Yearning for the Langhe

Godello in Cherasco

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

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

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

Grandi Langhe 2020

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

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

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

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

Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC

Diego Morra Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC 2016

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

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

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

Mauro Sebaste Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC Parigi 2017

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

Nebbiolo Langhe DOC

Elvio Cogno Nebbiolo Langhe DOC Montegrilli’ 2018

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

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

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

Bollito Misto, Sinio

Azienda Agricola Taverna Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2018

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

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

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

Osteria dei Sognotori, Alba

Barolo DOCG

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Pichemej 2015

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

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Bussia 2015

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

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Baudana 2015

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

Simone Ortale and Giuliana Drocco, Cascina Adelaide

Cascina Adelaide Barolo Riserva DOCG “Per Elen” 2014

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

Cascina Boschetti Barolo DOCG Gomba 2015

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

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2015

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

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2012

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

Crudo – La Libera, Alba

Diego Morra Barolo DOCG 2015

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

Diego Morra Barolo DCOG Monvigliero 2015

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

Elvio Cogno Barolo DOCG Bricco Pernice 2015

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

With Valter Fissore

Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera DOCG Vigna Elena 2014

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

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

Mauro Sebaste Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2015

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

Mauro Sebaste Barolo Riserva DOCG Ghè 2014

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

Palladino Barolo Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba DOCG 2016

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

Palladino Barolo Riserva DOCG San Bernardo 2013

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

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

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

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

Cherasco

Barbaresco DOCG

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbaresco DOCG 2017

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

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

Barbera d’Alba DOCG

Cascina Adelaide Vigna Preda Barbera d’Alba 2016

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

Cascina Adelaide Barbera D’alba Superiore Docg Amabilin 2016

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

Diego Morra Barbera d’Alba DOCG 2016

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

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Bricco Dei Merli 2017

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

The view from Elvio Cogno

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Pre Phylloxera 2018

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

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera d’Alba DOC Giardono 2018

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

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera D’alba DOC Mezzavilla 2015

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

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

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

Mauro Sebaste Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Centobricchi 2016

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

Palladino Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Bricco delle Olive 2017

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

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbera d’Alba DOC 2018

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

Verduno Pelaverga DOC

Diego Morra Pelaverga DOC 2018

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

Vino Rosso

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Donna Costanza Cardunaj Vino Rosso 2017

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

Método Classico Vino Spumante Di Qualita

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

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

Langhe Rosato DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Rosato DOC 2018

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

Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC

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

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

Le Strette Nas-cëtta Langhe DOC Pasinot 2018

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

Langhe Favorita DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Favorita DOC Donna Costanza 2018

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

Roero Arneis DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Roero Arneis DOC Pradaj 2018

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

Birbét

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Birbét Donna Costanza 2018

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

Good to go!

godello

Godello in Cherasco

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WineAlign

Off the beaten Italian path

Catarratto of Azienda Agricola Gregorio De Gregorio and Frappato of Valle dell'Acate<br /> Photos (c): http://www.valledellacate.com/ and http://www.degregorioagricoltura.com/

Catarratto of Azienda Agricola Gregorio De Gregorio and Frappato of Valle dell’Acate
Photos (c): http://www.degregorioagricoltura.com/ and http://www.valledellacate.com/

Of all the idioms that have proliferated in the English language, “off the beaten path” is one of my all-time ironic favourites. Modern definitions and thesaurus entries make straightforward sense; not well-known or popular with many people, offbeat, novel, out of the ordinary, the secret, special or sacred places, the B-sides, the ones that no one else knows about. The term was not always about travelling or looking for something. There was a time when “off the beaten path” was a dis, when it negatively described a person as heterodoxical; as a heteroclite, a dissident, an iconoclast, a heretic.

The paradox applies to grape varieties with I can see the light clarity. In the late 19th century the Phylloxera pest epidemic nearly wiped out most of the vineyards in Europe and with no cure available, the best recourse was to graft Phylloxera-resistant American rootstock to more susceptible European vinifera vines. As a result, many an indigenous varietal proliferation slowly, over the course of 100 years, dropped off the face of the grape growing map, or if I may, the beaten path.

My WineAlign colleague John Szabo M.S. recently penned a column on Portugal in which he challenged semantic references using the confabulation “indigenous,” claiming that the term is often misused. Szabo contends that “most European grapes are more correctly termed endemic varieties, that is, belonging exclusively to or confined to a certain place, even if they are not originally from there. The true origins of most Vitis vinifera varieties is almost certainly somewhere in the Middle East.” Using scientific data and study to corroborate the theory, Portugal is put forth as the only European country that may comfortably lay claim to housing true indigenous grape varieties.

