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

Across the Tanaro River to Roero

Nebbiolo, arbiter of Piedmontese taste, far from existing in a vacuum or holed up in a one horse town. Nebbiolo’s web casts complex, wide, untethered, unconfined and spread out across a connected set of earthly Albeisa vineyard constellations. The varietal lands umbrellaed and managed in trust to a multi-tasking Consorzio belong to a greater set of regions occupied by Barolo, Barbaresco, Alba, Dogliani and Roero. To follow Piemonte’s nebbiolo simply map out the wine route “di Langa e Roero,” to trace out hundreds of cru sites in dozens of communes within a territory that includes hot spots defined as Barolo DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC and Roero DOCG. For the latter orient one’s self at the village of Canale and radiate outwards to take in the world that encapsulates nebbiolo grown in zones to produce a unique set of wines. The nebbiolo from vineyards in Roero are special and they are beholden to their makers.

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

Albeisa President Marina Marcarino introduces Roero Consorzio President Francesco Monchiero

La Bottiglia Albeisa

All the nebbiolo rest in one bottle shape, the “Albeisa bottle” and rest assured all glass etched “Albeisa” contains nebbiolo grown only in these Langhe and Roero lands. It was Renato Ratti who first suggested the project seek this defining characteristic, way back in 1973. Shape, location, provenance, tradition and excellence. Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Albeisa. Recognizable for all these aforementioned reasons and a parochial prejudice in the collective attention to detail.

Roero is an area in Cuneo Province of Regione Piemonte and on the left bank of the Tanaro River, between the plain of Carmagnola and the low hills of Astigiano. Roero’s geographical parameters and topographical stretching northwards from Alba towards Torino are protected within an invisibly drawn membrane or fence enveloping a set of municipalities/villages/communes that mark its outskirts, from the southwest moving clockwise; Pocapaglia, Sommariva Perno, Baldissero d’Alba, Montaldo Roero, Monteu Roero, Santo Stefano Roero, Montà d’Alba, Canale, Priocca, Govone, Castellinaldo, Magliano Alfieri, Castagnito, Guarene, Vezza d’Alba, Piobesi d’Alba, Corneliano d’Alba, Monticello d’Alba and Santa Vittorio d’Alba. These 19 administrative entities then beget 175 recognized cru for raising Roero nebbiolo.

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

Dressed to prune ~ Lessons in Alba with the maestro, Dottore Edoardo Monticelli ~ @albeisawines #nebbioloprima2020 #guyot #nebbiolo #barbera

What’s going on, under the ground?

From a geological point of view it is quite a young land, despite resting on a very ancient crystalline base. Up until 130 million years ago it was part of the bottom of an inland sea, called the Golfo Padano. Its terrain was formed by the sedimentation of debris of various lithological origins transported by marine currents that eroded the surrounding mountains, layering them through various stages of drying up and immersion. Roero remained a shallow gulf until the Pliocene, as shown by the sandy sediments and marine clays. The emergence and formation of the Roero hills took place two to three million years ago. This drift also brought various types of soil to the surface: the deeper layers shifted uphill, whereas those more recent remained at the bottom of the valley.

After the final surfacing the soil was covered once again by sediments of alluvial and wind origin. In that period Langhe and Roero formed a single plateau with the Tanaro and the Stura in the direction Bra – Carmagnola. The great friability of this marine-origin soil led to a progressive erosion. This shift occurred between 220.000 and 150.000 years ago along the path of the Tanaro in the direction Alba – Asti, separating Langhe and Roero. The erosion of the river had a significant effect on the sandy soil of Roero, creating the Rocche, craggy mountain peaks that mark the watershed between the old and new Tanaro valley. They cut the territory from south-west to north-east, from Pocapaglia to Montà, dividing the continental gravel and fluvial clay soils from those of marine origin, providing ideal vine-growing conditions.

