Number 3 and made by winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. The 2017 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon are a very special lot. That much we know. Add in the pedigree, torch passing and respect for these necessary tenets of wine-producing business and well, hello. Utmost attention to detail, optimum extraction and concentration, sultry, supple and ultimately divine. There is this fine, fine, almost indescribable salty vein that cuts through the fruit and the fat like perfect umami seasoning in the most decadent dish. With meat or seafood, California or Japan, take your pick. Drink this either way. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted October 2020

Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2018, WO Hemel En Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $59.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.)

Even though the ’18 HR PN took my breath away nine months ago, the not yet understood nuance of this wine surely clouded first impressions. However small a sample size this may be is more than enough to prove time’s effect on wine, pinot noir and Hamilton Russell’s spiritual connection with the grape and how it personifies the Hemel En Aarde Valley. Fragrance, perfume, essential oils, Lilac, Lilly of the Valley and the sweetest tobacco smoulder. Captivating now and quite likely will be so into the mid 30s.  Last tasted August 2020

There have been many Hamilton Russell pinot noir poured in my anxiously awaiting glasses over the last five years. It’s hard to believe we are here at 2018 but time is a joy when you are having a noirmance. The fruit is exceptional in this vintage because it just feels like the warm day/cool night fix is in. The diurnal flux has locked in freshness and sweet tension like no recent memory can recall. Makes for a most grippy yet excitable pinot noir of concentration, presence and promise. Benchmark in every respect. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted November 2019

That Marco Cirese Sangiovese stare. His Noelia Ricci and Pandolfo are crucial, fundamental and illustrative of what is possible in Emilia-Romagna. #sangiovesediromagna #viniadarte #viniadarte2020

Noelia Ricci Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Godenza 2018, Emilia Romagna, Italy (The Vine Agency)

Godenza was the name of the podere (house) on site at a one hectare vineyard at 340m, the highest section of Ricci’s land. The introduction of concrete tanks is surely responsible (in part) to the freshness and reduction but also poor, well-draining calcareous soils that complete a relationship with open-knit and fragrant red fruit. Adds up to complexities and beauty, not to mention the hands-off, unadulterated feel of this wine. At the top end of quality and elaborate expression for the appellation. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted twice at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Because he’s Dario F-in Faccin, that’s why g-dammit! #carobbio #sangiovese #chianticlassico #panzano #galestro

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy ($33.60, Alta Wines)

Stop in here for a rest and exult in the near perfect grace, charm and collective soul in the heart of an Annata. To say that the Novarese family and Dario Faccin should feel the greatest sangiovese reward from this appellation would be a grand understatement. This version of Panzano and Chainti Classico DOCG is what it is, what it can and must be. Should be. Has to be. Richly glorious and confidently understated. The cleanest sangiovese and the one that speaks most succinctly of the land. These are the reasons why Carobbio is the most underrated, but for how long? This ’16 will see proof to that and so much more. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2020

With the brothers Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli

Now to introduce you to the Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli brothers, Alessandro and Andrea, two men who covet, own and articulate their western wing of Castelnuovo terroir. As custodians of these classic southern Chianti Classico Alberese and Galestro vineyards they have come to understand their nuance and their specialities. So, Riserva from 2015 now comes to its beginning having needed every bit of the extra two years in bottle it has received. Yes this Geggiano ’15 Riserva still needs time and if you abide by the premise it will come alive, surmise and in turn, surprise. In fact it will make a lasting impression and stay with you forever. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Stem Wine Group)

The acumen, wisdom and also the persistent reduction are formidable in this incredibly concentrated wine. So Monsanto, so in delivery of San Donato in Poggio, so Laura Bianchi. Seemingly equipped with the needed stuffing in the way that 1968 managed to accrue over 50 years of travels. Here in Gran Selezione form the tendencies and the abilities are multiplied tenfold. Magnificent and magnanimous, the concentration is foiled by focus and precision, from all that has come before, moving into the present and then going forward with everything that occupies, in hopes and dreams. Drink 2025-2037.  Tasted February 2020

Vineyard at Salicutti

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Sorgente 2015, Tuscany, Italy

Organic, biodynamic and unfiltered, from the then first in Montalcino, at the hands of Francesco Leanza, in 1995. Now (and since 2015) in the custodial hands of Felix and Sabine Eichbauer, halfway between Montalcino and Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The last of the cru, single-vineyards planted at Salicutti and not surprisingly the one with most red fruity juiciness that keeps a lineage with the Rosso. If a portal into knowing what it makes to taste the bright side of 2015 could be described then why not make use of this ethereal Sorgente to learn of such things. Voltage, tension and vibration. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Francesco Ripaccioli

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casaccia 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Le Sommelier Inc.)

