Yearning for the Langhe

Godello in Cherasco

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

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

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

Grandi Langhe 2020

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

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

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

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

Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC

Diego Morra Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC 2016

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

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

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

Mauro Sebaste Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC Parigi 2017

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

Nebbiolo Langhe DOC

Elvio Cogno Nebbiolo Langhe DOC Montegrilli’ 2018

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

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

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

Bollito Misto, Sinio

Azienda Agricola Taverna Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2018

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

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

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

Osteria dei Sognotori, Alba

Barolo DOCG

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Pichemej 2015

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

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Bussia 2015

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

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Baudana 2015

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

Simone Ortale and Giuliana Drocco, Cascina Adelaide

Cascina Adelaide Barolo Riserva DOCG “Per Elen” 2014

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

Cascina Boschetti Barolo DOCG Gomba 2015

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

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2015

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

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2012

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

Crudo – La Libera, Alba

Diego Morra Barolo DOCG 2015

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

Diego Morra Barolo DCOG Monvigliero 2015

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

Elvio Cogno Barolo DOCG Bricco Pernice 2015

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

With Valter Fissore

Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera DOCG Vigna Elena 2014

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

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

Mauro Sebaste Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2015

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

Mauro Sebaste Barolo Riserva DOCG Ghè 2014

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

Palladino Barolo Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba DOCG 2016

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

Palladino Barolo Riserva DOCG San Bernardo 2013

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

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

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

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

Cherasco

Barbaresco DOCG

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

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

Barbera d’Alba DOCG

Cascina Adelaide Vigna Preda Barbera d’Alba 2016

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

Cascina Adelaide Barbera D’alba Superiore Docg Amabilin 2016

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

Diego Morra Barbera d’Alba DOCG 2016

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

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Bricco Dei Merli 2017

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

The view from Elvio Cogno

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Pre Phylloxera 2018

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

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera d’Alba DOC Giardono 2018

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

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera D’alba DOC Mezzavilla 2015

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

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

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

Mauro Sebaste Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Centobricchi 2016

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

Palladino Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Bricco delle Olive 2017

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

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbera d’Alba DOC 2018

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

Verduno Pelaverga DOC

Diego Morra Pelaverga DOC 2018

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

Vino Rosso

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Donna Costanza Cardunaj Vino Rosso 2017

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

Método Classico Vino Spumante Di Qualita

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

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

Langhe Rosato DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Rosato DOC 2018

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

Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC

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

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

Le Strette Nas-cëtta Langhe DOC Pasinot 2018

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

Langhe Favorita DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Favorita DOC Donna Costanza 2018

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

Roero Arneis DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Roero Arneis DOC Pradaj 2018

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

Birbét

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Birbét Donna Costanza 2018

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

Good to go!

godello

Godello in Cherasco

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WineAlign

Coppo: Feet on Canelli ground since 1892

Luigi Coppo is grounded in tradition, family, heritage and by a contiguous connection through generational continuance. That much is clear. I’ve met with and tasted Coppo’s wines three times over the last three years; during Barolo’s Collisioni Festival, July 2017, at Relais San Maurizio in Santo Stefano Belbo, December 2018 and most recently at the family’s Canelli estate in December, 2019. Since 1892 Coppo has been nestled in the favourable company of fellow producers Gancia and Bosco, together forming a link between these three most historical wineries in Canelli. Coppo’s Barbera d’Asti and in particular their Pomorosso cru from Nizza Monferrato’s hills are intimately integral charges and while it may have long been established, the advancing Luigi Coppo led Sparkling wine program will push further than merely rivalling the best of Alta Langa. Lookout Franciacorta. Take heed Champagne. And though these estate masterpieces in constant progress will duly impress sommeliers and collectors worldwide, Luigi Coppo still pulls for the workhorses and insists that “Moscato d’Asti is definitely the heritage of our hills.” That amongst their 56 farmed hectares surely counts for something. This is the actuality and presence of Luigi Coppo in Piemonte: Determined, ambitious and yet always cognizant of his roots. All the Coppos in fact; Gianni, Paolo, Luigi, Roberto and Piero. Feet on Canelli ground since 1892.

Luigi Coppo

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

Much has changed since Luigi’s great-grandfather Piero started the estate in 1892. Today production is 500,000 bottles annually. In another three-pronged producer connection Coppo can make Barolo here in Canelli, along with Scarpa and Bersano. And in 1977 it was Carlo Gancia who as the first in Italy to do so, returned from Champagne to employ moscato in traditional method bubbles. Luigi Coppo is also making use of the Canelli tufo azzuro soils, a mix of blue clay and limestone so ideal for growing grapes to turn them into many variations of sparkling wine. He too embraced the new Alta Langa appellation, beginning in 2010. A specific area was identified, chardonnay and pinot noir were planted and the 30 month lees aging methodology was put into place. Following the dreams of Grandfather Luigi who desired to produce a Bourgogne-style in Piemonte, chardonnay was planted 35 years ago. After nonno passed away in 1994 Luigi’s father Paolo decided to keep the dream alive. Monteriolo sees nine months on lees in barriques; big, buttery, modern and luscious.

Related – Living wine in the moment at Scarpa Winery

The Nizza Classico barbera come from several Monferrato villages while the Pomorosso cru, first made in 1998 sees new French oak for 14-18 months. Moscato d’Asti gets stelvin closures, the wines that age for five to six months are sealed under Diam and real corks for anything longer. The natural barrel cellar was finished in 1970, 42m below ground level. As for the heritage one, says Luigi, “Moscato loves altitude compared to barbera. It’s now time to talk about Moscato d’Asti as a serious wine because it’s very difficult to make. We don’t add sugar or carbonize and it is a vintage wine. These are the three natural and honest things about moscato.”

Related – Rock steady Bersano

What do Coppo’s wines do for us? How are they helpful and perhaps even life-affirming? The truth lies in Luigi Coppo’s humanity and dedication to the things that matter. Something has to save us from ourselves, especially in times such as these, from being inside our heads. Luigi’s wines are the sort to make our wisdom bearable, to rescue us, if nothing else from the ever-bearing fever of begotten biological and ecological destiny. These are the five wines tasted at Coppo.

