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

Twitter: @mgodello

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Réva the hand as if by magic

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

Nebbiolo and Dolcetto at Réva

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

We’re on the road to Réva

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

Daniele Gaia, on the phone, making deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Nebbiolo – Barolo DOCG Lazzarito

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

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

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

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Rock steady Bersano

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

Related – Living wine in the moment at Scarpa Winery

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

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

Pinta Piedmontese

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

Related – Barbera d’Asti Del Monferrato E Nizza Monferrato

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

godello

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

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Living wine in the moment at Scarpa Winery

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

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

Andrea Roccione

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scarpa Rouchet 2007, Monferrato Rosso DOC, Piedmont, Italy

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

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

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

Scarpa Barbaresco DOCG Tettineive 2016, Piedmont, Italy

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

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

Fantasy name, not a vineyard, indicating La Morra and the top of that place. The grapes are purchased though as of ’18 there will be nebbiolo coming off of owned vineyards. Rich and heady nebbiolo with an earthly construct and high acidity. Tannins are very grippy, very firm and very in control. Three years in two types of wood, large Slavonian and smaller French cask, then one year in bottle. Such a baby. Approximately 4,500 bottles are produced. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Love in the time of a pandemic: Marchesi di Barolo

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

Abbona Sandwich; Anna, Godello, Valentina

Related – Pull up a chair with Angelo Gaja in Barbaresco

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

Wine transport in the 19th Century

Related – Barolo’s Sister and Brother Boschis

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

“Botti della Marchesa,” the Marchesa’s Barrel

Related – November 30th in Piemonte: Sandrone and Punset

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

Related – Gone Vajra in Piemonte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marchesi Di Barolo Barbaresco Riserva DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy

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

Marchesi Di Barolo Barbaresco DOCG Serragrilli 2018, Piedmont, Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marchesi Di Barolo Barolo Riserva DOCG 2011, Piedmont, Italy

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Pull up a chair with Angelo Gaja in Barbaresco

Gaja and Godello

On the first of December the morning light hits the tiny hamlet of Barbaresco with such dazzling clarity you have to squint to look out at any distance. Coupled with a cloudless sky, a patient and necessary visual adjustment will take in the Tanaro River and the Roero beyond. The vast Langhe expanse comes into perfect view, subtly emerging in layers of topography and incremental hue. The river runs through, Tanarus as it was known in ancient times, Tane or Tani in Piedmontese language, dividing line snaking through Langhe lands, plural form of langa, “a long, low-lying hill.” The origin is likely Celtic, combining the words bascule and tunga or lunga, “a moveable bridge, balance or seesaw” and “a narrow spit of land jutting out into the water or sea.” These moments, thoughts and considerations prepare one in advance of walking through the portal into the world of Gaja.

Related – One on one with Gaia Gaja

Barbaresco and the Langhe

The new garden

Sonia Franco, personal assistant to Angelo Gaja takes me on a trip back in time. We stand on the small terrace extending out from a northwest facing window with a view of the mountains in the background. Shifting land plates over one another in the Langhe created soils of silt and clay left behind by the ancient salty lakes. This affected the Roero and the Langhe in two very different ways. Irrigation would be pointless and potentially devastating due to erosion in the former because of the poor sandy soils. In the Langhe the limestone acts as a natural sponge, storing snow melt and spring rain to transfer to vine roots for the hotter summer months. Climate change has altered plantings and the view is no longer one of the “family’s garden” because densities have increased to encourage roots to dig deeper into the strata. Even more dramatic is the lack of rain between June 1st and September 30th, unless of course it comes by way of hailstorm and thunderstorm.

Morning in Barbaresco

Gaja works with 100 hectares split between Barolo and Barbaresco. It was Angelo’s father Giovanni who was so smitten with and sold on the latter in particular, especially around Treiso and the eponymous village. He acquired the land in the 1960s, including the three crus; Sorì San Lorenzo, Sorì Tildìn and Costa Russi. The oldest part of the cellar is from the 17th century and the second from the 18th. A great year sees a total production of somewhere between 300,000 and 350,000 bottles.

