Category Archives: Bruno Giacosa

Daniele Cernilli on Bruno Giacosa

The great wines of Bruno Giacosa

by Daniele Cernilli 02/08/21 | 
I grandi vini di Bruno Giacosa DoctorWine

Giacosa’s wines, like all the world’s great wines, express elegance more than boldness and structure and they have a very great propensity to age.

I met Bruno Giacosa in February 1980 at one of first editions of the Nonino Risit d’Aur prize. I was with Gino Veronelli with whom I was working and I was just 25 years old. During the luncheon they served a wine that, even if I was still a novice, I thought was fantastic. I then told Veronelli: “Not bad, this Nebbiolo”. His reply was: “You, cretin! This is not a simple Nebbiolo, this is a 1971 Barbaresco Santo Stefano Castello di Neive”.

Sitting in front of me was a man wearing glasses who smiled at the scene he just witnessed. It was Bruno Giacosa. I apologized, voiced my appreciation of his wine and we began to talk using the formal third person “lei” distinction, which we did for as long as I had the pleasure of knowing him.

As many of you know, Giacosa was one of the key figures in the world of Langhe winemaking. For many years not only did he select the grapes for the wines of his estate – Barbaresco (the winery is in Neive) and Barolo, as well as Arneis (of which he was one of the first producers) and a Spumante Metodo Classico made with Pinot Noir acquired in Oltrepò Pavese – but he also worked as a consultant, especially for Fontanafredda, for whom is acquired massive quantities of Nebbiolo grapes from the Langhe.

Up until 1996, when he acquired the Falletto di Serralunga estate, he got his grapes from historic suppliers who cultivated their vineyards under his close supervision. Thus he had a unique experience with and knowledge of the vineyards in the Langhe that few could match.

I could go on forever with anecdotes about his wines. One involves a wine that is no longer produced, Barolo Riserva Collina Rionda, and in particular the legendary vintage 1982. It took place during the finals for the Tre Biccheri (Three Glasses) award and we were in Bra, at the Boccondivino restaurant, the historic headquarters of Arcigola first and then Slow Food, before they moved to Agenzia di Pollenzo. Aside from yours truly, those present included Gigi Piumatti, Piero Sardi and Carlo Petrini and at the time we were proud supporters of the Barolo Boys and their new winemaking approach. This did not mean that we underappreciated the “traditional” producers but we thought the “new” producers, who were then young as were we, were more interesting because they sought to make Langhe wines in a different way.

During the tasting, which was rigorously “blind”, one wine split the jury. I liked it, others did not as much. But at a certain point, Petrini said: “Hold on, this is a very great wine. Either we choose it for the award or I’ll chain myself to the table until you agree with me”. Fortunately, we gave the prize to this wine and it was, in fact, Collina Rionda 1982.

The reason why this wine was subject to such discussion was that, as I tried to explain in my editorial dedicated to blind tastings, certain wines take time to reveal themselves. They have extraordinary elegance and a great propensity to age, while their structure is less imposing, they are more austere and, in a blind tasting, they risk not being fully understood if the proper amount of attention is not paid to them. This was an emblematic example but it is also true for many of Giacosa’s wines as well as those of other great traditional Langhe producers.

I, personally, adore Giacosa’s Barolo and Barbaresco, especially those that have the red label, which Bruno reserves for the wines he thinks are particularly good, and consider them to be among the best in the world. And like all of the world’s great wines, those of Rousseau to the great reserves of Biondi Santi, they express elegance more than boldness and great structure. They are marathoners, not middle-distance runners, and with aging they reach levels of complexity unreachable for other wines. This is the result of something one learns over time, listening to this wines with attention and respect, with the awareness that if you do not understand them this will place a limit for those who taste them.