Coppo 1892 Luigi Coppo Brut Metodo Classico 2016, Vino Spumante Di Qualita DOC, Piedmont, Italy ($40.00 – Estimate)

Traditional method varietal pinot noir in sparkling form, 24 months on its lees and no wood aging. Gainfully fresh and joyous, just a pinch of dosage and regaled, mainly by strawberry but also a sweetly savoury push. Crushable bubbles in the parlance of our times. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Coppo 1892 Piero Coppo Riserva Del Fondatore 2007, Vino Spumante Di Qualita DOC, Piedmont, Italy ($220.00 – Estimate)

A 60-40 split of pinot noir and chardonnay that was at a near to previous time a varietal wine of the first but with 90 months on the lees and more complex notions conceived it was necessary to bring the latter into the mix. This was disgorged in July 2017. The tartufo bianco in this wine is simply uncanny. That and a toasty precision as if by a Japanese chef’s hand, a toasted piece of perfect white bread to the edges in 100 per cent equality by golden caramelization. Sandwich a piece of reverse seared Kobe rib-eye in between two buttered slices with a side of potato chips and creamy cole slaw and Coppo’s your uncle. Mimic with foie gras if you must. Up to you. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted December 2019

Coppo 1892 Monteriolo 2017, DOC Piemonte, Piedmont, Italy ($92.00 – Estimate)

A father and an uncle’s chardonnay dedication to their father with a Bourgignons style and philosophy. This just released ’17 saw nine months on lees in French barriques. Toasty in a “Batard” Italianate way, nearly gingered and a low-yield meets high concentration and alcohol (though maxing out at 13.0 per cent) and purposefully ripe. The hot year took away some control and thus the warm biscuit and accentuating spice notes. A little caramelization and while the joy will be a year or so away it will be a shorter lasting period, albeit a highly anticipated and relishing one. Verdant finish with a scape of citrus zests. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted December 2019

Coppo 1892 Barbera D’asti Nizza DOCG Pomorosso 2017, Piedmont, Italy ($74.95 – Estimate)

A blend of areas, Nizza Monferrato, Castelnuovo Calcea and Agliano Terme, first produced in 1984. “If you want to make Nizza all of your vineyards have to face south,“ explains Luigi Coppo. The exposures gather three levels of sunlight and with 15 days of fully extractive macerated practices the tannins are necessarily pulled to their limit. With varietal acidity set to a natural high there is a three-pronged effect that expresses three separate platitudes and layers for long-term effect. Add the warmth of ’17 and the degree of difficulty and margin for error is very stringent. Castelnuovo Calcea was the last to pick and still only at the end of the first week of September. There’s a phenolic-minor note from the vintage that’s ostensibly unavoidable in a composition like this and yet the richness and structure are non-compromised. Tough to follow the ideal 2016. Drink 2021-2028.  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

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

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Life affirming wines di Gianni Doglia

Gianni Doglia

During the post-war days of late 1940s and 1950s Europe there were simple, humble and hard-working folk who tempted fate by fighting against the oppression waged by dire destinies. Gianni Doglia’s maternal mezzadro grandfather Eugenio Rivella was such a man who in 1947 decided to buy a farmstead, raise his own grapes and do so in a very specific place. In the 1980s it was Bruno and Marisa who took the reigns of the estate. Today brother and sister Gianni and Paola take care of the tradition their nonno began and do so in a wholly unexpected and antithetical way.

Related – Rock steady Bersano

Azienda Vinicola di Gianni Doglia is situated on the Langhe side of Castagnole delle Lanza, opposite of Monferrato in the province of Asti, Piemonte. Gianni feels “like a Monferrato man, even if he’s literally on the edge of the Langhe.” He farms six hectares across his estate lands plus two more in Monferrato and one in Nizza. He notes the importance of the ascending rise to his hill up to a pinnacle that puts the vineyards at points higher than those in Monferrato. Two winds blow through,  a northern Foehn from the Alps and the strong westerner from the Ligurian Sea. The special acidities and intangible magic in the moscato and barbera farmed here comprise the solid centre of the estate. It was Gianni’s grandfather who’s intuition knew and acted upon all of this.

Related – Living wine in the moment at Scarpa Winery

Related – You say you want a Barbera d’Asti revolution

Gianni Doglia’s wines are notable in their modernity and yet so pure, so honest and so steeped in his personal tradition. His wines are effortless to drink and while he clearly puts in the hard work, they seem so effortlessly made. They serve a pragmatic purpose, like literature or painting, with a mission to gift us the fulfillment that makes our essential life duties more palatable. Life affirming moscato, barbera, grignolino and ruché. Taste Gianni’s wines and you may feel the same. These are the seven he and Paola poured for me back in December.

Gianni Doglia Grigolino d’Asti DOCG 2018, Piedmont, Italy ($20.00 – Estimate)

The grignolino of lithe transparency from limestone and clay soils, ripe cherries and the wine of Gianni’s father and grandfather. Gianni tells that “grignolino is the poor man’s nebbiolo” and ‘aint that the truth. Also a nut oil, almond or hazelnut running through the crunchiness of the fruit. Grignolino vero. Speaks the truth. There are 6,000 bottles made. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

Gianni Doglia Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2018, Piedmont, Italy ($20.00 – Estimate)

The absolute truth of ruché is spoken as one of the most recognizable profiles on the planet. The speciality is uncanny, semi-aromatic and with this sweet fruit component that’s like malvasia with no baggage. Or colorino the same way or so many others but only this varietal does cherries in this floral to almost tropical way. A scrape of orange zest in this one too. Neither muscular nor soft but somewhere uniquely crunchy and just ripe in between. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Gianni Doglia Barbera d’Asti DOCG Bosco Donne 2018, Piedmont, Italy ($20.00 – Estimate)

A selection from some of the “younger” barbera in the 40 year-old vineyard and not a stitch of oak intrusion. That Gianni Doglia makes an unoaked barbera is so smart, beneficial and a gift to us all. A naked one, full of the natural cherries of the grape and the air breathed in from the woods next door. A beautiful vintage of texture and fruit to the fruity end. Castagnole is such a place, of so much aromatic presence and kudos for making a wine that allows for the natural order, along with a sour candied edge of the terroir to speak. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Gianni Doglia Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Genio 2017, Piedmont, Italy

