Category Archives: Barolo

Giacomo Fenocchio Winery: The Tradition Continues

A number of years ago I was at Vinitaly and stopped by the stand of the wine negociant Barbara De Rham and tasted a number of wines under the De Rham label. One of them was a Barolo. I was so impressed with it that I asked Barbara for the name of the producer. It was Giacomo Fenocchio. At the time I was the wine director for I Trulli Restaurant in NYC and I added this wine to our wine list.

Claudio Fennochio

Claudio Fenocchio

Last November, I was able to visit the winery for the first time. We were greeted at the winery by the winemaker/owner Claudio Fenocchio. The winery is in the Loc. Bussia-Monforte D’Alba.

Claudio said the estate was founded in 1894 and has been handed down from father to son for over 5 generations. It was Claudio’s father Giacomo who expanded the vineyards and started selling wine to foreign markets. Today 20 hectares are under vines and Claudio and his brothers Albino and Alberto export almost 80% of the production.IMG_9196

All of the wines are made from the estates vineyards located in Bussia in Montorte d’Alba, the Villero sub zone of Castiglione Falletto and Cannubi in Barolo. All are Grand Cru vineyards.

Claudio’s great-great grandfather Giovanni Fenocchio said “everyone makes wine in the same way, because this is how it should be made, it is not up to us to change an entire method and culture” and the winery maintains this philosophy today. Claudio said that their Barolo has a lengthy period of skin contact, never less then 10 days, and rotary fermentation tanks are not used. There are no shortcuts. Fermentation is completely natural and is entirely carried out by the local micro-flora, without the use of selected yeast. Temperature is kept under control by means of daily pumping over the skin cap.IMG_9218

He said that he was thinking of using molded agglomerated corks instead of natural cork for his wines. These corks allow the wine to breathe and they have different numbers indicating the amount of air that is allowed into the wine. This is not the first time I have seen these corks in Piedmont.IMG_9203

Claudio took us down to the cellar to taste barrel samples of the wine. He said the cellar was constructed in 2000 in the pure and classic style of Piedmont. IMG_9225

Roero Arneis DOCG 100% Arneis from Monteu Roero. The vineyard is 1.5 hectares at 300 to 350 meters, exposure is southeast, the soil is calcareous clay of medium texture, the age of the vines are 10 to 15 years and the harvest is in the middle of September.

The grapes are gently pressed and then the wine must is refrigerated in stainless steel vats to allow the lees to settle. After 24 to 36 hours the juice is separated from the lees and fermented at a controlled temperature. The wine remains in stainless steel tanks until it is ready to be bottled. It is soft and complex with fresh fruit aromas and flavors and a hint of chamomile.IMG_9216

Langhe Freisa DOC 100% Freisa, Monforte d’Alba-Bussia zone. The vineyard is 0.5 hectares at 300 meters. Exposure is west, the soil is Elveziano with clayey sediments, blue marl and tufa. The age of the vineyard is 10 years. Harvest is in early October. Traditional fermentation of the grapes takes place in contact with the skin, without adding yeast, for about 10 to12 days in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged for 6 months in stainless steel and 6 months in Slavonian oak. It has an intense bouquet with good fruit and a touch of spice.IMG_9217

Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 100% Nebbiolo. Monforte d’Alba- Sottozone Bussia. The one hectare vineyard faces east and it at 300 meters. The vines are 15 years old and the soil is Elveziano with clay sediments blue marl and tufa. Harvest is in the middle of October. Vinification and aging same as above with maturation in bottle before release. The wine has hints of cherry and plum with liquorice and roses.IMG_9221

Barolo Bussia 2011 100% Nebbiolo varieties Michet and Lampia. Monforte d’Alba-Sottozone Bussia. From a 5 hectares vineyard facing south/southwest at 300 meters. The soil is Helvetian with clayey and calcareous sediments, rich in iron. The vines are 30 years old.

Tradition natural fermentation without added yeasts for 40 days in stainless steel tanks. The wine ages for 6 months. in stainless steel tanks and 30 months in large Slavonian casks 35 to 50 hl. It remains in the bottle a time before release. This is a classic Barolo with hints of spice, licorice, roses, tar and tea.IMG_9214

Barolo Bussia Riserva 2012 100% Nebbiolo-barrel sample.Claudio stared doing 90 days of maceration with the 2010 vintage. This is very rare in Piedmont today and I am not sure if any other producers do this.

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Filed under Arneis, Barolo, Freisa, Giacomo Fennochio, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine

Visiting Poderi Colla

I have always been an admirer of the wines of Beppe Colla. I had been to the winery before and was very happy to have the opportunity to visit it again when I visited Alba recently.

