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

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Avoid the LCBO. Buy local. Support wine agents. Start now.

This public service message will be brief. My colleague and great friend John Szabo M.S. has already made the pronouncement in his weekly VINTAGES round-up over at WineAlign. I only wish to reiterate and help show you the way. Wine is woven into the fabric of our lives and the time is impressed upon us to change what, how, from where and why we make our purchases. In these unprecedented times we the people must act to plank the COVID-19 curve and we must do so together. We must stay home. We should not be making trips to the LCBO.

Related – Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES March 21st, 2020

The LCBO is not an essential service. Their employees should not be put in the uncompromising position of working through the pandemic while their head offices remain shuttered tight. Hospitality giants choose to save lives and act as heroes by closing their doors for the common good. Even if it means going out of business. If the LCBO will not do the right thing then the people of Ontario need to act for them. The alternatives for finding booze are too numerous to count, safer and by trusting the word of writers, restauranteurs and sommeliers you will open your eyes and palates to the world class wines, beers and spirits found right here in your backyard.

Please see attached a Press Release from the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario, VQA Wines of Ontario and Wine Country Ontario announcing that over 95 Ontario VQA wineries are offering free shipping to Ontario residents, with most of them extending this offer until Easter Weekend, including April 13th, 2020.

https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/over-95-ontario-vqa-wineries-offer-free-shipping-to-ontario-residents-870436522.html

Please follow this link to see this list.

https://winecountryontario.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/VQA-Wineries-Free-Shipping.pdf

To see which Ontario importing wine agencies are offering free shipping on cases (and mixed cases) of wines in their portfolio from across the globe, please click here.

Related – Wine Agents Offering Free Shipping in Ontario

One more thing. During these suffocating, devastating and potentially bankrupting times for the local hospitality industry it would be a business-saving adjustment if our restaurants could sell wine and beer to go along with their take-out and delivery sales. Please sign the petition to lobby our politicians.

Related – Allow Ontario Restaurants to include wine, beer, cider, spirits in take-out & deliveries

Good luck to all, stay inside, stay healthy and stay safe. I am looking forward to sharing a lesser distancing glass of wine with each and every one of you when we all emerge together, better than we were before, on the other side.

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

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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They say all roads lead through Greve

In Greve’s Piazza Giacomo Matteotti there is a Chianti Classico institution of local gastronomy called Oliosteria la Terrazza. Could there be a finer location to meet up with six wine producers from the commune, listen to them pour out their hearts and their finest sangiovese? I think not.

Related – Montefioralle (more than a feeling)

La Squadra Canadese, Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, Greve

Twelve other intrepid Canadian wine travellers agreed, abided and tasted through 12 Chianti Classico whilst the benefactors explained the origins, underscored the merits and revealed their expectations for what these Riserva and Gran Selezione could become.

Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, Greve

Related – Two sides of the River Greve

Over the last two years I have capitulated about the larger notion of Greve on this site in two published occasions. To read up on the history, geography, geology and general realities of the double-banked, extensive and magnificent commune, please click on the link above, and also below.

Related – A river runs through Greve

Post Greve tasting, snacks at OliOsteria La Terrazza

As I noted two years ago, “Chianti Classico is not one of the more famous left versus right bank terroirs in Europe but in the case of Greve in Chianti a river does run through it. My recent September 2017 sangiovese exploration brought me to Greve and a retrospective concern…explains a contrast in landscape meets topography, position and soil that at the time was not fixed on my menzioni geografiche radar. What happens left or west of the river is one thing and to the right something other. Were that it were so simple I wouldn’t have to expand, but it’s not and I do.”

#tranquillo #greveinchianti #ChiantiClassico

Related – Feeling Panzano’s pull

The estates who came to the central piazza in September 2019 were Carpineto, Castello di Querceto, Querciabella, Tenuta di Nozzole, Vicchiomaggio and Vignamaggio. This is my seventh recently published exposé (and fourth for Greve) on i frazioni and i communi that are the smaller sub-zones and greater micro-territories within Chianti Classico. These are the 12 wines tasted that day in Greve.

