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

Flying in to Pi-e-mon-te

Nebbiolo Prima is a wine tasting and immersive concern of impossible equal. The twenty-fourth edition took place in Alba during the latter stages of January 2020, the last innocent period of Piemonte’s recent history and the memories ingrained will last a lifetime. How retrospectively insignificant were the stressors incurred through tasting 300 wines blind over three days plus hundreds more with producers at lunches, dinners and visits? How happy, carefree and miles from non-plussed were the journalists, sommeliers and their Albeisa hosts during a week of connectivity and shared motivations? Less than one month later everything had changed.

Marina Marcarino introduces Nebbiolo Prima 2020

Tutto arriva al momento stabilito, “everything comes at its appointed time.” War, peace, pandemic, recovery. Piemonte has been particularly compromised by COVID-19 and it just seems so unfair but the Piedmontese back down from nothing and move ahead no matter the obstacles. The work ethic never tires, nor do fruit and tannin. There are a thousand wine producers who raised estates out of post-war, mezzadrie ashes to put Barbaresco, Roero and Barolo at the forefront of Italian wine. This generation will do the same beginning in 2020. Piemonte does just about everything well and for so many tangible reasons, everything right. The clash of cultures, detailed attention to seductive and gratifying food particularities and impossible to resist, covetable wines from Langhe and Roero origins add up to one of Italy’s finest destinations. Eating and drinking in Piemonte is one of life’s greatest treats and I’ve not yet even mentioned the word nebbiolo. Life and winemaking are all about the pauses, where art resides in the elusive calm between Barbaresco fruit and tannin. 

It had been a most incredible Nebbiolo Prima 2020 week with gratitude and love to the guidance and effort of the the Albeisa organization’s President, Domaine Punset’s Marina Marcarino. Always the first to pioneer, lead, teach and share, Marcarino expressed the pride and the passion of the community of producers that worked tirelessly to create this formidable assembly. Albeisa’s goal is not singularly focused. This event is not simply a matter dedicated to the tasting of wine. Agricultural evolution and wine-producing innovation are a major focus, always with a socio-economic bearing kept in mind. Albeisa’s deans pointed out that there has been a steady decline of the de-classification of grapes and for Barbaresco that has meant a drop from 46 to 23 per cent of bottlers at harvest moving from Barbaresco DOCG and into Langhe Nebbiolo DOC. 

Mauro Buonocore

Trusting Science

Most fascinating was a climate change talk titled I Cambiamenti Climatici NEI Media, given by Mauro Buonocore, head of the Communication and Media Office at CMCC Foundation – Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change. Buonocore began with a challenge to journalists, to report truths, based on science. “Why are journalists and the public interested in such complex scientific problems?’ he asks. This is Mauro’s question, his purpose for studying the subject. “Attention paid to climate change makes sense if we do so in relation to socio-economic systems.” He then wants to know “what is the cost for business in a world in which temperature is changing and extreme events like heavy rains and heat waves taking place?”

The study by Fondazione Centro Euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici presents as a focal point for Italy, to “get out of the green ghetto,” insists Buonocore. “Hugging trees is not the only answer.” The starting point is science because science is informative. “It’s a democratic community.” IDCC creates reports by 300 authors, in 20,000 studies, with 100,000 comments. It’s more than enough to satisfy the most skeptical journalist. It’s also a consistently framed initiative that resides at a global level.

Mauro Buonocore, CMCC

2020 Findings

The foundation’s most recent investigations are heavily reporting about extreme weather, a.k.a the new global warming. Climate action is now responsive and mobilizing to act in response to the natural disasters but also losses in biodiversity. Human made environmental tragedies are the single largest crises faced today and more than ever there is a need for collaboration between journalists and scientists. Un”alleanza necessaria, driving scientific research into journalists’ hands, to report on forests, environment and climate change. Wine journalists. The road goes both ways, recoproche risorese, not a one-man band.  The intrigue of this study takes journalists and in turn the public away from the idea about what can be done to combat and make adjustments for climate change to a realm defined by placing trust in scientists and scientific thought. A blind trust perhaps but this is the request.

What to make of Barbaresco DOCG 2017

In subsequent articles I will get to what Barolo and Roero have reached in their recent contributions to nebbiolo but today we begin with Barbaresco. Nearly 60 examples of Barbaresco DOCG 2017 were presented, along with 15 Riserva 2015 and a further dozen or so retrospective 2007s. Communes of origin (Alba, Barbaresco, Neive and Treiso) were joined by Cru examples (Montersino, Rocche Massalupo, Asili, Ovello, Pora, Rabaja’, Rio Sordo, Roccalini, Roncaglie, Ronchi, Montaribaldi, Albesani, Basarin, Canova, Cotta’, Gaia-Principe, Gallina, San Cristoforo, San Guiliano, Bricco San Giuliano, Santo Stefano, Senadaive, Serraboella, Serragrilli, Sorì Paitin Serraboella, Starderi, Bricco di Treiso, Casot, Giacone, Marcarini, Meruzzano, Nervo, Nubiola, Pajore’, Rombone, Valeirano and Vallegrande).

Tasting at #nebbioloprima2020 with the Morris, side by each ~ Day one, 120 in

These odd, curious and at times inspiring 2017s are littered with examples that speak to great variability, lined with pockets of hot and bothered micro-climates but also cool spots in spite of the prevailing terms of the vintage. These Barbaresco are wines of patent freedom and some imbibers may think they want in but may not be equipped to handle the liberties they provide. Still others will unite over the untied and untucked nature of the lot. The highlights are nominally noted by nebbiolo quietude that act as breaths of fresh 2017 air. The Riserva of 2015 are at their best when the spice cupboard is wide open for nebbiolo to act aromatically gregarious, volatile and yet unsettled. The best of 2015 have yet to peek out of the open windows.

The task of tasting 360 nebbiolo blind or not in four days would be unthinkable without the guidance and assistance of a professional Sommelier. What is a Sommelier? A Sommelier is completely invisible, yet always in sight. A Sommelier remembers what wine tasters hate. A Sommelier anticipates the taster’s needs before the needs are needed. A Sommelier is, above all, discreet to a fault. In total here are 92 reviews for Barbaresco nebbiolo tasted in Alba, January 2020.

Barbaresco at Hotel I Castelli, Alba

Barbaresco DOCG 2017 (59 reviews)

  • ***** (denotes the top wines of the vintage)

Ada Nada Barbaresco DOCG Valeirano 2017

Sweet and saline Treiso nebbiolo, light and bright, lemon to orange. Quit and confident, the silent type that allows its actions to speak louder than its words. Good tang in its textural step and fine tannins will lead to mid-term aging exceptionality. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Adriano Marco E Vittorio DOCG Barbaresco 2017

Plays hard to get from the outset though there’s a prettiness to the lightness of this nebbiolo’s being. Can be tough when it needs to be and so there is potential here. Will need to wait and see just what becomes of this light, underestimated and yet understood Barbaresco. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Adriano Marco & Vittorio Barbaresco DOCG Basarin 2017 ($45.00)

Candied exterior in that the fruit scents are like flowers dipped into a sweetly perfumed liquid that permeates and infiltrated so that everything comes up roses. The palate then dries out a bit so that fruit succumbs to the tannins in the wine. Neive traditional and so plausible. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Albino Rocca Barbaresco DOCG Montersino 2017

Tannic and intense. Decent fruit more or less speaks to varietal obviousness and basic understanding. There’s a comfort level in the rustic charm of the tradition found inherent and fomenting in this Montersino nebbiolo. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Albino Rocca Ronchi Barbaresco DOCG 2017 ($75.75)

Once again a menthol note permeates but here from Ronchi in Barbaresco it is met with notable citrus, namely pomegranate, deep blood orange and also a real cherry-ness. Also very spiced, cinnamon and nutmeg, plus a variegation that comes across as much textural as it had aromatic. A serious wine of great integration and potential more than anything as a quotient of its fineness and deep-rooted complexity. Drink 2024-2037.  Tasted January 2020

Alessandro Rivetto Barbaresco DOCG Montersino 2017

Ripe and syrupy nebbiolo, simpler than many or even most with fine-grained though negligible tannin. A bit of disconnect between the fruit and the finish, namely because the acidity is not a catalyst or a matchmaker in the Montersino equation. Drink 2021-2023.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa Barbaresco Tettineive DOCG 2017

No cru designate mention (but referred to as Tettineive, “at the head of,” or above the village) and the Neive ubiquity is noted in the swarthy and swarming aromas that speak foremost about ripe fruit. It’s so very raspberry and not so very tannic though the acids are developed and encompassing. Not so complex but a great dinner date companion for the next few years. Drink 2021-2024.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Antichi Poderi Dei Gallina Barbaresco DOCG Gallina 2017

Quite bright and very citrus, light blood orange meeting green tannins. Seems like a very cool spot in spite of the ’17 Neive vintage. A tonic injection and a botanical feel make for a unique take on nebbiolo from Gallina. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Bera Barbaresco DOCG Serraboella 2017

Very cherry, very glycerin and also light on its aromatic feet. The scents are spiced and varietally obvious as Neive nebbiolo with a sweetness that speaks to the land. Good structure, even sweeter tannins and very apparent that the barrel is a major part of the game. Needs time and also tells us that if you like sweetness from wood then you should clearly stick around. Drink 2022-2027.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Now we are onto and into something other, ulterior, extraordinary even. The berry and cherry scents are ripe, effusive and frank. The subtleties speak to the knowledge and the knowing. There’s a restraint and a consummate professionalism in such a Treiso Barbaresco but also an accumulation spurred by precision. The real deal, needing no swagger to solicit no adulation. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted January 2020

Gran Bollito alla Piemontese, Ristorante Luna, Sinio

Briccogrilli Battaglio Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Slightly over-developed, heading towards oxidative and not far from raisin. Flat, little acidity and no real potential. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Ca’ Del Baio Barbaresco DOCG 2017

If ever a Barbaresco nebbiolo carried an uncanny aroma that is purely reminiscent of liquorice than this would be the one. Fruit quality is impressive and structure supports with a proper frame,. Nothing overtly complex here but overall the game is played quite well. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Ca’ Del Baio Barbaresco DOCG Vallegrande 2017

Sweet meets savoury for fruit that needs little introduction. So bloody nebbiolo, Barbaresco, Treiso and seemingly, clearly, obviously Vallegrande. Ripe and grippy tannins take control so maybe try and avoid needing to spend too much time here over the next five years. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

A clear and concise look at Treiso nebbiolo from Barbaresco with tart currant, pomegranate and cherry fruit, tang in pocket and a lovely liquidity. This is the textural one of clarity and precision. Clearly textural, structured and fine. Not overtly tannic and so far from intrusive in terms of what the barrel wants to say. Drink this everyday and for no particular reason. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

You can tell straight off the top that this Barbaresco-Asili nebbiolo is not begging for attention, nor does it care if you get it or not. The fruit wades and treads easily, comfortable, without any real tension. The acids are delicate and fine, real and necessary. The tannins repeat the yoga mantra. This is a sneaky one, seemingly light and uninterested but time will see flesh, bone and serious intention come to the surface and swim with strength deep into the distance. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Luisin Barbaresco DOCG Rabajà 2017

A deep inhalant of hillside brush, red citrus and well-ripened fruit are the three-part harmony sung by this Barbaresco. Simplifies a bit once you realize the heavy bass played by the wood takes over and commands a sweetness but also a simplicity in the structural line. Still there is a quality that just aches with the singsong verse of Rabaja’. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Morassino Barbaresco DOCG 2017 ($58.62)

Lovely and complex nebbiolo aromatic profile with crisp bites and red fruit drawn off the right kind of soils for all to take part. One part kind fruit, one part energy building and one part lengthening structure. Adds up to quality Barbaresco and accessibility. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Impressive from go with high-toned, pectin-developed and transparent, glycerin fruit. Really fine lines, bones and structurally sound encroachment into the tough areas only such Barbaresco nebbioli can go. Serious Ovello wine with a long life ahead. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted January 2020
 
Cascina Sarìa Barbaresco DOCG Canova 2017

Quite ripe and developed Neive nebbiolo with an oxidative waft. Will go quickly into the pruned night with so much vanilla by wood in its fading light. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Castello Di Neive Santo Stefano Albesani Barbaresco DOCG 2017 ($51.75)

Fruit is sweet and properly ripened, a touch herbal and tannins take quick stage to cover and draw the curtains. Chewy in a liquorice way and drying though tradition runs like blood through the structure. Solid Neive Barbaresco. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Collina Serragrilli Barbaresco DOCG Serragrilli 2017 ($45.00)

Wildly earthy and aromatic Neive nebbiolo from Serragrilli, a touch overdrawn but still sitting on that ledge. Smells like a scorch of sorts and a light char on wild game. Also brings the hematic aromas that only fresh meat, toasty wood and blood orange can gift. Complex specimen here if just a touch ripe into the beyond. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Sweet scented aromas and a chewy textural aspect make this Barbaresco nebbiolo one of the more impressively expressionistic examples. The substance in grain and disposition are clearly developed and designed to create a gregarious and exhibitionist example. So much Rabajà proposition, supposition and expectation await. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Figli Luigi Oddero Barbaresco DOCG Rombone 2017

Unusually scented Treiso Barbaresco, almost like baking biscuits mingling with cured meats. Quite chalky tannic and earth crusted too. Very nebbiolo, high strung and extended perhaps beyond means but there will be a sweet spot somewhere out there in the mid ages. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Another about face for nebbiolo twists and turns within the variability and variegation found in the Neive Barbaresco from Gallina. Tartness, tang, tannin and even a moment’s tumult make this curious, foreboding and so very interesting. Watch to see where this one goes. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Grasso Fratelli Barbaresco DOCG Vallegrande 2017

Darker, bloodier and richer than some but also as compared to brethren within the cru. Vallegrande is quite expressive Treiso Barbaresco though this example is clearly driven by the barrel. Vanilla in droves, chocolate not too far behind and tannins thick as thieves. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Icardi Barbaresco DOCG Starderi 2017 ($78.00)

Intensely reductive and closed, even for Neive nebbiolo. There too is a pine resinous note and some charred meeting preserved citrus. Curious and yet to open up its charms. Drink 2022-2026.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Pasta heaven in Alba

Il Bricco Barbaresco DOCG Bricco Di Treiso 2017

The mix of cured meats, wood smoke, spice and wet concrete make for a Treiso nebbiolo with so much bloody character that keeps changing with every nose put into the glass. Brings blood orange and bresaola to the mix. What a potpourri, what a design and what a complication. That all said the tannins are not so firm and not so demanding, More wood and texture than anything else. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

La Ganghija Di Enzo Rapalino Barbaresco DOCG 2017

A touch past ripe and syrupy though with complex aromatic notes, namely preserved citrus and gingered chocolate. A gastronomic Treiso Barbaresco in a dessert course kind of vein with notable cask sweetness, spice and strength. Very modern and ambitious. Drink 2022-2026.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

La Ganghija Di Enzo Rapalino Barbaresco DOCG Giacosa 2017

A bit past the centre line for ’17 Treiso ripeness and evergreen amplitude. Also an earthy note, albeit a sweet one that mingles with fruit and tang. Lots of wood, texture and grip. Very chewy and will develop some fun funghi and umami secondary character. Drink 2022-2028.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Mainerdo F.Lli Barbaresco DOCG Roccalini 2017