The Colla family’s connection with wine goes back to 1703, but the modern era begins when Beppe Colla purchased the Alfred Prunotto winery in 1956. Beppe owned the winery for 35 years and made it into one of the most renowned wineries in Piedmont.

Beppe’s younger brother Ernesto, called Tino, worked with him at Prunotto. Beppe was not feeling well when we visited, but Tino was able to show us around.

Tino is a gifted winemaker in his own right and worked very closely with his brother at Prunotto.

In 1994 Tino and his niece Federica (Beppe’s daughter) opened a new winery and so Poderi Colla was established.

Tino Colla

Tino Colla

As we were walking through the vineyards Tino said that the winery comprises three farms covering a total of 26 hectares of vineyards: Cascine Drago in Alba, Tenuta Roncaglia in Barbaresco and Dardi le Rose in Monforte.

He pointed out the different vineyards, explained the different microclimates of the area, and how important the work done in the vineyard is. He also spoke about the different types of soil.IMG_9125

Tino explained his wine philosophy. The key words are naturalness and originality, wines made without manipulation or invasive intervention. He feels the wines have a connection with the past and we must learn from the past, often using methods that his grandfather taught him. He pointed to the stainless steel tanks, which were all outside. No air conditioning for Tino.

Tino and the Truffle Hunter

Tino and the Truffle Hunter

At one point in the walk we stopped at a small house. The owner, a truffle hunter, heard his hunting dogs barking and came out to chat. Tino asked him to show us some of the truffles he had discovered. Some were very large and the aroma was wonderful. Most would be sold to nearby restaurants, he told us.

The walk was a true education.

The WinesIMG_9138

Vintage Spumante Metodo Classico Extra Brut “Pietro Colla” made from Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo. Tino said this is in line with Piedmontese tradition dating back to the early 1900’s and with the traditions of his grandfather, Pietro, for whom the wine is named. It is fermented and matured in the bottle for about 2 years before dégorgement, ouillage with the same wine without the addition of liqueur d’expédition. The wine is bone dry, with a rich bouquet, complex and elegant at the same time. Tino said it is a wine that could be served throughout the meal.IMG_9142

Langhe DOC Riesling 100% Riesling from vines in Alba planted in 1987 with a Northwest exposure at 350 meters and in Barbaresco, planted in 2009 with a western exposure at 240 meters. There are about 4,000 vines per hectare and the grapes are hand harvested between September 10th and 25th. The grapes are immediately soft crushed at 8/10 C for 24 hours. After racking, alcoholic fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature in stainless steel. The wine is left on the lees for a few months, before being naturally cooled in winter. The wine is bottled in the spring. It is a complex wine with full citrus flavors and aroma, hints of mountain flowers and fresh acidity. Tino said it is a wine that can age.IMG_9144

Barbera D’Alba DOC “Costa Bruna”  2013 100% Barbera. Vineyard planted in 1930 and 1995, about half of the vineyard contains the old vines. The new vines are a selection of the old vine’s understock. The grapes are hand picked and immediately destalked and crushed, maceration on the skins is for 10 to 12 days. Malolatic fermentation is completed before winter. Elevage in oak casks lasts about 12 months. This is an intense wine with hints of strawberry, cherry and spice and nice acidity.IMG_9141

Nebbiolo D’Alba DOC 100% Nebbiolo. The exposure is westerly and easterly and the vineyard is between 330 and 370 meters. The vines were planted in 1967, 1989 and 1999 and there are about 4,000 to 5,000 plants per hectare. Harvest is the 1st-10th October. Vinification is the same as above. Elevage is in Slavonian oak casks for about 12 months. This is a complex wine with hints of plum, red berries, dried roses and a touch of violet.IMG_9145

Barbaresco “Roncaglie” 2011 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo. The vineyard is at 244 and 280 meters and the exposure is south/southwest. The vines were planted in 1970,1980,1995 and 2010 and there are 4,000 to 5,000 vines per hectare. Grapes are handed picked from October 5th to 15th  The grapes are destalked and crushed and maceration is for 12 to 15 days, then malolactic fermentation is completed before winter. In the spring the wine is put into oak casks for 12 to 14 months. This is a classic Barbaresco with hints of blackberry, violet and spice and a touch of rose petal.IMG_9146