Related – A Lamole is a Lamole is a Lamole

Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($29.95)

A 90 per cent sangiovese with (10) canaiolo. Meaty, cured, porcine. Minty, sharp, white peppery. Puts a tease intro the nose. A vintage of generosity taken over by a pressing focus. Will not likely age with some of the estate’s more recent highest of quality vintages so take advantage of what’s on offer, right here, right now. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Carpineto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Dusty and high-toned mixed with well reasoned, seasoned and developed fruit. Reminds of southern Montalcino, in a way.  Last tasted September 2019

Packed in suitcase from Greve by Antonio M. Zaccheo for this Toronto tasting. True to the Carpineto, Greve in Chianti, Classico style in that there is no real departure in stretch to the Gran Selezione, at least in terms of a thickening to syrup or shaken consistency. The cool, minty, dusty, high-toned and big red fruit personality are on headlights display, front, centre and all in. Here is the highest quality acidity that ’15 can gift and the fruit takes full advantage. Great cupboard spice and length. Really well done. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted April 2019

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (650754, $28.95)

families that have maintained their properties for more than 100 years. One of the founding members of the Consorzio in 1924. Always love the aromatic front of a Querceto. It’s a mix of place, indigenous varieties and tradition. In Riserva styling it’s also like overripe pinot noir, a.k.a. strawberry jam. In sangiovese that’s perfectly cool. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Castello di Querceto’s Marco Fizialetti

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Picchio 2016 (938738, $49.00)

Querceto’s unique location in Greve is the Dudda Valley, an angular and broad swath of evergreen terroir in the northeast sector of the commune and the greater territory. Il Picchio is an old name referring to the land of the vineyard and perhaps “the woodpecker.” From only three hectares, “an aisle in the sea of the forest.” Dark red soil in iron and magnesium, dry, rich in stones. Almost a desert floor, not a woodland. Only one bottle per bunch, per vine, of Il Picchio. That says so much. Mainly (95 per cent) sangiovese with five per cent of the five local grapes. That combination of great richness and mineral streak – it cuts through the fat, enlivens and lifts. Same big extraction, concentration and in 2016 an earthy high note that speaks to hyperbole of nose, palate and tannin provided by this particular terroir. Old traditions and sense of place dies hard in these parts so expect dark fruit, a posit grab of structure, conservative styling and a tug on the sangiovese heartstrings. That and the unction meets beauty of 2016 fruit. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted September, October and November 2019

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($48.95)

Presented by Valentina Bertoli, Sales & Marketing Assistant Manager and Winemaker Manfred Ing. Has been 100 per cent sangiovese since 2010 and it is in fact a rare occurrence of a confluence of estate managed grapes located in Greve, Radda and Gaiole. Spicier than I remembered and conversely more settled than last February. Seems to have lightened and brightened. “Every single vineyard has its own recipe of cover crops,” tells Ing, “specific to the biodynamic and climatological needs of each of the 70 plots around the Chianti Classico.”  Last tasted September 2019

On the ripest side of 2016 life, Querciabella’s Annata is all in, developed, deep and pure. The fruit already there, unencumbered by holds barred and of a picking that pushes the envelop to gratify at the highest level. There’s nothing stopping the early enjoyment and while the tannins are anything but astringent they are there, albeit sweet and fine. Drink 2020-2023. Tasted February 2019

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Greater balance is happening in the vineyard between the top, middle and lower parts. Cover crop workings are leading to equal vigour in all parts of the vineyard, no longer soaking up moisture run down at the lower sections. Clearly no compromises in the Querciabella Riserva 2015, fruit exemplary, lively and layered, lush and elastic, ripe of little compare. A right, forward and courteous example of aromatic overstatement, so perfumed and surely special. Right at the forefront of Riserva culpability at the verge of possibility to the grander appellation. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Nozzole 2015 (324160, $24.95)

From the Folonari family, originally from Ruffino. Ambrogio Giovanni Folonari is still at the head of the family. Special bottling for the North American market, 150,000 in the US alone. A varietal sangiovese, as is the sister Riserva La Forra and are the Gran Seleziones. Sees aging time in Grandi Botti. Perfectly ripe, ubiquitous and modern classic version of Chianti Classico. Made for the markets. Approximately a $25 Canadian price. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG La Forra 2015 (362731, $36.95)

