Monthly Archives: March 2012

Tasting the Single Vineyard Wines of Produttori Del Barbaresco

When a few members of my wine group were closed out of a tasting of the 1978 Barbaresco crus from Produttori del Barbaresco, we decided to organize our own.

Produttori del Barbaresco is a wine cooperative, arguably the best in Italy. It has roots going back to 1894 when there were 19 members, but the co-op as we now know it dates from1958.  Today there are 56 members. Over the years, a few members have left the co-op to go out on their own.

Produttori has 100 hectares of Nebbiolo in the Barbaresco Appellation, 1/6 of the area. Each grower makes his own decisions as far as growing the grapes is concerned.

Produttori del Barbaresco only produce wine from the Nebbiolo grape, Barbaresco DOCG, a blend of grapes from different vineyards, and Langhe Nebbiolo DOC

In great vintages, nine single vineyard Barbaresco’s are produced within the boundaries of the village of Barbaresco: Asilli, Rabaja, Pora, Montestefano, Orvello, Pagé, Montefico, Moccagatta and Rio Sordo.  The co-op takes great pride in these wines and the name of the single vineyard, the total number of bottles produced, and the name of the owners of the vineyard are on the label.

The 1996 Ovello Riserva, for example has on the label the name of the single vineyard, the number of bottles produced (18,145) and the names of the vineyard owners: Cravanzola, Gonella, Maffei, Vacca, Varaldo.

In his book Italy’s Noble Red Wines, Wasserman states in the section on Barbaresco,  “There are a few producers making Barbaresco in the same class as the wines of Produttori, but none who surpass them.”  In the years since this was written I have drunk many bottles of Produttori and it is as true now as it was then.

All of these single vineyards basically have the same soil, calcareous limestone with sandy veins. The only difference is in the exposure. The grapes are hand harvested. They are also vinified in the same way. Traditional fermentation takes place with 18 to 20 days skin contact and aged for 36 months in oak barrels of 25 to 50 HL and 8 months in barrel before release. All of the single vineyards are reserve wines.

The Crus of Produttori del Barbaresco

Montefico 1979– the vineyard is 8.4 acres and it is at 250 meters with a southern exposure. The first vintage was in 1986 and today there are about 6,000 bottles produced. This was the wine of the afternoon. It was ready to drink with all the flavors and aromas of a classic Barbaresco.

Montefico 1978 – it seemed to have more body and structure than the 79, and seemed to need more time.

Ovello 1978 – The vineyard covers an area of 16.25 acres at 290 meters with a south/southeastern exposure. The first vintage was 1970 and there are about 18,000 bottles produced today.  Since the 1996 vintage, Ovello has become my favorite. 

Rabaja 1978 -The vineyard covers an area of 11.5 acres with a southwest exposure at 320 meters. The first vintage was 1967 and there are about 14,000 bottles produces today. This was a complex well-structured wine with a great finish and aftertaste.

Rabaja 1970. Wassermandescribed this wine this way: “Rich bouquet, intense and full of fruit, has a nutlike aspect; velvety, elegant, heaps of fruit, very nice indeed and quite ready; some tannin and a lot of fruit; should last.”  Seems like he was covering all the bases here. He tasted the wine in 1980 and he was right about the last part- the wine did last!

The 1967 PORA

Pora 1967 The vines cover an area of 18 acres with a south/southwest exposure at 300 meters. The first vintage was 1967 and there are about 18,000 bottles produced today. This was in very good condition showing very little sign of age.


Filed under Barbaresco, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Produttori del Barbaresco

The Nebbiolo Wines of the Novara- Vercelli Hills

Mention the Nebbiolo grape and the wines that are most likely to come to mind are Barolo and Barbaresco.  These are great wines but there are others from northern Piedmont that deserve some attention, such as Ghemme, Bramaterra, Spanna, Carema, Boca, and Gattinara.  These are made from100% Nebbiolo or blended with little known grapes such as Vespolina, Croatina and Bonarda.

As Co-Chair of the Wine Media Guild, I was happy to assist member Ed Mc Carthy and member sponsor Tom Maresca in putting together a tasting of these wines along with lunch at Felidia restaurant in NYC. One of the guest speakers was Ciniza Travaglini  of the Travaglini winery. One of the points that she made was that all of the wines at the tasting showed better with food.  I could not agree more.

Morgan Rich and WMG member Ed Mc Carthy

The other guest speaker was Morgan Rich, a former sommelier, now with Polnar Selections. Mr. Rich spoke about each of the Northern Piedmont appellations that were represented at the tasting.