Thank you, Daniele(aka Doctor Wine), for this enlightening article.  In the spring of 1985 Sheldon Wasserman published his book “Italy’s Noble Red Wines.” Sheldon invited his publisher and  Dominic Nocerino, of Vinifera Imports to my home to celebrate the occasion. Dominic had just moved from Chicago to NY and was the importer and distributor of the wines of Bruno Giacosa. Giacosa was already one of the top producers in the Langhe and I really liked his wines. Dominic brought the 1964 Barbaresco Santo Stefano Castello di Neive. I still remember the wine and it might be the best Barbaresco I ever had the pleasure to drink.  I felt that I had to go and visit the winery.  In the summer of 1985 I travelled to Piedmont and visited the Giacosa winery with Ed Mc Carthy and Mary Ewing Mulligan, MW.  It was a wonderful visit, and only the first of many that followed over the years.


Filed under Bruno Giacosa, Uncategorized

A Christmas Tradition

Despite the difficulties this year, we were able to maintain a few holiday traditions. One that we always look forward to is having Christmas dinner at the home of Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow.

We began with a toast.

IMG_3792Brut Methode Traditional 2018 made from 100% Gringet, an endemic grape variety of Savoie France Domaine Belluard. The vineyard is at 450 meters and the exposure is south. The soil is chalky of the Chablais Mountains with little stones. Glacier sediments: yellow marls. Hand-operated harvest. There is a very soft pressing of the grapes. Traditional vinification with alcoholic and malolactic fermentation with native bacteria and yeast takes place. 60% of the vinification is carried out in an egg-shaped concrete vat. Rough filtration on egg whites. The wine has floral notes, pleasant fruity aromas and flavors, a hint of apple, and touch of minerality. The winery is located in the heart of the valley of the Arve between Geneva and Chamonix Mont-Blanc.

With the sparkling wine there were three appetizers

Smoked salmon on rye bread.

Stuffed Mushrooms with breadcrumbs and cheese. 

We also had foie gras toasts.

At the table, we had

Irpina Aglianico 2016 “Memini” Az. Ag. Guastaferro made from 100% Aglianico. The wine bursts with sweet ripe fruit of cherry, raspberry, strawberry and pomegranate. It has a wonderful fruit filled finish and a very long aftertaste. It was a very interesting Aglianico and I have never tasted one like this before. Daniele Cernelli (aka Doctor Wine) in his book The Essential Guide to Italian Wine 2020 states: … In 2002 Raffaele Guastaferro inherited 10 hectares from his grandfather with over 100 year old vines trained using the old starseto (pergola Avellinese) method…creating a very interesting style for the wines that were also based on tradition.

Our first course was Pizza Rustica, a Southern Italian savory pie filled with ricotta, prosciutto and salame.

There are many versions and every cook, has his or her own interpretation.  But Diane’s was outstanding for its balance of flavors and tender, perfectly baked crust.  We asked for a generous slice to take home with us for lunch the next day!

On the plate

BBarbaresco 2001 “Roncagile” Poderi Colla made from 100% Nebbiolo. The vineyard has a south, south–west exposure and is at 240/280 meters. There are about 4,000/5,000 vines per hectare and the years of planting were 1970-1980-1995-2010. Harvest is manual and takes place the 5th to 15th of October. The grapes are destemmed and crushed and maceration with the skins takes place from 12/15 days. There is a complete malolactic fermentation before the winter. In the spring the wines goes into Slavonian oak bottles for 12/4 months. This is a complex wine with hints of blackberries, blueberries a hint of violets, rose petal and a touch of spice. I visited the winery a few years ago and liked all their wines.

To accompany the main course, we had escarole sauteed with garlic, raisins and pine nuts.

Our main course was a rolled, stuffed veal breast which made a beautiful presentation.  The filling included greens and mushrooms.  