Barolo “Bussia Dardi Le Rose” DOCG made from 100% Nebbiolo from the hamlet of Dardi in Bussia Soprana di Monforte. It was the first to be vinified separately by Beppe Colla in 1961 and identified on the label. The vineyard has a south/southwest exposure and is at 300 to 350 meters. The vines were planted in 1970 and 1985 and there are about 4,000 vines per hectare. It is vinified like the Barbaresco but is aged in oak casks for 24 to 28 months. This is a full bodied wine with hints of red berries, tar, licquorice and tea. This is a classic Barolo.IMG_9143

Campo Romano Langhe Pinot Noir. Tino said the vines were planted in 1977 from vines imported from Burgundy. In the field when the ground was being ploughed they found remains of a Roman settlement, hence the name. The exposure is westerly, at 330 meters and there are 4,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is September 10 to 20th and the hand picked grapes are immediately destalked crushed. Maceration is for 8 to 10 days followed by malolactic fermentation completed before winter. The wine rests in oak casks for 12 months. This is a balanced and elegant wine with hints of red fruit and floral notes.IMG_9140

Bricco del Drago made from 85% Dolcetto and 15% Nebbiolo. Tino said the wine was first produced in 1969 when Dott. Degiacomi, former proprietor of Cascine Drago, which produced an unusual Dolcetto requiring barrel aging, decided to combine it with a small portion of Nebbiolo, naming it after the estate. Vines were planted in 1970,1989 and 2,000 and there are about 5,000 plants per hectare. Dolcetto is harvested from September 20th to the 30th and the Nebbiolo from October 1st to 10. The varieties are vinified separately and maturation takes place at different times. The wines are assembled and then undergo élevage in oak. Maceration is for 5 to 8 days for Dolcetto and 10 to 12 days for the Nebbiolo. Aging for 12 to 18 months depending on the vintage. We tasted a number of wines going back to 1995, a wine that was showing no signs of age. I was very impressed with all of the vintages we tasted.

 

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Filed under Barbaresco, Barbera, Barolo, Bricco del Drago, Campo Romano Pinot Noir, Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian Wine, Nebbiolo, Nebbiolo d'Alba, Poderi Colla

Visiting Vietti and Luciana Currado

One of the highlights of our trip to Piedmont last November was an invitation from Luciana Currado to her home for dinner. It was special not only because of the Vietti wines and that Luciana is a wonderful cook, but also because she is a very dear friend
We first met Luciana and her husband Alfredo in the fall of 1982. It was our first time in Piedmont and my only itinerary was to visit as many wine producers as possible. We were on our way to Monforte d’Alba when Michele saw the sign for Castiglione Falletto and the Vietti winery.

Before we had left home, Sheldon Wasserman, a friend and Italian wine expert and writer, told us to be sure to visit this winery not only because they made great wines, but because Alfredo and Luciana were such nice people.  We arrived at the gate of the winery and I rang the bell. A man appeared and I said in Italian siamo amici di Sheldon and Pauline Wasserman. He turned and shouted to his wife: “Luciana, Luciana, friends of Sheldon and Pauline are here!”
They invited us into their home to meet the whole family and we drank Moscato d’Asti with cornmeal cookies and had a wonderful time. When we got back to the hotel there was a message waiting for us. Alfredo and Luciana were taking us to dinner that night and they would not take no for an answer. So began a wonderful friendship and many adventures with this wonderful couple both in Piedmont and NYC that lasted until Alfredo’s death about five years ago.

The  Vietti Wines with DinnerIMG_9163

Roero Arneis DOCG 2014 100% Arneis. The vineyards are 25 years old and are located in the middle of the Roero area, in Santo Srefano Roero. There are 4,500 to 5,000 plants per hectare. The grapes are harvested , pressed and clarified, then alcoholic fermentation occurs in stainless steel autoclave at a low temperature to preserve some natural CO2 from the fermentation. Because there is no malolactic fermentation acidity and freshness are preserved. The wine remains in stainless steel until bottling. It is a well balanced wine that has hints of citrus and melon with a touch of almond and crisp acidity. It was fitting to start with the Arneis as Alfredo has been called “the father of Arneis” because in 1967 he invested a lot of time to rediscover and understand this nearly lost variety.IMG_9162

Barolo Ravera 2011 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo from the Ravera vineyard, 2.7 hectares in Novello. The vines are 5 to 60 years old and the exposure is southwest and the soil is calcareous-clay. The wine is in stainless steel vats, 5 of which are in cold pre-fermentation maceration. Alcoholic fermentation takes place and then a long post-fermentation maceration at a controlled temperature. There is daily air pumping over using the old system called “submerged cap.” There is slow malolactic fermentation in large casks almost until the end of spring. The wine stays more then a year on the lees and the C02 produced during the malolactic fermentation is a reductive environment without sulfur. The wine is aged for 32 months in Slovenian oak casks and bottled unfiltered in July 2013. It has hints of roses, red fruit and spice. Needs time to open up and will only get better with age.IMG_9161