Quite a mentholated sauce and scented nebbiolo, not unlike the Barbaresco of Pora though Roccalini also delivers a multitude of red fruit. It’s berry, plum and citrus all rolled into one. There too is a note that seems uncanny but you can’t quite put your aromatic sensors on it. Chalk it up to memory that will come back one day. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Manera Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Simple and basic nebbiolo with mild acidity and grippy tannin. Proper enough but just not that interesting. Drink 2021-2025.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Masseria Barbaresco DOCG Montersino 2017

Extremely high-toned Montersino nebbiolo with a decidedly vinyl shower curtain note. Also some fennel, mountain tea and sweet herbal aspect. Funny wine with a hard candied shell. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Massimo Rivetti Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Very herbal almost in a cough concoction sort of realm and certainly an alcoholic warmth mixed with some mephitic material. Smells like the stable. Not clean. Drink 2020.  Tasted January 2020

Moccagatta Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Curious one this nebbiolo, at once a rich and ripe ’17 and on the other hand tight, taut and closed. Somewhat pine verdant and cool with a graphite note. Crunchy acids and plenty of texture make this one gregarious, full and ambitious. Tannins follow suit with grip and energy. Yes, the drive and the energy her are the thing. And the potential. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Molino Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Extreme ripeness and developed cherry fruit that ultimately means simple and straightforward juice. A bit meaty and chewy in a cheaper cut, a bit too quick braised way. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Montaribaldi Barbaresco DOCG Montaribaldi 2017

Quite simple, tart, woody and unreflective. Comes across as sweet and overtly intentional. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Musso Di Musso Barbaresco DOCG Rio Sordo 2017

Perfume is off the charts in a Barbaresco nebbiolo that clearly speaks for the land from whence it has come. Fruit quality is ripe, sweet and developed while acids are just as important as tannin for a cru Barbaresco of style and no real overt need to go decades for best pleasure. The results are now and for 10 years max. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Wow the mentholated and graphite noted aromatics are off the charts in this singular Barbaresco. Also tobacco and a fine liquidity that runs through like one substance suspended within another. Should be interesting to see when the two will emulsify and get together as one. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Mustela Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Ostensibly what you’d imagine Treiso Barbaresco to nose without a cru mention and in a wholly modern way. Sweet spice, cured meat and vanilla. Big wine with lots of texture. Drink 2022-2027.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Nada Giuseppe Casot Barbaresco DOCG 2017 ($33.25)

Very right, credible and proper Treiso nebbiolo from Casot here with all the constituent parts in line, one following another and no gaps to speak of. There’s a salve texture that you already knew was coming because the aromas told you so. The texture carries forth with admirable consistency and the elasticity of this Barberesco is right there behind, in support and with en eye towards the eventual conclusion. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Ristorante La Libera, Alba

Negro Giuseppe Barbaresco DOCG Gallina 2017

Deeper and more developed for Neive-Gallina and surely from a warm and sunny exposition to take full advantage of the vintage. A bit lean on the other hand and also a touch verdant. This one will travels to all four corners of nebbiolo earth. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Orlando Abrigo Meruzzano Barbaresco DOCG 2017 ($42.95)

Earthy and reductive with the forest and the barn’s floor all over the Treiso aromatic room. Plenty of wood and where this excels is in its cool, silky and pleasurable texture. Needs time, of course it needs time. Success depends, well of course it depends. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Paitin Barbaresco DOCG Sorì Paitin Serraboella 2017

Almost negligible in so many ways in that it’s so very hard to get. That said the quietude is a breath of 2017 Neive air because no intrusions have been allowed to get through, neither red, green, overt or unwanted. A simply rendered nebbiolo can be your friend and here the structure is likely sneakier than first, second and third time around imagined. Charming wine from Serraboella. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Pasquale Pelissero Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Quite blood orange, hematic and even ferric nebbiolo form the odd, curious and at times inspiring Neive 2017s. Textural on the outside and linear and lean on the inside, even this example owes to its very own variability. Tannins are a bit grippy and energy comes back and forth, in and out of time and waves. Drink 2021-20327.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Pelissero Pasquale Barbaresco DOCG San Giuliano 2017

Developed in many ways, not the least of which is fruit in syrup and dried fruit character. Turns lean and uninteresting with a cool mint and graphite quality on the back end. Drink 2020-2022.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Pertinace Barbaresco DOCG Marcarini 2017

A traditionally accumulated, developed and rendered Treiso nebbiolo to be frank with generous big barrel character and silken ripe 2017 fruit. Big bones and full texture make for a mouthful and one that will take years to find its classic stride. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Pertinace Barbaresco DOCG Nervo 2017 ($59.95)

Nervo is south facing on famous Treiso blue clay. Just a lovely nose here, sweet scenting, floral and savour-candied. Just a touch of so many things; herbs, creosote, pine, cedar and scorched earth. Vanilla, chocolate and spice. Gone for it all. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Pietro Rinaldi San Cristoforo Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Light to developing in aromas and textures with variegations. Crunchy and chewy at the same time, with a taste profile that encompasses the liquorice, earth and wood spice profile. Lots going on here from San Cristoforo in Neive but in the present not overtly complex. Probably best to wait a year or two ands then drink young. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Poderi Colla Roncaglie Barbaresco 2017 ($50.00)

Wound tight, taut and far from ready to unravel there are layers upon layers of structure in this ’17 Roncaglie-Barbaresco. Crunchy and crusted you will have to exercise great patience before even thinking you can see the light or feel the gentle pull in the elasticity of this wine. Take it slow, take your time and let it flow. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Rattalino Massimo Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Pretty and effusive Barbaresco nebbiolo with notable tannic structure. Quite a mouthful of barrel-influenced spice and tannin. The length is impressive so there is no doubt that this will go far. Drink 2022-2028.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Rizzi Barbaresco DOCG Pajoré 2017 ($42.95)

Again this is Pajore’ in its basked light of delicacy, ripe and rising. Understated and yet so cumulative of fruit, acidity and fine tannin. In fact the tannins accumulate with great numbers and in even greater force. This will outlive many of us to die another day. Tour de force is what nebbiolo can be albeit with Treiso subtlety and drive. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted January 2020

Roberto Sarotto Barbaresco DOCG Gaia Principe 2017 ($43.00)

There’s an almost appassimento note to this strange and unusual Neive nebbiolo and also an over-developed fruit feel. Like roll-up, very strawberry and quite overripe. So simple as a result and mired in a pectin-glycerin way. Drink 2020–2021.  Tasted January 2020

Socré Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Takes a walk along a wire that supports both a lightness of being as well as some high-tonality to the point of volatility. There is an old-school Barbaresco quality to be sure and a traditional waft that is both obvious and comforting. Clean enough to eat off of though you also knows where its been. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

One of only two Cru Neive Barbaresco made by the family in 2017 because of hail that rained down on Basarin the 25th of April. Lower production on one hand, indelible mark of concentration and focus on the other. Elegant, lightly lifted and breezy with that density of fruit laying low, stowed safely and securely away to rise only as necessary, as the tannins melt, spread out and dissipate. Accented with chromatic prejudice as only a Sottimano nebbiolo will, xanthous, cinnabar, maroon, together imagined as spices that feed the flavours. Liquid berries, cool, fine and finessed. Does Barbaresco get more honest than this? A true window into a cru and snapshot of a vintage. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted January 2020

Taverna Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

Tenuta Baràc Barbaresco DOCG Rocche Massalupo 2017

Dark and developed nebbiolo fruit with some serious grip in its tannic step. The wood is a major factor early on and the stuffing is surely there. Needs a few years easy to let things settle and to allow full or even partial integration. Great potential from Rocche Massalupo. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Unusually restrained for a Neive nebbiolo of clear complexity and might. The substantial fruit texture and mineral-alloy impression cannot be ignored, nor can the exquisiteness of the elasticity be denied. So much acumen, passion and planning are clearly meant to make many requests, most notable the one that asks for patience before judgement and ultimately joy plus pleasure accumulated in the decades long exercise. Drink 2023-2035.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Barbaresco DOCG 2016 (2 reviews)

Sottimano Barbaresco DOCG Basarin 2016

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

Taverna Barbaresco DOCG 2016

Comes from one vineyard at the top part of the hill, Gaia Principe it’s called, one of four that make Barbaresco in the MGA (menzioni geografiche aggiuntive). 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 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Marina Marcarino

Barbaresco Riserva DOCG 2015 (15 reviews)

Briccogrilli Battaglio Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Serragrilli 2015

All about aromatics for this Neive nebbiolo. Candied meets spiced, like a cinnamon lozenge, soothing and yet peppery. Not the most structured affair and thins out as the hard shell cracks, softens, melts and disappears. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020 

Cantina Del Nebbiolo Barbaresco Riserva DOCG 2015

Set at the highest tone, nearly to 11, with fruit rising along and everything just hanging out on the edge. Drink 2020-2022.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

A bit linear and herbal though there’s some substance hiding in the Barbaresco reeds. Quite closed and yet to open for the world to know and perhaps understand. Seems to shed some light with time in the glass before structure creeps in and up. Definitely wait and return. Better times lay ahead. The transparent and confident fruit will emerge. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Francone Barbaresco Riserva DOCG 2015

Now here is a Barbaresco Riserva for an overall consumer platform with ubiquity and pleasure across all fronts. Mildly fruity and with acids meeting tannins that mimic a concept of the same, Unquestionably Neive nebbiolo and without making any demands. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

La Bioca Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Secondine 2015

Aromatically gregarious, volatile and yet unsettled in what is still an unfinished state. So much acidity and wood without respite. Can surely be imagined as the sort of Barbaresco nebbiolo that will suddenly transform and morph into something completely other, brilliant, ethereal even. Drink 2022-2028.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Marchesi Di Barolo Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Rio Sordo 2015

Here’s a taut, tightly wound and spice-filled aromatic nebbiolo with a soil’s firm intention in solicitation of a wine’s structural intuition. Serious Barbaresco here with bones and elastic flesh. Let it ride. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Tajarin, Osteria dei Sognatori, Alba

Massimo Rivetti Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Cerebella 2015

A cool and almost minty Neive nebbiolo that lies in the nether between transparent and glycerin. Far from reduced or reductive and yet not overly oxidative either, Very middle of the road. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Molino Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Ausario 2015

Not merely ripe but nearly over the top, the edge and the precipice towards a falling down the other side. Tries hard and ultimately fattens, flattens into soft tones and sits out of balance. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Nada Giuseppe Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Casot 2015

Clear and marked upscale notes give this Treiso nebbiolo a true blue Barbaresco feel that can only lead to sensation. Very cherry and great in its soul connection to the way the wine slides gracefully into its structural components. A bit over-heated on the back end with a plethora of wood spice and mild char but it finds its way back to the cool tempered wine it wants and needs to be. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Piazzo Comm. Armando Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Nervo 2015

A ripe Nervo nebbiolo from Treiso on the darker, nearly black cherry spectrum with a clear directive from pressing through extraction and into barrel. Flavours are cough candy and tonic. Really quite botanical in the end. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Prinsi Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Fausoni 2015

Closed in aromatic terms though a sweet-scented baking spices resides in mild fade where the middle meets the background. Cool and taut, not yet ready to play or offer pleasure. Will do so when time gets under its belt. Not an overtly generous 2015 Barbaresco from Neive but clearly a serious one. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted January 2020

Produttori Del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Muncagota 2015

Quality through really earthy fruit that reflects a feeling of beetroot in a chalky tannic Barbaresco nebbiolo. Quite crusted, nearly crusty and some bitters mark the finish. Dry and tannic. Young but the fruit will need to work hard in order to stand the test and onslaught of time. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Wildly aromatic of wild strawberry and sweet bitters liqueur. Highly glycerin and textural with grippy and elastic stretched tannins. A huge Neive Barbaresco with time definitely secure on its side. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Punset Barbaresco Riserva DOCG San Cristoforo 2015

This nebbiolo in the Barbaresco Riserva category goes for broke, pressed to find the fulsome glycerin that is entirely vintage possible. Extracted in tow are volatile and woolly characters with the present tense ability to infiltrate and distract. Time will act as catalyst to link the moving parts and give Neive life to what is at current a dry and tannic finish. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted January 2020

The sense of place is clearly in with a jig of fruit that whispers Martinenga in Barbaresco. Wears a fine-knitted woolly cap and wraps up red fruit in a fine tannic sweater. Well-delineated from a generous vintage with the sort of bone structure and taut flesh that will withstand and bask in comfort through many cold winters. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Masseria’s Alessandro Giordano and Gurvinder Bhatia

Retrospective Barbaresco DOCG 2007 ++ (15 reviews)

Masseria Barbaresco DOCG Montersino 2015

From the brothers Giordano, Stefano and Alessandro in San Rocco frazione and only 8,000 bottles produced. Spent 12-18 months in (30 per cent new) barriques and grandi botti. Almost oily rich, certainly luxurious with the blood orange notation. Nicely balanced, thoughtfully pressed and a joy to drink. Proper tannins speak for the site which makes this nebbiolo a representative of place and the youthful presence of its then 10 year-old vines. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Pertinace Barbaresco DOCG Nervo 2009

Vigneto Nervo is south facing on blue clay in Treiso and here 11 years on this is no longer tense and nervous as it surely once was. Still nervy to be sure and from a big vintage. Generous red fruit with more than many shakes of spice and an almost dried balsamic wooden note. Wholly unique aromatic profile. Must be the compact blue clay we’re smelling. The silky palate texture tells us we’re right in the window. Last tasted at Ristorante Luna in Sinio, January 2020

A tight, saliva-sucking, bone dry, ossified, ferric Nebbiolo. Just two sips and my tongue and gums feel like a lorry has run over them. That and the crimson smell of climbing roses. Classic really.  Tasted September 2013

Adriano Marco E Vittorio Barbaresco DOCG Sanadaive 2007 ($26.45)

At 13 this Sendaive nebbiolo out of Alba has put in the work and the time, now quiet and rested. Must have been a raging one in its day because the residual volatility is present albeit rendered and flaccid now. Now all chocolate and vanilla so in other words, wood. Drink 2020.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Luisin Barbaresco DOCG Rabajà 2007

Quite advanced Rabajà having taken all the steps necessary to travel through the portal into tertiary character. The secondary Barbaresco stage is but a faint glimmer in the rear-view mirror. It’s all milk chocolate wafers and milk now. The late bites are wood spice, not acidity. Drink 2020.  Tasted January 2020

Castello Di Neive Santo Stefano Albesani Barbaresco DOCG 2007 ($44.95)

The fruit has vacated the Neive premises leaving wood, alcohol and mineral smells to keep the nebbiolo faith alive. Was and persists as an earthy soul with old-school and big barrel ideals in all its former glory. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Cortese Giuseppe Barbaresco DOCG Rabajà 2007 ($46.95)

Advanced and chocolate-filled, red fruit still juicy and thriving, acidity too. Tannins mostly resolved but still holding the fort. Solid Rabajà 2007 from Barbaresco to be sure. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Paitin Barbaresco DOCG Sorì Paitin Serraboella 2007

Amazingly characterful Neive-Sorì Paitin Serraboella nebbiolo, with a pronounced note of Brettanomyces mixing with the dried fruit and mineral salts. Would peg it for older than 2007 aromatically speaking but palate wise it still crackles and pulses with life. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Pelissero Pasquale Barbaresco DOCG Bricco San Giuliano 2007