John admits that “the line is purely arbitrary,” so there certainly is some leeway when it comes to the glossology of ancient grape authenticity. Everyone knows that Cabernet Sauvignon is not indigenous, endemic or even domestic to Italy, or for that matter Canada, but is the more important question not one of how many years must pass before a grape can call itself home? How can we really pinpoint when a grape may have migrated from Mesopotamia to Lazio, to “a secondary domestication centre.” Do we need to be so precise in qualifying roots? How many millennium must pass before Chardonnay can consider itself a citizen and its children should no longer feel like unwanted, second-class adoptive wanderers? The answer is a very long time. Longer for grapes than for humans, that is for certain. In the case of Italy, has enough time passed to consider its native vines as indigenous?

The most famous and successful of domestic Italian grape varieties have trod a well-navigated, kept in the limelight track. The list includes Aglianico, Barbera, Corvino, Garganega, Glera, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Nebbiolo, Negroamaro, Nero d’Avola, Pecorino, Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Verdicchio and Vermentino. Italian acreage swells with their plantings. However, “off the beaten path” could actually be considered a metaphor for “authentic” and this is what winemakers and consumers (even if they need to be enlightened), really want. Perhaps people want experiences with real grapes and away from the “tourists.”

You can’t help but notice that modern winemakers with a wistful eye are casting reflexively into the past with a hunger for vinous resurrection. By grafting their pre-Phylloxera ancient vines onto healthy root stock they have turned the varietal compass on its head. As they have moved through their days with an open-mind to the panoply of grape interactions, they have beget the endemic revival.

Old is new again. Meet the awakening of the Italian grape vernacular: Albana, Albarossa, Bellone, Bombino Bianco, Canaiolo, Casavecchia, Catarratto, Carricante, Catarratto Comune, Cocociolla, Cortese, Grecanico, Groppello Gentile, Frappatto, Grignolino, Nerello Mascalese, Pallagrello, Passerina, Pelaverga and Ribolla Gialla. Every one of these ancient varieties are coming to a restaurant list near you.

Finally, I find the irony in the idea that for a winemaker or vine grower to step off the quotidian they need to plant, cultivate and make wine from grapes once considered the norm and the go to in their region. Today, the production from lesser, even totally unknown grape varieties, despite the zealous search for them by hipsters and geeks, is still considered a marginal pastime and a financial risk. The comeback continues to gain traction and with every passing vintage, the wines made from once Herculean grapes get better and better. Rusticity persists but with ever-increasing modern techniques, so is structure and balance. Endemic is the new vino da tavola and if I were Chianti Classico, Barbera d’Alba or Valpolicella I would be working even harder to keep hold of my market share.

Related – Wine around the boot in 40 days

Linda Siddera of Casale Del Giglio and Francesco Ferreri of Valle Dell'Acate

Linda Siddera of Casale Del Giglio and Francesco Ferreri of Valle Dell’Acate

On November 3, 2014, the Italian Trade Commission rolled out the red carpet at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall for the 19th annual tasting of Wines from Italy. At least 90 producers from 20 regions poured their wines, including the brightest and biggest stars; Amarone, Barbaresco, Barolo, Brunello, Chianti Classico, Sagrantino, Taurasi and Vino Nobile. The ICE-ITA assembly is the most formidable Italian tasting show in town. The impossibility of sampling everything on hand is more than evident so planning ahead is key. For 2014 I chose the lesser-known, the black sheep, the heretics. When all was said and done I felt like I had done “off the beaten path” some justice. Here are notes on 10 #OBP wines.

Alois

Alois

Alois Terre del Volturino Trebulanum 2011, Terre del Volturno IGT, Campania, Italia (Agent, $42, WineAlign)