Very specific single vineyards and selection of grapes. Ages for two to four months longer than Nozzole and in some small barrels, along with Grandi Botti that Nozzole sees alone. Quite reductive, chewy, ropey, like red and black liquorice intertwined. Approximately a $37 Canadian price. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

 

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Le Bolle 2016

The vineyard borders on the hamlet called “La Bolle.” One of the few locales where another producer could quite possibly plant a vineyard on the same “cru” where this clay landscape is located. “This is what we call uncompromising sangiovese, Gran Selezione,” tells John Matta. This is a Selezione with an unmistakable character that is a sense of the place, even if we don’t fully yet know about the true and full capabilities of this particular place. I imagine we will come to know it through the generations of this wine.  Last tasted September 2019

Named for the small group of houses to which the vineyard abuts, a vineyard where the large gathering of stones resembles Les Galets of Châteauneuf-de-Pâpe. The total prodcution is 50 hL (6,000 bottles). Just going into bottle as we speak, there is a structural architecture to this Gran Selezione that stands apart. La Prima is the wine for everyman while Le Bolle will appeal to ye who wants edgy, artistic and deferential. The blood orange, cranberry, pomegranate and sapid-herbal attributes are all part of the extenuating mix. Terrifc single-block within a single-vineyard expression of solo sangiovese Gran Selezione. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2019

Vicchiomaggio’s John Matta

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Prima 2015

Sangiovese (90) and merlot (10), on average. ”Our style is to make very elegant wines with oak in the background.” Wines that can from a picking time that is so precise. “A race of age,” meaning two or three extra days will make all the difference. Like 1/10 of a second in a car race.  Last tasted September 2019

Made with a few percentage points of merlot, this is the a small-ish production Gran Selezione, a 100 hL output so the number is approximately 15,000 bottles produced. Really high-toned aromatically for Gran Selezione and then a palate of great richness and layering. Truly a selection created sangiovese, with drinkability and steak house amenability. Suits the style and the intent so perfectly. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Gherardino 2015

Presented by Stefano Bernabei. In the Greve valley on the Right Bank, Lamole side. “Vignamaggio has a double identity because half of the vineyards are located in the Panzano area,” explains Bernabei. Double indemnity more like it. Selection of vineyards. Chewy sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot. Rich and luxe, easy to understand, not hard to see the great commercial appeal.  Last tasted September 2019

Gherardino is Greve in Chianti old school, in a way, with dried fruit, potpourri and a wealth of fennel-liquorice savour. Spice notes are very prevalent, as is the idea that in three years or so this will turn over into balsamico, porcini and tartufo. Wise and traditional Riserva. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018

Vignamaggio’s Stefano Bernabei

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Monna Lisa 2015

There is five per cent cabernet sauvignon in the 2015 vintage. “Now Vignamaggio is concentrating more and more on sangiovese,” having rid Monna Lisa of merlot. Once again the luxe swagger and chic, smooth and silken texture completely distracts and renders the other parts inconsequential. Fulsome as much as any GS, easy to get at and with little need for air, or time. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Montefioralle (more than a feeling)

Montefioralle #sleeper frazione

They are growing in sangiovese divinity, or should it be said, divino. L’Associazione Viticoltori di Montefioralle, producers with more than a feeling, who share common ground but also something bigger, stronger, more profound. Montefioralle Divino is a September festival that unites this tiny Greve in Chianti frazione and with a purpose all its own. Theirs is a small section of Chianti Classico and one to call their own. This band is so good they named a medieval village after it.

Castello di Verrazzano’s Luigi Cappellini and the Granfondo del Chianti Classico squadra Canadesi

Related – Two sides of the River Greve

Let’s orient you on Montefioralle’s location. Montefioralle is situated on the west bank of the Greve River and close to Castello di Montefioralle, essentially, ostensibly and mostly southwest of Greve and south of Greti. The hamlet has 79 residents and sits at an elevation of 352 meters. As for their famous harvest festival, “Montefioralle Divino è una manifestazione organizzata e promossa dall’Associazione Viticoltori di Montefioralle che saranno presenti alla manifestazione e offriranno i propri vini in degustazione sui banchi di assaggio per due giorni.”