A very young barbera d’asti named for Gianni’s grandfather Eugenio, only three months in bottle. Gianni loves this harvest, of body from hot temperatures but with tenderness and softness. A spiced barbera, still reeking of its time spent in wood but the mass of fruit is prevalent to predominant, albeit based on what Gianni’s grandfather insisted. “The wine has to stay in the bottle for the same length of time it sat in the barrel.” And then some I would add. This the barbera of heights climbed as in these hills and needing just as much time to come back down. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted December 2019

Gianni Doglia Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Viti Vecchie 2017, Piedmont, Italy

Old vines of 60 years-old bring acumen, generational knowhow and a depth of soul to this Nizza and while the Genio from ulterior terroir takes, feels and oozes more in wood this just seems unencumbered. Perhaps it’s a vintage thing but surely a sense of place above all else. A harvest that was surely fresher and a structure much more vertical. Balanced like a perfectly toned dancer. Don’t you just love it when nothing is too much. The fruit, acidity and tannin are all announced but not pronounced. Finishes with just a crumble of really good chocolate so you can imagine the forest foraged future. Drink 2022-2032.  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

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

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Rock steady Bersano

You’ve got to visit the cantina of Bersano Vini in Nizza Monferrato, if for no other reason than to wander through the on-site, outdoor Museo Bersano delle Contadinerie which houses implements and machinery from peasant life and transportation in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. All the brainchild of Arturo Bersano and in his successor’s words the installation is “a memory of what made our wine great. The cellar, farming tools, wine presses and a collection of old wine prints. Bersano – winemaker, scholar, poet. His anxiety of research, patient and cautious, dictated by a deep passion for the land and for work, has been able to condense in the Collections and in the Museum of the Peasants, the most suffered and joyful testimonies of the wine-peasant civilization.” All of that and of course to taste a portfolio in Monferrato’s widest breadth, consistently exceptional of quality and for consumer value across the board. Rock steady Bersano.

Related – Living wine in the moment at Scarpa Winery

The humble beginnings were early, first decade times in the 20th century. They say 1907 to be exact but surely somewhere between 115 and 120 years later the estates cover 230 hectares, the largest single entity as such in the Monferrato hills. The original and most historic property is Cremosina, once the seat of a great Palazzo (dei Conti della Cremosina) and now home to Barbera d’Asti vineyards. Bersano farms nine estates and two single vineyards in these hills: Cremosina (Nizza Monferrato), Generala (Agliano Terme), Prata (Incisa Scapaccino), Badarina (Serralunga d’Alba), Castelgaro (Baretta – Acqui Terme), Pallavicini (Mombaruzzo), Buccelli (Nizza Monferrato), Serradivaglio Vineyard (Incisa Scapaccino), San Michele (Nizza Monferrato), Monteolivo Vineyard (Castelnuovo Belbo) and San Pietro Realto (Castagnole Monferrato). Today these estates are in production of 90 per cent of what constitutes the Bersano portfolio: Three whites from cortese and arneis, seven sparkling wines from cortese, moscato, brachetto and pinot noir, 13 reds from barbera, grignolino, ruché, nebbiolo and dolcetto.

Related – You say you want a Barbera d’Asti revolution

Pinta Piedmontese

Of great historical interest is the presence in Bersano’s cellar of what Arturo designed and called the “10VT.” The Pinta Piedmontese was a 12.5 litre transportable for the times vessel and four Pinta could be filled from one 50L barrel, half the size found in the cellars of Marchesi di Barolo. This last historical barrel called the 10VT is now housed in the upper floors of Bersano’s Nizza property to avoid flooding. At any given time there can be 80,000L aging ion Slavonian oak casks in this cellar, “of all grandi botti sizes,” 50-60 years of age and from 47 to 107 hL. In fact, no two are the same, perhaps in shape but not in terms of volume. Only 10 per cent of all wines see barrique, they being Nizza Barbera and Barolo Cru.

Related – Barbera d’Asti Del Monferrato E Nizza Monferrato

I have had the pleasure of tasting Bersano wines on many occasions in Toronto and over the past three years I’ve done so four times in Piemonte. The first was at Collisioni Festival in 2017 and then in 2018 on several occasions with winemaker Roberto Morosinotto, namely at the Cascina San Pietro where ruché, barbera and grignolino grow in the Monferrato hills. Then in 2019 on this visit at the Cantina in Nizza and in 2020, at Nebbiolo Prima and Grandi Langhe in Alba. These are the six wines tasted in Nizza with Bersano’s Carmen Pergola and the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato’s Valerio Bertolino.

Bersano Gavi Di Gavi DOCG 2018, Piedmont, Italy ($21.19)

A fresh and sweetly herbal cortese for a smooth and balanced Gavi of straightforward execution and finesse. Relevant acidity keeps everything set up for levels most simple wines just don’t have access to be there. A very fruity vintage with a crushed almond oil extract, perfectly correct and positioned. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted December 2019 and February 2020

Bersano Barbera d’Asti DOCG Costalunga 2017, Piedmont, Italy (348680, $14.10)

Taken from four estates and without a doubt the most versatile, inexpensive and properly delineated barbera d’asti for the territory to express what needs to the world. Dark fruit, high acidity, classically trained in large Slavonian oak and just exactly what to expect. Never asks too much and delivers across the board amenability. The value is exceptional. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOCG Riserva Generala 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Approx. $52.00)

Drawn from fruit off of the Generala estate and though a recently awarded appellation there is great history in the grapes and the place. Nine months in large Slavonian cask plus nine months in 500L French tonneaux make for a very amenable barbera with a prominent personality. Big on cherries and wood spice, balsam and dried herbs. Dark and even a bit mysterious, cool, almost mentholated and structured for age. Glycerin texture and an oil extract not atypical for the get together of grape, place and elévage. Top vintage for this particular and relatively ambitious wine. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted December 2019

Bersano Nirvasco Barolo DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (713628, $34.95)

