Category Archives: Piemonte

The Tradition Continues

I am always interested to see what happens when the next generation takes over an Italian winery that makes wines that I enjoy.  Will they follow the traditional methods  or will they go to what I call “the dark side” and make modern international style wines?

Tiziana Settimo

I was invited to Porter House in NYC to tastes the wines of the Aurelio Settimo Winery.  I have enjoyed these wines in the past and wanted to see if Tiziana Settimo was staying with the same traditional style wines as her father. Tiziana was presenting the wines so I could have all my questions answered.

The Settimo family first settled in Annunziata in Piemonte 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.  However they continued to sell 50% of their grapes.  In 1974 Aurelio decided to keep all of the grapes and vinify the wine on site.

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

From the very beginning Tiziana made it clear that this is a very traditional winery and that she uses the same methods as her late father Aurelio.  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 fells that the French oak gives the wine a more elegant character. The Barolo is aged in 2,500 to 3,500 liters oak barrels.

The menu


Only 3 wines are produced from their estate vineyards.  There are 5.6 hectares of Nebbiolo and 0.9 hectares of Dolcetto. Their Rocche Dell’Annunziata vineyard is 3.42 hectares and the exposure is south and southwest. The vines are between 18 and 46 years old. There are 4,500 to 5,000 vines per hectare and the training method is traditional Guyot.  Tiziana said that the fertile, clay-calcareous, limestone, rocky soil together with the altitude (270-300 mt) and the exposure produce a full bodied but elegant and very fragrant Barolo.

All of the wines are excellent with food.  At Porter House, we had them with Porcini Risotto to start followed by Heritage Berkshire Roasted Pork Loin, a great combination.

Tiziana said that she was in Boston a few days before and she had these wines with fish, including shellfish, and they all worked well together. It is my opinion that a red wine which is not on the “dark side”, is well made, and has good acidity can go with almost any type of food.

The Wines
Dolcetto D’Alba DOC 2010 100% Dolcetto
Tiziana said that 2010 was a great vintage for Dolcetto.
The grapes are hand picked and vinified in stainless steel with about 7 days skin contact with a submerged cap and frequent repassing.
This is a fresh fruity wine with hints of cherry and surprisingly good acidity. Tiziana said that she likes to keep the alcohol low on her Dolcetto, between 12% and 12-1/2% to keep the freshness so the alcohol does not overpower the fruit.
Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2006 100% Nebbiolo
Tiziana said that 2006 was also a very good vintage. She went on to say that this wine is produced from grapes grown on the younger vineyards facing southeast in the same area as the Nebbiolo used to make Barolo. It has a shorter maceration on the skins (8 to 10 days) than the Barolo and does not see any wood. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel and the malolactic fermentation takes place in concrete vats of 52hl. The wine was bottled in November 2010 after spending two years in the bottle. They do not make this wine in every vintage if they feel that the alcohol content will be too high. It is a wine with good fruit and has an excellent balance between tannins and acidity. This wine was made to be drunk when released however it was showing no signs of age and could last another 5 to 10 years.  $30

Barolo DOCG 2007 100% Nebbiolo
This wine is produced from the older Nebbiolo grapes. The must is in contact with the skin for 15 to 20 days with a submerged cap and frequent repassing. The wine is aged in wood for two years. The wine was bottled in March 2011  $42

Barolo” Rocche Dell ‘Annunziata” DOCG 2007
This is one of the great crus of Barolo and Tiziana said there were 23 other producers making wine from this vineyard.  She considers the 2007 vintage to be an excellent one, though it was in many ways a difficult vintage because it was very hot. This is a traditional classic Barolo with aromas and flavors of black fruit especially blackberries and hints of leather, tea, spice and liquorice with good acidity.  $50

I am happy to see that Tiziana is making wine like her father’s and that they are very good value for the money.
I look forward to enjoying these wines for many years to come.


Filed under Aurelio Settimo Winery, Barolo, Dolcetto, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Nebbiolo, Piedmont, Piemonte, Porter House NY

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

Barolo Specialists Present and Past: Walter Fissore and Elvio Cogno

For many years Elvio Cogno was the winemaker for the Podari Marcarini in La Mora. His Barolo from the La Serra and Brunate Vineyards were exceptional. I can still remember a 1971 Brunate that I enjoyed with the late wine writer Sheldon Wasserman who introduced me to Cogno-Marcarini Barolo.  The 1971 was everything a great Barolo should be.  The aroma of white truffles seemed to fill the room.  In 1990 Elvio Cogno left Marcarini and started his own winery called Azienda Agricola Cogno in Novello.  Here is the link to an article I wrote when I visited the winery “A Unique White and Traditional Barolo at the Elvio Cogno Winery.”