The formation of Roero’s geological composition sheds light on why it evolved into an important territory for nebbiolo and in particular arneis but the Consorzio’s current President Francesco Monchiero reminds us that it is quite difficult in terms of menzioni geografica, at least with respect to labelling, much more so than the geographical mentions for Barolo and Barbaresco. This complicated and complex issue is attributed to the area’s many hills and tributaries, varied soils and geological compositions. The nebbiolo from Roero is so closely related to its sabbia, sandy soils that transfer and translate in the perfume, “as violet and a certain elegance.”

At the Roero Producers’ Consortium on March 4th, 2014 a decree was published in the Official Gazette “with the objective to perform the functions of protection, advancement, promotion, consumer information and general care of the interests related to the “Roero” DOCG.” In Alba on January 21st, 2020 Monchiero makes mention of 1797, the year to which the first inventories and notebooks of the Roero are found in the historic cellars of Roero di Vezza and Guareno, speaking of “Brente di Arneis, Vigna Costa in Castagnito and “Vermout made with Arneis”. Then into the 1800s traces of Arneis are found in the writings of Gallesio, who lists it among the most typical varieties of Roero and later the Rovasenda confirm its liaison with the city of Corneliano d’Alba. Finally, the 1879 bulletins indicate that 40 per cent of the Monteu Roero vineyards are dedicated to Arneis. Today there are more than 300 consortium members made up of producers and growers, and more than 1,000 hectares of Roero Denominazione (Designation) vineyards, with a total of about 6 million bottles produced, of which more than 60% are exported. Arneis and nebbiolo are the two base grapes of the DOCG: native grapes, typical of this territory, cultivated for centuries and interpreted with great care by the Roero producers.

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila

The language of Roero

The dynamic and symbiotic relationship between a Roero winegrower to vine, winemaker to wine and nebbiolo as the conduit is actually a transference of information from one set of species to another. That is because the world, as per the words of authors we read and producers we cherish, is made of language. The links and associations are centuries old and through time it is the sampling of flavours, the charting of ripples and the passing of generational torches that ensures a ceaseless linking of knowledge. Case in point the house of Azienda Agricola Malabaila Di Canale.

The @malabaila.wines from Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila. Pas Dosé Metodo Classico seven years on lees, Roero Arneis, Favorita, Roero Nebbiolo, Barbera d”Alba and Birbét. 658 years in. Their time begins now.

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila is at the helm of Canale’s most historic estate brought into modern eminence by her father before he passed away in 2010. Though Langhe Rosato, Pas Dosè Método Classico Vino Spumante, Mosta d’Uva Parzialmente Fermentato, Dessert Brachetto, Langhe Favorita, Roero Arneis, Barbera d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba Cru and Nebbiolo d’Alba are all purposefully and successfully produced, it is the nebbiolo from estate crus that tell a most profound Malabaila story. Then there is the Malabaila connection to Austrian Esterhazy royalty but that is for another story and another time. This old vines Castelletto brings Canale into prominent nebbiolo focus to ride along with the greats of Barbaresco.

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Roero Riserva DOCG Castelletto 2015

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

The chef, the plates and the art ~ @ventuno.1 in Alba

The Roero experience is one that requires so much further investigation so here’s to hoping and planning with great intention to make a return for that very purpose. In the meantime here are 38 reviews in total covering the January of 2020 Nebbiolo Prima tastings for Roero DOCG Previews and Retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2016, 2007 and Riserva 2006.