Quite the quiet, soft and sultry nebbiolo with fruit very much intact. This is a warm 2007 that did not get under the covers and saw a Bricco San Giuliano stay away from overheating. Plenty of chocolate here and lots of life left to live and give. The Neive Pelissero heyday incarnate for Barbaresco and 2007. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Pelissero Barbaresco DOCG Nubiola 2007 ($45.95)

Nubiola out of Treiso is showing some age here with acids still raging and a candied sweetness to the aromas. Not nearly as expressive on the palate but when you think about the vintage and the age it still shines with as much happiness as you’d hope it would. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Poderi Colla Roncaglie Barbaresco DOCG 2007 ($50.00)

Colla’s 2007 Roncaglie saw a great compliment of wood, that much can be true in a 12.5 year later assessment. The fruit and the thrill are gone with the barrel and the cool savour stringing it out. Quite easy, amenable and one of the better food Barbaresco nebbiolo in this 2007 retrospective. So it’s got that going for it, which is nice. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Produttori Dei Barbaresco Barbaresco DOCG 2007 ($41.95)

A wee hint of mephitic reduction is maintained in this earthy, salt of the land nebbiolo from the great Barbaresco cooperative. Still showing its tannic teeth and elevating fruit up along with the high-toned character. The finish is like a Piedmontese chocolate and hazelnut torte. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Punset Barbaresco DOCG 2007 ($55.95)

Wildly aromatic, in a terrific window to check out the progress and clearly a top cru for nebbioplo from Neive in 2007. Which tells us Basarin is always a top cru. All have come to play and join the serious fun; fruit, nuts, wild shrubs and herbs, but also things toasted, charred, roasted and seared. All the while keeping a coolness and a winter savoury character to match the natural and honest personality it just feels so comfortable in display. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Rizzi Barbaresco DOCG Pajoré 2007

Pajoré from Rizzi is youthful to bely the 12 and a half years it has spent in its vessels. The notes of cherry are joined by a pinot noir like cola in Treiso nebbiolo clothing. Acids are still string and in charge while tannins are the ones to have softened. Spectacular look back in retrospection that I would wish upon everyone to have and enjoy. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Socrè Barbaresco DOCG Roncaglie 2007 ($50.00)

Pretty much what you might and want to expect from 2007 Barbaresco tasted in 2020. High-toned, fruit a mix of fresh and dry, acids in total control. Impressive Roncaglie that leaves a lasting impression. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Punset Barbaresco DOCG Campo Quadro Riserva 2005 ($71.95)

Highly complex Neive Barbaresco from Marina Marcarino’s Campo Quadro with age fully engaged but also on its side. The tones, bones and fleshy substance all show off their balance and their agility. Wise? Sure. Fortuitous? Maybe. Proper? Exactly. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Tenute Cisa Asinari Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Camp Gros 2005 ($104.00)

A bit of a demurred Barbaresco here from Camp Gros and yet the fruit has surely lasted without too much stress or effort. Crunchy and a touch earthy, quite floral and really elegant. Lovely at 14 years-old. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Good to go!

godello

Flying in to Pi-e-mon-te

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Réva the hand as if by magic

Réva’s is a remarkable Monforte d’Alba property nestled within an ideally situated Langhe amphitheatre, “at the limit of Barolo,” abutting the ridge that separates the potentate appellation’s southern border from Dogliani. Vines of dolcetto, barbera and nebbiolo rest, roost and rule the south-facing hill and a nine-hole links style golf course lays out east to west through the valley. Wooded havens hide deer and wild boar, birds of many ilk fill the naked skies, playgrounds long for children’s playful squeals while Restaurant FRE and its first Michelin Star in 2020 await the return of guests. A Piedmontese farm holiday stay such as this is quietude incarnate, unique, secluded and serene. Wines were made here at one time but growth and ambition make requiem for expansion. A new facility takes shape. Moving north again, at the foot of and below the village of La Morra we come to the cellar in Gallinotto where the wines are now in production. From agriturismo to cantina, Réva the hand as if by magic.

Nebbiolo and Dolcetto at Réva

Réva is a fascinating study of collaboration between five erudite men: Miroslav, Gianluca, Gabriele, Francesco and Daniele. Miro Lekes, owner, native of the Czech Republic and who’s first commercial vintage was 2012. Gianluca Colombo, oenologist, joined in 2010 after working 10 years for the Cordero consultancy in and out of 10-20 estates. Daniele Gaia worked at Elvio Cogno for seven years, leaving in 2016 to join the Réva experience. “If you want to be a protagonist in this world you need to find some space,” insists Gaia and so when he met with Miro and saw the vision for a 10+ year plan he knew his space had been found. Gabriele Adriano is winemaker, Tecnico Presso, formerly with Vajra in Vergne, just up the hill from Barolo. Gabriele joined just ahead of the 2017 harvest. “He’s very precise,” notes Daniele, “Gianluca is the creative one.” Francesco Spadaro joined in September 2018, coming from Viberti and at Réva deals with private customers and orders. “He is the commercial guy.”

We’re on the road to Réva

Farming practices are organic and not just for the vineyards, but also including the golf course and the wine relais grounds. “You don’t drink the certification,” quips Daniele, “you drink the wine.” Growth is quick and to the point because “there are five men working on the same wine. That’s the secret.” Total production at Réva is 65,000 bottles, the current maximum goal. Up to and at times above 10,000 each of dolcetto, nebbiolo, barbera, whites and the classico Barolo are the workhorses for 85-90 per cent of production. The cru Baroli from Ravera, Cannubi and Lazzarito make up the remainder.

Daniele Gaia, on the phone, making deals

“For sure Réva is a unique place in the Barolo area” tells Daniele. I spent a glorious January day with hime at the two properties near Monforte d’Alba. You need to begin tasting the ’16s, ’17s and ’18s because the ’19s in barrel will blow the roof off of the Langhe. Our third stop was for lunch in Alba at ventuno.1 under the culinary auspices of Chefs Alfonso Russo and Francesco Ferrara.

Godello, Chef Francesco Ferrara and Daniele Gaia at ventuno.1 , Alba

Know this. Réva’s are modern, 21st century wines with tremendous new Piemonte drinker’s appeal. They are also seductive to informed and discerning sommeliers because of an innate connection to the past. The notions that arise and astonish us are not because they are new, but because they are the sort that have been so long neglected and overlooked. The nebbiolo in particular are rooted in time tested pragmatism, decades, if not centuries old. They will stand the test, of longevity and time. These are the six wines we tasted.

Réva Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC 2018, Piedmont, Italy ($34.04)

Taken from San Sebastiano area, vines 15-20 years old in Monforte d’Alba. “We have a special view of the nebbiolo,” tells Daniele Gaia. “In our point of view it has to show the character of the grape, flowers, drinkability and approachable, not a baby Barolo.” And so Réva attacks with a gentle touch, a short and cold maceration to secure nebbiolo kept in a “light” vein, with evident acidity. Carries the youthful “splendore” of beautiful red fruit. A precociousness unhindered, on hinges, in ultra comfortable balance. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Réva Barolo DOCG 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($66.15)

Another highly seasoned nebbiolo of rather dark red fruit and barrel piques that create spikes and valleys in the wine. Hangs on with enough energy to see the acidity match the fruit stride for stride. There’s a sense of structure to see this ’16 last for a decade strong and long. Drinking window will open shortly so the temptation will be to imbibe often and early, thereby fertilizing the narcotic poppy of drinking pleasure. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Réva Barolo DOCG Ravera 2015, Piedmont, Italy ($98.95)

So bright, so thoughtful and so generous. Ravera is the sneaky structured Réva Barolo, of a winemaker’s work that totes the freight of genius. Ravera is wanting nothing from you but gives you everything. A melting pot of Piedmontese nebbiolo, at ease and persistently resurgent. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted January 2020

Réva Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($251.95)

Réva’s Cannubi is based or is the extension of an idea, initialized in 2012, to have three different expressions in Barolo. The search is for elegance of La Morra or Barolo and the structure of Serralunga or Monforte. The third is a combination and that is found in Ravera. The Cannubi plot was owned by Fratelli Barale, a Cannubi di Cannubi right next to the cemetery of Barolo. It’s still a rented property and will be owned at the end of a 10 year contract. Pure Barolo, close your eyes and this is recognizable as the dictionary entry. Hue as in deep depths of pure red with a streak of light. Palate of acidity and fine tannins with length. Rich without being too strong. Not closed, does not attack your mouth and yet there is grip to keep it moving forward. Really fine tannins and fruitful pleasure. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted January 2020

2018 Nebbiolo – Barolo DOCG Lazzarito

Réva Barolo Riserva DOCG Lazzarito 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($337.95)

The single-vineyard cru Lazzarito is added in 2016 and it is Daniele Gaia’s first harvest at Réva. Drive the best car and drive it right away. “This is the best wine Réva has never made,“ says Gaia with great irony mixed into humility. Tasted from low temperatures (22-24 degrees) in tank there was fear of Lazzarito’s tannins. Here above Serralunga a long strip on the top of the eastern side of the hill gives a marl-calcaire meets sandy soil and so the best of both structural worlds; freshness (also from high pH) and grip. Yes it’s silly young and impressionable but already handsome, unadorned and fruit so crunchy, yet also sapid, a pinch salty and the impression of acidity is a freshness with thanks to that elevated pH. A sample but already in bottle and will be released in two years. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted January 2020

Good to go!

godello

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Three DOCG pillars of Asti: Secco, Dolce, Moscato d’Asti

For a wine region to succeed it must exercise sustainable principles and do so by meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Investment argues for three main pillars: economic, environmental, and social, a.k.a. people, planet and profits. In scientific terms sustainability refers to an ecosystem’s ability to exist constantly at a cost within a universe that evolves towards thermodynamic equilibrium within a state of maximum entropy. A modern vernacular would speak of the coexistence between humans and their host biosphere. A transfer of these ideological theories into wine-speak says that in Asti the growers, producers and their appointed Tutela dell’Asti DOCG chaperones have collectively agreed to set the appellative wines of Asti Secco DOCG, Asti Dolce DOCG and Moscato d’Asti DOCG as representative of their present and future. Three pillars of Asti.

“Born in 1932, the Consortium for the Promotion of Asti has a clear mission: to perform all the necessary actions to protect, promote and enhance the value of Asti and Moscato d’Asti, in Italy and the world.” The sustainable manifesto is clear and one day spent inside the offices of the Consortium will instruct and explain all you need to know about economic, social, environmental, export, security and what Italians refer to as disciplinare policies. Regulations regarding vineyard yields, levels of alcohol, sugar, extract and bars of pressure are so defined as to ensure current production and sales viability but also explicitly what the next generation will need to carry the work forward.

Guido Bezzo and the Asti lab crew

The Consortium’s Laboritorio Analisi for the Tutela dell’Asti DOCG is one of the most advanced and technologically impressive anywhere, with the mechanization capable of carrying out a diverse set of analyses. Under the guise of Guido Bezzo, who incidentally also happens to be a virtuoso trumpeter, the lab exerts its expertise far beyond pedestrian testing of alcohol, sugar and varietal purity. It delves deeper than mere organoleptic conclusions. The lab’s research works to investigate the impact analysis results for one 750 mL bottle of Asti wine covering categories that includes a mind-boggling set of parameters: Climate change; Reduction of the ozone layer; Toxicity and carcinogenic effects on humans; Particulate/smog caused by emissions of inorganic substances; Ionizing radiation effects on human inorganic health; Photochemical ozone formation; Acidification; Terrestrial, aquatic and marine eutrophication; Ecotoxicity in freshwater aquatic environments; Soil transformation; Resource depletion in water, minerals and fossils. Heady stuff indeed.

Dinner at Teatro Alfieri, Asti with President of the Consorzio Moscato d’Asti DOCG President Romano Dogliotti

La Caudrina’s Romano Dogliotti is President of the Consorzio dell’Asti DOCG and like so many Langhe winemakers, he is intrinsically tied to tradition but with a decisive openness to new technologies. In line withy many of his compatriots, Dogliotto’s Moscato d’Asti is made by putting yeast and moscato grape must in an autoclave. The must ferments at low temperature in this reinforced fermentation vessel until about half the natural sugar is consumed, then the wine is quickly passed through a micron filter to arrest the fermentation. The result is Moscato d’Asti at five and a half degrees of alcohol by volume and enough residual sweetness to conjure the feeling of eating ripe orchard fruit. In Asti the moscato comes out three ways: Secco, Dolce, Moscato d’Asti.

There are 10,000 hectares of vineyards for these lightly sparkling, off-dry to sweet Asti white wines and the Consorzio is entrusted to promote and protect the wines in the appellation. They are widely imitated and so undertaking legal action and registering trademarks in every country is a necessary side-hustle of the job. In terms of producer requests, all changes and modifications applied for must be approved by the consortium. An integral aspect of the work involves field, vineyard as well as laboratory research.

Teatro Alfieri, Asti

Asti covers parts of 52 communes, three provinces; Asti, Cuneo, Alessandria and three territories; Langhe, Roero and Monferrato. The vineyard landscape of these three famous Piedmontese areas were recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2014, Un territorio Patrimonio dell’Umanità. Sedimentary soils that date back 10-15 million years predominate. One is the Pliocenic basin of Asti to the northeast. The to the west around Canelli there are Serravallian (Middle Miocene) soils, stratified layers of blue clay, sand and lime. Many believe this to be the best composition for Moscato d’Asti. To the east in the area of Strevi the ground is Tortonian (late Miocene), younger at five to 10 million years, with more clay and more lime in deeper layers and colour. 

Laboritorio Analisi for the Tutela dell’Asti DOCG

The crux of the varietal situation is twofold, at once for vineyards subsisting at the foot of the Alps and also drawing energy being proximate to the sea. Seventy-five per cent of the vineyards are directly protected by the mountains. As seemingly everywhere, climate is changing here too. In the last 15 years average temperatures have increased by one degree. In the past 58 years the average increase has been by two. More important are temperature abnormalities. The centrepiece moscato bianco is a very sensitive grape and easily subjected to diseases. A study of 15 experimental vineyards continues to assess the vintages and the shifting climatic effect on the wines.

Agnolotti al tartufo bianco, Ristorante Cascinale Nuovo (Isola d’Asti – http://www.walterferretto.com)

Guyot training is appropriate for poor quality soils and lower yields. Broken down by altitude, 44 per cent of the vineyards are at 250-300m and 30 per cent at 300-450m. In terms of slope, 2,770 of 9,700ha have a gradient higher than 30 per cent, 336 ha with a gradient of more than 50. “Heroic agriculture” is the moniker bestowed. “The Sorì vineyards.” No mechanization is employed and a certain crucial must is picking times, especially in terms of the preservation of moscato bianco’s aromatic compounds.  Yields per hectare are set at 9.5 tonnes for Asti and Moscato d’Asti, the approximate price at 1.1 Euro.