Barrel Sample. Now this is something exceptional. This is what Casaccia is obviously capable of producing, The sweetest Canalicchio fruit of all, to date and with a rising low and slow angling of acidity (as opposed to straight verticality) that carries the fruit to great heights. This will be a triumph and in fact it is already tasting like a piece de Canalicchio resistance while it sings a long maestro song. A soloist that needs no accompaniment although food, company and peace would not hurt at all. Obviously this is more than just the northern side of Montalcino and more than Canalicchio. This is Casaccia. Drink 2025-2039.  Tasted February 2020

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2013, Tuscany, Italy

The ’13 will be released on January 1st, 2023 and as the name Diecianni suggests it is a Riserva that 10 years minimum are needed before readiness begins to take shape. The selection is from the smallest grape clusters in estate vineyards and mainly the oldest vines, originally planted in 1987. The vintage of the great polyphonic-phenolic, elastic and stretched ripeness, by photosynthesis without heat, of muscles with energy and ones that will develop, remain and use their power to keep the fruit alive. That said it’s a wine of wood and the highest level of salinity, sapidity and a tang that is exhibited by no other Brunello di Montalcino. A concentration that is simply outstanding and in some minds, will even be eclipsed (or not) by 2016. The finesse and architecture of this wine are as good as it gets. Drink 2026-2042.  Tasted February 2020

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Roero Riserva DOCG Castelletto 2015, Piedmont, Italy ($59.95)

From Canale vines 50 years old and the most historical vineyard for Malabaila, as documents show. Riserva here means two years in two, three and four year-old barrels. Yet another silky Roero and example of nebbiolo that could not have been born anywhere else. The “little castle” is a charming nebbiolo, fine of all its constructive parts with an ease of sensuality that just shows how confident, casual and natural life as it is just happens to be. Castelletto knows what it is. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Elena Sottimano

Sottimano Barbaresco DOCG Basarin 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($103.95, Le Maitre de Chai)

Basarin in the newest Cru for Sottimano, established in 2014 though the vines are already between 45-50 years old. Released just at the start of 2020 and already displaying a prominence in aromatics that speak to this exceptional nook just below Neive. From a vintage blessed for its place in history matched by a requiem for a dream. Crunchy for nebbiolo surely caused by the policy of classically long Piedmontese maceration, drawing fruit with gentle impunity and long-grained tannins in thrushes and intermingling chains. Pure dark fruit (almost raspberry) and a generous application of wood varnish. Architecture, length and character, all together. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted January 2020

With Francesca Vaira

G.D. Vajra Barolo DOCG Bricco Delle Viole 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($113.95, Groupe Soleil)

The thing of Bricco delle Viole that is beauty emits with gala fruit force into the canals of the layers. Bricco dell Viole the singular Barolo cru, from which fruit, texture and extension are consistently planned out, mapped and organized. So wound, so found and following a path that runs along a line along a circle. Slow unwind and unfolding coming, culminating in developed notes, to be far away, somewhere between then and then. Too soon to tell. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2017, South Australia, Australia (12016, $150.00, Mark Anthony Group)

Another old friend, St. Henri, once a wine for a special occasion, now one for all times. No, not a baby Grange but to me this is to Penfolds as Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus is to Maison Bouchard Père & Fils. Not that there is any resemblance to pinot noir save for the fact that in terms of shiraz, St. Henri is the elegant or if you will, the Burgundian one. Penfolds like to refer to Henri as “an intriguing counterpoint to Grange,” and that seems right in the sense that power and optimum concentration are never the point. It is a multi-regional blend, from Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Eden Valley and Port Lincoln. There is no new wood exercised; it spends 12 months in 50-plus year old vats. Distinct style, unique pedigree and alternative execution. Adds up to intrigue, enigma and mystery, which is just what an iconic and signature counterpoint should do. Acidity and structure are tops, bar none. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted October 2020

(c) @tiny.wild.world and @WineAlign

Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port 2018, Douro Valley, Portugal (12076, $160.00, Sylvestre Wines & Spirits)

The third consecutively declared Vintage Port by Taylor is one of 18’s most powerfully restrained. Taylor describes their 2018 from a “year (that) seems to have given it an additional layer of density and weight.” Apropos it needs saying because texture this viscous is clearly vintage driven. After record aridity in 2017 it was a wet March that was welcomed with open arms and water tables but the rain kept up and so mildew became the challenge. Worse was damage from hailstorms in the Pinhão area, including Taylor Fladgate’s Quinta do Junco. But the heat came and on August 3rd at Quinta de Vargellas they recorded a temperature of just over 44°C. Ripening happened in a shorter and more concentrated window, a good thing in the world of VP, as witnessed by the no holes, all in, singular in vision and style Taylor 2018. Not the gangster power surge of some others mind you and the violets give little aromatic space to fruit nor perfume that tries to steal the spotlight. These are remarkable tannins and it could be periods of ages and epochs before this begins to move into complexities secondary and tertiary. If I were as young as I think you are I’d invest in this Taylor for the next 30-plus years of evolution. Drink 2027-2044.  Tasted November 2020

Good to go!

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