Yearning for the Langhe

Godello in Cherasco

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

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

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

Grandi Langhe 2020

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

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

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

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

Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC

Diego Morra Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC 2016

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

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

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

Mauro Sebaste Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC Parigi 2017

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

Nebbiolo Langhe DOC

Elvio Cogno Nebbiolo Langhe DOC Montegrilli’ 2018

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

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

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

Bollito Misto, Sinio

Azienda Agricola Taverna Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2018

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

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

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

Osteria dei Sognotori, Alba

Barolo DOCG

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Pichemej 2015

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

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Bussia 2015

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

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Baudana 2015

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

Simone Ortale and Giuliana Drocco, Cascina Adelaide

Cascina Adelaide Barolo Riserva DOCG “Per Elen” 2014

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

Cascina Boschetti Barolo DOCG Gomba 2015

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

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2015

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

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2012

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

Crudo – La Libera, Alba

Diego Morra Barolo DOCG 2015

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

Diego Morra Barolo DCOG Monvigliero 2015

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

Elvio Cogno Barolo DOCG Bricco Pernice 2015

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

With Valter Fissore

Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera DOCG Vigna Elena 2014

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

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

Mauro Sebaste Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2015

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

Mauro Sebaste Barolo Riserva DOCG Ghè 2014

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

Palladino Barolo Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba DOCG 2016

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

Palladino Barolo Riserva DOCG San Bernardo 2013

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

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

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

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

Cherasco

Barbaresco DOCG

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

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

Barbera d’Alba DOCG

Cascina Adelaide Vigna Preda Barbera d’Alba 2016

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

Cascina Adelaide Barbera D’alba Superiore Docg Amabilin 2016

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

Diego Morra Barbera d’Alba DOCG 2016

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

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Bricco Dei Merli 2017

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

The view from Elvio Cogno

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Pre Phylloxera 2018

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

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera d’Alba DOC Giardono 2018

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

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera D’alba DOC Mezzavilla 2015

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

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

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

Mauro Sebaste Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Centobricchi 2016

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

Palladino Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Bricco delle Olive 2017

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

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbera d’Alba DOC 2018

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

Verduno Pelaverga DOC

Diego Morra Pelaverga DOC 2018

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

Vino Rosso

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Donna Costanza Cardunaj Vino Rosso 2017

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

Método Classico Vino Spumante Di Qualita

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

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

Langhe Rosato DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Rosato DOC 2018

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

Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC

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

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

Le Strette Nas-cëtta Langhe DOC Pasinot 2018

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

Langhe Favorita DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Favorita DOC Donna Costanza 2018

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

Roero Arneis DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Roero Arneis DOC Pradaj 2018

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

Birbét

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Birbét Donna Costanza 2018

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

Good to go!

godello

Godello in Cherasco

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WineAlign

Twenty mind-blowing wines of 2020

Related – Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

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

Related – Eighteen mind-blowing wines of 2018

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

Campo Spritz

Related – Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

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

Related – 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

Slipped outta Dodge under the cover of darkness…

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

The Heldeberg from Stellenbosch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

El Esteco

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the brothers Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli

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

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

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

Vineyard at Salicutti

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

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

Francesco Ripaccioli

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

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

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse

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

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

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila

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

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

Elena Sottimano

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

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

With Francesca Vaira

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

godello

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WineAlign

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

Flying in to Pi-e-mon-te

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

Marina Marcarino introduces Nebbiolo Prima 2020

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

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

Mauro Buonocore

Trusting Science

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

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

Mauro Buonocore, CMCC

2020 Findings

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

What to make of Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

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

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

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

Barbaresco at Hotel I Castelli, Alba

Barbaresco DOCG 2017 (59 reviews)

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

Ada Nada Barbaresco DOCG Valeirano 2017

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

Adriano Marco E Vittorio DOCG Barbaresco 2017

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

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

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

Albino Rocca Barbaresco DOCG Montersino 2017

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

Albino Rocca Ronchi Barbaresco DOCG 2017 ($75.75)

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

Alessandro Rivetto Barbaresco DOCG Montersino 2017

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

Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa Barbaresco Tettineive DOCG 2017