There were 16 wines at the tasting including a 1995 Gattiniara Risreva from Travaglini that we had with lunch. 

Ghemme 2006  made from 100% Nebbiolo Cantalupo The grapes come from the Carella Baraggiola Valera and Cavenago vineyards. The vineyards are on hills formed during the interglacial stage by the Monte Rosa moraine, the second highest peak in Europe. The soil is very rich in minerals because of the considerable crumbling of the rocks. The vineyards are between 280-310 meters. The training of the vines is counter espalier with Guyot pruning.  Harvesting takes place in mid-October. The grapes are destemmed and delicately pressed. Temperature controlled fermentation during which repassing was carried out twice a day until the sugar was completely transformed.  This was followed by submerged cap fermentation. The wine was then transferred to oak casks where it remained for about 20 months. After bottling the bottles were stored horizontally for refining. Aromas and flavors of violets, faded rose and raspberries.   $37

Bramaterra 2007 made from 70% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina, 7% Vespolina and 3% Bonarda  Antoniotti.  Odilio Antoniotti and his son Mattia run the winery. The grapes are from the oldest vines, in a high elevation vineyard on porphyry soil that drains extremely quickly and is full of minerals and nutrients. In the vineyard they did not use fertilizers only compost and try to keep the sulfur at a minimal level. The vines are Guyot trained and the grapes are hand harvested. The grapes are destemmed and fermented in underground cement tanks for 12-14 days. The wine is racked into stainless steel tanks for Malolatic fermentation and then placed into botti of at least 1,250 liters around the end of December for about 30 months. There is no fining or filtration. $25-30

Spanna  “Campi Raudii” 2009 Vallana Tom Maresca said that he was told when he visited the winery that this wine was 90% Nebbiolo with Vespolina and Bonarda. The wine is vino di tavola because they wanted to make a wine as they did in the past that did not follow the law. Since there is no IGT in Piedmont the wine had to be vino di tavola and therefore could not have a date on the label. Tom said that he was told it was a 2009 and that it was on the bar code. Vallana Spanna was a wine that could age. A few years ago I had a 1954 and a 1955. Will the present wines last as long? Only time will tell.  They are a great bargain! $16

Spanna “Colline Novaresi “2008 Vallana . The Spanna Vallana is made from 100% Spanna the local name for Nebbiolo. Grapes from two different Crus Boca and Gattinara are used. These high altitude vineyards were planted in the 1960’s.  The acidity of the soil prevents iron deficiency and only basic fertilizer is used. The grapes are hand harvested and selected. They are crushed and transferred to cement tanks for a 24-hour cold soak. Then the must is injected with selected yeast strains and fermentation begins. The cement tanks thermally insulate the must and the fermentation temperature gradually rises which is ideal for color extraction. Fermentation lasts between 8 to 10 days and pumping over is performed during this period. The wine undergoes Malolatic fermentation over the first winter. In the spring the wine goes into botti of 5-12 HL for six months.    $ $17

Carema Classico 2007 DOC Produtti Carema 2007 Made from 100% Nebbiolo $24 This winery created in 1960, is a small cooperative divided amongst 45 growers in this small, remote region. Each grower rarely owns more than 1 hectare, most having only ½ hectare. The D.O.C. Carema, established in 1967, sits on a mountainous piece of land bordering the Valle d’Aosta. The climate is cold and quite windy here, resulting in grapes that are slow to ripen, and wines that are light garnet in color.

The vines are planted on steep stone terraces that reflect the sun and maintain the heat of the day during the night. The vines are trained on pergola-like crossbeams locally named topie or tabbie, onto which the vines are tied down firmly to keep them from being broken by the strong winds. These topie also allow for maximum exposure to the sun, helping to draw out the harvest for as long as possible, thereby taming the grapes’ high acids that would otherwise overwhelm the palate. The wines are 100% Nebbiolo from the local clones of Nebbiolo, Picutener, meaning “tender stem” and Pugnet, meaning “fist-like,” a reference to the compact shape of the bunches. The minimum aging requirement for these wines is 4 years, of which two years have to pass in large oak or chestnut botti.

Carema “ La Tabbie” 2007 DOC Orsolani The wine made from two clones of Nebbiolo Picutener and Pugent. The wine is aged in botti for three years and in bottle for 12 months before release. This was one of the more elegant wines at the tasting.  $36

Carema is a wine valued for its perfume and elegance, but with the structure and acidity to age for decades with aromas and flavors of tar, leather, damp leaves and faded roses.