Elvio’s son-in-law Valter Fissore is now the winemaker for the Cogno winery.  Over the years, I have gotten to know Valter and his wife Nadia.  I would see them often at Vinitaly and have visited them at the winery, most recently in November 2010.

Valter Fissore holding the Barolo Ravera 2008

Since Valter would be in New York City for the Gambero Rosso “Three Glasses” tasting recently, I asked him if we could meet. He invited me to visit with him and taste some of his wines, including four Barolos.

The Elvio Cogno Wines of Walter Fissore.

We spoke about Barolo Valters favorite subject.

Valter said that his vineyards have all three subvarities of Nebbiolo: Michet, Lampia and Rose but he does not use all three in any one of his wines.

He feels that 2008 was a great vintage because it was a very cold winter and the harvest took place on October 20th.  The wines have a higher PH than other vintages but also good acidity. Walter felt that that 2008 would make well balanced elegant wines.

Barolo Cascin Nuova 2008 DOCG made from 100% Nebbiolo. The vineyard is 1.5 hectares and is facing south. There are 4,000 plants per hectare and they are vertical trellised with Guyot pruning. Vinification takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel stainless steel tanks with automatic pump over. The wine is aged in large oak casks for two years and six months in bottle before release. Valter said that this was a Barolo from young vines and one that could be easily enjoyed and understood and is ready to drink sooner.

Barolo Ravera 2008 DOCG made from Lampia and Michet. I tasted this wine from the barrel when I was at the winery in November 2010. It reminded me of Pinot Noir. When I tasted it this time from the bottle it was much less Pinot Noir like and was developing into a great Barolo. Valter said that this was a traditional Barolo in the style of Elvio Cogno, powerful and elegant. I believe this is Valter’s favorite.

Brico Pernice 2007 DOCG made from100% Lampia. This Valter called a Classic Barolo.  It is more tannic and needs more time to be ready. I tasted this wine last year and it has not developed much.

Barolo IGNAELENA 2006 made from 100% Rose- the label for this wine was made by Valter and Nadia’s daughter when she was a young child. This was my favorite.

Valter said that he is primarily a producer of Barolo and he produces Barolo without compromise. He produces a Barolo as it should be and not for the international market.   I find his Barolos to be balanced with elegance and finesse and to be some of the best produced today.

The Cogno-Marcarini wines from the Brunate Vineyar

That night we had dinner with Valter at the home of mutual friends.  Valter brought a Barolo Brunate Riserva 1986 DOC 100% Nebbiolo Cogno Marcarini, a classic Barolo with flavors and aromas of faded roses, licorice, tar, tobacco and a hint of cherry. It is a soft, well-balanced elegant wine.

About once a month, I meet with a group of friends for lunch.

When they heard I had had dinner with Valter and drank the 1986, they brought some of their older vintages of Cogno- Marcarini Barolo “Brunate” 1978, 1974, 1967 and 1964 to the lunch.

Enjoying these wines once again, I thought of Sheldon Wasserman and decided to look them up in his book, Italy’s Noble Red Wines.  Of the 1974 vintage in general, which he rates 2+ stars, he wrote, “… the vintage has not lived up to its expectations, though without question a few splendid wines were made.”  When he tasted the Cogno – Marcarini 1974 in 1984, he wrote, “Floral bouquet recalls tobacco and cherry, soft with a tannic vein, a shade astringent but still in all very good.”

The bottle of 1974 that I had at lunch must have been one of the “splendid wines”.  It had the best color of all the old wines and seemed to be almost young with many years ahead of it! It had the typical Nebbiolo aromas and flavors of faded roses, tobacco, licorice mature red fruit and a hint of white truffles and a great finish and aftertaste. It may be the best 1974 Barolo that I have ever drunk!

Wasserman gave the 1978 vintage 3 stars. He said that the 1978 Cogno- Marcarini Brunate tasted in 1981 from barrel had “Expansive aromas recalling raspberries and mushrooms, well structured, has style, balance, flavor and elegance; very well made, classic impressive”. He gave the wine 3 stars (possible 4).