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

Antichi Poderi Dei Gallina Barbaresco DOCG Gallina 2017

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

Bera Barbaresco DOCG Serraboella 2017

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

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

Gran Bollito alla Piemontese, Ristorante Luna, Sinio

Briccogrilli Battaglio Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

Ca’ Del Baio Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

Ca’ Del Baio Barbaresco DOCG Vallegrande 2017

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

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

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

Cascina Luisin Barbaresco DOCG Rabajà 2017

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

Cascina Morassino Barbaresco DOCG 2017 ($58.62)

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

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

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

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

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

Collina Serragrilli Barbaresco DOCG Serragrilli 2017 ($45.00)

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

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

Figli Luigi Oddero Barbaresco DOCG Rombone 2017

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

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

Grasso Fratelli Barbaresco DOCG Vallegrande 2017

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

Icardi Barbaresco DOCG Starderi 2017 ($78.00)

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

Pasta heaven in Alba

Il Bricco Barbaresco DOCG Bricco Di Treiso 2017

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

La Ganghija Di Enzo Rapalino Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

La Ganghija Di Enzo Rapalino Barbaresco DOCG Giacosa 2017

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

Mainerdo F.Lli Barbaresco DOCG Roccalini 2017

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

Manera Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

Masseria Barbaresco DOCG Montersino 2017

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

Massimo Rivetti Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

Moccagatta Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

Molino Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

Montaribaldi Barbaresco DOCG Montaribaldi 2017

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

Musso Di Musso Barbaresco DOCG Rio Sordo 2017

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

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

Mustela Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

Nada Giuseppe Casot Barbaresco DOCG 2017 ($33.25)

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

Ristorante La Libera, Alba

Negro Giuseppe Barbaresco DOCG Gallina 2017

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

Orlando Abrigo Meruzzano Barbaresco DOCG 2017 ($42.95)

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

Paitin Barbaresco DOCG Sorì Paitin Serraboella 2017

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

Pasquale Pelissero Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

Pelissero Pasquale Barbaresco DOCG San Giuliano 2017

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

Pertinace Barbaresco DOCG Marcarini 2017

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

Pertinace Barbaresco DOCG Nervo 2017 ($59.95)

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

Pietro Rinaldi San Cristoforo Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

Poderi Colla Roncaglie Barbaresco 2017 ($50.00)

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

Rattalino Massimo Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

Rizzi Barbaresco DOCG Pajoré 2017 ($42.95)

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

Roberto Sarotto Barbaresco DOCG Gaia Principe 2017 ($43.00)

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

Socré Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

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

Taverna Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

Tenuta Baràc Barbaresco DOCG Rocche Massalupo 2017

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

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

Barbaresco DOCG 2016 (2 reviews)

Sottimano Barbaresco DOCG Basarin 2016

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

Taverna Barbaresco DOCG 2016

Comes from one vineyard at the top part of the hill, Gaia Principe it’s called, one of four that make Barbaresco in the MGA (menzioni geografiche aggiuntive). Quick maceration, only seven days, not very Piedmontese and because the house tradition is to make wines to drink and drink now. A very fresh nebbiolo, sweetly perfumed, clear, pure and precise. Drink this most days. No good reason not to. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Marina Marcarino

Barbaresco Riserva DOCG 2015 (15 reviews)

Briccogrilli Battaglio Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Serragrilli 2015

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

Cantina Del Nebbiolo Barbaresco Riserva DOCG 2015

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

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

Francone Barbaresco Riserva DOCG 2015

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

La Bioca Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Secondine 2015

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

Marchesi Di Barolo Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Rio Sordo 2015

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

Tajarin, Osteria dei Sognatori, Alba

Massimo Rivetti Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Cerebella 2015

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

Molino Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Ausario 2015

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

Nada Giuseppe Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Casot 2015

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

Piazzo Comm. Armando Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Nervo 2015

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

Prinsi Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Fausoni 2015

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

Produttori Del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva DOCG Muncagota 2015

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

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

Punset Barbaresco Riserva DOCG San Cristoforo 2015

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

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

Masseria’s Alessandro Giordano and Gurvinder Bhatia

Retrospective Barbaresco DOCG 2007 ++ (15 reviews)