Bocca 2004 Valanna made from 65% Nebbiolo, 20% Vespolina and 15% Uva Rara. Grapes are hand picked and transported in small boxes to protect the skin and delay natural fermentation. Each variety is fermented separately. Fermentation takes place in cement tanks, with aggressive pumping over in the beginning to develop tannins and color. The wines are then blended and aged in 10HL casks for 2 years.      $ 30

Gattinara 2006 Antoniolo 100% Nebbiolo, with a south/southwest exposure, the vines are 40-50 years old.  Fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with an automatic daily pump over. Maceration takes place between 14-16 days. The wine then ages in medium capacity oak barrels for 24 months and in bottle for another 12 months. $40

Gattinara “Le Castelle” 2006 Antoniolo    Made from 100% Nebbiolo from the Castelle cru with a mostly southwest exposure.  Fermented in temperature controlled stainless tanks with daily pumping over and 10-12 days maceration. The wine is aged for 2 year in barriques and one year in bottle. $55

The hills of Gattinara have the same mineralogical composition as the Alps: granite rocks, porphyries, quartzes and iron minerals, which give the typical reddish color to the indigenous rock.

Travaglini Gattinara the vineyards are at 280 to 420 meters and the exposure is south /southwest. There are 3,500 to 5,00 plants per hectare. The grapes are crushed and macerated for about 14 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.

Cinzia Travaglini

Cinzia spoke about Gattinara in general and her winery in particular and pointed out that all of their Gattinara is made from 100% Nebbiolo. She also said that it is a family run winery and her husband Massimo is the wine maker

Gattinara 2006 Travaglini the wine is aged for 3 years. 2 years in Slovenian oak. After the  required aging is finished the wine rests in bottle for 3 months.   $30

Gattinara “ Tre Vigne” Travaglini 2005 The wine is aged for 40 months, 30 months in Slovenian oak casks -25% of which is aged separately for 10 months in French barriques. The wine then rests in bottle for 8 months. $49

Gattinara Riserva 2006 Travaglini The wine is aged for 4 years, at least 3 in oak casks of different origin and sizes, then in bottle for 8 months. This wine is only made in the best vintages from a special selection of grapes. $59

Gattinara Riserva 2005 $ 59 Same as above

Gattinara 2004 Vallana This is the same as the Spanna but it is aged  for 24 months in botti and 9 months in bottle before release.$30

Gattinara “ Tre Vigne” 2001 $ NV Same as above

Gattinara Riserva1995 Travaglini  $ NV Same as above



Filed under Antoniolo, Antoniotti, Boca, Bramaterra, Cantalupo, Gattinara, Ghemme, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Nebbiolo, Piedmont, Piemonte, Spanna, Travaglini

Tasting Fontanafredda Barolo Back to 1982

The first blog that I wrote for this site back in 2008 was about a tasting of Fontanafredda Barolo at the Italian Wine Merchants in NYC. I also visited the winery, which is located in the Langhe region of Piedmont, with a group of journalists a few years ago.  Now 130 blogs later, I am going to write about the Barolos of Fontanafredda that I tasted at Ai Fiori restaurant in NYC.

On each of these occasions, the speaker was Danilo Drocco, lead winemaker for the winery. He made his first vintage at Fontanafredda in 1999.

The history of the winery goes back to 1878. The 250-acre Fontanafredda Barolo cru property in Serralunga d’Alba is the single largest contiguous wine estate in the Langhe. In 2008 the estate was purchased by Oscar Farinette and his partner Luca Baffigo Filangieri, owners of Eataly. Mr. Firinetti was born in Alba and always wanted to own a winery.

Fontanafredda Barolo

Barolo Serralunga d’Alba DOCG 2007. Made from 100% Nebbiolo from the vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba. They are 300-400 meters above sea level and the exposure is south/southwest. The vines are Guyot trained and there are 4,400 plants per hectare. After a traditional fermentation lasting 12-15 days in stainless steel, the wine remained on the skins for another 25-30 days. Mr. Drocco said that this was for optimal polyphenolic extraction. It is aged one year in barriques (50% new) and one year in medium oak casks, then one year in bottle before release. $45

Mr. Drocco feels that his most important Barolo comes from Serralunga. He said the soil is very ancient, it was the first to come from the sea.  It is very poor soil and

the vines have to struggle so the grapes are more concentrated. Barolo from this soil has aromas and flavors truffles, leaves, tar and the earth.  He also believes in a long maceration, not to extract more tannin, but to give complexity to the bouquet, and pushing down the cap often will add aromas to the wine.