From volcanic soils, this 100 per cent Casavecchia, a name which means “old house,” was all but forgotten after the Phylloxera plague. Legend has it that it was rediscovered inside a walled garden, according to farmers, among some ancient ruins in Pontelatone. Trebulanum, considered by Pliny to be one of the best Italian wines, grows 25 miles from Mout Vesuvius. Cassavecchia is a wine that came from vineyards on the hills surrounding the old town of Tremula Balliensis, an area that now incorporates the townships of Pontelatone, Castel di Sasso Liberi and Formicola. Re-planted (the cut and the setting of a small branches and the pro-vine, an ancient method that places the vine branch in the soil until it develops its own root) by Alois in 1992, Casavecchia is a troubled vine because of hermaphroditic pistulates and so it is light producing (less than 600 grams of fruit per plant). Massimo Alois says it took 10 years to get comfortable with the vines, mainly due to its extremely firm structure. The grapes produce loose batches of small berries of big colour (twice as much as Aglianico). Micro-oxygenation helps to release tension, modernize the rusticity and allow the intense acidity to play nice with the fruit. From a cool vintage, this Trebulanum is a phenom of an individual, of great strength and individual character. Ideal introduction to the future of its past.  Tasted November 2014  Vini Alois  @vinialois

Casale Del Giglio Bellone 2013, IGT Lazio, Italia (Agent)

In ancient Rome, it has been reported that Bellone was called “uva fantastica” (“fantastic grape”) by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia. True? Maybe, maybe not. Linda Siddera tells me that Bellone hails out of the Trebbiano famliy tree from coastal vineyards thirty miles south of Rome. A child of sandy soils and sea breezes, the oldest local varietal found new life when planted by Casale Del Giglio 10 years ago. This Bellone exceeds many Trebbiano in body, viscous texture and finishing mineral natation. It may not be the most complex white on the boot but it will work beautifully with seafood and finish with the right kind of bitters.  Tasted November 2014  @CasaleGiglio

Casale Del Giglio Bellone 2013

Casale Del Giglio Bellone 2013

Casale Del Giglio Cesanese 2012, IGT  Lazio, Italia (Agent)

There are two sub-varieties of Cesanese: Comune (common), and d’Affile, from the eponymous village. Two years ago Wine Enthusiast’s Claudi Ricci said that “Cesanese is poised to become one of the hottest rediscovered red grapes in central Italy.” That is yet to happen but Casale Del Giglio’s take should raise an eyebrow or 10. Their vines grow in the Roman hills and although the variety has its own DOCg the territory (d’Afille) here  is wrong so here it must be labeled IGT. The wine spent six months in stainless steel tank and another six in neutral oak. Freshness preserved, freshness is everything. If a comparison could be made it would be to Montepulciano but here the opaque purple Cesanese is tighter and writes its own chalky narrative from limestone maculated, alluvial soils. Red raspberry, spice and exotic perfume give much character, suppress rusticity and make for a really approachable red.  Tasted November 2014  Wine World Importers

Casale Del Giglio Cesanese 2012 and Castello Di Verduno Pelaverga Basadone 2013

Casale Del Giglio Cesanese 2012 and Castello Di Verduno Pelaverga Basadone 2013

Castello Di Verduno Pelaverga Basadone 2013, Piemonte, Italia (Agent, $29.95)

Basadone can mean more than one thing in the local dialect of Verduno. It is a “king of wine’s” naughty little brother, a “wild poppy” and can mean “lady kisser.” The first is in reference to Barolo, Pelaverga and the 19th century vintner Carlo Alberto, king of Savoy. The second for its fruit-forward, low tannin and highly perfumed aromatics.The third because it was once considered an aphrodisiac. Winemaker Mario Andrion says that Pelaverga evolves on its own, that it is a gentle giant requiring no oak. Andrion uses traditional vinification methods, in stainless steel, to maintain purity. Though it dates to the 16th century, the current history of the grape goes back to 1974 when it was replanted using massal selection rootstock and then received its DOC status in 1995. This ’13 is firm, spicy, full of red fruit (notably cherry) with silky yet drying tannins. The wine is in heady balance and finishes with a brood of spice.  Tasted November 2014  Castello di Verduno  @3050imports  @CatlandF

Civielle – Cantine Della Valtènesi E Della Lugana Elianto Groppello Garda Classico 2010, Lombardia, Italia (Agent, $21.50)

Groppello Gentile has been cultivated in Valtènesi since the 14th century. The name comes from “gróp”, meaning “knot” in the local language, because of its tight clusters. Though “upon the beaten path I kept on my blinders,” it is grapes like Groppello that take us out of our comfort zone. Grapes from the good life. This is a most robust and rustic organic take on a very old grape grown on the southwest shores of Lago di Garda at the edge of the Veneto. High-toned spices and floral notes are really unique, drawing no obvious comparisons. Fresh, tart and with great length, this would benefit from some settling time and then work well with selvaggina, notes Export Manager Orlando Bonomo.  Tasted November 2014  Civielle  @VinoAllegroBC