With Andrea Costa, Vini Marenco

The 60,000 tonnes kept at negative four degrees in summer costs dearly in equipment and energy. It is widely believed that juice can stay in tank for up to two years without losing aromatic concentration. Fermentation takes place at 20 degrees in pressure tanks developed by Italian sparkling wine pioneer Dr. Federico Martinotti, director of the Research Institute for the Wine of Asti, who patented the method in 1895. Martinotti is credited with creating the method of developing the bubbles inside of tanks. The juice can stand pressures of more than 10 bars. Yeasts must be stopped abruptly (in a matter of a few hours) to avoid off odours and flavours, i.e rotten egg and cooked cabbage. Centrifuge and filters are used. In the past pasteurization at 50 degrees was the norm but now micro filtration screens out the yeast (at 0.2 microns) and stabilizes the wines. Agronomist/viticuilturalist Daniele Eberle also explains how Fratelli Gancia used the same techniques that the French used here in Piemonte in the late 1800s. The city of Canelli, cultural home of Asti holds the highest concentration of companies that make all the equipment necessary for bottling Spumante wines.

Étretat – Claude Monet, Palazzo Mazzetti

These are the disciplinare for the three appellation wines:

  • Asti Dolce DOCG: 6-7 per cent alcohol by volume, 90-100 g/L residual sugar and Sparkling at maximum 4-5 bars of pressure
  • Moscato d’Asti DOCG: Minimum 4.5 up to 6.5 per cent alcohol by volume, 120-130 g/L residual sugar and Sparkling at maximum 2.5 bars of pressure 
  • Asti Secco DOCG: Minimum 11.0 per cent alcohol by volume, 17 g/L residual sugar and Sparkling at 3-3.5 maximum bars of pressure

Massive thanks to Mariana Nedic, Marina Nedic, Ana Murguia and the staff at IEEM Communications. Looking back at December travels and work assignments in Italy I now find myself focusing in on the new and forward thinking Moscato d’Asti stories in the heart of Piemonte. Tough wines to produce but these traditional producers have to do it. It Is their heritage, imperative and pleasure. At the Consorzio dell’Asti in Isola d’Asti the steps and stages of Asti’s gently sparkling wines gave way to a blind tasting of the following seven. 

Blind Tasting

Duchessa Lia Asti Secco DOCG Santo Stefano Belbo, Piedmont, Italy

Lime and a soapy entry but on the drier side, likely Asti Secco. Feels like 15 g/L of sugar with gentle and supportive acidity. Somewhere between peach and pear, clean and perhaps too much so. Certainly a fine mousse and persistence. A new style from which the aromatics are diminished and yet the gain in versatility in this case indicates one done well. Does well to avoid the potential of bitters marking the finish. Alcohol is at 11.0 per cent and sugars could be as high as 17 g/L though this seems lower in the 10-12 range. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind at the Asti DOCG consortium, December 2019

Acquesi Asti Dolce DOCG, Piedmont, Italy ($13.95)

Asti Dolce for sure, crazy sweet and reminiscent of a lime creamsicle. Aromatic but not overtly so, all controlled by the sugars and so very cloying. Exceptionally foamy, creamed and whipped in mousse. Perfectly suited to flavour a zabaglione to work alongside hazelnuts baked into a soft, crumbly cake. Alcohol at 7.0 per cent and sugars at 90-100 g/L. Drink 2019.  Tasted blind at the Asti DOCG consortium, December 2019

Gancia Asti Secco DOCG Cuvée Asti 24 Messi Método Classico 2012, Piedmont, Italy

A wine that owes to the experience of Carlo Gancia in Canelli. Wildly aromatic, a Langhe experiential moment straight away conceived and delivered. A Piedmontese traditional method bubble that is clearly more complex than kin simplicities. Bottle fermented and made from grapes harvested in 2012. Recently disgorged so at least six years on the lees technically Asti Dolce but really no affinity because the secondary and even tertiary aromas are in. Baking scents and oxidative meets caramelized notes are part of the mix, as is this ginger-orange créme brûlée with a healthy compliment of torched sugar flavours. A complex mess of aromatics, next level texture and most of all, multi-developed levels and layers of sweetness. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind at the Asti DOCG consortium, December 2019

Bèra Moscato d’ Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy ($29.30)

Now into Moscato d’Asti with the most classic presentation, aromatically effusive, effective, generous and free. The sweetness in such a moscato is so very stone fruit based and subjected to a perfectly ripe squeeze of more than one citrus. Lemon, lime and orange without forgetting the smells of their blossoms. Quite correct and more so, leaving an impression that is not soon left for dust. From fruit grown in Meviglie at the limit of Neive. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind at the Asti DOCG consortium, December 2019

Michele Chiarlo Moscato d’Asti DOCG Nivole 2018, Piedmont, Italy (650440, $9.75, 375ml)

Waxy, aerosol citrus and perhaps a year older with prevalent if weighty acids that settle this Moscato d’Asti into a secondary period. Both aromatics and freshness are diminished though so seem the sugars so the balance is still well-afforded. Ultimately a perfect example of the ripe peach scents so expected from Moscato d’Asti. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind at the Asti DOCG consortium, December 2019

Mongioia Moscato d’Asti DOCG Crivella 2016, Piedmont, Italy

Quite toasty and though no wood was used it shows a remarkably semi-oxidative and lightly caramelized character that brings colour, cooked apple and creamy nectarine mousse. It has certainly come to a more interesting and charming place with just a moment’s liquorice and this white fig flavour. Worth some fun and giggles with persistent acids. Fruit from steep vineyards in Santo Stefano Belbo in the province of Cuneo at the border of Asti. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind at the Asti DOCG consortium, December 2019

Mongioia Moscato d’Asti DOCG Crivella 2003, Piedmont, Italy

Quite the advanced Moscato d’Asti here at the edge of tumbling down from the Sorì. Oxidative and fully caramelized notes, with preserved lemon, torched orange and candied ginger. The sugars are accentuated as a result of the diminishing acidity. Still a joyous showing for a 16 year-old moscato. Fruit from steep vineyards in Santo Stefano Belbo in the province of Cuneo at the border of Asti. Drink 2019.  Tasted December 2019

Tasting next door to Monet

After the Masterclass and blind tasting we transferred to Asti and convened in Palazzo Mazzetti for a walk-around with the producers in the company of a small but exquisite exhibit, “Monet e gli Impressionisti.” These winemakers are finding new success by making use of advanced technologies, higher altitudes, specific soils and identifiable crus. These are the Moscato d’Asti I tasted and the world may know they are to be reckoned with.

Azienda Agricola Cerino Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy

A curious and interesting moscato this one, fresh enough and so very basil herbal, then white flowers and lime. A touch refined in white sweetness, also tart, long and elastic. Unique and quite fine. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

Azienda Agricola Gallo Cascina Cabonaldo Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy

Located in Montabone, halfway between Canelli (to the west) and Acqui Terme (to the southeast). The vineyards at 320m help strengthen the haughty aromatics, even while this moscato acts pale and sallow though clearly fresh, clean and seemingly simple. Nothing wrong with that in fact this is one of the easiest feats of drinking amenability. Direct, correct and highly effective. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

Lorenzo Gozzelino and Silviana Ignat

Azienda Agricola Gozzelino Sergio Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018, Piedmont, Italy

Righteous, energetic, ripe and frantic moscato is exemplary as such because it enlivens the heart and enlightens the mind. Big, bouncy, bountiful and welling with blossom aromatics leading to rich, striking, full flavour. Lemon and apricot develop a marmalade of unction, glycerin and natural texture. This fruit from Gozzelino’s vineyards is top notch. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Gozzelino Moscato Passito DOC Piemonte 2012, Piedmont, Italy

Following the manual picking of withered Moscato grapes in November they are pressed and put in refrigerated vats under controlled fermentation. In dessert wine terms for moscato in Piedmont this is the truth, spirited and flashy. Pineapple with an adage of savour in pencil lead and sage of a texture in silken layers. Brazil Nuts are all over the finish as a nougat or an ulterior marzipan. Textbook stuff. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted December 2019

Azienda Agricola Scagliola Giacomo E Figlio Moscato d’Asti DOCG Sifasol 2018, Piedmont, Italy

Located in Canelli here’s a sweetly viscous moscato very lime-driven from calcareous terroir. High quality acidity off the sorì (top portion) from south-facing vines 70 years of age. High level scents of orange blossom, apricot and sage, so typical of Canelli. Really balanced moscato in every respect. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Azienda Agricola Terrabianca Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy

Azienda Agricola Terrabianca di Alpiste Federico e Andrea is located in Mango at 520-550m, one of the highest points in the Langhe and not far from Castagnole. This for moscato is surely something other, something curious, sweetly magical. Hard not to love a glass. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Azienda Agricola Terrabianca Moscato d’Asti Vignot DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy

Terrabianca’s Vignot cru moscato is from Canelli off a south exposure for vines of 65 years-old. One of the richest Moscato d’Asti wines you will ever indulge in the fine, smooth and feathery way of lemon curd, but also paraffin waxy and spiked by a limoncello spirit. Zested, striking, maximizing varietal and stylistic enjoyment. Clearly a cut above and so very singular. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

Ristorante Cascinale Nuovo (Isola d’Asti – http://www.walterferretto.com)

Azienda Agricola Terrabianca Moscato d’Asti Vignot DOCG 2012, Piedmont, Italy

A rare opportunity to taste the possibilities in aged Moscato d’Asti, here from Terrabianca’s south-facing Vignot cru in Canelli off of vines of 65 years of age. Vines that soak up maximum sun, not just to promote an oriented sweet richesse but also the ability to age. Now having developed honey and the early stages of petrol and persistent tonal depth. Spurts of lemon are the near-term projection with a real smoulder on the vaporous horizon. Really smart stuff in a world of similitude occupied by the likes of riesling and sémillon. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Cantina Alice Bel Colle Moscato d’Asti DOCG Paiè 2018, Piedmont, Italy

From the hills of Alto Monferrato in and about turn of face with 100 per cent of the moscato grapes subjected to a passito methodology of drying for a few months before turning into sparkling wine. Finishes at 5.5 per cent alcohol and 150 g/L of residual sugar. “It is a new way of showing Moscato d’Asti,” tells the spokesperson on behalf of the choir for 100 members. There can be no argument there. Royally sweet and unequivocally in hyperbole of all the aromatic and fruit concentrated aspects of the Md’A style. Truly haughty and heightened in caricature respect. Is it too much? Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Cantina Tre Secoli Moscato D’asti DOCG 2018, Piedmont, Italy

Located in Canelli Tre Secoli’s moscato is so correct. Combines the full frontal aromatic attack with an easing into back end creaminess and big orange citrus flavour. Perfectly ripe and intentional mild sparkling wine with moments occupied by lemon, lime curd and apricot marmalade. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

Coppo 1892 Moscato d’Asti DOCG Moncalvina “Canelli” 2018, Piedmont, Italy ($23.20 – Estimate)

“Moscato loves altitude as compared to barbera,” tells Luigi Coppo, “and now is the time to think about Moscato d’Asti.” Luigi says it’s a serious wine because it’s difficult to make. No sugars are added or carbonization performed and it’s a vintage wine. These are the three tenets that matter most. From Canelli vineyards between 200-280m and the classicism of construct and effect is pure magic in proper and precise, sleight of hand ability. That’s what it needs to be, no more, no less. Naturally sweet, a pinch of salt and all the orchard fruit; apple, pear, lemon and orange. All together in balance and gift with tannin on a real dry finish. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted December 2019

Fontanafredda Asti DOCG 2018, Piedmont, Italy

Intense and sharp, mildly herbal and heavy into the citrus to contrast and compliment the heavy sweetness. Some finishing bitters add a feeling of complexity. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

Tartufo Bianco, Ristorante Cascinale Nuovo (Isola d’Asti – http://www.walterferretto.com)

Fontanafredda Moscato d’Asti DOCG Le Fronde 2018, Piedmont, Italy

Here lies Moscato d’Asti at the furthest edge of sweetness and creamy consistency. After the pleasant aromas of peaches and crème frâiche come the stirring moments of a dull anxiety. That feeling of imbalance marks the finish. Drink 2019.  Tasted December 2019

Gianni Doglia Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy ($20.00 – Estimate)

The 25th anniversary bottling that combs all the moscato vineyards on the estate though truth be told they all produce quite different wines. “Gianni’s dream was to produce the best moscato ever,” tells sister Paola. The clarity and clean, clean living is evident and with thanks to upstart acidity to balance the sugars. A soil-driven expression of moscato for a fresh and crunchy result. Peaches meet white balsamic for some genuine complexity. Eight to ten bottlings are made each year from wine that sits suspended at one degree in juice format inside steel tanks. At this time of year there is no danger of fermentation. A wine of 5.0 per cent alcohol. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

Gianni Doglia Moscato d’Asti DOCG Casa di Bianca 2018, Piedmont, Italy ($20.00 – Estimate)

A single-vineyard moscato from 35 year-old vines and the plot Gianni’s grandfather just knew grew the best vines and so Gianni first decided to separate it from the pack in 2012. And so this particular moscato sees eight or nine months on the lees and finds a next level of complexity for the stylistic and the tradition. Gives a yeasty note on top of green apple, melon, orange blossom and fine herbs. The acidity is greater and so energy is exercised in perpetual motion. The alcohol result is just slightly higher at 5.5 per cent. A wine completely unique in this world that may just deliver some petrol and paraffin with a few years time. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted December 2019

Marenco Moscato d’Asti DOCG Strev 2018, Piedmont, Italy

From Strevi in the province of Alessandria equidistant from both Alba and Asti to form a correct isosceles. Strev is the moscato work of Andrea Costa, winemaker Patrizia Marenco and team. Several vineyards in the area are suited to aromatic varieties because of soil composition (white clay, marl and limestone) off of cooler hillsides at 300-320m. Most important is the diurnal shift between day and night temperature. This is the epitome of aromatic preservation on the lemon-lime-orange freshness scale with good acids and next level goodness. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Andrea Costa and Laura Kaminsky, Vini Marenco

Marenco Moscato d’Asti DOCG Scarpona 2016, Piedmont, Italy

Andrea Costa has a boyish grin and wink in his eye when he delivers this three year-old moscato into my glass and for good reason. This is the revolution in moscato d’asti, the one made so bloody intriguing surely due to innovation projects both in the vineyards and cellar. There’s an affinity here with Collio friulano and sauvignon, namely because of the elasticity and surely the transferrable aromas, in a marine-mountain sandwich effect or what we expect from typical Moscato d’Asti. Moves through passion fruit and mineral-flinty-elemental strikes, so much so the sugars are forgotten. Smouldering, so curious and of more depth than many. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Matteo Soria Moscato d’Asti DOCG Soria 2019, Piedmont, Italy ($16.00 – Estimate)

Bottled last week, barely moved in, likely not yet settled into its new digs. Made up of 75 per cent 2019 (as per appellation rule) plus a mix of the three previous vintages. Crisp, cleaner and waxier than the ’16 with sharper acidity and leaner flavours. Heavily aromatic and even a bit herbal but just so linear, searing and lightning quick in reflex motion. That said the ripeness is just a tad short of ideal and so Matteo seems to have gone straight to freshness and intensity. It was the correct choice with a little help from the last three vintage friends. All about finding more aromas. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Michele Chiarlo Moscato d’Asti DOCG Nivole 2019, Piedmont, Italy (650440, $9.75, 375ml)

Waxy, aerosol citrus and perhaps a year older with prevalent if weighty acids that settle this Moscato d’Asti into a secondary period. Both aromatics and freshness are diminished though so seem the sugars so the balance is still well-afforded. Ultimately a perfect example of the ripe peach scents so expected from Moscato d’Asti. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Tenuta Langasco Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy

Very accomplished moscato from Langasco out of Madonna di Como in the hills surrounding the city of Alba. As aromatic as should be, could be, would be or might ever be desired. You can’t miss the blossoms, peach and citrus, then juiced for maximum effect. The parts are all arranged one, two, three together. Very special. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio E Vaglio Serra Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy

A perfectly reasoned and seasoned Moscato d’Asti, blossoms blooming and varietally profiled through their aromatic presence. Very lemon and honeyed as if by Passito but the concentration goers it natural and alone. Clean, caressing and just lovely. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

With the Martini Boys

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio E Vaglio Serra Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018, Piedmont, Italy

Persistently stable, crunchy and crisp moscato from the great cooperative, high in acids and big, brilliant flavours. Grand squeeze of lime juice and has lost nary an aromatic or textural step due to an extra year in bottle, in fact the freshness is on pare if not trying to edge past and exceed the newer 2019. Really fine 2018. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Love in the time of a pandemic: Marchesi di Barolo

Trying to find birth year wines has been a fruitless and frustrating search and I’ve been at it for 20 years. That and the current situation in Italy is one of the major reasons why my December trip to Piemonte was more than successful, it was in fact a sign. On that I’ll get to in a moment because there is something more profound, a sentiment that struck as most significant in the moment and even more so in a retrospective look back. The hospitality and the outright determination to go to extreme lengths for the purpose of making personal connections is what drives the Piedmontese mentality. I made six appointments over three days in advance of that trip and all six producers wrote back saying they would be delighted to receive me though each were compromised by the pulls of events and commitments that would make it difficult to be there when I arrived. After the three-day tour was done, all six had found a way; Barbara Sandrone, Marina Marcarino, Milena, Francesca and Isidoro Vaira, Chiara and Giorgio Boschis, Angelo Gaja, Anna and Valentina Abbona.