Mr. Drocco does not like to taste too much oak in his wines, he likes to refer to the taste he likes as “soft oak”. He made it very clear that he does use new barriques for the wine but only 50% are new, the rest is 2nd and 3rd passage. Then the wine is aged in medium oak casks of 2,000 to 3,000 liters. He also puts some of the wine in concrete for extra aging. This is because there is no movement of the wine in concrete. In stainless steel there can be an electric charge. Some wine makers have grounded their tanks in order to keep this from happening. Over the last few years he has stopped racking the wine.

The weather in 2007 was unusual, with a particularly mild winter, a warm but not hot summer and little rainfall. Yields were 10 to 15% lower and all of this resulted in a vintage of excellent quality. The Nebbiolo ripened somewhat early, with a high concentration of sugar.

Next was a tasting of three crus from the 1996 vintage:

Barolo Vigna “ La Rosa” DOCG 1996. The vineyard is in the village of Serralunga, mid-hillside at 250-300 meters above sea level, facing south/southwest. The soil is calcareous marl, clay and quartz sand, with good permeability. The vines are Guyot-trained and there are 4,600 plants per hectares.  The soil is white clay and sand. He described this as being the most feminine and elegant of the wines. $140

Barolo Vigna “La Villa” DOCG 1996. The vineyard is in the village of Barolo. Mid-hillside, at 320-370 meters facing east/southwest. The soil contains limestone, potassium oxide, phosphorous and copper, with good permeability. Guyot trained and plant density is 4,800 plants/ha. He said that the soil here is “younger” and there is more humidity and the tannins are softer and the wine has aromas of fresh black fruit. $165

Barolo Vigna “Lazzarito” DOCG 1996.The La Delizia vineyard is in the village of Serralunga, mid-hillside at 400 meters, facing south/southwest. The soil is of sedimentary marine origin with grayish white calcareous marl. Guyot trained and 4,500 plants/per ha. The vineyard is in a little valley where there is a lot of wind. He said that this wine had an extra ten days of maceration and has more body structure, elegance and complexity than the other wines. This was my favorite of the three wines from the 1996 vintage. $155

Mr. Drocco said that 1996 is very important to him for two reasons. It was the first vintage where he took part in the making of the wine. The second reason is because 1996 is one of the great vintages. It was a cold winter with below average temperatures. Cool and dry weather in the spring and a very cold summer delayed the maturation of the Nebbiolo fruit, with beginning of ripening occurring in late August rather than early August. He said the grapes were still green in early August. The final weeks of the month were warm and dry. The weather in September and October was perfect. The harvest took place in the end of October, beginning of November.  He feels that the weather in September and October helped in the ripening of the Nebbiolo, and quality was very high at harvest time.

Beppe Colla, the winemaker at Prunotto where Mr. Drocco was working at the time said that 1996 was a very strange vintage, the same conditions as 1972, which was a terrible vintage and everyone was worried, but somehow, in 1996, everything turned out well. Good color, tannins and acidity.

Tasting the 1996 vintage over the last few years only confirms this, he added.

A Vertical of Barolo Riserva

Mr. Drocco said that only the best lots of Nebbiolo from the best vintages are used to make the Riserva. Our grapes for the Riserva come from the estate vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto and La Mora and are between 300-450 meters. He said that in the past all producers of Barolo blended the wine from different vineyards on their estate.

For the Riserva there is a careful selection process that begins in the vineyards and continues in the winery. After a traditional fermentation lasting 12-15 days in stainless steel, the wine is in contact with the skins for another 25-30 days. Barolo Riserva must be aged for a minimum of 5 years before release. These wines spend 3 years in oak casks and at least 2 years in bottle before release.