The grapes in Barolo come from three areas, Serralunga (Badarina) along with Monforte and La Morra. Aged in large Slavonian casks for three years, easily recognizable as nebbiolo, not just in hue but surely in aromatic rose to tar profile. Classic really and also dried fruits, but especially this wild strawberry note. Dry and then dried cherry, wild and free on the palate. It’s very classic, clean, crisp and easy to get with. Make great use early while other tannic nebbiolo work their way through adolescence. Winemaker Roberto Morosinotto has done all the work for you and serves it up at the right time to drink. Clean and uncomplicated. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted December 2019

Bersano Ruché Di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG San Pietro Realto 2018, Piedmont, Italy (Approx. $22.00)

Fruit is grown on the San Pietro estate to the east of Monferrato and the unmistakeable and specific cherry with cherry stone note is uncanny, not to be missed. A sandy soil with calcaire and small stones of steep slopes make for an aromatic note that stands alone. The herbal amaro play is on the sweet side and what this really wants and needs is a game bird, roasted and savoury of local herbs. You might think gamay meets frappato or somewhere in between but no, this is singular. This is the red wine for Szechuan food. Truly. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Bersano Grignolino d’Asti DOCG Valdelsalto 2018, Piedmont, Italy (Approx. $22.00)

Coming from the same estate as the ruché, meaning San Pietro in the eastern hills of Monferrato. Beautifully effusive and luminous, light in appearance and weight but do not be fooled into thinking it’s light. Castagnole is the origin and the grape is considered the wine of the family. Fresh, young and the summer wine. OK so light it is but salty, mineral, taut and complete. What else do you need? The kind of wine that never makes you tired and is utterly representative of the place. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

godello

Agnolotti del Plin, Caffe Roma – Enoteca con Cucina, Costigliole d’Asti:

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Living wine in the moment at Scarpa Winery

There are mornings when the conditions are ripe: A mind at ease, a calm and benign wind, an empty highway, a good companion. On the fifth day in Piemonte straddling the passover from November to December these were the conditions and so the first pour at Scarpa Winery was captured in full attention. Not lost in any particular thought there was a perceptible air of quiet, a quivering in the air and very, very quietly the barbera fell into the glass with the slightest burble as if the liquid whispered “shoykill, shoykill.” With very little to distract this breakfast pour had more to do with time than space. The movement was sublime, it was beauty, of time passing, for grapes in a way no longer alive drawn from vines still very much so. This ephemeral configuration of a year’s cycle for making wine encapsulated in movement and the moment. In wine this is how we must see things and live our lives, perched between what is beautiful and what has passed.

Living wine in the moment at Scarpa Winery. The idea that in life we are tracking what is gone or in the past is not lost when you consider how no other Nizza Monferrato producer both waits to release wines and also holds back library vintages for future release. No other estate will make you feel this longing, this sense of contemplation and aesthetics, of thinking about the past. A walk past the cages of older wines is the precursor but their stacks of 1982, 1987, 1990, 1995 at al are there because they will be sold to consumers who will drink them. Every other winery walk through shows old vintages as museum pieces. Not Scarpa. They live wine in the moment, irregardless of age, no matter the reason.

Andrea Roccione

My chaperone was none other than Valerio Bertolino of the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato and our hosts were Andrea Roccione, Gregorio Ferro and Riikka Sukula. The building that houses the cantina is 119 years of age with 1966 being the first year of current operative production, though there is a bottle of 1949 Barolo on site. Harvest lasts six to seven weeks, from Moscato d’Asti in late August through to Nebbiolo in mid-October. The total production is 100,000 bottles. In 2018 six further hectares were acquired which should increase production by 30,000 bottles. Most everything is macerated and fermented in steel with aging times anywhere from six months to a year. The exceptions are barbera and nebbiolo in La Bogliona, Barolo and Barbaresco. As for museum pieces, Il Filtro Sacci Olandese still hangs, a typical instrument for filtering moscato in the 1900s. The Dutch (sack) filter that looks like a set of inverted bagpipes ceased to be part of production in 1959.

Tasting, assessing and writing about Scarpa wines is exactly the kind of assignment that I believe sits at the antipodes of human understanding. I recently tasted with Andrea over three occasions: At the winery during this December visit, over lunch in Alba and at Grandi Langhe in January 2020. These are the notes on the 11 wines.

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti DOCG Casascarpa 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Approx. $22.00)

Taken from vineyards all from the Monferratto estate of 26 planted (on 50 hectares), mostly located in Asti Alessandria. The ideal amalgamation and from an ideal vintage, everything ripening in synch and all coming together in balance. The freshness comes at the three year mark and that can’t be argued. The acidity melting into high level fruit is ideal in a secular wine for the ages. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted December 2019

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti DOCG I Bricchi 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Approx. $50.00)

From the brownish clay of the single vineyard and the barbera that positions itself between the estate Casa Scarpa and the Bogliona single cru bottling. Challenging vintage with near ideal fruit and above the norm acidity. Dark fruit actually set against a sky of Asti lightning and barbera thunder. Aching for food with the highest impression of passion and feeling. Singular barbera of Asti designation and off of a very steep slope. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted December 2019

Scarpa La Selva Di Moirano 2013, Monferrato Freisa Secco DOC, Piedmont, Italy (Approx. $32.00)

Not the youngest but the best freisa currently on the market. A varietal of demanding tannin that settles after five years but won’t likely improve much further after that point. A dry and still version using a conceptual style fast fading from production. Scarpa is one of the keepers, even now from just 1.5 hectares planted. Sharp red berries and a clementine meets blood orange halfway citrus acidity. Another crazy useful gastronomic wine with a finish of zesty tonic. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted December 2019

Scarpa La Selva Di Moirano 2003, Monferrato Freisa Secco DOC, Piedmont, Italy

Freisa in dry form is not necessarily the norm and the vineyard was slightly larger than it is now (1.5 hectares) as a portion was over-grafted to barbera. This turns back the clock of freshness preservation and overturns the table so to speak and the culpability for speaking its mind to say “I can age.” This from a crazy hot vintage and if you need proof that wines from this territory can maintain acidity and freshness all you need to do is taste this 16 year-old freisa. Some dried fruit but so very notable for high tones, a salty streak and great persistence. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted December 2019