Tags

Roero DOCG 2017 and Riserva DOCG 2016

Roero DOCG Retrospective 2006 and 2007

Michael’s Nebbiolo Prima 2020

Roero DOCG 2017

The alcohol is felt and noted with syrupy fruit and a glycerin that comes straight off the aromatic top. Here a big Vezza d’Alba nebbiolo with some Bretty volatility and true blue natural feel. Structured with grippy tannins and all of the above combine to impress even while you wonder if some will find it a bit over the top. It may be found to be heavy but there is no doubting the acumen and the potential. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Bric Castelvej Roero DOCG 2017

Slight volatility, thin and also some oxidative notes. Like cool climate pinot noir in Canale without much substance or structure. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Demure, elegance, cherry and simplicity from Baldissero d’Alba. Light and feathery, quiet and pretty. A fine, slight chalky grain to the tannic structure. Really fine drinkability. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Val Del Prete Roero DOCG 2017

The twain is accessed in a Priocca Roero nebbiolo neither light nor heavy, neither bright nor mired in darkness. A medium-bodied, somewhere between easy and very ripe so balance is the answer. Soft, pliable and yet notable tannin supports very fine acidity and blood orange fruit. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Cornarea Roero DOCG 2017

From go the feeling is bones, Canale karst intuition and structure. It is in here that nebbiolo takes on another level and layer of possibility. That said the fruit is caught between the posit poles of ripe and rustic. Very close to an exceptional wine. Just needs a bit earlier preserved acidity and passion. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

La Libera

Deltetto 1953 Roero DOCG 2017

Quite near the top of the bright factor though some warmth and weight keep this on the right side of density and extraction. Tannins are bigger and grippier than expected so really, ostensibly steal the show. Let this settle though when it does the S. Stefano Roero fruit will be tighter and drying into further floral crispness. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Enrico Serafino Roero DOCG 2017

The brightest nebbiolo from Canale Roero gives straight-shooting cherry aroma and flavour. Floral in a dried rose potpourri way with fine acidity and a liquid chalkiness though more from an almost neutral beeswax feel, rather than true blue tannin. Interesting wine that seems to come from limestone, even if it does not. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Light, bright, effusive and effulgent. Smells a bit like coffee and tobacco which is in great contrast to the transparency of hue and texture. Quite floral, intense and structured. This is serious nebbiolo from Montà and surely a harbinger for the commune in terms of its soils, abilities and wealthy forward thinking possibilities. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Malabaila Di Canale Roero DOCG 2017

Bright and effusive Canale nebbiolo with cherry transparency and notable tannins. Hovering in between beats in terms of fruit pectin substance though the keel is balanced and proper. All the parts are there and in line if just a step shy of giving away a step up dance party impression. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

A vineyard monople and 100 per cent Canale nebbiolo with sand and minerals in the soil at the top of the hill. Makes for smooth and sweet tannins. Everything about this nebbiolo is just that. Silk threaded through cashmere and there is no mistaking the origin. This is not Barolo or Barbaresco. It’s purely Roero and at the haute heights of chic and beauty. And it has a minor volatile flaw in funk that adds character and complexity. After all we wouldn’t want it to be perfect. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Mario Costa Roero DOCG 2017

Ripe and very developed fruit, a touch of figgy raisin character. Feel the sandy Canale soil and the development then takes over completely. Drink 2020.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Marsaglia Roero DOCG 2017

Darker hued and ripe beyond so many, this is the nebbiolo from Roero to entice, induce and seduce with its inviting and substantial fleshiness. Also tannic with a late arriving bitter-sour edging that suggests a heavier pressing and bigger ambition. Chewy and filling with plenty of weight, almost to the precipice of warmth and distraction. From Castellinaldo. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Some great initial interest on this Roero nebbiolo nose, distinctly violet floral mixed with a waft of fresh tobacco. You note the wood here, lightly vanilla, mildly spiced and a touch of sandalwood coming in late. Right proper structure and Canale possibilities intact. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Rabino F.Lli Di Rabino Andrea Roero DOCG 2017

A nearly searing S. Vittoria d’Alba nebbiolo with a dried fruit quality and quite demanding tannins. Notably woody and the seeds of tannic thrush take over to render the fruit almost sterile and unavailable. Hard to see it returning, like overtly demanding Gattinara. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Osteria dei Sognatori