At lunch, the 1978 took a long time to open up but once it did was showing very well but not as well as the 1974.

The 1967 vintage received 2+ stars. Wasserman tasted the 1967 Cogno Marcarini Brunate in 1985, gave it 4 stars and said  “… expansive, perfumed bouquet; firm tannic vein, texture of liquid velvet, a complex wine, elegant and stylish; very ready but there’s no rush to drink.”

The wine I had at lunch was showing its age. The color was a very light orange and it had flavors and aromas of a very old Barolo.  The wine was still drinkable but was not going to last much longer.

Wasserman gave the 1964 vintage 3 stars. He did not have tasting notes for the Cogno Marcarini Brunate 1964.

The 1964 Cogno Marcarini was much like the 1967 only it had a little more life. One point I have to make is that both the 1967 and 1964 tasted much better with the pizza we had for lunch. I love pizza Margarita and Barolo.

I am sure that if I tasted the 1978, 1967 and 1964 from different bottles the results would not be the same.  I am a firm believer that there are no great wines only great bottles of wine.

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Filed under Barolo, Cogno- Marcarini, Elvio Cogno, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Piedmont, Piemonte, Valter Fissore

Pio Cesare’s Piemonte with Pio Boffa at Eataly

Pio Boffa

 On my first visit to Piemonte in 1982, I stayed at Il Giardino di Felicin in Monforte d’Alba.  The owner, Giorgio Rocca, a very charming host and great chef, offered to help us make arrangements to visit some of the local producers.  I mentioned Pio Cesare and he quickly made an appointment for the next morning.  At the winery in Alba, we were met by Pio Boffa, the owner of Pio Cesare.  His English is excellent, and we had a wonderful visit and tasting.  Ever since then, whenever I am in that area, I try to visit the winery and always receive a warm welcome.  

 Recently Pio was in New York to teach a class at Eataly and I went to see him.

During the class Pio talked about the history of his winery and how he was the only one in the family who followed his father into the wine business which he joined in 1973. Tradition is very important to Pio and he said that he tries to make wine in the same way as they did in the past. The winery is in the same location as it has always been, right in the center of Alba.  Pio said that he was very proud of the fact that his father, Giuseppe Boffa, told Pio his wine was the same as he himself had made 50 years ago. Pio hopes that in the next few years his daughter will follow in his footsteps.  Ten years ago, Pio’s nephew joined the winery.  

 The Pio Cesare winery produces 40,000 cases of wine a year, which according to Pio makes them a middle size producer. In the 1960’s and 1970’s there were only a few producers in the area but now there are many more. Since then, the more traditional and conservative producers have had to fight to keep their share of the market. The “new” producers used different wine making techniques and started to make single vineyard (cru) wines.  Concessions have to be made but not at the cost of tradition. That is why Pio Cesare maintains the same bottle, same label, and same style of wine as in the past.

The Wines

 Cortese di Gavi 2009 100% Cortese- the vines are on hillside vineyards in very select locations in the Gavi area. Theses vineyards belong to growers that have been producing grapes for Pio Cesare for generations and who have worked their vineyards according to Pio’s strict quality controls. Slow fermentation takes place at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks on the lees for four months. The wine is kept in stainless steel tanks until March after the harvest when it is bottled. Pio Boffa said that malolatic fermentation depended on the vintage and for this wine 1/3 underwent malolatic. He went on to say that 2/3 of all Gavi were produced in the flat valley area. His grapes are grown on the hillside where the soil is drier and there is a southern exposure. Here the yields are lower and the grapes ripen later. Because of this the wine is more complex, will age better, have more fruit and a mineral character with good acidity. He added as an aside that the Cortese grape was difficult to grow because it is very acidic. However by growing the grapes on the hillside and leaving it on the lees one can produce a very good wine. This is a fresh, fruity, aromatic white wine with some complexity. $27

 Chardonnay “Piodilei” 2008 100% Chardonnay.  This is a single vineyard, barrel fermented Chardonnay, from the very first Chardonnay vineyard they planted in 1980, at the “Il Bricco Estate” in Treiso, in the Barbera area.   Pio pointed out that this is not a “traditional” wine. The yields are kept low and the grapes are picked when they are fully ripened, late harvest. Fermentation occurs on the lees in new French oak barrels. The wine in aged on the lees in French oak barrels for 10 months, and for six months in the bottle before release. 1/3 of the wine underwent malolatic. The wine has ripe fruit flavors a touch of spice, and a long finish. $32

  Pio said that white grapes grown in the right terroir and that are allowed to remain on the less produce a wine that is more like a red wine.