Barolo Brunate 1996 100% Nebbiolo. The grapes come from the historic cru Brunate vineyard in La Morra located on the south side toward Barolo, with 4,600 vines per hectare. The vines at the time were about 23 years old and cultivated with the guyot system. The soil is calcareous. Grapes are gently crushed and fermented in stainless steel for 23 days. Daily open air pumping over takes place using the old system of the submerged cap. Malolactic fermentation is in oak barrels. The wine, I believe, back in 1996 was aged for 32 months in large Slovenian oak casks. This is a balanced wine with ripe red fruit and hints of cherry, plum, violets and a touch of smoke. It has a long finish. !996 was a great vintage for Barolo and this is a great wine.IMG_9059

The night before the dinner with Luciana we were in Alba and went to the Vincafe. As I looked at the case with the older wine I saw a bottle of Vietti Barbera d’Asti “La Crena”1996 and I just had to order it. This single vineyard in Agliano d’Asti was planted in 1932 with 4,800 plants per hectare. The must rests for 21 days in stainless steel tanks for the alcoholic fermentation at a controlled temperature. There are 2 to 3 daily fullages in the electro pneumatically system, “délestage” and numerous air pumping overs. Immediately after the alcoholic fermentation the wine is moved into oak barrels for the malolactic fermentation. The wine is then aged in French oak barrels and big Slovenian oak casks for 16 months. Then it is assembled in steel tanks until it is bottled unfiltered. This is a Barbera that was showing no signs of age with mature fruit, hints of raspberry and cherry a touch of spice and good acidity.

Luca

Luca Currado

Alfredo and Luciana’s son Luca is carrying on the tradition of a great wine making family. Gambero Rosso not only gave a three glasses award to Luca’s Barolo Riserva Villero 2007, but also named it Red Wine of the Year for 2015.IMG_7159

Barolo 2007 Riserva Villero 100% Nebbiolo (Michet Clone) The Villero vineyard is in Castiglione Falletto and is a little less than one hectare with south/southwest exposure. Soil is clay and compact with white and blue marlstone. The average age of the vines is 39 years and there are 4,000 plants per hectare. After alcoholic fermentation in steel tanks, which lasts for 16 days, the wine macerates on the skin for ten days. The wine was transferred into small barrels for the malolactic fermentation. Then it was aged in Slovenian oak casks of 27 hl and bottled unfiltered in September 2010. It is classical Barolo at its best with dark fruit flavors and aromas, hints of leather, tobacco and spice.

 

 

 

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Filed under Arneis, Barbera, Barolo, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Luca Currado, Vietti

Visiting Tiziana Settimo

Tony Di Dio of Tony Dio Selections first introduced me to Tiziana Settimo of the Aurelio Settimo winery when he invited me to a tasting and dinner a few years ago. Tony told me that it is a very traditional winery and he thought I would like their wines. He was right.

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Tiziana Settimo

Tiziana invited me to visit her winery in Piedmont. This November I took her up on her offer. As we walked through the vineyards, Tiziana told us something about her family history.IMG_9179

The Settimo family first settled in Annunziata in Piedmont in 1943. In the beginning they practiced mixed farming (as did most of Italy), having vineyards, fruit and hazelnut trees, and breeding hens, rabbits and cows.  They sold off almost all their grapes.  When Tiziana’s father Aurelio took over the winery, he decided to grow only grapes and expanded the vineyards.  At first they continued to sell 50% of their grapes but in 1974 Aurelio decided to keep all of the grapes and vinify the wine on site.

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Concrete Tanks

Tiziana said she had worked at her father’s side for twenty years until his death in 2007. The winery is now a family affair run mostly by women.  The only man involved is Tiziana’s brother-in-law.IMG_9166

Every time I see Tiziana she makes it clear that this is a very traditional winery and that she uses the same methods as her late father Aurelio. They only use natural cork for the wines. She did say that one thing is different: her father used Slovenian oak for his barrels and she is using French oak from Allier. She feels that the French oak gives the wine a more elegant character.