Barolo Riserva DOCG 2000 Mr. Drocco said that this vintage had ideal weather conditions for the wines vegetative cycle. It was a cold dry winter but the spring was marked by mild temperatures and very rainy, increasing the early vegetation of the plants. Summer was very hot, with rain and storms throughout. The harvest was 10 days earlier the usual. The grapes showed high sugar levels, optimally ripe polyphenols, excellent color and high sweet tannin levels. He feels that 2000 is a very approachable vintage with a lot of fruit, and hints of flowers and spice. $135

Barolo Riserva DOCG 1997.  A difficult vintage, the winter and summer were very dry. It was hot but not as hot as 2000. Because of this the vines germinated 20 days earlier than usual, the flowering was regular and produced an abundant crop. Ripening proceeded regularly, which benefited the accumulation of sugar and the breaking up of malic acid. $125

Barolo Riserva DOCG 1982. This vintage produced wines with very powerful tannins. A very dry summer and autumn resulted in highly contracted tannins that are still evident in the wine, even after all this time. He said that 1996 and 1982 were both great vintages and had similar structure and tannins.  This was my favorite wine of the tasting.  It showed no sign of age and had all the characteristics of a great Barolo. $265

In response to a question about the 2008 vintage, Mr. Drocco said that it was a great vintage like 2001 and 2004. In many ways it also reminded him of the 1996 vintage.


Filed under Barolo, Fontanafredda, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine

Calabria at the American Institute of Wine and Food

“Calabria Revisited” was the theme of a dinner organized by the American Institute of Wine and Food at Alloro Restaurant in Manhattan to benefit their children’s outreach program known as the Days of Taste.  Chef Salvatore Corea, who was born in Calabria, was our host and presented a menu of regional dishes.  His wife Gina made everyone feel at home in this family run restaurant.  I was asked to speak about the wines of Calabria and the three wines we were having with dinner.

Calabria is the most rural and least industrialized regions of Italy.

90% of the wine production is red.

Except for Ciró, the wines of Calabria are not very well known in this country.  Calabria has a history of viniculture going back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, in fact the Greeks called Southern Italy Enotria, the land of wine, but today Calabria seems to have fallen behind the rest of Italy. 90% of the the wine production is red. It is the most rural and least industrialized regions of Italy.

The Slow Wine Guide, published by the Slow Food organization, lists only two wineries from Calabria in its English version of the guide.

The Gambero Rosso guide lists many more wineries, including the ones that we had with dinner. In the 2009 edition,  they awarded three glasses, their highest award to a few wines, one being a Ciró and a wine from Calabria was named sweet wine of the year. Things may be improving, but they still have a long way to go.

The Wines 

Scavigna Bianco DOC 2010 made from Greco Bianco, Chardonnay, Malvasia, Trebbiano, Pinot Bianco and Riesling. Azienda Agricola Odoardi the winery is at 600 meters. The soil is calcareous clay and the training system is Guyot. The harvest takes place in late August and the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks. The wine had flavors and aromas of white peaches with notes of herbs and grass. They are one of the few producers that make this wine.  Owners are Giorgio and Giovanbattista Odoardi.

Ciró Rosso Classic Superiore “Liber Pater” DOC 2009 it is made from 100% Gaglioppo grapes.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel. Ippolito 1845.   This is a rustic wine with deep red and black fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of leather. It has a long finish and a distinctive aftertaste. I liked the wine and it was a great combination with the Candele di Gragnano con ragù n’juduia, pecorino crotonese, scorzette d’agrumi di candite, long pasta tubes in a sauce flavored with a spicy soft sausage and candied lemon zest. 

Gaglioppo is a grape that was probably brought to Southern Italy by the ancient Greeks, or so the producers say.

However this has become a matter of debate.

Ciró is the best known of the Calabrian wine regions and makes a very distinctive wine.  However this is going to change as the production code now allows international grape varieties to be added to the Gaglioppo.

The Slow Wine Guide is against this “…it finds this decision perplexing not only because it goes against tendencies in the rest of the South but because it is a hard blow to a distinctive DOC that has contributed significantly to Italy’s wine history.” I could not agree more!

Savuto Rosso Blend DOC “Vigna Colle Barabba” DOC made from the Arvino, Greco Nero, Magliocco, Canino and Nerello Capuccio grapes. Mauro Colacino. They use spurred cordon-sapling training for the vines. The wine is fermented in stainless steel  This is a softer, more elegant wine than the Ciró with subtle red fruit aromas and flavors and a hint of cherry.

This wine went very well with the Filetto di maiale con salsa di miele e peperoncino, verze stufate, crema fritta e pancetta crocante,roasted pork lion, with honey & spice red pepper sauce, braised cabbage, fried cream and crisp pancetta.


N’ Tice Liquor, Calabria, a digestivo that is made from vodka, grappa and citrus and was the perfect end to the dinner.





Filed under Alloro restaurant, Calabria, Ciró, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Odoardi winery, Salvuto Colacino, Scavigna Bianco