The Pope of Piemonte

Angelo Gaja has been referred to as “The King of Barbaresco” and for good measure. A man of utmost sincerity and reason, promoter and traveller in tireless work ethic. Producer who has spent the better part of sixty years explaining to anyone who will listen of Barbaresco’s importance while rising to the pinnacle of the local wine producing pantheon. Mr. Gaja’s reputation for storytelling is well-known and his ability to fashion excellence from his homeland is one of the great success stories of the 20th century. No one in Italy has found such intense success at his level nor can there be any question in how he has been raising the bar and floating all surrounding boats. Simply unparalleled in the world of wine. To bestow a moniker that merely encompasses Barbaresco is parochial and short-sighted. Say what you will about titles and honours but truth be told and many of his contemporaries believe it and in fact utter the term aloud. Angelo Gaja is indeed the Pope of Piemonte.

“They are very concerned in Nuits-Saint-Georges to keep an identity of site,” begins Mr. Gaja. He’s in free-form, stream of consciousness mode, just as a one-on-one meeting with him should be imagined. He’s dead serious. “We need to recognize that it belongs to us. I believe that we have in mind a great variety like nebbiolo, but it’s only in the last 15 years that it has been recognized around the world.” While so many look to technology and clean winemaking practices, Gaja looks at climate change as a major factor in quality increases over the last 20 years. “Five of ten vintages in the 60s, 70s and 80s were poor. The two years of 1965 and 1966 were very poor. The climate we have now, the ripening process is much more condensed and so there are less possibilities of problems. Summer heat is raising sugar and alcohol. This is more problematic for Barolo. All of these things are beneficial for late ripening varieties because of more ripeness and maturity but less aggressive tannins.”

The identity of the Langhe

“There is now a perception of Barolo and Barbaresco that was unthinkable 20 years ago. Think about it. Nebbiolo is 7,000 hectares. Cabernet Sauvignon is 350,000. For this reason the scarcity gives it a much better position of identity. In old vineyards you can sense white truffle and hazelnut, connecting it to its area. Also, the protection of the Alps helps to assist in the cultivation of late ripening varieties. If we are able to protect this combination of history and experience we don’t need any tourism. We need an authentic experience.” As for the identity of Barbaresco Gaja insists that “we have to protect medium-bodied wines and keeping a kind of balance.” Still believing that the work done in the cellar is just as important as the identity created in the vineyard, Angelo wonders aloud what will happen for the next 15-20 years as a result of further climate change. When asked directly if he is concerned “of course I am,” is the response. “In the past there was thick fog, like milk. What has happened to the fog?” Also less rain and more tourists. Perhaps what has transpired in the first half of 2020 will see a return of the fog.

“The perception is less risk,” he explains with regards to producers thinking that times are better. “That’s a mistake. We are in a time of climate change. That’s a big word.” If what has happened in the last four months is any harbinger than the overall problems are bigger than ever. It was the vintages of 2002 and 2003 that opened Angelo Gaja’s eyes and forced him to open his mind. “We have to modify our habits,” is not something new for Gaja but something he has been doing for decades, often 15-20 years ahead of everyone else. In the mid to late 2000s he hired ten scientific consultants in the fields of entomology, chemistry, agronomy, meteorology, etc., etc. to conduct a two decade study on soil, climate, parasites and pests. They have found that where once these natural disturbances attacked the vines one month a season it can now be as much as six months at a time. Doubling down are dramatic weather events and now viral assaults on humans. Time to hire an epidemiologist as well.

Better wines?

“If we have made better wines from better grapes I cannot say but what we have learned can be very useful for the future. The final goal can be recuperation and resilience for the grapes. A natural defence.” Ultimately the goal is what Gaja refers to as Gramló, a fantasy name in a special language that brings together notions and in contribution from French, German, Italian and dialectical Piedmontese. It’s operatic and means “clarity” but with no real words as its source. Gramló is what we all want to achieve but we have to take risks, be ahead of the curve and never stop looking, listening and learning. Trust Angelo Gaja to lead the way and that his children Gaia, Rossana and Giovanni will take the torch and do the same.

We all have wine tasting experiences that result in a-ha moments, revelations and epiphanies. At the outset of that first week of December I had such a moment because of a conversation. A long chat with Mr. Angelo Gaja. Mr. Gaja’s foresight to look and plan 15-20 years ahead means that both problems and successes are faced even before they have come. If you want to talk about climate change, do so with Angelo Gaja. If you would like to taste autorevole nebbiolo, go straight to Sorī San Lorenzo and Sorì Tildìn. On that December 1st day in Barbaresco I tasted the following five wines with Sonia Franco and Mr. Gaja.

