Michael Romano of Romano Brands Fine Wine held a luncheon and tasting for the trade at Del Posto in NYC to introduce two of his producers. I was the only wine writer at the lunch and Michael sat me next to the two speakers so I could ask questions.
I was so impressed with the wines of Az. Agricola Domenico Tappero Merlo-Vine Growers in Canavese-Piedmont that I devoted a blog just to this winery even though they showed only one wine in 3 different vintages.
The speakers were Domenico Tappero Merlo owner of the winery and his daughter Sara.
Domenico began by saying he worked for the Olivetti computer company for many years. Then in 2001 he decided to return to the land from which he came and to perfect the Erbaluce grape. He said the people of Canavese have always been wine growers and the ancient Salassi, the original settlers, had vineyards there long before they were conquered by the Romans. Canavese is located between Turin and the Valle d’Aosta with the Alps at its back.
Erbaluce is a white grape and the vines are either pergola (know as topia locally) or guyot trained. The clusters are usually wing shaped and the grapes are small to medium with thick skins. When fully ripe they take on an auburn color as if they were sun dried. Erbaluce can be vinified as a still wine, a classic method sparkling wine, and as a passito.
Erba means grass and Luce means light. Caluso is an ancient Celtic village on the top of a hill where you can look across the plain and see Turin.
The soil is morainic and very sandy. He said it was poor soil with no organic material and gave everyone a small box with samples of the soil because he wanted everyone to know how important the soil is for growing grapes.
There are 4,500 to 5,000 plants per hectare and the pruning system is guyot. The vineyard is entirely organic. Manual harvest takes place at the end of September.
Fermentation is with native yeasts in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The wine matures for at least 18 months on the lees in 20hl barrels with weekly battonage. Then it remains in the bottle for another 3 years.
Domenico said his wine is not ready to drink until it is at least 5 years old. He recommends opening the bottle at least one hour before it is to be consumed and then pouring in into a decanter.
He described his wine as elegant and balanced with notes of sage, balsamic and spicy scents , hints of citrus, flowers and herbs. He also kept referring to a “clear mineral” imprint. Then there was a short discussion on the problem of minerality–does it really exists. Domenico believes it does and one of the reasons he releases his wines after 4 years is that this “clear mineraity” does not show it self until this time and the wine would not be complete with out it. He said his wine could last for 10 to 20 years.
Domenico named the wine after his grandfather, a simple man whose life followed the rhythm of the vineyard and nothing was more important to him than his Erbaluce wine.
Sara said that the property once belonged to the Giacosa family. One of the family members, Giuseppe Giacosa, wrote the words for Puccini’s opera masterpieces Madame Butterfly, Tosca and La Boheme. They are some of my favorites.
We tasted 3 vintages of Erbaluce di Caluso Kin.
2014 was a vintage with a lot of rain but Domenico said that it was not a problem for his white wine.
2013 vintage produced a very large crop.
2011 was a perfect vintage.
There was a big difference between the 3 vintages.
The 2014 was still very ripe with a lot of fruit, while the 2013 was just starting to develop the “clear minerality.” The 2011 had both
good minerality and acidity and it is a wine that can still age for a number of years. This is a very impressive white wine.