We tasted some of the wines at the winery and some we had with lunch.IMG_9171

We started with a Rosè Sett made from 50% Nebbiolo and 50% Dolcetto. Short fermentation on the skins and the wine is aged for 6 months in concrete tanks. The wine is not available in the USA.IMG_9172

Dolcetto D’Alba 2014 DOC 100% Dolcetto Exposure is east, the soil is calcareous. Harvest is by hand. There is a short fermentation on the skins, with submerged cap for 7 days and frequent pumping over of the must. Malolactic is in concrete and it is aged in concrete for 6 months and 3 months in bottle before release. It has hints of cherry, blackberry, and plum with notes of violet and almonds.IMG_9174

Langhe Nebbiolo 2011 DOC 100% Nebbiolo  Tiziana explained that this wine is produced from grapes grown from younger vineyards facing south-east, the same area as the Nebbiolo used to make Barolo. The maximum yield of 8,00kg is also the same. Compared to the Barolo it under goes on shorter maceration ( 7days) on the skins and is aged I concrete tanks for 46 months. It is normally ready to drink without needing to age. It has hints of blackberries, raspberries, liquorice and a touch of violets.IMG_9176

Barolo “Rocche dell’Annunziata” 2010 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo (Lampia) The exposure is south, southwest, the soil is calcareous and the harvest is by hand. Fermentation takes place on the skins for 15 to 20 days with submerged cap, with frequent breaking up of the cap and pumping over the must, followed by maturing in oak casks of 2,500 and 3,500 liters. Malolactic is in concrete. Aging is for 24 months in big oak casks. The age of barrels is 10 to 15 years and they are French oak, Allier and Nevers, and the barrels are not toasted. The wine in aged in bottle (natural cork) for at least 6 months before release. This is an elegant and full-bodied wine with all the classic Nebbiolo aromas and flavors.IMG_9177

Barolo 2010 Aged for 12 months in concrete tanks and 24 months in big French oak barrels. It has hints of tar, faded roses, tea and red fruit.IMG_9193

Barolo “Riserva Rocche” 2004 100% Nebbiolo (Lambia) Aged for 36 months in big oak casks and 12 months in bottle before release. It can age for 20 to 25 years. The wine has hints of spice, liquorice, red fruit and a touch of truffle and is drinking very well.IMG_9187

Tiziana invited us to lunch at Osteria Veglio.

We had been there before and enjoyed the experience. Tiziana said that it was under new management and that the food was even better. She was right.IMG_9191

I had ravioli del plin, small meat filled ravioli, with white truffles followed by cotechino sausage with mashed potatoes.IMG_9189

Tiziana’s wine was an excellent accompaniment with the food.

 

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Filed under Aurelio Settimo Winery, Barolo, Dolcetto, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Nebbiolo, Rose

Visiting with Valter Fissore

In March I went to Vinitaly (the wine fair in Verona) for the first time in 7 years with Nicole and Travis, friends who own a wine store in NYC. They had never been there and wanted to visit a number of producers whose wines they carry in their store. On the top of the list was Valter Fissore of the Elvio Cogno winery.

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Valter Fissore

When we arrived at the Cogno booth we were greeted by Valter and his wife Nadia (Elvio Cogno’s daughter).

We tasted a number of wines including the very rare pre- philloxera Barbera. We had a very enjoyable visit and Valter asked if we were going to visit Piedmont after the fair. We said no but we would be there in November and Valter invited us to visit the winery.

The Elvio Cogno Winery, is situated on the top of Bricco Ravera, a hill near Novello in the Langhe region of Piedmont. I have been to the winery 3 or 4 times and it is always a great experience.

Valter is always trying to tell me or show me something new, and this time was no exception. He took us into the wine cellar and we tasted a number of barrel samples from different vintages and different vineyards. Valter spoke about how the wine differs according to the year and the vintage.IMG_9073

In the cellar there were large oak barrels called botti which contain up to 55 hl that he uses for his Barolo. Smaller barriques extract too much from the wood into the wine. He feels that if there is a long maceration of 40 days for the Barolo it makes the tannins softer.IMG_9076

We sampled the Barolo Ravera 2014 and the Vigna Elena 2012 among others. We also tasted the pre- pre-phylloxera Barbera. This is a very special and limited wine and there is only one barrel.IMG_9075

Barbera d’Alba “PRE-Phylloxera” DOC. Made from 100% Barbera. Valter said that the vineyard is over 120 years old. He rents the vineyard, which is situated in Berri close to La Morra. The vineyard is only 3,400 square meters. The vines are vertically trellised and Guyot pruned and the vineyard is at 520 meters. The grapes are harvested in the beginning of October. The wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with automatic pump over. Aging takes place for 12 months in a large Slavonia oak cask and there is another 6 months of bottle aging before release. Only 1,800 bottles are produced.