Gaja Alteni Di Brassica 2017, Langhe DOP, Piedmont, Italy ($199.00)

Snow melt from a proper winter meant promise but there’s no avoiding climate change. Thus warm winds from North Africa saw to the vines anticipating early bloom. But in the flash of an eye the weather crashed and sent the plants reeling. While the challenge was propagated, miraculously the hail was avoided, though not the frost. Then a 36-39 degree summer and 80 days without rain. Major stress. A tiny production that marries Serralunga d’Alba with Barbaresco. The flinty sauvignon blanc relevance here may look Bordelais but is in fact Langhe because of the specificity of the saltiness that lines the fruit. Alteni means “stone walls” and Brassica a fragrant yellow flower. Not salted but running through the veins of the wine. A resilient and philosophically mineral wine structured with concentrated fruit and grape tannin. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted December 2019

Gaja Costa Russi 2017, Barbaresco DOP, Piedmont, Italy ($810.00)

Far ahead of harvest the reasons for 2017’s success were varied. Winter snow and its natural irrigation ignited early promise and climate change-influenced high density plantings sent roots down deeper. Warm North African winds, early bloom and a fast crash of the weather put the plants on edge. No hail though yes there was frost. Heat like no other summer and no rain for three and a half months. All added up to low yields and unprecedented stress. Costa Russi is a deeper and furthered wine which means a longer and more mature experience. Drawn from the “sharecropper’s side of the hill” in a lower to mid-slope position but with a different aspect and position (than the sorì) facing the sun. Oh how you feel the marl and the calcaire, surely exaggerated by the heat of the summer. Rich, luxe and intentionally fuller than many because you can’t go against a vintage grain. This Costa Russi follows the natural order of things. The Gaja Barbaresco that remember’s “the family’s garden.” Drink 2025-2040. Tasted December 2019

Gaja Sorì Tildìn 2016, Barbaresco DOP, Piedmont, Italy ($810.00)

Angelo Gaja sees 2016 as a perfect vintage in Barbaresco and the one from which climate change is viewed with great irony in the wink-wink guise of parenthetical thanks. That means the cosmic and astronomical alignment makes for wines that are both pleasant in their youth and also impossibly structured to age. Named for the sunny position of the slope and Mr. Gaja’s grandmother Clotilde. Now the clay and the calcaire have conspired, along with the purchased land of which Clotilde was custodian and in how she pushed her husband to make great wine. The vines are now on average 50 years-old and the composition meeting aspect bring a depth of complexity as poignant as it gets in this tiny part of nebbiolo production. All the flowers, rocks and elements are contained within the interior walls of this gently forceful Langhe red. It mimics the matriarch by the strongest power of suggestion and will not take no for an answer. Perhaps never will. Drink 2025-2045.  Tasted December 2019

Gaja Sorì San Lorenzo 2016, Barbaresco DOP, Piedmont, Italy ($810.00)

Was a perfect vintage and the one from which climate change is viewed with great thanks. That means wines are both pleasant younger and also structured to age. Sorì San Lorenzo like Tildin is the sunny spot facing south, the patron saint and protector of Alba’s Cathedral. Incidentally the church owned this vineyard and Gaja purchased the plot in the 1960s. The vineyard drops directly from the village and its vines average 55 years of age. You feel the wood at this young stage but of course you do. Sorì San Lorenzo carries a connection to the land that is deep into hubris and humus. No disrespect to Tildin but the connection here is formidable, the bond unbreakable. There is no exaggeration in saying that ’16 Sorì San Lorenzo offers up a moment of nebbiolo epiphany, that is takes control of the senses and instills a feeling of comfort, but at the same time an unexplained awe. That is due in fact to the place and no further explanation is required. Drink 2025-2045.  Tasted December 2019

Gaja Sperss 2015, Barolo DOP, Piedmont, Italy ($435.05)

The vintage of 2015 offered weather slightly warmer than 2016 and yet less blocks of structure. Not to mention moving further south by 25 kilometeres into Barolo where it really is just that much warmer. Twelve hectares purchased in 1988 are located in Serralunga d’Alba and Sperss refers to the name of the land. In Piedmontese the word is “nostalgia” and the connection is for Angelo’s father Giovanni and his childhood memories. Marenca-Rivette sub-region of Serralunga and the fruit comes out so red in nature, beautifully chalky and very influenced by the one year in smaller barrels, accentuated further by six months in grandi botti. That is why it is released a year later than the Barbaresci. The texture is silkier in a way while not as transparent but comparisons are fruitless in the end. This nebbiolo stands alone and worthy of its own regal position. Warm and complex, more than intriguing and so age worthy. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

Godello

Gaja and Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Barolo’s Sister and Brother Boschis

Giorgio and Chiara Boschis

Many have visited E. Pira & Figli’s cellars, tasted and broken bread with sister Chiara and brother Giorgio Boschis. I am certainly not the first nor the 500th but looking back at my visit with the Barolo sorella e fratello team on December 1st now seems to carry more weight than even I could have imagined. When we consider what has happened in Piemonte, up and down Italy and increasingly around the world over these past four months makes the timing all the more special.