 Barbera D’Alba “Fides” 2007 100% Barbera.    Pio has a strong feeling for Barbera and called it the wine of the people of Piemonte The grapes for this wine come from a single vineyard in their “Colombaro” vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba. This is a prime area for growing Nebbiolo. The wine is called Fides, Latin for trust and faith.  Pio said that this was a true act of trust and faith on the part of him and his father. In fact they both came up with the idea at the same time. He pointed out that if it was planted with Nebbiolo the land would be worth four times as much. Other producers give Nebbiolo the highest position and the most southern exposure while leaving Barbera at a less elevated position. Pio said the all his Barbera grapes have the same position as his Nebbiolo. They used a very old clone of Barbera that is not used any more.

Fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks and skin contact lasts for ten days. Right after being drawn off, the wine rests for 20 months in medium toasted French oak casks: 80% in barriques and 20% in 20hl casks.  This is a wine with fresh ripe fruit aromas and flavors, with a hint of spice and good acidity. $44 The wine can age and it was a great combination with the agnolotti del plin, “pinched” ravioli that are typical of Piemonte, that we tasted. 

 It was unfortunate that one important producer, that Pio would not name, decided not to produce any Barolo or Barbaresco in 2006. This led many to assume that it was not a very good vintage. Pio said that in his opinion the 2006 vintage was very good for both Barolo and Barbaresco and it was a very traditional vintage for Nebbiolo.  Now that the wines have been released it is evident that it was a very good traditional vintage.

 Pio said that he has tasted Nebbiolo grown in other parts of the world and it did not taste like Nebbiolo.  In other parts of Italy they make wine from Nebbiolo but the style is different. None of these can compare with Nebbiolo when it is made into Barbaresco and Barolo- -there is just something about the terroir. Pio added that for him Barolo was the King of wine and Barbaresco was the Queen.

 Barbaresco 2006 The grapes come from Pio’s family owned vineyards, Il Bricco Estate, and the great hill of San Stefanetto, both located in the village of Treiso.  Vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks and skin contact lasts for about 20 days. 35% of the wine is aged in French oak barrels,1/3 new, for 30 months and the remaining 65% spends three years in French oak casks, 20 to 50 hl each. This is a traditional classic Barbaresco and has long aging potential. $62

 Barolo 2006 100% Nebbiolo The grapes for this wine come from his family owned vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba (Ornato), Grinzane Cavour (Gustava), La Mora (Roncaglie) and Barolo-Novello (Ravara). The balance of the grapes comes from other exclusive vineyards owned by growers who have provided grapes to his family for generations. This he said was his traditional Barolo-his “regular old classic style.”  Blending grapes from different vineyards was the traditional way to make Barolo. Grapes from different locations give different characteristics to the wine — color from one, complexity from another, concentration and longevity from other sites, but all are the essence of the terroir. This is a traditional classic Barolo and will age very well for a number of years  $67

 Barolo 2006 “Oronato” 100%.   Nebbiolo this is a single vineyard Barolo from very ripe grapes of three different plots of the family owned Ornato Estate in Serralunga d’Alba.

Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with skin contact for 15 days. The wine is aged in medium toasted French oak barrels, for 36 months, 70% in new barriques and 30% in 25 hectoliter casks. This is a big, concentrated Barolo that is produced in small quantities (7,000 bottles) and only in the best vintages. Pio said that this was a wine that was meant to age and only after a number of years will it show its true characteristics. $110


Filed under Barbaresco, Barbera, Barolo, Gavi, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Piemonte

Remembering Alfredo Currado: A Man and his Wines

How do you pay tribute to a great winemaker and special person? The answer is: by drinking his wine and talking about the times we spent with him. We decided to have a dinner and invite our friends who were close to Alfredo Currado of the Vietti winery.  We asked each of the guests to bring at least one bottle of Vietti wine made by Alfredo.