This is an elegant well-balanced wine with hints of raspberry, strawberry and cherry and a touch of spice. It is a Barbera that will age. I have always been very impressed with this wine. Nicole and Travis like this Barbera a lot as does Ed Mc Carthy and Tom Maresca.

Valter explained that the vines come from pre-grafted plants propagated by cuttings maintained over many years so that they have the original Barbera characteristics. The terrain is sandy-chalk, which is a natural protection for the vines from phylloxera.

Valter said that this wine was something he always wanted to do and it is also a tribute to his father-in-law, Elvio Cogno, who made a pre-phylloxera Dolcetto d’Alba “Boschi di Berri” when he was at the Marcarini Winery.IMG_9068

Walter took a picture of the inside of one of the tanks that was filled with red wine must.IMG_9065

Then the cellar man began to remove the must into a small metal box with a rotor, which broke up the must. A long tube transferred the juice into another tank.IMG_9083

Valter showed us some “corks” and explained that he was now going to use an agglomerate cork that allows the wine to breathe. The corks have different numbers indicating the amount of air that they allow into the wine. He said that if you turn over a bottle sealed with one of these corks, no wine comes out. He is thinking of using these corks for all his wines.IMG_9087

We went to restaurant Bovio with Valter and Nadia for lunch. I mentioned to Nadia that many years Michele and I went to another restaurant at this location. Nadia said that it had been owned by her father’s brother. She looked at me with a smile and said this was that restaurant, known as Bel Sit. Now it is much bigger and fancier.IMG_9089

I had a quail salad with black and white truffles and then two ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach and a whole egg yolk covered with white truffles.IMG_9094

They were a perfect combination with the Barolo. IMG_9095

Barolo “Vigna Elena” DOCG 2000. This wine is made from 100% Rose a sub-variety of Nebbiolo. Walter said he was one of the few, if not the only one, to do a Barolo with 100% Rose. The vineyards are 380 feet above sea level and face southward. There are 4,000 vines per hectare. The vineyard is 1 hectare. The harvest is in October and the grapes are fermented in stainless steel temperature controlled tanks with automatic pump-over, a post fermentation maceration of 30 days and submerged cap. The wine is aged for 36 months in 40HL Slovenian oak barrels. Valter said that he only uses native yeasts. The wine rests on the lees for 60 days and sees 12 months bottle aging before it is released. Walter pointed out that this wine is only made in great vintages. The wine had typical Nebbiolo aromas of roses, tobacco and a hint of liquorice.

The label is a picture drawn by Valter and Nadia’s daughter when she was a child. There has been some controversy about the 2000 vintage but this wine was everything one wanted from a Barolo.IMG_9091

Barolo “Bricco Pernice” DOCG 2005 100%.  It is made from a sub-variety of Nebbiolo called Lampia. The vineyard is 300 meters above sea level with 5000 vines per hectare and faces southward. The grapes are from the finest vineyards in Novello, in the most historic part of the Ravera cru. Harvest is in October. Fermentation in stainless steel temperature controlled tanks with pumping over and 30 days maceration with submerged cap. It is aged for 24 months in large Slovenian oak barrels 25/30 HL. It remains on the lees for 90 days and spends 12 months in bottle before it is released. Valter said that in his microclimate, 2005 was an excellent year and it made a very traditional style Barolo, This is a well structured and elegant Barolo and it is drinking very well now.

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Filed under Barbera, Barolo, Elvio Cogno, Valter Fissore

Another Dinner with Inspector Montalbano

Andrea Camilleri is the author of a series of mysteries featuring Inspector Montalbano. The stories take place  in southeastern Sicily in a town with a made-up name, but it sounds a lot like Agrigento. This is of special interest to me because my father’s family comes from Naro in the Province of Agrigento.

Wine and food writers Diane Darrow and Tom Maresca are also loyal fans of the Inspector Montalbano books, as well as the made-in-Italy television series on the same subject, which is available here on DVD. Like most Sicilians, the fictional Montalbano spends a lot of time thinking, talking about, and of course, eating food. Especially seafood. While in Italy, Diane and Tom Purchased a cookbook, I Segreti della Tavola di Montalbano, The Secrets of Montalbano’s Table, written by Stefania Campo, and recently they invited Michele and I to a dinner at their home featuring some of the recipes. The last time we were invited for a Montalbano-style dinner, Tom paired the courses with Sicilian wines. This time he did not, but his chosen pairings went very well with the food.IMG_8127