Godello and Chiara Boschis

I did in fact have the great fortune to taste and spend more time with Giorgio in January over dinner in Alba during the days of Nebbiolo Prima 2020. There is so much to know, admire and appreciate about these two special Piedmontesi, the level of respect afforded the work they’ve put in and a level of humanity to give meaning to the spiritual endearment “Brother Giorgio and Sister Chiara.” They are part of the integral and collective soul of Piemonte, Barolo, the vineyards they steward and the wines they fashion from lands larger than life.

Godello and Giorgio Boschis in Alba, January 2020

Going back to the 1700s the Pirras were from Sardegna and the name morphed into Pirra. Then in more recent times Pira. In 1980 the legendary Gigi Pira, owner of E. Pira passed away. With no heirs to carry on a request for assistance was made to the Boschis-Borgogno family. Chiara Boschis’ father Franco purchased the cantina and vineyards and made the wines for a spell. She finished studies in Turin, cut her teeth working at Rivetti and took over Pira. This was by now long after the winery was established and present in the village of Barolo, in what Chiara refers to as the “Golden Ages” that begun in the 1850s. After Phylloxera ravaged the vineyards and did away with prosperity the youth left and the old remained, including Franco, one of the very few. Fast forward to the new golden times and Chiara Boschis becomes one of the “Barolo Boys,” a rat pack moniker bestowed on young nebbiolo toting winemakers, including Elio Altare, Giorgio Rivetti, Roberto Voerzio, Elio Grasso, Lorenzo Accomasso, Alessandro and Bruno Ceretto, Beppe and Marta Rinalidi, Beppe Caviola and Marc de Grazia. The lone woman? Chiara Boschis.

Chiara the pioneer was the scrappiest of the scrappy winemakers, carrying the Pira torch through the growth period of the late 80s and into the 90s, in a time when the collective plan involved “improving quality and the attention of the international markets.” She worked to reduce production, clean the cellars, install new wood and equipment and most important, the vinification of single crus. She started with Cannubi and Terlo, then in 2010 registered a “fantasy name” to make a cru assemblage. The new equipment refined the wines and practicing cellar hygiene led to the elimination of the dirty smells.

Giorgio Boschis

Robert Parker came to Alba in the 90s and announced the wines as too rustic. A light shone in the minds of the youngest winemakers who knew what had to be done. There were only 30 wineries in the area after the second world war, now there are more than 600. Boschis has always avoided the temptations. “We didn’t want to become the California winemaker. The pride of our roots took us to a much higher level and now it’s fancy to be traditional, even if so few are truly family anymore. The fact is we really just wanted to have clean wines.”

Chiara Boschis

Chiara has always farmed organic and was finally certified in 2010, the year Giorgio joined hands. Together they purchased more vineyard space in the areas of Monforte and Serralunga. Cannubi and Mosconi are the two crus and they also produce their assemblage Via Nuova from several significant plots like Terlo and Liste in the commune of Barolo; Gabutti and Baudana in Serralunga d’Alba; Ravera from Monforte and Mosconi in Monforte d’Alba. Total farmed is 11 hectares producing 35-40 thousand bottles. Generally speaking the barrel program is one-third each new, one year and two years old wood of half and half barriques and botti. The exception is Mosconi which sees more barriques because, “it’s so much fruit.”

These are the five wines tasted with Chiara in the cantina plus one more with Giorgio in Alba.