Masseria Barbaresco DOCG Montersino 2015

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

Pertinace Barbaresco DOCG Nervo 2009

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

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

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

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

Cascina Luisin Barbaresco DOCG Rabajà 2007

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

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

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

Cortese Giuseppe Barbaresco DOCG Rabajà 2007 ($46.95)

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

Paitin Barbaresco DOCG Sorì Paitin Serraboella 2007

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

Pelissero Pasquale Barbaresco DOCG Bricco San Giuliano 2007

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

Pelissero Barbaresco DOCG Nubiola 2007 ($45.95)

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

Poderi Colla Roncaglie Barbaresco DOCG 2007 ($50.00)

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

Produttori Dei Barbaresco Barbaresco DOCG 2007 ($41.95)

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

Punset Barbaresco DOCG 2007 ($55.95)

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

Rizzi Barbaresco DOCG Pajoré 2007

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

Socrè Barbaresco DOCG Roncaglie 2007 ($50.00)

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

Punset Barbaresco DOCG Campo Quadro Riserva 2005 ($71.95)

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

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

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

Good to go!

godello

Flying in to Pi-e-mon-te

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WineAlign

Eighteen mind-blowing wines of 2018

Godello, Museo civico e diocesano d’arte sacra di Montalcino

Welcome to Godello’s annual list of the most memorable, game-changing and mind-altering moments, also known as his 18 mind-blowing wines of 2018. Godello started this year-end assessment first in 2012 though first blessed the list with the moniker for the 14 mind-blowing wines of 2014. Whether it’s the fifth or the seventh incarnation matters little to negligible because in the end it’s all about the who, what and where.

Related – Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

With thanks to the winemakers, friends, colleagues and pirates I welcome you to read on. Godello’s 18 mind-blowing wines of 2018.

Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Blanc De Blancs Vintage Brut Champagne 2006, Champagne, France (55277, $205.95, WineAlign)

Rarities are special for many reasons but in the case of the Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs it’s a matter of chardonnay incarnate. Some details must be kept in the pocket of assessment. Only exceptional vintages lead to its production, fruit is drawn from the finest Côte des Blancs parcels of chardonnay and only the first press juice is used. So what? So the gathering might lead one to think of words like purity, elegance, refinement, finesse and delicasse. In actuality there is the finest wisp of smoke and smoulder, a bite from a perfectly ripe apple and the zen golden taste of honeyed Japanese toast. Who could not be overjoyed to zen out with the Comtes B de B, anytime, anywhere. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted January 2018  champagnetaittinger  fwmcan  champagne_officiel  @TaittingerUK  @FWMCan  @Champagne_UK  Champagne Taittinger  @FWMCan

Dr. H. Thanisch Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2014, Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (298182, $40.95, WineAlign)

In a word, thank you, well two, to say how important, generous, fortuitous, philanthropic and poignant it is to taste Spätlese from this combination of producer, vineyard and alcohol. At 7.5 per cent proper and out of arrested necessity the frame on which the ultra-clean fruit and fineness of acidity hang is kevlar light and built to last. The poise and integrity in exhibition toasts lithely from stones warmed and earth cooled by night through excitable seasonal fluctuations. If this does not soothe the savage while wooing the unaware then few German rieslings will. This can’t be missed nor will it pass lips without eliciting a response set passionately in the ethereal and the sublime. Amazing. Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted April 2018  #braunebergerjuffer  awsmwest  germanwine_ca    @AuthenticWineON   @germanwineca  #braunebergerjuffer  @awsmon  @germanwinecanada

Into the South African mystic ~ A formidable line-up led by @mullineuxwines with thanks to Chris, LK @WOSACanada JG @lbstoronto @wosa_za @NicholasPearce_

Mullineux Schist Chenin Blanc 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $89.95, WineAlign)