Gruet Blanc de Noirs 100% Pinot Noir. This is a sparkling wine (Méthode Champenoise) from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The wine spends a minimum of 24 months on the lees. It is a fruity wine with a creamy texture, hints of strawberries and slightly toasty. At $ 16 a bottle it is a real bargain.IMG_8126

It was well paired with the Sfincione (Sicilian Focaccia) Mentioned in Camilleri’s book, “Excurison to Tindari.”IMG_8133

Piemonte Grignolino DOC 2013 Castello di Neive made ​​from 100% Grignolino. The exposure is east, southeast and the soil is calcareous marl. The average age of the vines is 25 years and the training system Guyot. Manual harvest in small boxes takes place in mid-September. Fermentation lasts for 8/10 days with automatic replacement. Maceration is for 5 days. The wine is aged 3 months is stainless steel and 3 months in bottle before release. This is a fresh fruity wine, with a little more body than most Grignolino. It has hints of cherry and a touch of spice.IMG_8129

This was served with the polipetti di polpo (octopus croquettes) from “The Smell of the Night.” Tom did not want to serve a white wine with this dish but paired it with the Grignolino which was a good choice.IMG_8136

Barolo DOCG 1998 Bartolo Mascarello 100% Nebbiolo This is traditional, classic Barolo at its best. Even though 1998 was not a great year this is a great wine and it will age very nicely for a number of years. This was served with the agnello alla cacciatora (hunters style lamb) from “The Voice of the Violin.”IMG_8140

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG “Campolongo di Torbe “ 1998 Agricola Masi  made from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. The Campolongo di Torbe vineyard has southwest exposure and is at 375/400 meters. The soil is deep, red eocenic limestone, with good drainage and stones. Wide terraces are supported by natural stone walls called marogne.IMG_8142

Amarone is made ​​by drying  the grapes. Bunches are dried on bamboo racks in farmhouse lofts in the vineyards, with natural ventilation. By mid-February, the grapes weigh 35-40% less; Corvina is the only variety affected by botrytis (noble rot).  After delicate pressing, the dried grapes are partially destalked, fermented in large Slovenian oak barrels (large barrels), at a very cold temperature until the sugar has completely transformed to alcohol, and Malolactic occurs. Most of the wine is aged in 30 to 40 hl Slovenian barrels; a portion is matured in 600 liter Allier and Slovenian oak casks: new and second, third or fourth passage. The wine remains in bottle for a time before release. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of raisins, cherries, fruits preserved in spirits and spice. It has a very long finish.

We finished the lamb with the Amarone and finished the Amarone with cheese.

For more on the food and recipes, see Diane’s blog

https://dianescookbooks.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/dining-montalbano-style-again/

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Filed under Amarone, Barolo, Barolo- Bartolo Mascarello, Castello di Neive Grigolino, Gruet Blanc de Noirs, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized

Alfonso Cevola on Barolo’s Best Vineyards

Barolo’s Greatest Vineyards Ranked

Barolo experts are in agreement over the superlative quality of Rocche di Castiglione

© Mick Rock/Cephas | Barolo experts are in agreement over the superlative quality of Rocche di Castiglione

Alfonso Cevola charts Barolo experts’ vineyard classifications to find the region’s best sites.

Barolo is one of the hottest wine collectibles today. But Italian laws and classifications can make navigating the landscape a tar pit for the collector who simply wants to get in, find the best of these great Italian wines, and get out. Unlike Burgundy, which has official categorizations for vineyards and the Médoc, which ranks its estates, Italy’s Piedmont region has no official hierarchy of the great Barolo vineyards.

It was Renato Ratti who first put his imprimatur on a map ranking the top “prima” categories in the 1970s. Ratti’s map was inspired by an unofficial Barolo classification written by Francesco Arrigoni and Elio Ghisalberti for Luigi Veronelli’s book “The Wines of Italy”. His became the map everyone hung in their winery or office. And while Ratti was a visionary, winemaking practices, vineyard management and global climate have changed since his day.The local visionary

The passionate mapster

In the 1990s, cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti began demarcating Piedmontvineyards. With the advent of more sophisticated computer-aided mapping techniques at the beginning of the 21st century, Masnaghetti presented his considerable knowledge of the vineyards of Barolo at a visceral as well as intellectual level. He used sophisticated computer models and mapping to drill down and devise a personal hierarchy of greatness for the region. Masnaghetti’s maps dive deep into the specific zones and are fully compliant with iPad, iPhone and computers.