Roero Riserva DOCG 2016

Bric Castelvej Roero Riserva DOCG Selezione Panera Alta 2016

A higher toned and also ripe 2016 Canale Riserva for nebbiolo that makes one think of North American pinot noir. The strawberry is nearly candied (west coast) and there’s an evergreen note (eastern cool climate) so the juxtaposition is a candid one. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Spiked juiced is this aromatic Montà nebbiolo, he of sharp acids and grippy tannin. Not the morbido and supple Roero Riserva that many are and so many others aspire to be but when you encounter such structure you just know the soils are responsible. You also figure the winemaker made the wine that had to be made. This will be very long lived. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Ca Rossa Roero Riserva DOCG Mompissano 2016

Cool and just hinting at a mentholated note in a very transparent Canale nebbiolo. The barrel is clearly a factor and melted nicely in for good integration and balance. Makes for a sweet fruit profile and perfectly great ubiquitous Roero Riserva. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Chicco Roero Riserva DOCG Valmaggiore 2016

Here Vezza d’Alba Roero Riserva does nebbiolo less like the side of the river where it resides and more like Barbaresco. That may sound like a good idea but the resemblance is not one in a mirror but instead a look that tries a bit too hard. Well made but out of context and place. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Quiet if cool and savoury to the edge of verdancy. Nebbiolo from Roero can go this route, delicate when chilled and refreshing even while in Castellinaldo Riserva form. Warming the glass releases the volatile notes in a what is ostensibly a cool-climate condition. This drinks like frappato meeting cabernet franc and that’s a delicious combination with the added specificity of a cru named Serra Zoanni. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Lanzarotti Roero Riserva DOCG Carlinot 2016

So much vanilla emits from this wooden ship of a Canale nebbiolo for Roero Riserva. Cool palate feels go herbal and then the vanilla continues to creep. One-dimensional nebbiolo. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Deltetto 1953 Roero Riserva DOCG Braja 2016

High level example of chic style and prominent wood clothing. Smooth and in the vanilla, not to mention so much spice. Tannic structure ruins through every pore. Big nebbiolo from S. Stefano Roero and Braja cru. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Filippo Gallino Roero Riserva DOCG Sorano 2016

Lovely excess of volatility and ripeness matched by verdancy for Roero Riserva of dedication to tradition. The intensity of the Canale-Sorano fruit-acid compendium is a bit strained and forced. Has worked very hard and the time is now to drink up. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Lorenzo Negro Roero Riserva DOCG S. Francesco 2016

A bright red and white lighting nebbiolo from Monteu Roero here speaks to younger vines and sandier soils. Bright red fruit is less Riserva and more Annata with sharp and tang-riddled acidity. Prominent food wine with some wood spice and warmth at the finish. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Earthy and wild fruit aromatic Canale nebbiolo with a real case of the reds and the blues. The guess of Vigna Renesio would be blue clay soil in this particular case as per the way it wells with curiosity. Lots of barrel influence but the bones are supported by a chalkiness that is just starting to liquify, though several years will allow for a slow recline. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Proper emittance, high-toned and regaling, going in many directions, mostly to culminate at a vortex where complexity lives. Rich and vigorous Pinti cru nebbiolo in Canale, complicit with all parts, fruit very much alive and texture rampant in waves and variegation. Top example of Riserva and not yet at the peak. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted January 2020

Simple, light, airy and delicate Sudisfà Roero of lovely disposition, namely finesse. Such integration and seamlessness is to be lauded, not to mention how drinkable and pleasurable it truly is. Not the most structured (though it is blessed with enough) but that matters little when all other parts do so much to please. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Pace Roero Riserva DOCG 2016

On the light and delicate Canale side, even for Roero Riserva with a full compliment of barrel incline while the wine already shows signs of decline. It’s quiet and lovely but no stuffing remains. Just some spice and soaked woody notes. Drink 2020.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Pelassa Roero Riserva DOCG Antaniolo 2016