Alfredo and Luciana with family and friends

We first met Alfredo in the fall of 1982. It was my 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 left NYC, Sheldon Wasserman, one of the greatest Italian wine writers, told us to visit this winery not only because they made great wines, but because Alfredo and Luciana Currado were such nice people.(it is impossible to think of Alfredo without also thinking about his wife Luciana, they were a team and to us it was always Alfredo and Luciana) .  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 corn meal cookies and had a wonderful time. When we got back to the hotel there was a message waiting for us from Alfredo and Luciana.  They were taking us to dinner that night and they would not take no for an answer. So began a wonderful friendship and many adventures both in Piedmont and NYC with this wonderful couple that lasted until Alfredo’s death last year.

One of my favorite memories is from 1985 when Michele and I visited Alfredo and Luciana with Mary Ewing Mulligan, MW and Ed McCarthy. A man from Naples had opened a pizzeria a few doors down from their winery and they wanted us to try it. The whole family joined us and the pizza was very good especially the one made with fontina cheese and porcini mushrooms. Alfredo brought a magnum of 1961 Barolo to drink with the pizza. 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.

On another of our visits, Michele and I rented a very small Japanese car. When we arrived at the winery, the whole family, especially their grandson, began to make jokes and laugh at the car. Someone said it was so small that a three liter bottle of Alfredo’s wine could not fit in the driver’s seat. A few days later when we were leaving, I opened the door to the car and behind the steering wheel was a three liter bottle of Vietti Barolo as a parting gift.

In 2003 Michele was doing a story for a magazine on where the winemakers eat in the Langhe and we again visited Alfredo and Luciana. Alfredo asked if we would like to visit Bartolo Mascarello and I said “perche no”. Listening to these two great winemakers talk about wine and the state of winemaking in the Langhe was fantastic. I only wish I had a recorder or a video camera with me. Bartolo kept joking and teasing Alfredo, saying, if I understood correctly, that because Alfredo produced many different wines he was making “industrial wines”. They both laughed and then started to speak in the Piedmontese dialect and I could not follow the conversation.

Two years ago I was in Alba for a wine tasting and Alfredo and Luciana invited me for dinner. Luciana apologized for not being able to make dinner because the winery was under construction. It was too bad because she is an excellent cook. We went to a restaurant just a few doors away. The food was very good, typical of the region, and Alfredo brought wine. We drank a 1998 Barolo Rocche which was wonderful.  Alfredo said this was the last vintage that he made before Luca, their son, took over as the winemaker. I am one of the few people to have had the honor of having this great winemaker’s first and last wines, and the privilege of drinking a lot of his bottles in between.

The starter wines for the Alfredo Currado dinner:

Nino Franco 2009 Brut “Grave di Stecca” of Primo Franco

Dom Ruinart 1993 “Blanc de Blancs”

Krug Grande Cuvee Brut NV

The Vietti wines:

We started with the 2008 Barbera D’Alba “Tre Vigne” my favorite of their Barberas made by Alfredo and Luciana’s son Luca. The grapes come from three different vineyards located in Monforte, Castiglione Falletto, and Castiglione Tinella. The vines are 35 years old and there are 5,000 per hectare. After pressing, the wine is kept in stainless steel tanks for 10 days for the alcoholic fermentation.  Malolatic fermentation and aging takes place in casks. Aging is for 10 months in a combination of barriques, Slovenian oak casks and stainless steel. The wine is not filtered before bottling. There were aromas and flavors of red cherry, violets and good acidity. It was a perfect segue to the bigger red wines that followed.

Wines made by Alfredo:

Barbaresco 1985 “Masseria” Made from 100% Lampia. Malolatic fermentation takes place in oak barrels. The wine was aged for two years in Slovenian oak barrels and is bottled unfiltered.  The wine was drinking very well with hints of tobacco and cherry.

Barolo 1988 Riserva “Villero” Nebbiolo –sub varietal Michet. Soil, clay with white and blue marl and the harvest takes place in the middle of October. Fermentation in stainless steel vats with automatic replacement. Malolatic fermentation takes place in oak barrels where the wine remained for six months. The wine is then racked and assembled in 30hl oak barrels for 31 months. After two months in stainless steel the wine is bottled without fining or filtration. This wine was showing its age and there was a lot of sediment. It had a mineral character with a slight celery taste and a touch of fruit.

 Barolo 1985 Riserva “Villero” was drinking very well and is a classic Barolo.

 Barolo 1997 “Rocche” Made from Nebbiolo – 75% Michet, 20% Lampia and 10% Rose.