The tech-savvy Americano

In the new millennium along came Antonio Galloni, who first made a splash with his Piedmont Report and then as a reviewer for Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. Galloni left Parker to start his own project, Vinous, which harnessed his tech-savvy team and tasked them with elaborating his theory of prominence in the Piedmont empire. The result is an interactive map with vineyard classifications. Galloni recently announced that he will soon by releasing a new interactive Barolo map, “breaking down the Barolo vineyard designations ‘menzioni geografiche’ into Grandi Cru del Barolo, Primi Cru del Barolo and Menzioni del Barolo, an equivalent to Burgundy’s grand crus, premier crus and villages vineyards”. In conjunction with Galloni, the Barolo Consorzio has also released maps, which are based on the geographical definitions they have developed. While the Consorzio doesn’t get into the business of delineating the greatest ones, their maps have given Galloni and his team a jumping-off point.

1+1+1 ≠ 3

It comes as no surprise that these wise men’s visions don’t line up exactly. They offer three personal interpretations of what constitutes the great vineyards of Barolo. They don’t necessarily take critical acclaim for winemaking into account in these great vineyards (or elsewhere). But there’s no question that they agree about Barolo’s best vineyards.

© A. Cevola/Wine-Searcher

Charting the expert opinions

To make this visually clearer, the above chart shows the lay of the land.

Ratti lists 10 “prima” vineyards. Masnaghetti has nine locations that qualify for a five-star rating, four of them additionally qualifying as five-star superiore. And Galloni lists 10 vineyard locations for his top (Exceptional) category. What these three listings have in common are three vineyard sites, Brunate, Cerequio and Rocche di Castiglione. These three hit the prima/Exceptional/five-star superiore trifecta.

They’re followed by two sites – Monprivato and Rocche dell’Annunziata – that have two experts giving their top rating (Ratti and Galloni) and Masnaghetti weighing in with five stars. Vigna Rionda drifts slightly down with two experts giving top ratings (Masnaghetti and Galloni) but doesn’t make it onto Ratti’s top 10 list. Inching down the list is Francia, where Masnaghetti assigns five stars and Galloni bestows his top rating. And finally Villero, cited as one of Ratti’s top 10, with Masnaghetti giving five stars and Galloni abstaining.

These vineyard areas – Brunate, Cerequio, Rocche di Castiglione, Monprivato, Rocche dell’Annunziata, Vigna Rionda, Francia and Villero – are THE places where great picks can be found with the minimum of effort. For collectors who don’t have time to stalk the chat rooms and who want to maximize the knowledge of three top experts, this is the sweet spot for collectable Barolo wines.

Time is money

Undoubtedly, there’s a hardcore Italian wine geek out there reading this, asking questions like: “But what about Barolo from a great vineyard like Ravera? Or Monvigliero?” To that I say: Barolo is a rabbit hole. If that’s where you get your groove on, by all means jump in. But for the collector who wants to find the dependable jewels quickly and easily (and with minimum investment risk), the trifecta is a good solid place to start. Gems from the three top consensus rated vineyards – Brunate, Cerequio and Rocche di Castiglione – can be found readily and, in most cases, for a lot less than the 100-point cult wines. Brunate offers superb wines from Elio Altare, Marcarini and Vietti. Cerequio has solid producers in Batasiolo, Michele Chiarlo and Roberto Voerzio. Worth finding from Rocche di Castiglione are wines by Giovanni Sordo, Oddero and Rocche Viberti.

Drill down into the next levels – Monprivato, Rocche dell’Annunziata and Vigna Rionda – to unearth more jewels from Giuseppe Mascarello, Luigi Pira and Renato Ratti (the guy who started this whole discussion). The point is, finding great wines from a complex landscape of vineyards and hierarchies, official or not, doesn’t have to be an exercise in bewilderment. One can find great, satisfying collector values without succumbing to the 95-100-point wines every trophy hunter is after.

Barolo's Greatest Vineyards Ranked

© Oddero; Marcarini; Robert VerzioTake it to the bank

Here’s the key insider hint – these three experts, independently and in consensus, have made finding the great growths easier, while the Barolo Consorzio members are still endlessly debating the great growths. Ratti, Masnaghetti and Galloni have pinpointed the sites where great wine has been made for generations. Information like this, say in Burgundy, would have one looking at bottles costing multiple hundreds of dollars. Many of these Italian wines, from collectable vintages, can be had for less than $100. But not for long; savvy collectors, who have turned away from Bordeaux and Burgundy, are aiming their sights towards Barolo.

Frankly, this is my strategy going forward when looking for great wines to cellar from Barolo, and those that will produce a better-than-average return on my investment in value and in pleasure. And that’s just Barolo; we haven’t even talked about Barbaresco. That’s a rabbit hole for another day.

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