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG La Bogliona 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Approx. $80.00)

A powerful vintage widely considered as a great one and also from I Scarpese as such, from lighter, rich in magnesium sandy soils. How this translates is in a particular saltiness that compares to few others and there are many salty wines of this earth. Two years in large French cask and another two in bottle before being allowed out into the world, with ’13 being the current release. Not a Riserva so it is made in every vintage. A cru. An important and essential cru. Fruit of many ilk including dark berry, plum and cacchi. Fresh as the day it was conceived albeit with many developing complexities and more than a magnesium shake of intrigue. Grains of sand, tannin and time, all dropping slowly through the glass. Approximately 14,000 bottles are produced. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted December 2019

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG La Bogliona 1996, Piedmont, Italy (Approx. $80.00)

At 23 years you just have to launch yourself headfirst into the blood orange. That this piece of barbera wow factor happened before the year 2000 is the thing, especially because climate was very different. Rain fell often and slowly through the year, as opposed to the deluges of globally disaster-orchestrated today. Higher acidity simply speaking and this of the great lean, salty and direct-fitted pieces of barbera composure. Still fresh with dried fruits and low alcohol (at 13.0 per cent declared) but who knows which way the marketing directed labelling in those days? More than a lovely look back. Educational, instructional, cerebral and mind-bending from the lesser appreciated Piedmontese sector. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

Scarpa Rouchet 2016, Monferrato Rosso DOC, Piedmont, Italy (Approx. $56.00)

Rouchet is made from ruché grapes but cultivated outside of the production zone and so the kitschy French spelling tells the wink-wink, nudge-nudge tale. Classic varietal expression, bright and rich, very floral aromatic and the steely version here is effusive, effective and expressive. Such a promising vintage for age ability. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted December 2019

Scarpa Rouchet 2007, Monferrato Rosso DOC, Piedmont, Italy

This elderly one reveals an old school ruché with more secondary notes then either barbera or freisa show at such a stage in their age. There is tar and earthiness, wet forest and real herbology; rosemary and lavender plus a graphite note. Like old cabernet sauvignon! The wood obviously does the talking but both acidity and tannin remain sharp, pointed and full of prescient tang. This one is sadly not for sale. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Scarpa Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC Bric Du Nota 2017, Piedmont, Italy

From two parts of a 2.5 hectare vineyard just outside of Monteu Roero, the highest wine-producing village in the Roero. A soil presence of fine-grained sand for an exacting expression of Roero nebbiolo. Launches with the typically traditional Scarpa design and the exceptionality is 36 months in large Slavonian cask for a later and mellower release than many. Quite formed and refined while constantly regenerating its energy in the glass. Fine tannic refrain and purpose. As goes Scarpa, in every incantation, in every wine. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Scarpa Barbaresco DOCG Tettineive 2016, Piedmont, Italy

Tettineive is “the rooftop of Neive,” a Piedmontese dialectical reference to a small collection of hills. Grapes come direct from the town. Here is the cool, silky smooth nebbiolo in Barbaresco clothing, transparent on the road to ethereal. There is indeed a crunchy feeling in this fruit circulating inside a tension filled housing. Very solid construct and highly recommended for a 10-15 year run. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Scarpa Barolo DOCG Tettimorra 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Approx. $52.00)

Fantasy name, not a vineyard, indicating La Morra and the top of that place. The grapes are purchased though as of ’18 there will be nebbiolo coming off of owned vineyards. Rich and heady nebbiolo with an earthly construct and high acidity. Tannins are very grippy, very firm and very in control. Three years in two types of wood, large Slavonian and smaller French cask, then one year in bottle. Such a baby. Approximately 4,500 bottles are produced. Drink 2022-2029.  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

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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!

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You say you want a Barbera d’Asti revolution

Vineyards in Santo Stefano Belbo

rev·o·lu·tion /ˌrevəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n/ noun

  1. a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it
  2. an instance of revolving.

To make a revolution you have to bring about change. You need to evolve and revolve. You can’t just keep doing the same things over and over again. To take part in a revolution you have to keep an open mind and seek out the subtleties. You have to get down to what is really real. Revolution is not always fast or dramatic, in fact it’s sometimes barely audible, visible or easily noted in smell or taste. It is perceptible if you can find a way to feel it, especially when it comes down to wine.

Sometimes, there’s a grape, well, it’s the grape for the time and place. It fits right in there. That grape is barbera and the place is Asti, if more specifically in the Monferrato hills. Those hills are the source of the “Barbera Revolution” where farming and winemaking are changing the way we think about the wines of Barbera d’Asti and Monferrato. The revolution is happening now, in the late stages of the second decade of the 21st century because an epiphany is taking place. A new age of understanding, of altitude, solar radiation, heliophany and how to capture the essential tenets of phenolic ripeness and acidity. Knowledge and understanding are zeroing in on growing areas, plant phytochemisry and the sensorial characteristics of Barbera d’Asti.

Acidity is the key to barbera, just as it is with grapes of a similar ilk, grapes like sangiovese and malbec. If you would like to capture the essence of these grape varieties you have to preserve and elevate their natural acidities and you have to do so with a supporting cast of freshness, ripeness and structure. This is the crux of the new revolution in Asti. Never before have we seen farming practices and a scaling back of oak aging getting together to make sure that the grape, that barbera is given the spotlight to be the centre of attention.

Masterclass “Barbera Revolution” guided by Kerin O’Keefe and President Filippo Mobrici, Consorzio Tutela Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato.

Related – Barbera d’Asti Del Monferrato E Nizza Monferrato

Barbera d’Asti 2.0 is a scientific study that began in 2017, iniated by the Conzorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato in partnership with the Università di Torino – Disafa and supported by the Regione Piemonte. The goal of the project is to create a sensory map of the Barbera d’Asti DOCG appellation. To define the 5300 hectares of the appellation across 67 municipalities in the provinces of Asti and Alessandria. To connect the characteristics of Barbera d’Asti with the varied geological and climatic conditions of the growing areas. The research involves measuring, quantifying and qualifying precipitation, thermal excursion, soil structures, pH, phenolics, sugar and acidity. Micro-harvests and micro-vinifications have been conducted, 111 samples of DOCG wines have been collected, tested and evaluated by enologists and researchers from the University. In the end a sensory map has been created.