Abbona Sandwich; Anna, Godello, Valentina

Related – Pull up a chair with Angelo Gaja in Barbaresco

I first met the Abbona family in July of 2017. It was Anna Abbona’s birthday and in their dining room that night Ernesto opened a 1958 at the ripe old age of 58 (though it would turn 59 later that year). Simply stated, in the words of the Abbona family, “a special evening, special friends, special vintage.” That is their story, of generosity, open arms and always, love. I don’t really know how they do it, always on and very present, but they do, for everyone, all around the world and especially in their home. As I stood in the cellar on December 1st, 2019 they proved me right again when out of nowhere Valentina appeared, straight from Rome, en route to another pressing appointment, to spend some time talking and sharing the Marchesi di Barolo spirit.

Wine transport in the 19th Century

Related – Barolo’s Sister and Brother Boschis

As the incumbent owners of the historic Barolo estate the Abbona family takes their custodianship very seriously. Researching and studying its history and provenance is at the fore of their concern. While running through the ideology of present day elévage we pause to consider such a construct. The “babies” are still fermented in concrete vats but many of the wines now begin their journey in stainless steel. Concrete is used for holding wines going back a few vintages and for those that have already seen their assemblage. Which brings us to the new barrel concept, which is a really quite an old one, dating back to the time of the last Marchesa, Giulia Vittorina Falletti Colbert. The wood of this barrel is modelled like the shape of a river boat or canoe, meant for wine to travel downstream and used exclusively back in the 1800s. The idea of the Botti della Marchesa has been resurrected and is now used for special cuvées.

“Botti della Marchesa,” the Marchesa’s Barrel

Related – November 30th in Piemonte: Sandrone and Punset

One more bit of information to share. The Marchesi di Falletti was considered historically to be the first to cultivate nebbiolo at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1895 Pietro Abbona joined his father’s vineyard not far from Barolo Castle and eventually purchased the historic cellars from the Falletti family. Four and five generations later; Ernesto, Anna, Valentina and Davide.

Related – Gone Vajra in Piemonte

The Abbona family has been running the historic cellars of the Marchesi di Barolo since 1929 which means we have entered the decade that will culminate in their 100th anniversary as proprietors of the most important estate. I’ve been to a party in their home and so I can only imagine what that celebration will be like. Long ahead of that event of the century will be the celebration that takes place when Italy and the world are set free from the disaster that has gripped, stymied and ravaged so many families. You can count on the Abbonas to be there when the day arrives, to open their doors and arms, to have loved in the time of and surely to love after the pandemic.

While in the tiny hamlet of Castiglione Falletto I wandered into Le Mura di San Rocco, the Enoteca run by Dario Destefanis. I noted many old vintages but nothing from 1966. I inquired with Dario and he said if I were to come back a day or two later he would pull some from his cellar and procure them for me. I did return and he sold them at the cost of a current vintage. They were ostensibly a gift, from the Marchesi, through the purchaser who stored them for five decades in perfect provenance and then bequeathed them to Dario. The Abbona family had a hand in this transaction, however unknowingly and for that and to them I will always be thankful. The Marchesa and the Marchesi di Falletti. The connection is not lost on me.

So much joy to make a return visit to Marchesi di Barolo in the village of Barolo. To taste so many wines and to be offered the special vintage of 1990. Grazie to the Abbona family and to Laura. Until next time. So many notes and memories are now ready to be shared. These are the lucky 13 wines tasted that day in December.

Marchesi Di Barolo Bric Amiel 2018, Langhe DOC, Piedmont, Italy

A blend of arneis, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc created by siblings Valentina and Davide Abbona. Top of the slope and honey because the Bric is a place where the bees liked to hang around. Only the fourth incarnation of this simple, refreshing and crisp white. Honey will be a part of this zesty lemon and lime wine’s near future. That much I think is guaranteed. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Marchesi Di Barolo Arneis 2018, Roero DOC, Piedmont, Italy

No longer the white to draw the birds away from munching away on the nebbiolo here is arneis richer than many and of a proper mineral equality. There is something peach salty about this direct expression. Impressively seamless in its fruit to acid construct. A well made white of next level proportion. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Marchesi Di Barolo Bossèt 2017, Dolcetto d’Alba DOC, Piedmont, Italy

A dolcetto that combs and brings the best of two worlds, the joy of drinking young and fresh but also a modicum of structure that will make for some added interest in a few years time. That’s noted by the white peppery tone at the back, not wood induced but just the true nature of a grape grown in a specific place. Quite heady for dolcetto with the body of knowable finesse. This dolcetto will win over a whole new category of consumers. They only need to get into the game. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Marchesi Di Barolo Pieragal 2017, Barbera d’Alba DOC, Piedmont, Italy (485904, $40.95)

Planted straight across the road from the winery in a block that was always nebbiolo but financial frugality is not always put first. The game elevated in this barbera is a structural one and also one dictated by weight, but also density. French barriques does the work and the fruit obliges. A swirl of vanilla and dark berries whelm the ease so the indicative ideals say wait and then wait again a while longer. Barbera structured is a specifically splendored thing. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted December 2019

Marchesi Di Barolo Barbaresco Riserva DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy

Only Slavonian cask and no French wood for nebbiolo in Barbaresco form. The vineyards are classically parochial “terre bianche,” white calcareous soils so prevalent around the appellation. The fruit is well developed and rustically edgy, a purple fruit compote with some dried elements. One of those wise nebbiolo that has reached an advanced level of it’s ilk and yet is wise enough to know how to pause there going forward for an equally comfortable period of time. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted December 2019

Marchesi Di Barolo Barbaresco DOCG Serragrilli 2018, Piedmont, Italy

Serragrilli is the fresher and more approachable nebbiolo in Barbaresco clothing with easier tannins and yet still the classicism of Barbaresco ability. A note of liquorice and tar, plus the roses (candied and dried) of nebbiolo fame. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted December 2019

Marchesi Di Barolo La Tradizione Barolo DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (168179, $43.95)

The most generous nebbiolo from arguably the more generous of vintages is all about fruit, in ability, compatibility and respectability. Fully ripened in two respects with intoxicating phenols stealing the proverbial aromatic show. Perfectly reasoned, seasoned and effectuated nebbiolo. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted December 2019

Marchesi Di Barolo Barolo DOCG Del Comune Di Barolo 2014, Piedmont, Italy ($72.00)

A return to some thoughts that make us think of older ways and remind of tradition that can never be forgotten. That’s the savoury quality of this cool vintage Barolo, a nebbiolo that speaks a truth many have left for dead. You can count on the Abbona family to let a vintage and its vineyard fruit talk the talk of a vernacular that can’t help but be uttered. Wild and shearing acids keep the fruit at bay, with laurel and whey, in an herbal-cool mention. The fruit will come back and emerge unscathed in a few year’s time. The fine tannin has spoken of that guarantee. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted December 2019

Marchesi Di Barolo Barolo DOCG Coste di Rose 2014, Piedmont, Italy

Surely the most delicate and fragile of the three cru Baroli from the Marchesi and the one to treat with nurture over nature. The fineness of all parts known and unknown are genuine, honest and even a bit naïve but it’s also precocious beyond its years. The vintage asks quite a lot from such a nebbiolo usually reared in delicasse so expect some dried fruit and so many roses. More rose petals than you can count at a Marquesa’s wedding. From an Arenaria sandstone site up from Bussia aged one-third in barriques and two-thirds in large Slavonian oak casks. Drink 2022-2035.  Tasted December 2019

Marchesi Di Barolo Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2014, Piedmont, Italy ($84.95)

A soil structure somewhere between Coste di Rose and Sarmassa, marking the Barolo twain with a breath of fresh air and plenty of grip into structure. The second Cru nebbiolo Barolo is the bed that’s not too hard and not too soft, the one the tired and weary travveller would surely choose to lay down for a rest. Fruit is richer and more dense than Coste di Rose but ethereal as compared to Sarmassa. Of the three this Cannubi carries the most pronounced acidity and one to usher the fruit across two decades, plus the one we are leaving now. Like the others it rests in one-third French barriques and two-thirds in large Slavonian oak casks. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted December 2019

Marchesi Di Barolo Barolo DOCG Sarmassa 2014, Piedmont, Italy (337048, $84.95)

Stony soils with large calcareous rocks in a sun-trapping amphitheatre is the locale that forms the near-feral and quasi-animale Sarmassa Cru nebbiolo. Very impressive bone structure and far more elegance than Sarmassa likely to probably puts inside its pockets. The acidity is one of great fashion and taste. The complexity of pronouncement is exceptional for 2014 so expect decades of transformation to bely any negative press about this vintage. Sarmassa will prove every naysayer wrong. Patience will speak to this truth. As with both the Coste di Rose and Cannubi this bigger Barolo spends its rest in one-third in French barriques and two-thirds in large Slavonian Grandi Botti. Drink 2025-2039.  Tasted December 2019

Marchesi Di Barolo Barolo Riserva DOCG 2011, Piedmont, Italy

Persistently impossible in its youthful state of ’11 grace and if nothing else were said that might just be enough. There’s an affinity with what we expect Sarmassa to smell like, with rich, grippy tones and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and desire. Showing the dark wood tones of the time and a high edgy quotient of an acid-tannin spectrum. So warming, baking spiced matched by cool herbal aperitíf and balanced at a higher perch of precipice. Still a tannic beast, yet unrelenting and clearly level-headed enough to intuit more time will be needed to enter a state of Riserva grace. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted December 2019

Unexpected late in the year taste of nearly 30 year-old nebbiolo was one of 19 in ’19 that blew my mind

Antiche Cantine Dei Marchesi Di Barolo 1990, Barolo Riserva, Piedmont, Italy

A grande dame or marchesa in the parlance of these woods, a nebbiolo of persistence, resilience and strength of character. Initiates contact with the past and a contract with tradition by way of the things that matter most. Family for one, roots dug into the earth second and the vineyard’s tongue, if it were able to speak. The overall gist in the parlance is heard and even understood although the dialect is hard to decipher if you are not of this place. This 1990 is found to be of high though level tempered energy and then with an ear, a nose and a soul so close to the earth. Smells like the soils amalgamated, preserved and demonstrated through the tempered liquor of a wise old 29 year-old nebbiolo. So much more than a piece of the past, this is an auguri gathering of storytelling, kin, culture and DNA. You must pay thanks for a chance to taste a thing such as this. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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November 30th in Piemonte: Sandrone and Punset

In quieter, happier and still innocent times there were days when you could freely take a Saturday morning drive down the A33 from Asti, skirt past Alba and into the sleepy environs of Castiglione Falletto. On that last sunny one of November I did just that to pay a visit with Barbara Sandrone. Later that day I moved north to Barbaresco to do the same with Marina Marcarino at Azienda Agricola Biologica Punset. I am thinking of them both and their families at this most challenging time of the past 75 years. Their estates are so very different and yet both Barbara and Marina are two of Piemonte’s strongest women, fearless in their pursuit of excellence, integrity and their respective family’s dreams to tell exacting stories of very specific places.

With Marina Marcarino

Sandrone in found south down the slope and slightly to the west of the tiny hamlet of Castiglione Falletto, also the name of the commune in the Province of Cuneo. The town of Barolo is further afield south down SP3 Via Alba. Barbara’s family wines are made by her father Luciano, pioneer, founder and visionary, along with her uncle Luca. Luciano founded the winery in 1978 after working at Borgogno and being the cellar master in charge at Marchesi di Barolo. One of the winery’s most progressive concepts is actually a retro one. They concern Barolo that are neither selections nor Riserva but rather of intuition, “to free nebbiolo’s innate resistance to time.” Sibi et Paucis, “a few who are the favoured,” in that a small percentage of the three seminal nebbolo bottlings are held and stored in the winery’s cellar. “The harmony of wine expressed through passion and patience” is Sandrone’s credo and it is the Valmaggiore, plus Le Vigne and Aleste Barolo that are released six, 10 and 10 years forward (respectively) to supply restaurants with a desire to sell old vintages, but don’t necessarily have the space to store them. Here are the five wines I tasted that morning at Sandrone. Thank you Barbara and I hope you and your family are well.

With Barbara Sandrone

Sandrone

Sandrone Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2018 ($29.95)

The keys to the dolcetto city are granted when fruit, freshness and high level acidity coordinate as they do in bringing 10 different plot expressions together from Monforte and Barolo. High level excitability in control and though it has a short life expectancy (three to four years) there is charm and there is balance. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2019

Sandrone Barbera d’Alba DOC 2018 ($44.95)

From the area very close to Grasso at the top of the hill at 450m. Dark black cherry and weight from a hot vintage and so the wind and the aerification up at this great Langhe height has kept the wine fresh and breezy. Works well to accede and succeed going forward. Crisp for barbera d’alba. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2019

Sandrone Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC Valmaggiore 2017 ($59.95)

Comes from sandy soils in Roero, the youngest and more openly friendly of the three brothers, along with Le Vigne and Aleste. One year in tonneaux and one year in bottle. Chalky and largely chunky but always the acidity and the charm. Solid as it can possibly get for the appellation, a mid-term traveller with everything under control. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2019

Saturday morning @sandroneluciano on a perfectly November Piedmontese day. Grazie Barbara. Yours, your father’s and your family’s wines take care to do what’s good and beautiful and right.