E. Pira & Figli Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2018, Piedmont, Italy ($30.95)

In the words of Chiara Boschis. “For me the dolcetto is part of my background, my history, the memories of the family.” Now listen closely to this dolcetto because a challenge will bring the best out of a winemaker and her wines. “This is the dolcetto that i like, fresh, fruity, drinking well.” The fruit comes from three plots in Monforte; Le Coste, Mosconi and Ravera. Not for aging, lacking structure but certainly not lacking in elegance and pleasure. Finishes with a white peppery kick. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

E. Pira & Figli Barbera d’Alba DOC 2017, Piedmont, Italy ($43.95)

More potential than dolcetto and here the triangular travelling from flowers, through spice and into avid acidity makes this real, honest, true and long. One year in barrel (old only) and fruit drawn out of vineyards in Mosconi, Ravera (Monforte) and the lower, south facing part of Gabutti (Serralunga). Refreshing and so perfectly aligned, plus essentially designed to handle olive oil in every incantation, especially meats cooked and fried in the fats of the area. Only 4,000-5,000 bottles produced. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted December 2019

E. Pira & Figli Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2017, Piedmont, Italy ($50.95)

Now into nebbiolo that is highly floral from one dedicated vineyard in Le Coste, of “bello” respect. High-level nebbiolo factor, traditional and extreme clarity. If most of the Barolo were drawn, executed and nurtured to prepare themselves to be this elegant than all would command full and utter attention. So pretty and wise, so joyous to be with. Clearly the vineyard is to thank. Might as well be Barolo? Nah, that misses the point. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted December 2019

E. Pira & Figli Barolo DOCG Via Nuova 2016, Piedmont, Italy

Via Nuova is the assemblage, the house wine, Vigna della Casa and a wine of all encompassing perfume. A mix of finesse and structure. Also textured with a charming glycerin and experiential moments in thyme. There is much pride and dreaming hope for 2016, with great aging potential. The tannins creep up, take hold and remain, secured and bonded. That’s nebbiolo grip and persistence incarnate. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted December 2019

E. Pira & Figli Barolo DOCG Mosconi 2016, Piedmont, Italy

Why is Mosconi so special. “Why is anyone more beautiful than the other?” Nature. A connection to Domenico Clerico and when Chiara had a chance to join this plot she jumped. The flowers come at you in waves. The fruit is everywhere and all is stored inside, kept safe, comforted and comfortable. South facing below the village and again it just must be the place that brings this level of joy, elegance and structure. There are 25-30 years of life ahead for this 2016. So glad Chiara became a part of la squadra Mosconi. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted December 2019

E. Pira & Figli Barolo DOCG Mosconi 2015, Piedmont, Italy

Mosconi is simply Mosconi, exquisite, powerful, elegant and grippy. Mosconi in the hands of Chiara Boschis in possession of so much 2015 fruit (though when is it void in such a regard) and so more barriques to less botti ratio increases the textural component. Mosconi comes at you in waves, oscillations there of and with swaths of Rothko tactility. Paints Barolo red in incremental minutia through all the advancing warmth that can be coalesced in one bottle of nebbiolo. Generosity incarnate and the one to drink whilst you wait for 10s, 11s, 12s and especially 16s. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

Godello

Giorgio and Chiara Boschis

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November 30th in Piemonte: Sandrone and Punset

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

With Marina Marcarino

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

With Barbara Sandrone

Sandrone

Sandrone Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2018 ($29.95)

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

Sandrone Barbera d’Alba DOC 2018 ($44.95)

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

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

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

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

Sandrone Barolo DOCG Le Vigne 2015 ($159.95)

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

Sandrone Barolo DOCG Aleste 2015 ($179.95)

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

Azienda Agricola Biologica Punset

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

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

Punset Neh! Langhe Bianco DOC 2018 ($18.95)

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

Punset Neh! Langhe Rosso DOC 2017 ($18.95)

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

Punset Arneis Langhe DOC 2018 ($26.95)

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

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

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

Punset Barbera d’Alba DOC 2018 ($24.95)

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

Punset Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2017 ($31.95)

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

Punset Barbaresco DOCG Basarin 2014 (302786, $66.95)

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

Punset Barbaresco DOCG Basarin 2013 (302786, $66.95)

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

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

Punset Barbaresco DOCG Campo Quadro Riserva 2012 ($71.95)

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

Good to go!

godello

Castiglione Falletto from Via Alba

Twitter: @mgodello

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Gone Vajra in Piemonte

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

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

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

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

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

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

sotto la neve, il pane

under the snow, the bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

godello

Stained Glass and Inox Tanks

Twitter: @mgodello

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Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

1964

Tout vient à son heure pour qui sait attendre, wrote Clément Marot, Renaissance poet. Everything comes at its appointed time. From Cahors to Turin. War, peace, hate, love, fruit, acid and tannin. Wine is all about the pauses and the balances. At its core the value is in that feeling of things being natural and equal. That’s the way it should be. When you drink you enjoy what you have, without competition. One sensation after another. You feel like you have more, even if you have less. Like consomée with just a chop of vegetables.