Mullineux’s Schist is a 100-120 case production (though only 72 in 2014), from schist, of course, not granite, which adds mid-palate weight and texture. Also from older (36 and 40 years) vines based from soils of the Kasteelberg. It’s a heartfelt message and cerebral pulling string from the 2014 density gifting vintage. Older barrels wrap like a blanket for fruit richer than you’d ever imagine, full-bodied, beautiful and robed in petticoat unction. It’s also dry as the farmland desert. Truly one of the finest chenin blancs from South Africa and beyond. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted May 2018  mullineuxwines  nicholaspearcewines  wosa_ca  @MullineuxWines   @Nicholaspearce_   @MullineuxWines  @WOSACanada  Andrea Mullineux  Chris Mullineux  Nicholas Pearce  @WOSACA

How to have an epiphany. Taste 25-30 year-old #southafrican white wines. Case in point @kleinconstantia sauvignon blanc

Klein Constantia Blanc De Blanc 1987, Constantia, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Poured by Managing Director Hans Astrom in Cape Town alongside 1994 and 2009. Planted in 1979, the inaugural vintage and the first South African sauvignon blanc was 1986. The 1987 was not labelled as sauvignon blanc but rather as B de B because of the botrytis-affected vintage. Honeyed but not in the way you might expect, not pushed by a petrol-fuelled sweetness but instead as the action of an old world inspired mash up. Like Loire Jolivet Sancerre meeting Huet Demi-Sec chenin blanc head on. The collision explodes into a smoky smoulder with textural consequences. It’s a bees-waxy ethereal treading of chaotic spaces between worlds. The astral travel must have twisted through three decades of nether to arrive at this place, with the low pH vineyard soils to thank. And the magic, despite or perhaps in ode to the ’87 botrytis. In the end aridity wins and the wine drinks so proper, perfect and fine. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018  kleinconstantia  halpernwine  wosa_za  @KleinConstantia  @HalpernWine  @hansverbier  @WOSA_ZA  @KleinConstantia  @halpernwine

Alheit Vineyards Sémillon La Colline Vineyard 2017, Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” From a vineyard housing both light and dark skinned sémillon and if there are others in this world I am not privy to the information. The resulting wine is 85-90 per cent blanc and 10-15 gris. La Colline was planted in 1936 on the southern slope of Dassenberg and is now farmed by grandson Anton Roux, a direct descendant of the Huguenot refugee Paul Roux who arrived in Franschhoek in 1688. The vines stretch up the hill from 310-350m and it is the fruit from the middle slope that is best to leave for picking long after the chenin blanc. This is the indispensable fruit used in Alheit’s Cartology. Thick skins elevate the natural talking tendencies, from a super healthy pH for drupe of apposite attack and confusing like great whites you would not or should not compare it to. Chris Alheit’s invades your head’s consciousness with this amazing depth for sémillon, with no definable context, pretence or precedent. The impossibility is totally unique in the world and yet utterly South African. It’s both tense and nervous but somehow I can still relax. Psycho Killer sémillon.  Drink 2020-2028. Tasted September 2018  chrisalheit  gsoleil123  @ChrisAlheit  @GroupeSoleilTO  Chris Alheit  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Chablis Grand Cru can be found in the commune of Chablis on the right bank of the Serein River and the appellation comprises seven climats; Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur, and Vaudésir. “The terroirs, formed in the Upper Jurassic era, 150 million years ago, are composed of limestone and marl with Exogyra virgula, tiny oyster fossils. Chablis Grand Cru is one of the rare French AOC wines to make reference to its geology, notably the Kimmeridgean age.”

Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru AOC Les Clos 2015, Bourgogne, France (Agent, $82.00, WineAlign)

Who has not waited for the sovereign Grand Cru to get together with the 2015 vintage? I’m quite sure Christian Moreau was one of those who looked at the alliance with all his acumen and experience to craft a high point of Chablis benevolence. Christian’s ’15 is beautifully fruity, ultra fresh, richly endowed and reductive perforce. So young and precocious but begging for our patience, his is a model of Les Clos richesse. Resides on the cocotte or chouette side of Chablis with notes of white flowers and fresh herbs. Also layered of fruit over stone upon fruit, of peach, persimmon, citrus and wet stone. Implosive intensity reminds of Chablis Grand Cru structure though Moreau’s is more elastic than many, of a subtle and sultry liquidity. Great potential here. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted May 2018  @christian_moreau_pere_et_fils  rogersandcompanywines  vinsdechablis  vinsdebourgogne  @ChristianMoreau  @rogcowines   @vinsdechablis  @GrandCruChablis  @purechablis  @VinsdeBourgogne  @BourgogneWines  Christian Moreau  @rogcowines