Sandrone Barolo DOCG Le Vigne 2015 ($159.95)

A formidable construct forms the outline and strengthens the bones of Sandrone’s Le Vigne. This nebbiolo strikes the heart with what just seems like the crux-filling soul of these nebbioli standing at its own attention with intention and promise. The inner sanctum of succulence and intentionally high-strung parts moves the dial in the direction of forever with time-stopping ability. There seems no way forward now while at the same time the earth revolves because you just know it does. But you can’t feel it. What you can feel is yourself breathing and Le Vigne is teaching you through the moment. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted November 2019

Sandrone Barolo DOCG Aleste 2015 ($179.95)

Aleste goes deeper and more introspectively into the clay and limestone with this uncanny ability and intuitiveness to mimic its compact terroir. You can imagine the nebbiolo here softening in cold, wet months and hardening when dry and warm. The tannic structure is not that of Le Vigne and in a way (if I can be allowed to say) there is more Luciano Sandrone’s youth years in Aleste and more morbido times of wisdom in Le Vigne. There can be no reason to consume cases of Aleste any earlier than the age of 10, or even 15. It’s packed so tight and without holes in its armour for to ensure longevity with the greatest Baroli and that includes the most historical, traditional and famous. What a moment this wine gives and will bring to those who make one their own. Drink 2025-2040.  Tasted November 2019

Azienda Agricola Biologica Punset

After a brief stop for lunch in Castiglione Falletto I made my way back up the Autostrada, took the SP3 Barbaresco off-ramp, crossed over the Tanaro, turned towards Castagnole Lanze and headed for Neive. In the hills above the village is Azienda Agricola Biologica Punset. The literal meaning is “beautiful hill” or “peak,” a name derived from dialectical Piedmontese legend which tells of this nickname given by the Count of Neive. Punset is run by fifth generation winemaker Marina Marcarino, organic instrumentalist, agricultural trailblazer and arguably the Langhe’s greatest disco dancer. Marcarino made a decision to farm organically in the 80s when commercialism, conventionalism and conservatism were the rampant norm. She was the witch of Barbaresco, feared and surely admired though many did not yet understand the breadth of her powers.

Today’s world of natural wine has got nothing on Marina Marcarino. She was into the match long before today’s winemakers were even out of huggies. Marina explains what her wishes are going forward. “What I would like for the future? Being able to communicate my experience as an example of personal achievement to the new generations, spurring them to get into the game.” Never before have philosophies like this meant so much. Most recently Marcarino has devoted an incredible amount of time and effort as President of the L’Associazione Produttori Vini Albesi. Dear Marina, I trust you are staying positive through these troubling months and I have an important request. When we all come through this, please save the next dance for me. These are the nine wines tasted with Marina on that day in late November.

Punset Neh! Langhe Bianco DOC 2018 ($18.95)

Ne’? is the “Piedmontese” way of ending a sentence, like ‘eh in Canada. A 50-50 arneis and favortita mix, salt missive over fruit and extremely fresh. The aperitíf white that connects dialectal territory with those in the diaspora that want a taste. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Punset Neh! Langhe Rosso DOC 2017 ($18.95)

Mainly dolcetto (70 per cent) with barbera and nebbiolo. Not much of the latter but necessary to widen the expression of the Langhe. Here it’s an explanation point, not a question, as in a confirmation of the exclamatory Piedmontese expression. Bright red amalgamated fruit with proper acidity and the ability to work alongside anyone and all. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2019

Punset Arneis Langhe DOC 2018 ($26.95)

The gastronomic DOC Langhe with 100 per cent arneis and right from the top you can tell the difference. Not just the increase in limestone mineral push but also texture and even structure. Liquid salty wave, creamy without abandoning roots and reason. Lingers longer than most arneis and you’re very pleased to have it hang about. Besides it’s more a winter white than a summer one. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2019

Punset Dolcetto d’Alba Langhe DOC 2017 ($21.95)

The luxuriously natural dolcetto, richly phenolic and rustic, lactic and reasonably so. A pure varietal expression, true to place and to form. Great fruit and essential first course red. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2019

Punset Barbera d’Alba DOC 2018 ($24.95)

From two vineyards, one planted in 1996 and one in 2003. Rich and spicy with some of the varieties’ greatest clarity. Very few comes across with this sort of red fruit. Maintains the fragrance and the “frankness” of the variety. No French oak, no confiture. “It’s the easiest wine for us because we do nothing,“ shrugs Marina Marcarino, expect for picking at the right times and pressing gently. That and cement. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2019

Punset Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2017 ($31.95)

From the tiniest production made from the youngest vines from times when there is more vegetation and verticality for health. This practice started about 20 years ago, which harks to a very specific pruning system and because Guyot is tough on the vines. They are nurtured like the children they are and the results are in the natural order of things and in the personality of this genuine Langhe. It’s volatile you should know. It’s also biodynamic, dynamic and beautiful. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2019

Punset Barbaresco DOCG Basarin 2014 (302786, $66.95)

Very traditional nebbiolo coming from the southeast part of Marina Marcarino’s vineyards, very steep, the rock bed 8m deep. Classic nebbiolo with classic tannins, 40 days on skin, softly removed. Slavonian 2500L and no less than two years refining time, 14 months of that in the wood. Emits a not to be missed scent of menthol and faint herbs mixed with fennocchio, It’s the vineyard talking and though we would want to there’s nothing more to specifically name, so just chalk it up to memories created, of another time and in this same place. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted November 2019

Punset Barbaresco DOCG Basarin 2013 (302786, $66.95)

If 2014 in general was not considered a great vintage it might as well have been so here, of mild temperatures and not so wet. Fresh and excitedly savoury with a mint-vegetative note but it matters little because this ’13 is different and was built with bigger structure, not the power of some and many, though surely these never are. The aroma is very similar and so we deduce that this is what Punset Barbaresco smells exactly like. Something growing in the vineyard, or maybe something deep and well within the ground, or even in the air. It’s just what it smells like. An aroma divine. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted November 2019

An afternoon tasting through the Neive wines of Italy’s first organic wine producer. Marina Marcarino began her impassioned and unwavering journey in 1982 ~ Shout out to @nicholaspearcewines for getting these gems to Ontario.

Punset Barbaresco DOCG Campo Quadro Riserva 2012 ($71.95)

A cru Barbaresco, meaning squared, and the place is just like a painting. Carries a double entendre and as Marina Marcarino explains, there “probably is a third meaning that we don’t know.” Take in the math of 12,000 square metres and 12,000 bottles of wine produced, making use of 70 per cent of the potential. Different aromatics than the very traditional, non-Riserva Barbaresco, deeper and richer, more sweet red fruit and less savour. A bigger vintage, with a similar fermentation and aged in French barriques and botti. Some spice for sure, with 36 wood aging a major part of the profile, followed by 36 further months in bottle. Great structure, wild ride, all in total control. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted November 2019

Good to go!

godello

Castiglione Falletto from Via Alba

Twitter: @mgodello

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Gone Vajra in Piemonte

Stained Glass Window by Padre Costantino Ruggeri and Vajra’s Inox Tanks

Head west from the village of Barolo, climb the SP3 up to 400 metres above sea level and you will arrive in Vergne, the highest village of the regal Piedmontese appellation. This is where the most forward thinking, visionary and traditionally romantic estate of G. D. Vajra is found. Vajra is the house that Aldo and Milena Vaira built, are in the continued process of building (literally) and produce wines along with their children, Francesca, Giuseppe and Isidoro. On a recent December 2019 trip to Piemonte I drove down the A33 from Asti through Alba, skirted Barolo up the SP3 to spend a few hours with Isidoro and Francesca Vaira on a soggy Sunday morning. Vajra’s wines have been trending big time, gaining ground, rising in prominence and spreading fast. I knew it was time to find out why things have gone Vajra.

Family, roots and vineyards. Having talked and tasted with Francesca and Isidoro @vajra_barolo there can be no doubt many words and feelings will follow. Their’s is a story of resilience and constant renewal.

If you engage in obsessive study or even share a casual interest in religious iconography and emblematic ordnance then the term Vajra will no doubt be recognizable. Vajra, a symbolic ritual tool or object used in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism to represent the unyielding power of spirit. Vajra, the symbol of the Vajrayāna school of Buddhism, a type of club with a ribbed spherical head, the “diamond thunderbolt.” The family may not adhere to the far eastern credo or for that matter even mention any possibility of connection, but a listen to their story and a study of their life’s work can be looked at in the emblematic light of ideals relating to indestructibility and irresistible force. An explanation is forthcoming and in due course.

Dude’s getting married next week. No wonder Isidoro Vaira is a happy man.

It’s only one week before his wedding and Isidoro generously takes the time to meet. He begins with a winter’s tale, extolling the virtues of snow cover, which incidentally arrived to the slopes in December and early January, then subsequently disappeared for the remainder of the mild 2020 winter. The Piedmontese saying goes like this. Sotto la neve, il pane, orunder the snow, the bread.” Snow is better than water because it holds more oxygen and encourages the plants to draw more nutrients from the soil. This is an example of generational knowledge because as Isidoro reminds us, when you spend time with your father and the elders “you learn the importance of nature.”

sotto la neve, il pane

under the snow, the bread

Aldo Vaira began this six decades old journey in 1970 with a 0.3 hectare plot at Bricco Viole. The first vintage was 1972, of no ripeness and fruit sold away. He thought “with this money I don’t pay for my work,” and so began to bottle for himself. By 1986 Aldo was farming seven hectares but on the 29th of May the storm of the century killed everything, save for 300 bottles worth of fruit. He was in his mid-30s, with one child already born and two more to come over the next four years. It was what we call the point of calling it quits or forging ahead with no turning back. Milena stepped up, in fortitude, conviction and an ultimatum issued to her husband. Aldo responded, made a life decision and ploughed ahead.

The Vairas began anew, hailstorms occurring five to seven times each decade be damned and dug their heels into the Vergne terra firma.  With experience as a teacher and having built a winery Aldo became affectionately known as Dutur, a dialectical Piedmontese term of endearment which could allude to the word doctor but also as a part of the Italian word for producer, or produttore. Francesca tells me that 1986 is the vintage form which “you could have (or begin) your dream, by being resilient, persistent and move forward.” She shrugs. “It had to be a priority.” And so from 1986 on the Viaras completely changed direction and course.

Thirty-three years have beget great success. Francesca explains the impetuses for how her family goes about their lives. “What we have learned from our parents is not just life and to make wine but a social motivation to have the life of the people. Imagine a life without these things; music, art, books and wine. It’s not possible.” The goal is to make connections. “We need to make wine to make people happy. Our prices are very democratic.” There are always new considerations, like the “diversification of risk” and it has become the ingrained philosophy, in terms of wines and varieties but also the idea of a two-month long picking time. Always diversity, all the time. One step inside the winery and the light shines in. The stained glass windows that adorn the fermentation room are a reflection of everything that is embodied by the Vajra oeuvre.

They hang in their stark and prolate ways as a severe yet arrant contrast to the line of steel tanks below. When Aldo and Milena went to visit the artist at Canepanova Convent in Pavia he answered the door dressed as a Franciscan Monk with a blue hat. A crazy man in a crazy beautiful studio. Padre Costantino Ruggeri was in fact a real monk, ordained a priest in 1951 by Cardinal Schuster in the Cathedral of Milan. That meeting yielded no conclusion for a commission, or so thought the Vairas, that is until the Father showed up with the first installation, in 1989. He was given no instruction or direction. The rest as they say is history and the works are nothing short of magnificent. They succeed, in Ruggeri’s words, “in that moment of light and mystery the stained glass window captures (the infinite) and introduces it naturally into the temple, as a total dimension that is divine as well as human.” The metal that holds the glass is effected a piombo, aplomb, vertical, exact. No two pieces are the same.

What congruence links a Ruggeri stained glass to other masterpieces of art? Gazing upon the padre’s windows elicits a feeling of consonance and beauty is easy to find. They are arranged exactly as they should be, that much is clear. Their power is felt because of their interaction with their cold and utilitarian surroundings. They hold our gaze and work together with us, inexplicably and without reservation. Their universal appeal transfers energy, pivots, solicits our personal and singular nature so that we share in their consonant form.

On June 24th 2007, his last sculptural work representing “Franciacorta’s Facets” was presented in Adro, his birthplace. On the following day, June 25th 2007, Costantino died at the hospital of Merate, near the convent of Sabbianello, where he had spent the last weeks of his life. The spirit of his work carries on at Vajra where 160 different fermentations are carried out because explains Francesca “harvest is the only time of year when you can really learn. If you have to ask for permission then you are not a true artist.” Just like Father Costantino who created without asking.

“Always think of the cherry. The grapes will follow,” reminds Isidoro. Organics. Methodologies. Patience. Picking decisions are made day by day, by brother Giuseppe and by Aldo. For them 2018 was a great nebbiolo vintage, of cold nights and warm days with humidity. The high risk of rainstorms at harvest made for some sleepless nights and the weather was tough on the skins of the grapes. So 100 pickers were employed, to ensure quality but Vajra’s altitude and attitude makes them one of the last to pick so the harvesters were available. They finished on October 22nd and in 2019 on the 23rd. 

On that day in December Francesca poured seven of her family’s wines, including riesling, dolcetto, freisa, barbera and nebbiolo. These are my notes.

G.D. Vajra Riesling Pétracine 2018, Langhe DOC ($55.95)

The law changed to be able to plant in 1985 and a new opportunity arose in 2018 for a vineyard with sandy soil beneath the clay. Going back the first planting came from a Geisenheim clonal selection and planted at the top of the hill above the cru Fossati. The second vineyard is from Marcel Deiss clonal selection material, just outside the Barolo production area. Here a combination of the two, and the first wine that got together was 2011. There’s weight, energy and balance to this riesling and it is so very real. Remarkable verve and youthful freshness and the impression of great aridity. It is in fact quite dry. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted December 2019

G.D. Vajra Coste & Fossati 2018, Dolcetto d’Alba DOC ($31.95)

From two old cru Barolo vineyards, Coste di Vergne and Fossati, close by to one another at the top of their shared hill. De-stemmed and crushed separately, of vines 40 years in age. If there is dolcetto that carries the structure to age you best believe this is the one. Tannic in its youth, a house with the potential to grow roses in one year and then violets in another. Modern and grounded, better with fresh eggs and delicate proteins, certainly the romantic tartufo Piemondtese. Already teasing something floral but still in a shell and cast under a spell. Wait two years or more. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted December 2019

G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba DOC 2017 ($31.95)

Like the dolcetto, barbera is drawn off of two vineyards with tow soil types, from Bricco delle Viole and in Serralunga d’Alba, Bricco Bertone. An east-west expression, at once rich and luxurious and then inward, implosive and almost intolerant. Could only be barbera with its sweet fruit and dark berry compote but it’s a variety that needs time, it needs the bottle and then, the glass. Somehow bright through all the dark fruit, like the singular stained glass that allows light to shine in.  Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted December 2019

G.D. Vajra Kyè 2015, Freisa Langhe DOC ($60.95)

Like the French “C’est qui?” this dialectical freisa is actually two syllables, key-eh, and you cannot define this wine with anything or any other freisa. Darker, woolly and a bit of wild, feral and animale beauty. Like somewhere between red Sancerre and Faugères but bigger, more power and also more control. Herbaceous, iron-clad and hematic. Mimics blood-red preparations of proteins; duck breasts, rack of lamb, venison. Also Rhône-ish and laying somewhere between barbera and nebbiolo. Make your head spin with comparisons when none are correct. There is evidence of climatic cut and biodynamic preparations. Earthy, rich and poignant. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted December 2019

G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2018 ($34.95)

The Baroli are made from vines minimum 10 years old and the younger vines are used for this Langhe, which includes fruit from Bricco Bertone just outside the territory. Creeps up with its structure, nothing powerful or demanding but nebbiolo architecture nonetheless. Cherries, pencil lead and mountain herbs. Keeps the vineyard faith and accumulates even as it opens which tells us it is also youthfully closed. The potential is two years and thence forth. Tasted from two bottles opened a day apart, the first ready and willing, the second yes at first and then making a request for time. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted December 2019

G.D. Vajra Barolo DOCG Coste Di Rose 2015 ($101.95)

A very sandy decomposed peculiar site and soil type rich in Arenaria (sandstone) with the presence of sandstone rocks of quite decent size. The first vintage is this 2015 and from vines 30 years old going up the hill from Bussia. Delivers very pretty fruit of sneaky structure and intent. The rose floral gift of a vineyard, part apposite and part complimentary to Bricco delle Viole. It’s a ventilated place translating to a great freshness in the wine. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted December 2019

G.D. Vajra Barolo DOCG Bricco delle Viole 2015 ($113.95)

An about face in style and character with more dimensions accessed and so many aromatics acquiesced. Vines are 40-80 years old and the handling involves a diversification of treatments; longer maceration and fermentation, up to 45-60 days. A tight, compact and fine-grained construct with so much taken from the beneficial skins and the assistance of a submerged cap (a merso) during that fermentation (in stainless steel), followed by at least 24 months in large casks, some 25hL and some 50 hL. Some tonneaux but just as an addendum. Such a tactile nebbiolo, fruit of presence and intricacy out of a Cru that is felt as much as it is nosed or tasted. It’s not just a matter of nebbiolo and Barolo but a thing of great importance, mainly tradition and family. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

godello

Stained Glass and Inox Tanks

Twitter: @mgodello

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Sottimano a Sottimano

It was back in April when Bernard asked John and I to meet for a quick tasting because Elena Sottimano was in town. Several decades ago her father Rino Sottimano began his nebbiolo journey with just a few hectares but those precious blocks were in the Cottá Cru. It suffices to say that it was more than luck but also the Piemontese version of land meeting human intervention that have brought these wines to the pinnacle they are found to be at today.