Welcome to Godello’s annual list of the most conspicuous, head-turning and psychotropic moments, better known as his 19 mind-blowing wines of 2019. Godello first initiated the concept for a year-end culminating evaluation in 2012 though did not actually coin the phrase until publishing his 14 mind-blowing wines of 2014. Call it the sixth or the eighth but who really cares because the wines are the crux and the heart of the matter.

Related – Eighteen mind-blowing wines of 2018

Related – Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

Hard to know how many wines he actually tasted in 2019 but the best guesstimate would be 2,500 because that is how many reviews have been posted to WineAlign in this calendar year. A couple hundred were for wines tasted in 2018 but the editing and posting of at least that many for wines tasted in 2019 have yet to become permanent. So the number is pretty close, one way or another.

There were at least a few dozen stellar and jaw-dropping wines that should of, could of, would of made this list. For every one chosen another was left behind for no reason other than necessity and its relationship to the mother of invention. These images exhibited are but a few that had every reason to be one of 19’s 19.

Related – 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

With thanks to everyone who poured a glass. The producers, winemakers, export managers, friends, colleagues and pirates, please be encouraged and read on. Godello’s 19 mind-blowing wines of 2019.

AB Wines Opçāo Avesso “A” Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal

From winemaker/oenologist António Sousa’s personal label (with partner Bernardo) and a vineyard planted in 2003, in Amarante. These are avesso grapes just a few years away from what António considers the optimum age, when they reach 18 years, 10 years older than the age from which they begin to deliver excellence. This A is in position A, from a perfect vantage point out of a very good vintage. This is the role model and exemplar for avesso, from a project that began in 2016, with all the adjunct components in line; lemon, lime, orange, ripe acidity, juicy nature and just a minor creamy, fleshy and boozy happiness. Great balance. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore Tocai Friulano Collio DOC 1997, Friuli, Italy

So remarkable, from the old messaging in the riesling/tocai bottle, stricken from the consorzio record. This is now a wine bottled in Bordeaux style but this look back 20-plus years shows freshness, spirit and only the beginnings of secondary character. Gassy and lemon intense, a near-perfect example of what was and could be, of how aged whites of Collio can keep freshness and the saltiness of place. All thjis and without crazy acidity. That is the conundrum and the magic of Collio. The persistence is romanticism incarnate with fruit oozing out of pores in great remain. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Goisot Gulhem Et Jean Hugues Gondonne 2017, Bourgogne Côtes D’auxerre AOC, Bourgogne, France

A soil of kimmeridgian and marl, of white and blue, with great layering of fruit and that is in fact what you feel from Gondonne. There is something rich and overtly expressive here and while it’s anything but simple it could be imagined that so many consumers would understand this chardonnay, love it and want to drink it with abandon. That said the structure, goût de terroir and joie de vivre are just exceptional. The wood and the land just melt right in. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted November 2019

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2007, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa

These Helderberg vines would have been 33 years of age at the time and to think the wine would have cost $10 or so. Now 12 years later we’re graced with this hyperbole of toast, smoulder, lit paraffin and the edge of saffron honey. It’s hard to believe and this the from the tier-two, non-selected grapes at the back of the line behind a Forrester wine like the FMC. Nothing less than incredible. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted October 2019

Ornellaia Bianco 2016, IGT Toscana Bianco, Tuscany, Italy

The Bianco was first introduced in 2013, following fast forward to the original 1980s and 1990s work with Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia. That project had been abandoned because says Axel Heinz “stylistically it just wasn’t right.” That wine was mainly sauvignon blanc on one of Ornellaia’s great vineyard sites. What was wanted was something more than a varietal wine and a new age of finding vineyard sites that were more than merely good for white wine. That means making use of northern slopes and those blocks favourable to whites, including the use of (indigenous) vermentino and viognier. The practice had already been proven with success by colleagues. Bianco is the alter ego to the Rosso, priced as such “and reflects the spirit of Ornellaia, but it had to build itself up to that premium level. We intend to make one of the great white wines of the world,” explains Heinz. That may sound like bragging swagger but the reality is that experience, acumen and especially confidence breed the truth. I Bianci are aged for 12-15 months in (30 per cent new) barriques before bottling. I do dare you to find a wine that smells anything like this Bianco. They are flowers unnamed or perhaps not yet discovered. The flinty reductiveness is also truly and wholly unique. Though the way sauvignon is raised and the place are surely not the same, the Bordeaux styling and sensibility of affinities are more than uncanny and even served by purpose. The vintage brings great maturity, fruitiness and salinity. Fruit presence under the spell of fleur de sel. Nothing but a brilliant combination. Says Heinz without equivocation, “it’s a benchmark for us, ’16 that is.” Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne, France