Makers’ cool pinot noir warmth from regional @wineaustralia as explained by the man, @vintagemarkdavo

Bindi Pinot Noir Dixon 2015, Macedon Ranges, Victoria, Australia (Winery, $85.00, WineAlign)

The Bindi Dixon Pinot Noir is based upon declassified grapes from the Original Vineyard planted in 1988 and grapes from the new Block K, planted in 2001. Crazy horse nose in the way that other varieties of the world will do, or at least try and simulate when they want to be pinot noir. Especially Italian varieties, like nerello mascalese, dolcetto, perricone and montepulciano. This is a natural leader for grape wishes like those of the lesser known. Very wise from the start, from birth, from creation with more savour and salumi then so many wannabe realists. There is a beautiful raw pasta dough note and then an exotica by fruit that isn’t really nameable. If this is the de-class from Michael Dhillon I’d like to meet the classified. Drink 2020-2028.   Tasted June 2018  bindiwines  wineaustralia  @Bindiwines  @wine_australia  @WineAustralia

50 years ago this #chianticlassico entered the world. Suffices to say 1968 was a pretty good year ~ @castellomonsanto

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Poggio 1968, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

“A good, not an outstanding vintage, with some vines affected by botrytis,” explains Laura Bianchi, though truth be told she’s relating the information from stories and legends. You can taste it, in a sweetness that reminds of quince and apricot. Plums are dusted with white pepper, sherry drizzles over sugar plums and in the end, acidity continues to shine. It’s still a dramatic drop of sangiovese, with longevity preservation going back to the era (1962-1969) when the wines were aged in chestnut barrels. This at 50 years of age is so alive, time encapsulated, dew sweetened, ethereal. Drink 2018.  Tasted September 2018  castellomonsanto  @castelmonsanto   @castello.dimonsanto  Laura Bianchi  Carpe Vinum  

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1987, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Riserva 1987 is habituated and living life to the fullest in a state of complete and utter sound body and mind. It is sangiovese made at a time when it could it not have been known how impressive it would show 30 years later. Volpaia ’87 is from way back in the cold, pre-climate change days, the acid-washed, roaring 80s, now umami-earthy, cherry-plum fruit with some celery and a real salty-sandstone vein. Still blessed by a healthy, rhythmic pulse of acidity and finally, pure pleasure. Chalk it to bottle luck or a vintage that just had an inkling of greatness that would surely come but this is truly a special and memorable moment to taste. It needs saying with a thank you in words to Giovannella Stianti for sharing, but that will never be enough. Grazie infinite. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  castellodivolpaia  rogersandcompanywines  chianticlassico  @volpaia  @rogcowines   @chianticlassico  @volpaia  @rogcowines  @ChiantiClassicoUSA

Elisabetta Foradori

Foradori Granato 2013, IGT Vigneti Delle Dolomiti, Trentino, Italy (Agent, $74.95, WineAlign)

At the pinnacle of Elisabetta and Emilio Foradori’s mysterio teroldego pyramid is this Granato, theoretically or perhaps spiritually interchangeable with the world’s most fascinating and complex fruit, the pomegranate. There are many theories on separating the edible seeds from the pith and skin but those who know do it the right way. Foradori knows teroldego and raises this singular expression the right way. The roots dig deep into the Campo Rotaliano and Mezzolombardo stony alluvial soils with pebbles and gravel for an alternative-indie northern Italian red wine. Raised in large 20 and 30hL casks it’s still reductive, seriously internal and yet to shed layers, open up and externalize. The red fruit is alone and incredible, sweet and tonic-amended at the same time. It’s both retro and timeless. “And the world fell down, when the moon was blue, and you wore a crown and the word was true.” Like a pomegranate. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  eforadori  thelivingvine  @AzAgrForadori  @TheLivingVine  @elisabettaforadori  @thelivingvineinc