Montefioralle, Greve in Chianti

Two days of wine tasting in Piazza Santo Stefano in the historic centre of medieval Montefioralle, presented by a group in flux, from time to time. In 2019 they were Azienda Agricola Altiero, Brogioni Maurizio, Castello di Verrazzano, Montefioralle, Podere Bucine, Podere Campriano, San Cresci, Grassi Roberto, Terre di Baccio, Terre di Melazzano, Terreno, Villa Calcinaia and Fattoria Viticcio. From year to year membership rises, wanes and changes. And so there are others who bottle within this micro-terroir of i cru di enogea; Belvedere, Le Palei, Luciano Meli, Poggio Riccioli, Schietto and Tenuta Monteficali.

Dinner at Terreno

Related – Feeling Panzano’s pull

The zonazione’s terroir is mostly calcareous clay, with sand and in some cases, outcrops of “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less instances of Galestro or Alberese and more Macigno. Once again yet another micro-territory in Chianti Classico for Masnaghetti and the geologists to consider in the cartological advancement with an eventual conclusion in menzione geographiche aggiuntive.

Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

Tasting at Calcinaia

Related – Looking out for San Donato in Poggio

The following wines were tasted with Conte Sebastiano Capponi at Villa Calcinaia, followed by a tasting with the producers of Montefioralle in the same location. The members are producers with estates and/or vineyards holdings around the Montefioralle hill. Two years earlier my group had met with eight such producers at Calcinaia. These 21 tasting notes cover the September 2019 speed dating sit-down with nine estate principals, followed by dinner at Terreno.

Wines of Montefioralle

Altiero Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Always 100 per cent sangiovese, from winemaker Paolo Baldini, from the southeast exposure off the the younger vineyard. This is the perfume of Montefioralle, inexplicable in a way, a very specific combination of flowers and herbs but there is a calm and when made this way, a purity, a clarity. A tradition from before that is forever. Slightly more unctuous and full on the palate with some wood addendum. Proper Annata. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Altiero Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Like the Annata always 100 per cent sangiovese, this time from the older vineyard facing southwest, away on an angle from Montefioralle and looking towards Panzano, the Conca d’Oro and Le Fonti. The red fruit liqueur is quite silky, savoury in a sweet and almost amaro way, so in a word, stunning. Full and polished with some tradition fully stashed away in pocket. From Galestro and Alberese. And it shows. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($30.45)

Essential balance in Chianti Classico Annata, obviously with thanks to the ’16 vintage but even more of a many splendored thing. Concentration and intensity intertwined but truth be spoken this really climbs the hills and then descends, with grace, power and ease. A brilliant Annata from Luigi Cappellini. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($49.60)

A sangiovese raised organic and a textural matter really defined by the quality and the length of time in contact with its skins. While not too long the extension was embraced and the certainty of a spot on result is certainly admired. Excellent skins, earthy, rich in tannin and also used to great structural advantage. This Riserva will travel long and go deep. Bank on it. Most rewarding work from il cicliste Cappellini. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sassello 2015

This is the wine at Verrazzano first made in 1982 as a Vino de Tavola, then as Riserva and finally as Gran Selezione, first in 2013. The Sassello is the small bird that seeks out the best grapes, in this case at 450m from the highest vineyard on the estate. This just intuits and explains vintage, place and appellation, together in harmony. It’s a cool sangiovese of smooth savour, with great length and slow developing parts. Needs more time. Just does. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Lorenzi Sieni, Montefioralle

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Dry vintage, full fruit, deep red, almost out of cherry and into plum, better acidity than some of its ilk and says Lorenzo, “not greens tannins.” Agreed. Quite silky, almost glycerin and long. Well done Sieni, well done. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Riserva is quite lush and full from 2016, no shocker to be sure and of a perfume that moves from Annata and into what grows low to the ground. Really proper appellative effort for the estate and for the frazione, richly embrued in liquified glowing embers and wet spice for days. Needs time to settle in. Very structured Riserva in which to imbibe after some time. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A perfectly consistent follow-up to a ’15 that stole that vintage’s show, here with equal aromatic excellence in 2016. Now showing as a great floral expression (remarkably early it should be noted) in a full bouquet bursting from the glass. There is a level of roundness and fine acid tang with circulative layers as good as it gets. Succinct as sangiovese, Greve and hanging around the finest of Montefioralle. A true Galestro idea presented clear as a clear blue frazione day. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Two sides of the Greve River