The couverture is all encompassing acting as a full sheathing tapestry in surround of a fruit core of sheer concentration and yet as a whole so understated. It’s hard to imagine more coaxing and less pronouncement. Relatively speaking there’s no estate equal to what has happened here. Great mineral crash into life and love, into fruit and impossible acidity. A magnificent chardonnay with 25 years of life ahead. Drink 2021-2039.  Tasted September 2019

Adelsheim Pinot Noir Boulder Bluff 2015, Chehalem Mountains AVA, Oregon

From a steep, southwest facing site and picked really early, especially in the warm 2015 vintage. Again the confluence of vineyard conflagration of more than one soil type leads to an estate stylistic but let’s face it one that is bent into shape by focus and precision. There is great generosity and freshness, again in spite of or despite the hot vintage. More floral from this bluff and bigger, albeit finer quality signature tannin from this neighbourhood, with more thanks to basaltic blocks. Long ageing surely ahead with fruit turning to bramble, at times. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted April 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso DOC Vigna Vico Pre Phylloxera 2015, Sicily, Italy

The litheness of this nerello mascalese from Mount Etna off of 100-plus years of age pre-phylloxera vines cannot be over-stated or overstressed. The light, ethereal beauty of this wine may very well transport you to a place, to a vacuum within a bubble that is a hidden world inside a biodome. Few words are available when a wine speaks to you such as this Vico does to me at this time. This impossibility of such fruit concentration is also implausibly understated, as are the tannins and the acidity, yet all align and intertwine along a perfectly rendered line. You recognize the automatic brilliance, for the people and from the place. You just know it when you taste it. If you can find this wine, if you ever get the chance to purchase a bottle or two, you owe it to yourself to act, for you and for anyone you might happen to share it with. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted May 2019

Donnafugata Mille E Una Notte 1996, DOC Contessa Entellina, Sicily, Italy

An arch classic from Sicilia sud Occidentale and more specifically Tenuta Contessa Entellina. Of the oldest wines this is one of the highest tonality, not unlike older and older schooled nebbiolo from Barbaresco, in a queen’s throne sort of way. There is siply no way to argue that this wine did not deserve to be aged this way and to be waited on for such a moment of appreciation. Age worthy and load management indeed, with every resolution hoped for and expected. Brilliance and a benchmark, with a half decade of life still ahead. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti DOC La Bogliona 1996, Piedmont, Italy

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

Maison Roche De Bellene Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2012, AOC Bourgogne, France

Do not adjust your set. The vintage brought everything to the table and while the foreground presents a picture crystalline and transparent the entirety of the frame is frozen clear. As for the aromatics this teases a meaty cure like few other and teases as if by the ambience of a cave, restricted of access, hiding what lurks, hangs and excites. Crunchy to say the least, layered to say more and complex to speak the ultimate truth. Magnifique and still twenty years away from the beginning of the end. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine De La Pousse D’or Pommard Premier Cru Les Jarollières 1964, Appellation Pommard Controlée, Bourgogne, France

Calling this 55 year-old Bourgogne Premier Cru a piece of history is not enough to do justice because family, lineage and the passing of the generational torch beyond domaine lines are everything that matters. Nicolas Potel pulled this one out of thin air and not merely by a human ability to disappear and reappear. No, Nico chose the way of disapparating and then apparating (in the wizard sense of “apparition,” a magical form of teleportation). His father Gérard’s ’64 was in his hands and a great big, merde-eating grin was posted all across his face. Les Jarollières is a 1.44 ha plot of marl and calcaire and even today half of the plantings are those that were fitted in 1925 and 1962. It was Gérard Potel who resurrected Domaine de la Pousse d’Or to its glory and in 1964 he acquired the domaine through a marriage to the then owner’s niece. Along with Henri Boillot this cru has been famous being meaty, earthy and owning an ability for supernatural integration. This 1964 had taken all that, everything and more, left nothing in the vineyard and had now become the epitome of the ethereal. The fruit was fully intact, so bloody strawberry, still with lightning quick reflexes and able to pour fresh glasses of spirit and energy over the course of a full hour. The experience was a once in a lifetime type, a shared moment and the kind to create a banked memory that will always be generous when a good one is needed. Thank you Nico. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