Benvenuto Brunello

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $120.00, WineAlign)

Two of the 20 estate hectares in Castelnuovo dell’Abate are dedicated to the the vineyard Paretaio, planted to a sangiovese clone selected by Pierluigi Talenti. Pian di Conte is only made in years deemed worthy of carefully selected grapes from 20-plus year-old vines out of this highly specific, 400m of altitude micro-climate block. It’s a wow Riserva from 2012, perfumed with classic extra time in barrel that Annata Brunello only seems to reach. Notes like dark berries, pipe smoulder and rich ganache, the 2012 is already showing some maturity signs of integration. It’s a fineness of tart dark citrus styled-sangiovese wrapped so tightly around the structure’s finger, indelibly inked, modern and with all parts fine-tuned in synchronicity. Riservas will often sting until they pass at least a ten-year mark but Talenti’s croons romantically with stand-up base note ease. For Montalcino it’s a hit of the vintage and to it I can safely say “I can see the destiny you sold turned into a shining band of gold.” Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted March 2018  talentiriccardo  brixandmortarwineco  brunellodimontalcino  @brixandmortar  @ConsBrunello  Riccardo Talenti  @brixandmortarwineco  BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO

Feudo Montoni Nero D’avola Sicilia DOC Vrucara 2008, Sicily, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The answers are so simple and yet unanswered because magic is involved. You can understand the old vines and the way their fruit turns into wines that begin with ancient wisdom but move so little in the first seven years. What happens at 10 is the turning outward, to express the place and speak the dialect of the cru. The acidity is still high but is now in lift, with fruit at the height and en anergy that flows, really flows, moving across your palate with grace, grab and attention. A contiguous wine from start to finish, with intensity, impression and precision. The structure is come cavallo domato, like a trained horse. Dramatic nd’A but with no drama at all. Tamed and in respect of ancient vine, where it grows and what it wants to give. Ma zitto, a wine to keep you silent. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  wineofsiciliadoc  winesofsicily  @FABIOSIRECI  @WinesOfSicily Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni  @WinesOfSicily

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 DOCG Cottà 2010, Piedmont, 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  az.agr.sottimano ElenaSottimano  @AzAgrSottimano  @LeSommelierWine  @AziendaAgricolaSottimano  Elena Sottimano  @LeSommelierWine<

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 2001, Rioja, Spain (Agent, $65.00, WineAlign)

I am convinced the Reserva 904 is just one of those wines that must be held for 15 years before any deep understanding can be resolved. It beats down the adage that says if the fruit is not gorgeous from the beginning it will never be. At 17 years of age this Rioja of 90 per cent tempranillo and graciano remembers with a hyper-sensitive vividness the 40 year-old vines and the four year-old American oak barrels. The memories are crystal clear and it remembers the comfort, protection, protraction and the possibilities. The power is edifying, stabilizing and eventually but without great haste, emollient. La Rioja Alta has produced the 21st century purpose for what it is to mean Rioja. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted June 2018  lariojaaltasa  riojawine_es  @LaRiojaAltaSA  @RiojaWine  La Rioja Alta  

And @winealign we tasted the greatest of #madiran terroir with the Man himself, #alainbrumont of @montusbouscasse

Château Montus La Tyre 2009, Madiran, Southwest, France (Agent, $135.27, WineAlign)

La Tyre, literally “the tire” is the pinnacle of Alain Brumont’s tannat from Madiran. It’s a wine that needs a decade to even begin to relent and open up for viewing, nosing and tasting. Pitchy to the nth cimmerian degree it would be hard not to see this wine as THE Madiran, the epitome of a red wine from Gascogne. The nose is über-umami and in fact in character it reminds so much more of Brunello Riserva meets sagrantino from Montefalco combined with Taurasi aglianico than it does Bordeaux. Not that Toscana, Umbria or Campania are the reference points but old school meets micro-oxidative winemaking surely is. The formidable acidity and the way in which the expense of barriques inject major influence is similar to what happens when sangiovese is subjected to said same sort of winemaking. The underbrush, garrigue and intensely concentrated argileux all combine, along with toasted wood to make this one of the most intense and structured red wines on the planet. Should seek and realize its best at some point in its late teens or early twenties. Drink 2025-2039.  Tasted October 2018  vinsdemadiran  montusbouscasse  markanthonyon  @MontusBouscasse  @MarkAnthonyWine  Marine Madiran  @MontusBouscasse  @MarkAnthonyWine

Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard Malbec River Stones 2015, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (132340, $95.59, WineAlign)

In a line up that includes malbec from all walks of Mendoza life as well as some extreme altitude northern examples this is the first wine with a somewhat reductive quality, locked in freshness and very high acidity. It’s a wine of exceptional qualities. There is a highly intellectual and sensory balance executed through perfectly ripe fruit, that fine acidity and even more fineness in tannins. A beautifully linear wine that can come full circle if need be. This is a malbec that creates moisture in your mouth, never drying or taking anything away. A wine that is changing the way we are dealing with the idea of different terroirs in Argentina. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2018  lauracatenamd  catenawines  winesofarg  noble_estates  @LauraCatena   @CatenaMalbec  @ArgentinaWineCA  @Noble_Estates  @winesofarg  @bodegacatenazapata  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits  @winesofargentina

Roche De Bellene Clos De La Roche Grand Cru “Collection Bellenum” 2006, AC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $279.95, WineAlign)

The great Cru and the magnificent vintage conspiracy is a tour de force, even by the standards of Grand Bourgogne. I’m a bit surprised by the ascension to secondary life but it is Clos de la Roche that goes there early because of wisdom, curative indiscretion and life as it always was, right from the word character. Only this Cru delivers such soulful funk, perfectly classified and ethereal volatility and fully gathered expressions. It’s like a face that flashes a thousand looks in the span of a few seconds, there is that much going on. I am blown away by this. Still needs another year to settle, gather and explain itself. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted May 2018  domaine_de_bellene  domaine_de_bellene  vinsdebourgogne  @Nicholaspearce_   @VinsdeBourgogne  @BourgogneWines  @BourgogneWines  @VinsdeBourgogneofficiel

Château Margaux 1989, AC Margaux, Bordeaux, France (176057,$1,645.00, WineAlign)

You never want to say that a vintage was perfect but in this case, the vintage was perfect. It seems impossible but the tannins are both present and even a bit drying so at least for this bottle there will be so much residual fruit at the end of the tunnel. Only those tannins seem altered from four years ago because the fruit and the flowers are exactly the same. What rises above, around and in darts between is the fineness and intensity of implosive acidity. Structure in this 1989 is forged by bars of steel as reinforced spikes in the concrete. It may never truly break down. Drink 2018-2044.  Last tasted March 2018  chateaumargaux  noble_estates    @Noble_Estates  @NobleEstates

The 1989 Château Margaux wears the response to a mondo Bordeaux axiom on its sleeve. Are First Growth wines made for people who want darts of instant pleasure?” Twenty years earlier and now like the 2009, here is a quintessential and exemplary vintage, from day one of bud break to the last day of harvest. Its appraisal as anything but incredible is to assassinate it as if it were the Franz Ferdinand of Bordeaux. The examination 25 years later sees a mellow funk meet a peerless and sublime perfume. A wine cast in utmost density, complexity and length. It noses strength, warmth verging on heat but only for a fleeting moment, to gain attention. The iconic wine has reached the first major peak, up a ways from base camp. In this second phase of young adulthood it looks with conceit to the top of the mountain, seeing 25 to 50 more years on the climb. Mr. Pontallier regrets he won’t be around to taste this wine at full maturity. Moi aussi. The fruit lingers in its full, original state, from the moment it passes lips and for minutes onward. Violets trump roses. Château Margaux 1989 is from a vintage that offers the blessing of ethereal balance. Hear her sing, “Ich heisse Superfantastisch!”  Tasted April 2014

Good to go!

godello

Godello, Museo civico e diocesano d’arte sacra di Montalcino

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Sottimano a Sottimano

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

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

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

John Szabo M.S., Godello and Elena Sottimano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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