The veal and escarole were served with roasted potatoes

Barbaresco 1999 Bruno Giacosa made from 100% Nebbiolo. The exposure is southwest; the soil is calcareous clay with a good percentage of sand. There are 4,000 vines per hectare. Fermentation and maceration is in stainless steel vats for 21 days. Malolactic fermentation is complete developed. The wine is aged for 18 months in 110HL botti casks of French oak and eight months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of raspberry, plum, blueberries a touch of violets and a note of tobacco

There were a few cheeses to finish the wine.

Dessert was a Tarte Tatin, made by Michele.  We had creme fraiche on the side.

On the plate.  I like every type of apple tart, but this has to be my favorite.  

We finished this perfect meal with espresso and Marolo Barbera grappa.


Filed under Aglianico, Barbaresco, Bruno Giacosa, Poderi Colla

Barolo and Pizza at La Pizza Fresca

One of my favorite Barolo and pizza memories is from 1985.  Michele and I visited Alfredo and Luciana Currado, owners of the Vietti winery with Mary Ewing Mulligan MW and Ed McCarthy. A Neapolitan man had opened a pizzeria a few doors away from their winery and they wanted us to try it.  Their whole family joined us.  The pizza was very good especially the one made with Fontina Val D’Aosta cheese and porcini mushrooms.  Alfredo brought a magnum of 1961 Barolo and he very proudly told us that this was the first wine that he had made.  The wine was great with the pizza.  From then on, I was hooked on pizza and Barolo.IMG_4540

Just before Christmas, Brad Bonnewell, owner of La Pizza Fresca in NYC, inviting me to a Barolo and pizza dinner a few days after Christmas and I had to accept. IMG_4543

With the pizza there were two flights of Barolo, five from the 1997 vintage and five from the 1998 vintage.  It was a blind tasting.

The Vintage

Some wine writers called the 1997 vintage Barolo “The Vintage of the Century”.  It was given ratings in the high 90’s by the better- know wine writers. It was also rated a five star vintage.

1998 did not get the same recognition or hype, though some rated it 4 stars. The 1997’s that we tasted were more fruit forward, riper, and richer with less acidity.  It seemed that they should be drunk before the 1998.

The 1998’s were subtler and with more of the tar, leather, tea and faded rose aromas that I like, so we drank the 1997’s first.

On another vintage note I would drink the 1997’s and 1998’s before the 1996’s, which I believe, is a great vintage like 1989.

1997 Vintage


Barolo – Bartolo Mascarello 100% Nebbiolo from 3 hectares of vineyards: Cannubi 1.5, Lorenzo 0.3, Rue 0.5 in the commune of Barolo and Rocche 1.2 in the commune of La Morra. The vineyards are between 3 and 50 years old. This is the most traditional producer of Barolo and it is a classic old style wine. The Barolo is a blend of all the vineyards, the way it was done in the past before the other producers took up the “French Cru” designation. I have had these wines a number of times and they are usually among my favorites, however this night they were not showing well. The two bottles we opened might have been slightly corked, hiding the aroma and flavors of the wine. Brad said he had a case of the wine and the others he had opened had the same problem.


Langhe Nebbiolo ConteisaAngelo Gaja.   Mostly Nebbiolo with a little Barbera. Fermentation is on the skins in stainless steel tanks for 3 weeks. The wine is aged in barriques for 12 months followed by 12 months in large oak barrels. This is a well-made wine with less vanilla, oak aromas and flavors then I remember. Still, it is a little too modern for me.


Barolo Grand Bussia Riserva – Aldo Conterno Nebbiolo: Michel and Lampia varieties. Grapes come from 3 different vineyards (Bussia, Monforte d’Alba). The grapes are hand harvested. The must remains in contact with the skins for 60 days, during which the alcoholic fermentation is fully completed. The wine is aged in large Slavonian oak casks for 32 months. The wine remains in the cellar for at least 8 years before release. Only in the best vintages is this wine made. I have not tasted this wine in a long time and it was showing very well with all the true Nebbiolo characteristics.