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Balze di Montefiorealle 2015

Perhaps not as balanced a vintage as the follow-up 2016 will bring to this Montefioralle Riserva but ’15 can stand on its feet, no problem at all. No sway but plenty of torque indeed. Love the fruit of 2015, as much as one needs to love fruit. The fruit goes in and then back out of your mouth in equal and opposing fashion. In balance, with acids and tannins in tow. Drink 2020-2026.  Last tasted September 2019

Exactly Campriano, distinct and luxurious in its own perfect way. it’s so very Riserva, unctuous with red fruit that seems almost completely absent of wood. It’s because of the land, a vineyard set in the forest “and still so very present.” That also means it’s in the wine. recognizable every year. Always. The vineyard is west facing above the Greve River, on old terraces, with old stones. You can drink this now even if it’s so young.  Tasted February 2019

Just put to market, the vintage will surely have so much to say and in fact already does, with a combination of perfume and spice. Still dusty, with fennel and endemic herbs, teas and brushy plants. There’s a raspberry to dried currant fruitiness that ’14 doesn’t have, also more mid-palate flesh and overall juiciness. A different sort of structure, still with long capabilities but will likely go into a drier fruit profile after the seven year mark. Elena Lapini is a very busy agriturismo and viticoltore proprietor these days and if these most recent 100 per cent sangiovese from two sides of the Greve river tracks are any indication, she’ll be busier than ever before. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Terreno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG San Pietro di Sillani 2017

A cru at the highest altitude at 480m of sangiovese and merlot (five per cent) with some time spent in new wood. Altitude meant no frost and also less heat from the arid vintage. Eighteen months in big oak casks, this time in new and while the high up frazione perfume is indeed fully emitting its rays there too is a silky smooth note that recalls the new wood. Looks really good and seems very fine though the wood is very involved. Should be very, very interesting. It’s quite refined. Way too young to call. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Monteficali Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Mezzuola 2015

The vigna-designate Annata is likewise a modern take on Chianti Classico label appearances notwithstanding but the smooth texture detail and lush glycerin flavours pale in comparison with the new barrique-aged Riserva. Here second and third passage tonneaux allow the marl and limestone of Montefioralle vineyards to speak a bit clearer and to breath a breath of 500m fresh air into this (85 per cent) sangiovese. The merlot (10) and cabernet sauvignon (5) smooth out all the wrinkles for a lush take on Annata. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Monteficali Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Guardingo Di Passignano 2015

Do not be fooled by the whimsical classicism of the label into thinking this Greve Chianti Classico from the heart of Montefioralle will be old-schooled, rustic and ancient-styled sangiovese. It is in fact a facsimile of such a notion and in point of fact the opposite is true. The salt and pepper seasoning of 10 per cent merlot and five cabernet sauvignon are more like spice and sauce to prove the first point. The small barriques aging for 18 months is the second, acceding into a textural Riserva at once silky smooth and then oozing with vanilla, balsamic and resiny syrup. A mouthful to be sure and in the style so well made. A fun fact to know is about the Guardingo Di Passignano, a medieval road and the only passage that connected the three main valleys of the Florentine countryside; Val d’Elsa, Val di Pesa and Val di Greve, Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Terre Di Melazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Cantinato 2015

“Born in the cellar,” of sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot and five cabernet sauvignon. A true glycerin Chianti Classico for Montefioralle, with unction and spice. Sings like a blackbird. Truly Cantinato, truly. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted September 2019

Calcinaia

Villa Calcinaia Mauvais Chapon Rosato Metodo Classico 2014

A tirage of VinSanto in 2015, 37 months on lees and disgorged April 2018. In reference to a siege of Florence by the French in 494, an offer was made, not accepted and the trumpets were sounded. Piero Capponi responded with a call to arms at the gates. A matter of familial propaganda and a wine that reminds of France. Linear, sharp, citric, toasty and so very fine. Really crisp, of utter clarity and streamlined like a sail on a fast vessel. Impressive to say the least. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Sebastiano Capponi