Well, you know
You better free you mind instead

In July of 2017 I spent a week in the hills where Barbera d’Asti grows. I returned in December of 2018 and spent another eye-opening and mind-blowing stretch of time in the varietal home. My attitude has officially evolved, changed and revolved, now resting in affirmation of consideration, to emerge with revolution firmly entrenched, personal and up close to me, of sound body and mind. It was in Canelli at Gancia Castle, at Enoteca Regionale Acqui “Terme e Vino” and Ristorante Nuovo Paradiso in Acqui Terme, at Castello di Costigliole d’Asti and the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners in Costigiole d’Asti, at Relais San Maurizio in Santo Stefano Belbo and finally, at Foro Boario di Nizza Monferrato, for the Masterclass “Barbera Revolution” guided by Kerin O’Keefe and organized by Consorzio Tutela Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato.

The following are 33 examples of barbera d’asti tasted at these events in Piemonte back in December 2018.

Araldica Castelvero Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Rive 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Acqui Terme is the source for a darker, slightly brooding and richly, almost chocolate endowed barbera. Acidity is clearly still in charge and there are more grains, chains and presently grisly tannins keeping fruit in check. Will age well but time is needed before the begin. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted December 2018  araldicavini  @araldicavini  Araldica Castelvero

Family Winery Berta Paolo 1842 Barbera d’Asti DOCG Belmon 2017, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The vintage will not always deliver what you expect so never get too complacent with barbera and always pay attention. Paolo Berta turns the plan on its head and brings freshness in the face of jammy potential in a lovely act of balance. Fruit picked on acidity while perfectly positioned at sugar plus phenolic ripeness means this got it all right. It’s a connection between forethought and development that hits the proverbial barbera nail on the head. Never-ending acidity is the fairy tale and the reason for the story. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted December 2018  vinifamigliaberta  @wineBerta  @viniberta

Family Winery Berta Paolo 1842 Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG 175 Vendmmie 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In classic Berta Paolo form there is a protective and reductive element plus untapped potential in a barbera from Nizza Monferrato that wraps itself up in layers upon layers of red fruit, white soil and blanketing richness. The terroir is truly all over this wine, in and out of every oozing red fruit pore. It’s complex in so many ways and in time will only improve its interest. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted December 2018

Bersano Barbera d’Asti DOCG Cremosina 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

“Cremisona is our history. We believe in this kind of barbera, not just about quality, because that is not enough these days. It must be recognized as barbera.” White pepper, red cherry and so young. Really peppery, tart, tight, taut and so very, very Nizza Monferrato. Place, pace, place. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted December 2018 bersano1907  profilewinegroup  @BERSANO1907  @ProfileWineGrp  @Bersanowine  Profile Wine Group

Tenuta Bricco San Gregorio Di Laiolo Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Rossomora, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Vinchio’s soil can only mean high toned, high alcohol, Amarone like grip and power. The fruit is up to the task and though we accept this as Vinchio, RossoMora and Barbera d’Asti it pulls no punches nor shies away from advanced solicitation. Screams at you and at the same time asks you to call for time. Huge wine and needing a little humility in the name of balance. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2018  tenutabriccosangiorgio  Tenuta Bricco San Giorgio

Cascina Castlet Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Passum 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Costigiole d’Asti is the source for a barbera that stands like a stick in the thick consistency of the varietal stew, with lightning bolts of acidity followed by grippy shudders of structured thunder. Such a big wine of larger than life personality with white peppery piques and properly spiced, mild dark chocolate bitterness. Will age without trepidation or any true concern. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted December 2018  cascinacastlet  @cascinacastlet  Cascina Castlèt

Coppo Barbera d’Asti DOCG L’Avvocata 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Luigi Coppo’s L’Avvocata is his fresh, come and drink me first red, clearly meant for the here and now. Dedicated to the original owner of this recently purchased vineyard, described as a tough woman, known to all as “the lawyer.” It’s quite floral and shows beautiful acidity. Effusive and rising, this is barbera as part of the shift to recognize quality at the entry level. Successful in that regard in spite of or perhaps as a result of the warmth and concentration.  Drink 2018-2019. Tasted December 2018 coppo1892  maitredechai_ca  @COPPO1892  @maitredechai  @COPPO1892  Le Maître de Chai

Luigi Coppo and Pomorosso

Coppo Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOCG Pomorosso 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $74.95, WineAlign)

If ever a vintage were going to give the Coppo Pomorosso a most sincere gift of its terroir than 2016 would be the one. In fact Luigi Coppo says uncle Roberto compares it to 1990 and he confirms the connection, if only by way of lab tests and results. The real reason is out there, in three vineyards located in Agliano Terme. “The balance was in place, even before we picked the grapes,” tells Coppo. This Pomorosso speaks young but is of course so very structured and only produced in exceptional vintages. The soil is marine sediment rich in minerals and the name is for the red apple tree on top of the hill. It’s an icon red by nature and design, with 2016 top finesse and the key to barbera’s ability of longevity. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted December 2018

Coppo Barbera d’Asti DOCG Camp du Rouss 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

Luigi Coppo’s barbera is a calcareous Castelnuovo Calcea striker with clay richness and spice brought on by some time in barrel. It’s deeply rendered into a well that pools with cherry liqueur and melted liquorice. Needs some time for the parts to mingle, match and melt into one another. A highly polished wine with plenty of possibility. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted December 2018

Franco Roero Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Sichei 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Just a huge barbera out of Montegrosso d’Asti, with acidity and grip, through the roof and got a hold on you. Volatility is certainly at the top edge of the straddled ridge but neither extraction nor concentration dip into and up over the top. It’s a matter of making what place and vintage demand, with swagger, confidence and direct messaging. Truly white limestone screaming which incidentally keeps the concentration in check. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted December 2018  franco_roero_winery  cottonwoodwineagency  @FrancoRoeroVini   @Cottonwood@franco.roero  Cottonwood Agency Wines & Spirits

Az. Agr. Garrone Evasio & Figlio Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