Sottimano is the 18 hectare, Neive in Barbaresco project of Rino Sottimano, his wife Anna and children, Andrea and Elena. These are some of the most human, understood, necessary, gratifying and satisfying Piemontese wines you are ever going to taste. They make you think, smile, wink, cry and sigh. They speak of the vineyard and how properly they are treated. The nebbioli get under your skin, teach you what you need to know and tell you that everything is alright. They are good friends, therapists and if need be, they can be festaioli.

Elena led us through delightful dolcetto, ante-brooding barbera, worth twice the price Langhe and then six Barbaresco from four outstanding Cru; Pajoré, Fausoni, Cottà and Currá. Thanks to Le Sommelier, Sottimano’s Ontario agent and Taverna Mercatto, for hosting. Here are my notes on the nine wines.

John Szabo M.S., Godello and Elena Sottimano

Sottimano Dolcetto d’Alba DOC Bric Del Salto 2016, Piemonte, Italy (330738, $22.95, WineAlign)

From a vintage certified as classical for a modern and grounded dolcetto style in the vein of 2004 and 2010. This from the first vineyard planted by Elena’s father in 1975 and 41 years later turns out a purity of fruit for one of the most important modern vintages in Piemonte. Warm days, cold nights, easy and simple work in the winery, so overall just perfect conditions. Simply put this is found to be rich, salty, fresh and bright. Bric del Salto is a fantasy name, the “jump or peak of the hill,” made up for this combing of three vineyards. It’s curative, made ideal with hard crumbly cheese and a bowl of red sauce pasta plus a slice of pizza. And this bottle. Rendered only in stainless steel, fresh and perfect. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  az.agr.sottimano ElenaSottimano  @AzAgrSottimano  @LeSommelierWine  @AziendaAgricolaSottimano  Elena Sottimano  @LeSommelierWine</

Sottimano Barbera d’Alba DOC Superiore Pairolero 2015, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $33.95, WineAlign)

Barbera’s is a similar vinification, 25 days like Barbareso, a long maceration, bringing the magical, natural cure and understated barbera skin affection. Sees a small (10) per cent of new French wood plus second, third and fourth passage barrels, eight to 10 months sur lie and natural malolactic. There is nothing so wound, tart, tang and gently sour like this, in fact it’s perfect for barbera. Red fruit perfect, no darkness and no brooding. Vines are in San Cristoforo and Basarin, on sandy clay soil, keeping it mineral, salty, long and ultimately classic. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2015, Piemonte, Italy (454017, $32.95, WineAlign)

Langhe Nebbiolo is from the Basarin Vineyard, not used for single-vineyard Barbaresco because the vines are only 15-20 years old, planted in 2000. It is aged for one year in oak, eight to 10 months sur lie. Elena Sottimano admits that perhaps their fruit will be committed to Basarin as they age, but for now they are separated or if you will, de-classified. There is a cool, mentholated streak running through, with a particular spice and though it used to be 25 per cent new barrel, starting in 2015, it’s a mere 10 per cent new. The lees is so apparent, in texture but also in the way the wine knows itself from birth and doesn’t need time to announce who and what it is. Chalky and tannic in a greater ionic way, prosodic of two short followed by two long syllables, architectural in the way nebbiolo must be. At this price and labeled Langhe this from Sottimano slings more pleasure and as much structure as at least half af all Barbaresco twice its cost. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2018

John Szabo M.S. and Elena Sottimano at Tavrena Mercatto

Sottimano Barbaresco Pajoré DOC 2015, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $103.95, WineAlign)

Pajoré materializes off pure limestone soil at a hovering 380m of altitude. It’s really just a name this Cru, dialectical, as is its nebbiolo. Sees two years in 220L barrels made by François Frères, La Tonnellerie who receive a sample of your wines before deciding what barrels to send, if any. Time on lees is 20 months and there is no racking. This is pure nebbiolo in requiem of zero to next to no sulphur. It gets neither more natural nor more understated and exacting as this. The wine knows itself like a great human perfectly comfortable in its own skin and it might live to 2040 without experiencing one single moment of stress. It is truly a remarkable condition of the human meeting vine equating to wine spirit. Pajoré is a Cru worthy of a word to describe what you would get by combining ambiente with intervento umano. As in Climat, but Italian. Tannins are as formidable and elegant as there can dialectically be. Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Barbaresco Fausoni DOC 2015, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $103.95, WineAlign)

Fausoni is a small one point five hectare plot of sand and clay only six kilometres away from Pajoré. The vines range in age from 50 to 70 years old and there is certainly more depth and richness though contrastively speaking, more freshness and open aromatic perfume. There is also a verdant note and then this taut fixture of body and architecture in structure through the overall feeling. Deeper and more pressing, an antithetical nebbiolo, intense and perhaps not what you would expect. Likely a matter of sub-strata, of mystery and enigma. Pajoré just seems to intuit its character while Fausoni will need to feel, shift and oscillate its way through life. As with Pajoré the wood is retrofitted by La Tonnellerie François Frères, surfeiting Fausoni for a life more passionate and hard-lived if not quite as calm and relaxing as the one enjoyed by Pajoré. Top quality nebbiolo irregardless of style or fashion. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted April 2018

Cottá Azienda Agricola Sottimano cru spoiled by Elena Sottimano and Le Sommelier, Wine Agency ~ going vertical with Barbaresco and John Szabo — at Taverna Mercatto.

Sottimano Barbaresco Cottà DOC 2015, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $103.95, WineAlign)

From the two point eight hectare vineyard with 45 year-old vines, Cottà receives the same élévage as Pajoré and Fausoni, on skins for 25 days and in Tonnellerie François Frères for 24 months. Fifteen per cent are new and the remainder of the barrels have been used up to four times. It’s like a combination of the other Cru, their best of both worlds in symbiosis, deep and exacting, comfortable and with a structure that never quits or breaks down. It’s unrelenting, with aromatic exoticism, power, precision, more fragrance and balance. The tannic building blocks are exceptional, verging into unparalleled. Drink 2022-2045.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Barbaresco Cottà DOC 2013, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $178.95, WineAlign)

A confounding vintage for thinking about drinking in 2018 because it is simply too young but there can be no discounting the acumen of restraint and the wisdom imparted. This from a Cru that knows full well what it will give. The 1970s planted vines add up to a shade under three hectares, southwest facing, in delivery of energetic red fruit, sweet herbs and that always present Sottimano cure. Cottà is the estate’s great constant, with the most layers needing to be husked for its kernels of wisdom and pearls of pulchritude to be revealed. Patience will be your virtue if you can just wait for the reward. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Barbaresco Cottà DOC 2010, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $234.95, WineAlign)

While tasting through Pajoré, Fausoni, Currá and a mini-vertical of Cottá with Elena Sottimano it is here for the first time that some development appears in a wine. This glimpse into what might happen with their Barbaresco may only be a minor crack in the oasis but it begins to fall away from the curative, tannic intensity into something stretching its limbs towards the ethereal. I can ruminate with this nebbiolo swirling around in my mouth while I wonder how far along we are or have come. But it comes with knowing that no matter how much distance we walk there is still a marathon to run. There is this perfect wonderwall of wild cherry spinning like vinyl liqueur over the cheeks, tongue and gums, refreshing and working its magical fruit dance up to the edges of my nerves. “I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me. And after all,” you’re Sottimano. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Barbaresco Currá DOC 2013, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $178.95, WineAlign)

Only 200 bottles produced from this single hectare Cru of vines edging beyond 55 years-old. The vinification process mimics that of Pajoré, Fausoni and Cottà but Currá remains in bottle for an additional six months because it is special and asks for this. There is humour in that minor extension because opening this Cru from such a recent vintage any earlier than seven or eight years into its life will deprive you of its magic and potential charms. The smell of the sea is in Currá, fossil shells briny and salty, certainly mineral. It’s measurable, quantifiable and verifiable. It’s there in the taste. The reaction is more than one of epiphany, it’s a revelation. No, in fact it’s more than that. If for a moment it is explainable it then moves on and flees, remaining out of grasp. Damn you Currá. Drink 2021-2045.  Tasted April 2018

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Buy the case

Trialto Group tasting at WineAlign with Zalto glasses

Trialto Group tasting at WineAlign with Zalto glasses

“What wines would you recommend that are not available at the LCBO?” has made its constitutive and bounden way to the top of the FAQ list. This applies to both consumers in search of quality and ease of acquisition, along with restaurateurs who want to build a diverse, anterior, ulterior and eclectic wine list. The answer is consignment. Working with Ontario wine importing agents opens up a world you never knew existed and they deliver direct to your door.

“But I don’t want to purchase by the case” is the most common response. “What if I don’t like the first bottle?” The answer is WineAlign. You already trust and put your dollars in the hands and palates of a critic or a group of critics whose judgements you trust. You order stuff online all the time, mainly because they are products you want to purchase but also because you love the home or office delivery aspect of the transaction. Wine? Yes, it’s possible. In cases of six or 12, of a wine you trust will do nothing but please, it just makes sense to order by the case.

As you know, I am a regular and increasingly active contributor at WineAlign, the most essential source for critical reviews of wines released in Ontario. Just like the coverage in this province, WineAlign tackles the scenes in Alberta and British Columbia as well. More and more samples of B.C. wine has have traipsed through the office doors so the opportunity to taste west coast output has become a regular duty and a pleasure. Still, the release gamut in Ontario remains the primary focus.

At WineAlign we have launched a new program called Buy The Case. To understand what the ‘Buy The Case’ program is really all about, click on the link to hear it from our most esteemed critic David Lawrason.

Buy The Case: Trialto Wine Group

I sat down with David and Sara d’Amato to taste through a cross-section of the Trialto Wine Group portfolio. Trialto has a great Canadian presence, in Alberta, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. The Ontario team has a group of highly knowledgeable wine professionals and their portfolio is chock full of gems, top values and products that will appeal to the most cerebral and fastidious of Sommeliers or discerning consumers.

The following list highlights the wines that I chose as most representative for the Buy The Case program, employing the top 10 good reasons as the guideline for making such decisions.

From left to right: Montresor Capitel Alto 2013, Giacomo Borgogno &amp; Figli Barbera D'alba 2013, Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne 2012, Vietti Perbacco Langhe Nebbiolo 2012, Terras Gauda Abadia San Campio Albariño Rias Baixas, Montresor Castelliere Delle Guaite Primo Ripasso 2011 and 2014 Neal Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

From left to right: Montresor Capitel Alto 2013, Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barbera D’alba 2013, Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne 2012, Vietti Perbacco Langhe Nebbiolo 2012, Terras Gauda Abadia San Campio Albariño Rias Baixas, Montresor Castelliere Delle Guaite Primo Ripasso 2011 and 2014 Neal Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Curio Selections

Montresor Capitel Alto 2013, Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $16.95, WineAlign)

High floral tones are at the top end for Soave and here more than a step up from the Classico bottling. The primrose and aster give way to creamy chestnut folded into savoury custard. A smooth palate feel turns to nuts, stones, fine bitters and gentle tonics. Quite the salubrious Soave, purveyor of good feelings and with the words party pleaser inscribed across its Veronese face. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted April 2015  @TurismoVeneto

Restaurant Pours by the Glass

Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barbera D’alba 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Popping Barbera full of strapping substantial fruit, mind-meddling acidity and thankfully, playful rhythm and blues chords. Full of plums and cherries baked in the sun, rehydrated to syrup and filled with a whole lot of old-school, funky, soulful flavour. Once this Hozier Barbera finds its way through, past a “mid-youth crisis all said and done, it then needs “to be youthfully felt, cause God” it “never felt young.” Goes round and round, like vinyl on a well-used turntable. We could grow old with this and more vintages of Borgogno’s Barbera. Years in “we’ll name our children Jackie and Wilson, raise ’em on rhythm and blues.” Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted April 2015  @regionepiemonte

Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne 2012, Burgundy, France (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

Pinot Noir’s most base cumulative history has arrived here, in the second decade of the 21st century, in this commodious and convenient 2012, fashioned to the letter of entry-level Bourgogne law. Bright, animated, ripe, affable, under-currant earthy and wholly, purposefully, decidedly approachable. Strawberry and raspberry mixed with dried rose-dominated potpourri. The thrill of acidity flush with direct energy jigs to finis. What more might be petitioned from the fruit of les villages? Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2015  @BourgogneWines

Function Wines

Vietti Perbacco Langhe Nebbiolo 2012, DOC Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $26.95, WineAlign)

Modern, ripe and pushing maximum extraction in Nebbiolo. A single-vineyard Langhe of full, flaunting expressive ideas and protein matching aspirations. The combination of Cassis, cedar, currants and berries link this, in aromatic tumescence, to Sonoma Cabernet. Yet its prevailing and concurrent Nebbiolo presence, of tar and roses, are really magnified and inextricably tied to its declassified Barolo vineyard. Quite sappy sentimental, with sinew to one side and dusty chocolate to the other. Quality acidity and tannin keep it brutally honest. Drink 2016-2010. Tasted April 2015  @vietti_vino  @vinidelpiemonte

Seasonal Wines

Terras Gauda Abadia San Campio Albariño Rias Baixas 2014Albariño/Alvarinho, Spain (Agent, $21.95, WineAlign)