Fantinel Ribolla Gialla Brut NV, Friuli-Venzia Giulia, Italia (Agent)

‎Presented by Export Manager for North America at Gruppo Vinicolo Fantinel Patrick Sacha Cappellini, this Ribolla dates back to the middle ages and when used for Sparkling wine it exhibits a fuller sense of body, one that the everyday Prosecco just can’t seem to match. Made in the same Charmat Method, this is a Brut style though at (6 g/L) residual sugar it pushes the line. Soil, in this case “ponca,” the dark marly limestone of the region is key. This fizz juices rocks, literally (to a point) from friable calcium, resulting in bitters in mind of lemon and lime zest and the pith from which they are scraped. There is a delicate elegance and a creamy texture by way of battonage, with white flowers on that forceful nose, good verve in high acidity and a more than decent, dry finish.  Tasted November 2014  @FantinelWinery  @ProfileWineGrp

Fantinel Ribolla Gialla Brut NV and Planeta Etna 2013

Fantinel Ribolla Gialla Brut NV and Planeta Etna 2013

Azienda Agricola Gregorio de Gregorio Catarratto IGT Terre Siciliane 2013, Sicilia, Italia (Agent, 764837, $17.40)

Not only is Catarratto one of Sicily’s most planted variety (60 per cent), it is also one of Italy’s most employed. Reputation lends to parts of speech such as bulk juice, grape concentrate and blending but when vinified with ancient acumen and love, Cataratto is capable of revivalist contention. Here, from plantings in the late 1990’s, the fruit was extricated off vines 18 years of age. The Mediterranean composition, feel, tone and character of this unique white, while simple, straightforward and utilitarian, gives forth an ooze of balm and brine that Grillo just can’t match. So much sapidity and savour, like olives, capers and wild herbs muddled into one fine tapenade. Bring on the calamari.  Tasted November 2014  Azienda Agricola Gregorio De Gregorio  @ColioWinery

Planeta Etna 2013, DOC Sicilia, Italia (Agent, $27.99)

When a white wine comes across all rocks, citrus and breeze you know that a) you are somewhere in the vicinity of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the western Mediterranean Sea and b) there is something beautiful and endemic going on. The highly aerified, vitreous, bracing, juicy 100 per cent Carricante is Sicilian vine flora at its finest. A stark cement tank ferment and six months in large format Slovenian oak casks has taken rocks, coarse sea salt and viscous atmosphere and just beat it, squeezed it and juiced it to become ground, white sunshine. When it comes to wine from this ancient grape, in the hands of the island’s master prodocer, “the fire’s in their eyes and their words are really clear.” This Planeta is the king of Sicilian Pop.  Tasted November 2014  @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates
Poderi Dal Nespoli Pagadebit 2013, DOC Emilia Romagna, Italia (Agent, $15.95)
Presented by Brand Ambassador Nicole Poggi, who notes this is literally the “pay back” wine. Pagadebit is 90 per cent Bombino Bianco, with help from Sauvignon Blanc. Bombino is a productive, disease-resistant variety, traditionally grown by peasants so thus the moniker. From vines located between the Adriatic and Tuscany, this gains complexity in sandwiched compression of both region’s acidities. At the price, this is more than a no-brainer replacement for dull, insipid and often insulting, mass-produced Pinot Grigio. The corpulence and relish are of a movable feast, a compendium of white wine excitement that leaves PG in the dust of its neutrality and condescending patronage.  Tasted November 2014  Poderi Dal Nespoli   @_hiniky  Select Wines
Valle Dell'Acate

Valle Dell’Acate

Valle Dell’Acate Vittoria Il Frappato 2013, DOC Sicilia, Italia (Agent, $28.99)

Presented by Francesco Ferreri, this unique red from Sicily was the eye-opener to finish in endemic style. The roots from this 100 per cent Frappato go back at least six generations to pre-Phylloxera times. All organic and replanted using massal selection, the Vittoria is one of only five in the region. The textural impression left by its calcaire, sandstone and clay strata soils is significant. Extremely berry-oriented, with strawberry and raspberry leading, along with a sour hint of pomegranate. Like Sicilian Gamay, with great personality, fresh, tight, bracing and very territorial. With more attention paid to the expressive Sicilian the new battle cry could become #FireFrappatoFire. Tasted November 2014  @VdaWinery  @HalpernWine