A different sort of deeper clay, moisture retentive for red cherry generosity and because there is a sidle into strawberry but of the drying, concentrated one. It’s a Montemagno matter, picked later and macerated to a greater degree though really fine acidity keeps it very much alive. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2018  #garroneevasioefiglio  @vinigarrone

Davide Ghiga

Azienda Agricola Ghiga Enrico Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Young Davide Ghiga’s barbera is the azienda’s normale but it’s certainly a child of selezione. Bright, fresh and tenably intense. Solid would be a good descriptor for the honesty and varietal morality exhibited by this stand up barbera. The fruit is dark in a black cherry way but it’s clearly a matter of Costigliole d’Asti terroir more than winemaking. The high tones confirm this assessment and the way in which the wine is 100 per cent a matter of fruit. So much fruit. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted December 2018  ghigaaziendaagricola   Davide Ghiga  Azienda Agricola Ghiga Fratelli

Azienda Agricola Ghiga Enrico Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The Ghiga brothers’ Superiore from Costigliole d’Asti takes the sweetness of dark and hematic fruit, gives it time in new grandi botti then sees it emerge with loads of chocolate and hyper intensity. Young is an understatement and time the declaration for development ahead of a deeper understanding. The vineyard is 22 years-old at this stage and the upside for terroir and winemaking reeks of potential. You just feel the earliest of beginnings involving a special relationship between viticulture and viniculture so we’re “gonna see what them racket boys can do.” This ’16 and coming vintages will likely turn out to be classics someday. So “put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty and meet me tonight in Atlantic City.” Ghiga, a.k.a. The Boss of barbera, based in Castiglione Tinella-Cuneo. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted December 2018

Gianni Doglia Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Genio 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Genio is Piemontese for Gianni’s grandfather “Eugenio” and these ’16 startling aromatics are like genies escaping from the bottle. Some extra altitude up to 350m in Castagnole Lanze brings an expression of solar radiated, polyphenolic aromatics that set this bold and structured barbera apart. There is a presence and a personality of energy despite the weight and the bold attack. It’s really juicy, fresh, high in acidity and just plain exciting. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted December 2018  gianni_doglia_wines  Gianni Doglia Azienda vitivinicola Gianni Doglia  Paola Doglia

Gianni Doglia Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Viti Vecchie 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Doglia’s old vines are an average of 50 years for barbera from Nizza Monferrato that travels the emotional gamut from freshness through structure and into softness. Gianni’s reminds me of 90s St. Émilion and 2000s Napa merlot but with barbera’s lightning acidity. If it is possible for a red to offer a big hug while scratching your back then this would be the one. The soils may be different than Castagnole Lanze but the treatment in the cellar is virtually the same, with small barrels and 30 per cent new. Twenty-five kilometres separate the Nizza from the Genio and here you get more texture and dark, rich chocolate. Also mint, a salty vein and very ripe cherries. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted December 2018

Gozzelino Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Ciabot d’la Mandorla 2015, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This traditional barbera is a well-pressed one from Costigliole d’Asti and spent 24 months in large (30hL) format grandi botti. Very rich, lots of chocolate, some shots of tonic and high acidity intensity. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2018   Azienda Agricola Gozzelino Sergio

Tenuta Il Falchetto Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Bricco Paradiso 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A really rich, fully fruit realized, intensely tangy, plum meets currants and pomegranate barbera with density, structure and purpose. The numbers are big and the personality boisterous but there is more than enough fruit to keep the booze and the bones from dominating. Pretty good vitality and energy within the big framework. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted December 2018  tenutailfalchetto  @ilfalchettovini  @tenutailfalchetto

With Andrea Ivaldi

Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG “1613” 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $31.78, WineAlign)

From Andrea Ivaldi comes the next and generous vintage of Nizza barbera, with an initial waft of intensity on the nose that speaks with volatility, then blows off with just a minute or two of swirl. The calcaire speaks next with lightning quickness while the black cherry spiked by anise fruit hurries to keep pace. There is great peppery presence and a keen sense of place in this Nizza, rich and fluid, ripe and full of classic barbera acidity. Understated chic and real class come forth, take a bow of humility, turn around and go back to work. Tasted again the next day and the day after that it only revealed further complexities. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted May and December 2018  andrea.ivaldi  devonmasciangelo  @ivaldidario  @vinidelmonferrato  Devon Masciangelo

You say you wanna @barberadasti revolution? Well you know, a Masterclass with 19 examples led by @kerinokeefe is a fine place to begin ~ #barberarevolution

La Caudrina Barbera d’Asti DOCG La Solista 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From Nizza Monferrato Caudrina’s is blessed of the kind of sweet fruit barbera is so capable of delivering. It’s a white lightning example though off of sandy soils but it’s so transparent, lightly tonal in high spoken voice and just bloody beautiful. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2018  #lacaudrina  @LaCaudrina

Manfredi Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The confidence oozes from this barbera and it goes to show that the delayed release is truly a matter of planning ahead rather than some sort of reactive response. Three vineyards make up the concerted assemblage and while the levels of Brett and volatility are up there with the funkier barbera they are well beneath the threshold. In that sense this is a wine of stylistic choice more than flawed or not flawed. It’s up to you to decide if the leathery cherry earthiness is up your alley but regardless the juicy nature and exquisite acidity ride up and down everyone’s preferred slope. A very expressive wine this is and if you are a fan of post-funk beats than you will find this very special. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted December 2018  manfredicantine  Manfredi Cantine

Marchesi Alfieri Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Alfiera 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

San Martino Alfieri is a calcareous limestone and clay terroir, not unusual for the territory but here there is a combination of juicy, generous fruit in a darker realm though still moderate in grip and power. This certainly takes barbera to another level and though it initiates the idea of strength it’s really quite balanced and potentially, holding cards to become magically ethereal. Just a touch overripe but really beautiful for the short to mid term. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2018  marchesialfieri  univinsetspiritueux    @UNIVINS  Marchesi Alfieri – Cantine e Locanda Univins et Spiritueux / Univins & Spirits