From Bodegas Terras Gauda in Galicia this likens to white blend style, in complex varietal aromatics, as if a combing of Pinot Gris, Viognier, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc were vying for and forming connections in conundrums. Has a slight Vinho Verde effervescence and plenty of bright, spirited character. A monk’s white, quietly serving in piety and in the presence of the unspoken. Lingers for longer than expected. Fine example of Albariño. Drink 2015-2029.  Tasted April 2015  @TerrasGauda @RiasBaixasWines

Cellaring Wine

Montresor Castelliere Delle Guaite Primo Ripasso 2011, Doc Valpolicella Superiore, Veneto, Spain (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Fortified village of Venetian varietal strength, yelping with warm, extracted, dense and chewy Valpolicella fruit and stepping beyond the acid scrubbed boundaries of the typical gauge. Pitches braised beef and a full on drupe of berry, plum and fig fruit. While at present time the confluence of worked over flavours are an over abundance of riches, this will flesh and caramelize towards a mini-Quintarelli-like future, where the rust and antiquity of innate history turns liqueur into ethereal mocker. Buy a case, wait up to 10 years and drink it over the next 10. You’ll revel in telling everyone how much you paid in back in 2015. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted April 2015  @RegioneVeneto

Neal Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley, California (Agent, $59.00, WineAlign)

Nothing but Cabernet Sauvignon from both mountain and valley floor fruit. Has that keen, innate sense of proprietary wisdom. A wine that seemingly has more age on it, as if it were already 15 plus years old, when the fact is it’s a mere toddler. Somehow you just yet know it will evolve in this exact state for another 10 before fading anywhere near towards a tequila sunset. Spirited, elated, elevated tones and full, fleshy fruit endow this Neal with long term capabilities. Sweet tannins and a soft, creamy oak blanketing contain the tension and a desire for hurried, premature development. Velveteen chocolate to be sure but one of really fine grain. Very good length. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted April 2015  @NealVineyards  @NapaVintners

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Fourteen wines that should be on your restaurant list

Fish and Chips at Small Town Food Bar

Fish and Chips at Small Town Food Bar

I taste a lot of wine. Lots of wine. Were I to manage a restaurant list with room for everything that deserves a place to call home, to share with the world the honest and the natural, a long list I would indeed create. The wine list at Barque Smokehouse I build is predicated on that premise but you can count on two hands the number of wines we offer by the glass. Necessity is our master.

Related – A resolution to drink honest wine

At the start of 2014 I penned that column and looking back eight months later, the ideas put out within that post-ice storm, mild January day apply to the concept of formulating a restaurant wine list. For the most part, a wine card should endorse the virtuous and the sincere. “Honest wine is juice that conveys the salient facts of a grape’s life. For a bottle of wine to be on the up and up it must not be disguised by the unnatural ways of artificial intervention nor should it make itself so available as to be obvious. Fruit should reside in the realm of the sequestered and the sacred. I am not alone in hoping for table wines to be stirring, gripping, unsweetened and unencumbered by an excessive coat of oak. My hard-earned dollars should earn the right to be stimulated .”

If your job title includes choosing what wine is poured at your restaurant, you should never dial it in. VINTAGES releases more than 100 new wines every two weeks. If 95 are what you might consider wantonly microdontic or overly tangential in influence, so be it. Five new wines every two weeks is more than enough to keep your list rocking, rolling, current and fresh. In Ontario the choices are many and the options endless. If driving the construction-riddled streets of Toronto is for you the time spent equivalent of root canal surgery in a Chilean coal mine then call an agent, request a tasting and let the cases be shipped to your doorstep.

“Wine only recognizes two temporal states. Fermentation and party time.” Be creative, read Tom Robbins, listen to the Tom Tom Club, mix it up a little, try new wines and add a spark to your wine program. Give it the genius of love. Guests just want to have fun. Here are 14 new releases, from VINTAGES and through some really terrific agents here in Ontario.

From left to right: Tenuta Le Velette Rosso di Spicca 2012, Tawse Gamay Noir 2013, Freiherr Von Göler Pinot Noir 2011, Coyote's Run Pinot Noir 2013, Lealtanza Reserva 2009, Fielding Estate Cabernet Franc 2012 and Borgogno Langhe Freisa 2012

From left to right: Tenuta Le Velette Rosso di Spicca 2012, Tawse Gamay Noir 2013, Freiherr Von Göler Pinot Noir 2011, Coyote’s Run Pinot Noir 2013, Lealtanza Reserva 2009, Fielding Estate Cabernet Franc 2012 and Borgogno Langhe Freisa 2012

Tenuta Le Velette Rosso di Spicca 2012, Umbria, Italy (Agent, $16)

The “Spicca” family owned the farm where the vines now grow. For a Rosso, from Umbria, Toscana or Piemonte for that matter to stand out (spicarre), it must have something unique and noticeable. Le Velette’s understated Umbrian blend of Sangiovese and Canaiolo is all about aromatics. Spicy cherries, leather and cinnamon with an underlying petrichor that seemingly bleeds fresh piquant juice straight from concrete. Like the oil exuding from lavender and rosemary growing out of the fissures of cracked terracotta over clay, after a warm summer rain. The palate gives a wee bit of spirited spritz and pizzazz. All this for $16 and change for a finishing espresso.   Tasted October 2014  @Noteworthywines

Tawse Gamay Noir 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (322545, $18.95, WineAlign)

Darker berries define the Paul Pender take on Gamay for Niagara and in ’13 there is a level of tension and girth not yet approached. This third Tawse Gamay is overt in attitude, connotative of Beaujolais Cru staging, an ovule of rebellion and a disposition just as though in the grips of Asmodeus. The Tawse effect is entrenched in clay and possessive of  knowledge as if derived by an invitation only junket to the Gamay motherland. If the stance seems serious, the fruit is up to the task. A Gamay for now and fully capable of aging five or more years.  Tasted October 2014

Freiherr Von Göler Pinot Noir 2011, Qualitätswein, Baden, Germany (390971, $18.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES October 11, 2014 Release

You can take the Spätburgunder out of the nomenclature but you can’t take the nomenclature out of the Spätburgunder. The porcine dry, crunchy bits are front and centre, the pig offal under the crust. This is Baden red wine of a bitter and surprisingly sweet palate nature, a modern take on old male Pinot pattern baldness. So worth trying towards gaining a deeper understanding of varietal diversity.  Tasted October 2014  @HalpernWine

Coyote’s Run Pinot Noir 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (53090, $19.95, WineAlign)

The Estate bottle represents a balanced amalgamation of terroirs with essential Niagara On-The-Lake Pinot Noir aromas, accents and distinction. Highly floral, thanks in kind to the red Trafalgar clay loam of the Red Paw Vineyard, as much as it has and will ever be. Extracted with reserved prejudice, with props to the dark Toledo clay loam of the Black Paw Vineyard, showing as a robust and retentive treacle, rich in tangy licorice and cherry pie. Much flavour is found in this Pinot Noir, so it will be well deserving of accolades and sales. If the sweetness prevails it is only because the fruit is shepherded in clean and Shepparded with blending acumen.  Tasted October 2014  @coyotesrun

Lealtanza Reserva 2009, Doca Rioja, Spain (208223, $20.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES October 11, 2014 Release

Old, old school Rioja ramped up, given a natural injection of rock brine and garriga then sent out to play. Rarely does Lealtanza give so much fresh conjecture, so much considered condensation and dense consideration. Soft and muddled palate, mottled rocks seeping berries and an accent of candied tomato leaf. Funky finish keeps it real.  Tasted October 2014  @ProfileWineGrp

Fielding Estate Cabernet Franc 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (36194, $21.95, WineAlign)  NWAC14 Silver Medal Winner

A dusty and gilded Cabernet Franc from one of the warmest Niagara vintages in recent memory. Vivid in Bench specific varietal tendency, as if the berries on the black currant bush were ripening and bursting in the late afternoon sun, right into the glass. A blueberry by you CF, spiced by the faint childhood memory of grandfather’s unlit pipe on the coffee table. There have been more tense and exciting Cab Franc’s by Richie Roberts but none so suave and grown-up as this 2012.  Tasted September 2014  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine

Borgogno Langhe Freisa 2012, Doc, Piedmont, Italy (388660, $24.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES October 11, 2014 Release

Don’t worry Mr. Parker, this rare chance at assessing a Langhe made from the Freisa grape will not join the 100-point club but I can say with certainty that this take is anything but “totally repugnant.” Borgogno’s Freisa is rustic, with dried figments of raisin and fig, though zero notes of reduction. More dried fruit, in carob and licorice with biting, spicy notes and the seeping of black tea leaves. The whole Mediterranean potpourri seethes in altitude and attitude. A dry and sensual red with enveloping chalk and acidity. Perhaps “Bobbo” Butch Cassidy should give this Langhe a whirl.  Tasted August 2014  @TrialtoON

From left to right: Cave Spring Riesling ‘The Adam’s Steps’ 2013, Rustenberg John X Merriman 2011, Pirramimma Shiraz 2011, Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, Huff Estates Cuvée Janine 2012, Millton Opou Vineyard Chardonnay 2009, Ascheri Barolo 2010

From left to right: Cave Spring Riesling ‘The Adam’s Steps’ 2013, Rustenberg John X Merriman 2011, Pirramimma Shiraz 2011, Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, Huff Estates Cuvée Janine 2012, Millton Opou Vineyard Chardonnay 2009, Ascheri Barolo 2010

Cave Spring Riesling ‘The Adam’s Steps’ 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (26372, $24.95, WineAlign)

A classic Adam, amplified in 2013, riper and not as piercing as previously noted vintages. Still the layering is omnipresent but there is more juicy fruit and texture then ever before. This is a consumer friendly Adam, gregarious, outgoing, off-dry as never before. New slang for the bottling.  From my earlier, July 2014 note: “According to Cave Spring’s website this newer Riesling from older (18 to 35 year-old plantings) is from “a single block of vines in the shadows of a limestone outcrop near the crest of the Niagara Escarpment, known as ‘The Adam Steps’. Really apropos, for this Riesling is the cantilever, the one with the outstretched arm. At 10.5 per cent alcohol and with an unmistakably stony, sweet and sour whiff the wine speaks of its off-dryness. The juiciest of all the Cave Spring Rieslings, with rounder acidity and good persistence. This is the all-around good guy, the one with an open invitation, the bridge from Estate to Dolomite to Csv. The well-adjusted one steps up its game to help win one for the team, especially out of the convivial 2013 vintage.”  Last tasted October 2014  @CaveSpring

Rustenberg John X Merriman 2011, Stellenbosch, South Africa (707323, $24.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES October 11, 2014 Release

Despite the colour as dark as monster’s gore this is a relaxed X Merriman, not overly painted or rubbed by charcoal and rubber tree plant. The Bordeaux-styled blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (55 per cent), Merlot (37), Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec from South-West slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain, Stellenbosch opens its tight angled gates to reveal a cool centre, with juicy, rich, iced espresso, though in decomposed granite grit it’s tannic as hell. Makes judicious use of its (41 per cent) new and (59 per cent) 2nd and 3rd-fill 225L French oak barrels, along with balance in alcohol (14.3 per cent) integration. Solid South African red with just enough primal activity to pleasantly alter the temperature in the brain, without causing concussion or grey matter to go totally askance. Will drink well into the next decade.  Tasted October 2014  @WoodmanWS

Pirramimma Shiraz 2011, Mclaren Vale, South Australia, Australia (987784, $24.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES October 11, 2014 Release

A Pirramimma in the new vein from a warm and rich vintage. So hard to scale back when nature gives you this much fruit. Though 15 per cent is hardly a twinkle in its alcohol eye, there is only so much elegance that can be coaxed from this kind of hedonism. It’s big, juicy and just so alive. As simple as a candle, without magic and void of mystery. It will range hither and thither for 10 years before it makes the long, slow journey back home.  Tasted October 2014  @bwwines

Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula (1560, $29.95, WineAlign)

Seven months have softened and mothered Gravity’s adolescence in ways to now see it as the most feminine, certainly of the last four vintages. Pretty dabs, perfumes of natural conditioning, warm days and warm nights in the bottle. More accessible than previous takes and of a new modernity perceived. Sweet dreams and sweet fragrances, roses and cinnamon, nothing fancy here mind you, with no bite and no gathering moss. Cherries and vanilla, lavender and simple pleasures. Straight up Gravity, no pull down, no drag and no excess weight. From my earlier, March 2014 note: “In a vintage potentially muddled by warmth and a humidor of radio frequency, duplicating berry phenolics, Flat Rock’s Gravity remains a definitive, signature house Pinot Noir. In 2011, the head of the FR class from its most expressive barrels shared the limelight (and top juice) with the Pond, Bruce and Summit one-offs. In ’12, Gravity’s sandbox was its own. The style is surely dark, extracted, black cherry bent, as per the vintage. Yet only the Rock’s soil does earth in this variegate, borne and elevated by the barrel’s grain. There are no fake plastic trees in a Flat Rock Pinot. “Gravity always wins.”  Last tasted October 2014  @Brighlighter1  @Winemakersboots  @UnfilteredEd

Huff Estates Cuvée Janine 2012, Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Looks can be deceiving so much so Janine might look as is she were leading a bubble to red dye number 40. Not the case, rather the expressive hue is winemaker Frédéric Picard’s colourful bleed from 100 per cent Pinot Noir fruit. So, it must be sweet and tasting cloyingly like a bowl of sugared strawberries. Again, not so. Janine’s aromas are very berry and her texture is certainly cheese and crème fraiche-inflected from a 12 month lees mattress, but dry she goes. Much demonstrative behaviour and perspiring humidity comes from vintage warmth and here results in layering. Janine is an earthy, funky squared sparkler, with nothing shy or demurred about her, but all of the outwardly screaming smells and tastes are in check. Strawberry cream and shortcake cease from wrapped tight acidity coming in from the backside. Big bubbles.  Tasted October 2014  @HuffEstatesWine

Millton Opou Vineyard Chardonnay 2009, Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand (92478, $30.00, WineAlign)

From estate fruit on a single vineyard planted in 1969 on the Papatu Road, Manutuke, Gisborne. On Waihirere soils of heavy silt and Kaiti clay loam. A most mineral driven Chardonnay thanks in part to some Riesling in the mix. This varietal symbiosis, along with a co-planted orange grove gives what James Milton calls “the sharing of astrality.” The five year-old biodynamic Opou does whiff orange blossom, along with crisp green apple and the wet rocks of a summer rain. Quite full on the palate with a bite of black pepper and olive oil drizzle over toasted Ciabatta, smeared by churned, salted butter. The length indicates five more relish piqued years and five furthermore in slow decline.  Tasted October 2014  @TheLivingVine

Ascheri Barolo 2010, Piedmont, Italy (341107, was $35.25, now LTO $32.25, WineAlign)

Standard issue Barolo of a canonical character so bankable as Nebbiolo and nothing but. Classic Piemontese funk comes wafting out, along with licorice in as many ways as can be described; anise, Sambuca or fennel. The palate is creamy and slightly sweet, accented with pepper and a dusty, grainy sensation. This is Barolo of old with a cough syrup confection, wild herbs and grit. It could not be mistaken for Malbec though its disjointed ways could use some finesse and polish.  Tasted October 2014  @liffordwine

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