Villa Calcinaia Mammolo 2017, IGT Toscana

Varietal mammolo, fully, completely, capably in control of the wet wool character that only Sebastiano Capponi and (Monte Bernardi’s) Michael Schmelzer can effect, establish and conquer in unique red wine made in the Chianti Classico territory. This is good, righteous and proper volatility surrounding red fruit formed in a cake. Thick and unctuous from 2017 with endless character. Had been looking forward to tasting this finished wine since a first encounter out of concrete tank. Lives up to the billing and the hype. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

This limestone, that Alberese

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Fornace 2016 ($74.95)

A warm and unctuous La Fornace in fine form, consistent to its loam-sand origins, planted in 1975, at 250m of elevation. Faces due south and sees oak casks, 10 hL, approximately six years old. Showing secure and prevalent texture admitting everything about itself, a single-vineyard sangiovese sight that draws the sun and uses every iota of its energy. Good showing from the furnace, Surely not a shocker from ’16.  Last tasted September 2019

Vigna Fornace, “The Furnace” is indeed the warmest of the Capponi Gran Selezione, full of gathered 2016 sunshine, ready to melt in the mouth acidity, tannins and in this case, chocolate. The acidity is very different to Bastigano, here cured, developed and dare it be said in such a young wine, assimilated. Drink this younger while ye wait for the bigger structure and high tonal Bastigano.  Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Contessa Luisa 2016 ($67.95)

The magical Gran Selezione from the old lady of a vineyard, dating back to 1959. A plot marked by Colombino rock, not quite limestone and not quite sandy Alberese. There is a character in Luisa that no other Gran Selezione displays, neither from Calcinaia or elsewhere. Done up in oak cask, 10 hL, approximately six years old and showing the ease meets power of 2016. Bravissima.  Last tasted September 2019

Now for something completely different. The Contessa’s vineyard is a lifelong dream and confounding sangiovese from which to grab attention. She’s immediately elegant and charming and then so closed. She is predicated on darkening red cherry fruit but her acidity is formidable and so the connection is severe to establish. She lingers with you for so long that you don’t know what to do because she was never really accessible to begin with. Teasing Gran Selezione, an incubus for now, but eventually you will realized the dream. FYI, the oldest estate 1959 planted Contessa Luisa vineyard was dedicated to matriarch Luisa Vonwiller. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2019

Conte Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Bastignano 2016 ($74.95)

A component of cement egg on top of the 10 hL, approximately six years-old oak casks brings new layers and light to Bastignano and separates it from the other two sangiovese. It also clay darkens and broods, hides in shadows and remains softer, fleshier, but also sneaky in structure. There’s less pinpointed Calcinaia character and more outside in the diaspora personality. If that splits hairs so be it though it needs saying that Bastignano is a man of means.  Last tasted September 2019

Capponi’s Bastignano is a Gran Selezione consistent and repetitively persistent to speak its singular truth. It is truly hematic, a sumptuous, oozing full-fruit sangiovese with above the left bank of the river Greve coursing through its blood. Very smooth, seamless, finely tannic and beautifully high in ripe acida. If all GS carried such acid then the category would float even higher. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Villa Calcinaia Casarsa 2014, IGT Colli Toscana Centrale ($54.95)

Capponi’s varietal merlot is from the 1967 planted vineyard not realized as merlot until many years later. Fermented in cement vats and then 24 months are spent in barriques. A beast really, young at five years in ways most sangiovese are not. So much verdancy, spice, grip, grit, power and need for space, not to mention time. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted September 2019

Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG Vendemmia 51 2016 ($23.95)

Only two points of merlot with the sangiovese from two picks, the first of which goes here, for increased acidity. Dark floral and fruit scents for sure and some spice. Really like the mouthfeel and the acid-fruit structure. Tannins are quite easy. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($31.95)

With small amounts of merlot and syrah, it’s quite sappy and resinous. Plenty of smooth chocolate ganache, blackberry and backbone with thanks to a Galestro and Alberese soil mix filled with stone. Big Riserva. Really big. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

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