Marenco Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Ciresa 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The moscato d’asti specialist out of Strevi makes a plum meets sharply tangy cherry (Ciresa) barbera with high acidity and a liquid chalky texture. It’s different, harder to pinpoint and to get. It needs time, now, in the glass, and for a few years to understand its nuance and speciality. Must be Strevi. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted December 2018  marencovini  @MARENCOVINI  Marenco

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti DOCG Le Orme 2016, Piedmont, Italy (265413, $15.95, WineAlign)

The three terroir gathering is by now a barbera institution, from fruit gathered out of Castelnuovo Calcea, Montaldo Scarampi and Agliano Terme. As expected it is 2016 that becomes tbe perfect playground for an archetypal barbera made by Michele and Stefano Chiarlo. The acids are spot on in this ubiquitous bd’a, with fruit at the sparked cherry forefront as well as any in the category. Try to find better value at the price. Really, go ahead and try. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted December 2018 michelechiarlo  univinscanada  @michelechiarlo  @UNIVINS  Michele Chiarlo  @UnivinsCanada

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Le Rocchette 2016, Piedmont, Italy (434258, $32.95, WineAlign)

Though Gianni Bertolino’s is a high octane, high alcohol and high tonal Incisa Scapaccino barbera the balance here is virtually spot on, with acidity and tannin sending shots of structure like steel straws through sand, clay, limestone and concrete. So young, lightning quick and needing a pause for several years to gain flesh, texture and fruit pulp succulence. This will act just like a dried persimmon/plum/cherry fruit leather in five plus years time. Poured from magnum so do the age waiting game math. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted December 2018  tenuta_olimbauda hobbsandcompany  @tenutaolimbauda  @hobbsandco  @tenutaolimbauda.it  hobbsandcompany

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Le Rocchette 2011, Piedmont, Italy (434258, $32.95, WineAlign)

Tasting this with Gianni Bertolino he notes how ’11 is really a bridge year, between the classic ’10 and the massive ’12. At seven years on the evolution is on and the revolution begun. It has brought barbera to a new place, still possessive of high phenolics and higher acidity though with the sweetly rendered resolution of ripe red fruit. Though it seems less characteristic of the big and the brooding barbera there is firm grip in its stance. Now beginning to shed its second skin so ready and willing to reveal its honest and forthcoming nature. The probability meeting possibility is now found, not vice versa and so welcome to the best of its times. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted December 2018

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Gianni Bertolino’s Nizza ’15 is barbera at a precise axis where fruit and acidity work, meet, mix and play. They may at first get into an old time Monferrato tussle and a big time Piemontese hassle but get on the same page before too long. In fact with thanks to a generous and amenable 2015 vintage they find a quick and easy way to kiss, make-up and shake hands. On the edge of sour the message gets through, from fruit so sweet and acidity so fine. Ripeness tangles with tangy and soil drive pushes the structure too. Perfectly representative of territory, man and place. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted December 2018

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Epico 2016, Piedmont, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Plum pudding, chocolate caramel and baking spice are the barrique-influenced order in the very ripe Mombaruzzo 2016 Epico. It’s very generous, tenebrous and deep into its clay soil origins. High acids keep up the energy. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2018  picomaccario  @PicoMaccario  @PicoMaccario

Ricossa Antica Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From calcareous Nizza Monferrato – Agliano Terme soils, vinified in stainless steel only. The naked grape, cherries upon cherries and more cherries. Simplicity with no approach to any sort of crossroads where any great decisions or soul selling are required. Juicy and forward. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2018  ricossawine  selectwinemoments  @ricossawine   @SelectWinePros Ricossa Wine  Select Wines

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti DOCG Casa Scarpa 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Nizza Monferrato vineyards where Poderi Bricchi is elevated to heights between 410 and 480 meters. The youngest fruit is pulled from lower elevations (250m) for Casa Scarpa, the freshest of the estate’s barbera that sees a minimum one year in stainless steel only, followed by another in bottle before release. It’s a magnesium salty barbera, bright, tart, striking and blessed with great acidity. In your face striking, real and immediately promising. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted December 2018  scarpawine  @Scarpawines  Scarpa Wine

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti DOCG La Bogliona 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From the eestate with one foot in the Monferrato Astigiano and the other in the Monferrato Alessandrino, the fruit for La Bogliona is drawn from one of two estate cru, which along with Poderi Bricchi are the reason Scarpa exists. This 2010 has certainly advanced and is a formidable if severe combination of secondary fruit character and exceptional acidity. The maceration time was 14-16 days, followed by 30-36 months in 15 hL grandi botti of various French ages and origins. Silky pure with a note like shoe polish on leather, variegated of high quality red fruit. So alive but also so lived. Impressive and instinctive you can only imagine the things it’s been and seen. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted December 2018

Cantina Terre Artisane Barbera d’Asti DOCG Anno Domini 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From Mombercelli this small production barbera is of the old school’s high acid-driven way, with tonality shooting through the roof and to the stars. It’s ripe and light, effulgent and finishing on a note of bitters. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2018  cantinaterreastesane  Cantina Terre Astesane Mombercelli

Tojo Barbera d’Asti DOCG Delianna 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

DeliAnna exhibits more concentration, phenolics and glycerin than so many barbera, probably because the yields are one grappolo per vine, in other words, after the greening one bunch is left to mature and produce highest quality fruit. The noted sense of accomplishment is palpable, felt through the purple flower-scented and sweet red berry fruit. The chiming in of fine acidity elevates and oak is but a dream undreamt. If there is any it’s hidden with 100 per cent deception. Here folks is 21st century barbera d’asti. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted December 2018  tojo_vino  Tojo Azienda Agricola Bocchino Vittorio

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio e Vaglio Serra Barbera d’Asti DOCG Vigne Vecchie 50 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From white calcaire and sandy soils these Nizza Monferrato – Agliano Terme old vines bring depth and some acid-tannin structure not noted in the more straightforward, juicy and high acid examples. The vine age seems to tame the acids and fruit is concentrated, expressed and up front. Really long and perfectly wise, even developed for the first few years of drinking. One of the worlds wonderful cooperatives with an eye to pinpointing grape and place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2018  vinchiovaglioserra  @vinchiovaglio  @VinchioVaglioSerra

Good to go!

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Vineyards in Santo Stefano Belbo

 

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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

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