Tones set to high and wood bringing things back down in a topsy-turvy example that wafts so much creamy vanilla. Just too much wood and very little integration, not to mention a hot finish. From Montà. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Ponchione Maurizio Roero DOCG 2017

Oxidative and nearly prune in aromas. Spice and blood orange, quite astringent. Expressive from hard pressing and replete with green tannins. From Govone. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Porello Marco Roero Riserva DOCG San Michele 2016

Elegantly soft Canale nebbiolo in Riserva clothing from the San Michele cru for Roero with little effort needed to find prime and simple joy while needing little to no structure in the mix. At least from this point going forward. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Trees of Cherasco, Piemonte

Renato Buganza Radici E Filari Roero Riserva DOCG 2016

Fromm Guarene, a simplified nebbiolo with no shortage of red and ropey fruit at peak sugar ripeness unmatched by phenolics just a touch short. Makes for high acid, tart and taut tannins with a green edge. Drink 2020-2021.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Taliano Michele Roero Riserva DOCG Roche Dra Bossora 2016

Lots going on from the top with a multifarious aromatic Montà drift. Tons of red fruit, a spike of volatility and a touch of Brettanomyces. Plenty of palate flavour and texture, finishing with a creamy if cool pool created by the time in wood. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Valdinera Roero Riserva DOCG San Carlo 2016

From Corneliano d’Alba and one of the ripest examples at the height of sweet strawberry. Almost all and only about fruit with very little barrel influence though the tannins are a bit astringent. Close but just a bit tightly pressed and wound. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Roero DOCG 2007 and Riserva DOCG 2006

Filippo Gallino Roero DOCG 2007

Near tertiary 13 year-old Roero nebbiolo from Canale with a lovely disposition and acidity that will not and perhaps never relent. Showing beautifully and with sweet fruit still intact. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Chicco Roero Riserva DOCG Valmaggiore 2006

Perhaps the richest of the retrospective Roero nebbioli is this from Cascina Chicco in Vezza d’Alba, all wood, chocolate, high acids and crunchy spice. A very oaky wine with plenty of drive that will not relent as a result of its strong-willed ambition. Wow, apropos for the Valmaggiore moniker. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Lorenzo Negro Roero Riserva DOCG S. Francesco 2006

Was a deeper, richer and riper nebbiolo from Monteu Roero-Roero for sure so now it has really rendered and deepened to wet earth. Still full of acidity and the trend is starting to appear with the obviousness of the grape-place-age relationship. Serious if pressing S. Francesco stuff here from Negro Lorenzo. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Monchiero Carbone Roero Riserva DOCG Printi 2006

Quite advanced and deservedly so for Roero nebbiolo with yet another look at the aging capabilities from the lesser appreciated Canale lands. Acids are quite striking here and the tannins surprisingly alive. Everything is. That’s nothing short of remarkable and surely far from lactic, Good site this Printi. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Taliano Michele Roero Riserva DOCG Roche Dra Bossora 2006

Taliano’s Montà nebbiolo is really showing its age and missing the classic Roero acidity. Actually comes through late along with the really drying tannins. Fruit vacated house a while back. Drink 2020.  Tasted January 2020

Good to go!

godello

Across the Tanaro River to Roero

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

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

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

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

Guido Bezzo and the Asti lab crew

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

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

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

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

Teatro Alfieri, Asti

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

Laboritorio Analisi for the Tutela dell’Asti DOCG

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

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

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

With Andrea Costa, Vini Marenco

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

Étretat – Claude Monet, Palazzo Mazzetti

These are the disciplinare for the three appellation wines:

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

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

Blind Tasting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tasting next door to Monet

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

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

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

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

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

Lorenzo Gozzelino and Silviana Ignat

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

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

Gozzelino Moscato Passito DOC Piemonte 2012, Piedmont, Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fontanafredda Asti DOCG 2018, Piedmont, Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrea Costa and Laura Kaminsky, Vini Marenco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the Martini Boys

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

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

Good to go!

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