Barolo Cascina Francia – Giacomo Conterno 100% Nebbiolo from Serralunga’s Cascina Francia vineyard. The exposure is south/southwest and the soil is calcareous limestone. They use wooden vats with regular breaking-up of the cap. The wine is aged for 4 years in large oak barrels. This is classic, traditional Barolo at its best.

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Barolo – Parussi 100% Nebbiolo.  The grapes come from Monforte d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto. There are 5,000 plants/hectare, with south/southeast and southwest exposure and the grapes are hand harvested. Destemming of the grapes and then maceration on the skins. Alcoholic fermentation occurs spontaneously with indigenous yeasts without the use of sulfites. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 24 months in contact with its native yeast and 6 months in bottle before release.

1998 Vintage


Barolo Azienda Agricola Falletto of Bruno Giacosa, 100% Nebbiolo. The grapes for the Falletto wines are all estate grown. He uses traditional wine making methods. This is a wine with hints of liquorice, spice and tea. I like Giacosa’s Barolo but  would rather drink his Barbaresco.


Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra – Domenico Clerico 100% Nebbiolo The vineyard is at 400 meters and the exposure is south/southwest. Maceration on the skins in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for 12/14 days. Aged in French oak barriques, 90% new for 22/24 months and 6/8 months in bottle before release. This was the most modern style wine in the tasting with a lot of vanilla and oak.


 Barolo Cereqiuo- Roberto Voerzio 100% Nebbiolo There are 4,000 to 5,000 plants per hectare and the vineyard faces south/southeast. Fermentation is in stainless steel. The wine is aged for 24 months in used barriques and 20hl casks. Then 8 months in stainless steel and 8 months in bottle before release.This is another wine that I have not tasted in a long time but it was less modern then I expected.


 Barolo Bric del Fiasc cru: Castiglione Falletto (Fiasco) – Paolo Scavino 100% Nebbiolo. Destemming and light crushing takes place and maceration and fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. Indigenous yeast is used and malolactic fermentation takes place in oak for 10 months. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 10 to14 months in large casks, 1 year in stainless steel and 10 months in bottle before release. This was the second most modern wine.


 Barolo Cascina Francia – Giacomo  Conterno 100% Nebbiolo from Serralunga’s Cascina Francia vineyard. The exposure is south/southwest and the soil is calcareous limestone. They use wooden vats with regular breaking-up of the cap. The wine is aged for 4 years in large oak barrels. This is classic, traditional Barolo at its best. The 1998 was my number one wine and the 1997 was my number two wine. They also went the best with the pizza.

 Brunello di Montalcino 1997Mastrojanni. This has always been one of my favorite producers and when Brad asked what else he could open, this was my suggestion. Made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso. It is aged 3 years in Allier oak barrels of various sizes – 15, 33 and 54 hectoliters and then aged for 6/8 months in bottle before release. The wine has aromas and flavors of ripe black and red berries with a hint of spice and tobacco. There was even more hype for the 1997 vintage for Brunello than for the Barolo.

Maculan 1990 Dindarello La Pizza Fresca Ristorante NYC 12-27-13

 We ended with the dessert wine, Dindarello 1990 from Maculan. 100% Moscato from the 6 acre Dindarello vineyard on the estate.The grapes are dried for about a month, then fermented in stainless steel and aged another three months in bottle before release. This is an excellent dessert wine with hints of honey, tropical fruit and good acidity.Barolo 1997 & 1998 Dinner La Pizza Fresca Ristorante NYC 12-27-13

In all, there were 16 wines at the tasting, but the 12  listed were the ones I remember drinking.  I enjoyed Brad’s hospitality and the wine and pizza.  I also enjoyed remembering my friend and a great winemaker, Alfredo Currado.


Filed under Aldo Conterno, Barolo, Bartolo Mascarello, Brunello, Bruno Giacosa, Dindarello, Domenico Clerico, Gaja, Giacomo Conterno, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Maculan, Mastrojanni Brunello, Paolo Scavino, Parusso, Roberto Voerzio