 

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG 2000, Tuscany, Italy

At the time it was labeled as an (Annata) Chianti Classico though it was really Riserva. Yes it has evolved but 18-plus years should have moved it much further along. Carries a spice like the exoticism in resemblance to 2006 but this is something other. Still some very fine, present and notable acidity. Amazing purity, honesty, luck, circumstance, place and gentile personality. The sapidity is there again and the age ability nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Puro 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($150.00)

Il Puro takes her purity to another level in 2015 with fruit so silky fine and chalky tannins integrated into liquid even finer than that fine. The accumulation is just impressive and the charm meeting grace even more so than that. The Mascheroni-Stianti family has really found a stride in this GS to explain why it exists and how it can make many people happy. The structure here will take this through two or three decades of unfolding. There is a house record to prove it, ironically regardless and in spite of the bottle’s name. This is sangiovese. Drink 2023-2037.  Tasted February 2019

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2010, Tuscany, Italy

“A muscle vintage, of huge character,” tells Lorenzo Magnelli. The name of the wine is Diecianni to tell us that Lorenzo’s Riserva is not released until the 10th year. Brings about all the complexities that come from such an extended elévage. Tobacco, savour, forest floor, frutta di bosco and frutto secco but don’t be succumbing to depths and sottosuolo because the freshness persists. A wine so wise beyond its years, like its maker. Sure you can release a Riserva one year after Annata but when it has been protected and taken care of for you then it presents as it was intended to. We are thankful for the triage and the investment on our behalf. The fruit persists with great natural sweetness out of 2010. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted October 2019

Conti Costanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colle Al Matrichese 2015, Tuscany, Italy

Andrea Costanti is convinced this is a great vintage. “One of the best.” The weather was perfect following a beneficial cold winter. The harvest was early but not compromisingly so and it saw no hurdles, obstacles or intendments. The barrel use is bigger, older and wiser. This is the sort of concentrated Costanti that speaks to the 2019 philosophy, of acidity, ripeness and balance. Time on skins was about a month (including two weeks of fermentation and oxidation introducing délestage) and no protective sulphur. There is a control in this sangiovese, a powerful restraint but more than that, more so a calm, but not before storm. Finesse, grip and beauty, like a statue of a stag, in a courtyard, lit by moonlight. Tannins are all pervasive, fully stated, yet to feel a necessity for attack. They will and we will retreat, Then we will advance, with caution, further to find full pleasure for two decades. At the very minimum. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted February 2019

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($177.00)

Planted in 1968 and from a warm vintage all the way to the end, into October. Riccardo Campinoti is smiling wryly, knowingly and confidently after he pours and begins to speak of it. “The longer you waited the riper it became” and the healthy grapes allowed for hanging to mid-October. Deeper and of more sponge-soaked earth in the old vines with a higher tone juxtaposed against the depth drawn by long vine roots. The aromatic complexities run, jump and ride off the proverbial charts and you may find yourself drunk and mystified just from the smells. Once you gain palate entry you are hooked and then you climb in, headfirst, unencumbered, no strings attached. A tour de force beloved of sangiovese, Montalcino and old vines. Vigna Vecchia is the epitome of a true structured wine, one which does not grow old, despite the passage of time. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted October 2019

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

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

Gaja Sorì Tildìn 2016, Barbaresco DOP, Piemonte, Italy ($810.00)

Angelo Gaja sees 2016 as a perfect vintage in Barbaresco and the one from which climate change is viewed with great irony in the wink-wink guise of parenthetical thanks. That means the cosmic and astronomical alignment makes for wines that are both pleasant in their youth and also impossibly structured to age. Named for the sunny position of the slope and Mr. Gaja’s grandmother Clotilde. Now the clay and the calcaire have conspired, along with the purchased land of which Clotilde was custodian and in how she pushed her husband to make great wine. The vines are now on average 50 years-old and the composition meeting aspect bring a depth of complexity as poignant as it gets in this tiny part of nebbiolo production. All the flowers, rocks and elements are contained within the interior walls of this gently forceful Langhe red. It mimics the matriarch by the strongest power of suggestion and will not take no for an answer. Perhaps never will. Drink 2025-2045.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

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