There are 4,600 plants per hectare. The wine is fermented for 22 days in stainless steel tanks with daily pumping air through the application of an old system called “cap submerged”. It is aged for over two years in Slavonian oak barrels, is unfiltered and is aged one year in bottle before release. My favorite Barolo has always been the “Rocche”. This is traditional classic Barolo with hints of violets, faded roses and leather.

Barolo 1988 Rocche this also was showing very well.

Barolo 1982 Rocche — In my opinion this was the wine of the evening. I always believed that Rocche was the best Barolo that Alfredo made.

It was a wonderful evening of food and wine and memories shared with good friends. Maybe we will do it again next year when the 3L bottle of Barolo that Alfredo gave me  will be 30 years old.


Filed under Barbaresco, Barbera, Barolo, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Piemonte, Vietti

Cavallotto and Giovanni Manzone- Traditional Wine at its Best

Cavallotto and Giovanni Manzone–Traditional Producers

 The owner of La Pizza Fresca, one of my favorite pizzerias in NYC, called me at 10:00 PM and said, “Come over. We have a white truffle and old Barolo.” I was there before he hung up the phone. Mark Fornatale, who works for wine importer Michael Skurnik, provided the truffle and we had it shaved on pasta, pizza and risotto. This was a preview for me because two weeks later, I was leaving for Piemonte.  Mark represents two traditional producers that I wanted to visit, Cavallotto and Giovanni Manzone, and he said he would make all the arrangements.

 F.lli Cavallotto


Castiglione Falletto

It was the only sunny day in our stay in Piemonte as we drove up to the Cavallotto winery in the late afternoon. The estate is in Castiglione Falletto on Bricco Boschis in the heart of the Barolo area. I was introduced to their wines in the early 1980’s by the wine writer Sheldon Wasserman and had visited them in 1983, 2007 and in November of 2010.

 The Cavalotto’s have been producing wine for five generations.  In 1948, they were the first winemakers in the area to dedicate themselves to the vinification of their own grapes and the marketing their wines in bottles.

  Alfio Cavallotto, who is an enologist, gave us a tour of the vineyards. The property consists of 65 hectares of which 60 are planted with vines.  Alfio said that they have a high number of vines per acre with a corresponding low number of buds per plant, sacrificing quantity for quality. Since 1970 they control the grass covering between the rows of vines to help maintain the natural organic substances in the soil. They have re-introduced natural insect predators allowing for the elimination of pesticides and other toxic chemicals. He also spoke about the soil, the difference between clay and sand in the area and the annual rainfall, as well as the different exposures of the vineyards to the sun. Alfio was a wealth of information and you can find out more at the website. 

Alfio on Bricco Broschis

Bricco Boschis, their cru, is 25 hectares of which 23 hectares are covered with vines. Half of it is planted with Nebbiolo for Barolo and the other half has Barbera, Freisa, Grignolino, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They use Slavonic oak barrels of 10, 30, 50, 80 and 100 hl. He also said, with a smile on his face, that they have two barriques.

They have both stainless steel and cement tanks and Alfio said that cement tanks ferment the wine at a higher temperature.

 Alfio led us in a tasting of his wines.

 Langhe Bianco 2009 DOC 100% Chardonnay. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and remains on the lees for 11 months. This is a big ripe wine with a lot of fruit and it proves that a Chardonnay that tastes like Chardonnay can be made.

 Dolcetto d’Alba Vigna Scot Bricco Boschis DOC 2009. 100% Dolcetto. Vinification on the skins for 7 days in steel vats and aged in stainless steel for 6 months. Alfio said that for Dolcetto, 2009 was better than 2008 and that 2010 was a very light vintage. This was a Dolcetto with body. It was well balanced, with red fruit aromas, hints of cherries and a touch of bitter almond.

Langhe Freisa 2008 Bricco Boschis DOC 100% Freisa. Maceration on the skins for 5 days with frequent pumping over the must and a few months in stainless steel before release.  It has soft tannins with nice fruit and hints of pepper and cloves. This is one of the best examples of this type of wine that I have tasted.

 Barbera d’ Alba 2006 “Vigno Del Cuculo” Bricco Boschis  DOC 100% Barbera This is a Barbera that is grown in the Barolo area.  It has very good aromas and flavors, a little like Nebbiolo because the soil here is more complex. Alfio believes that the Barberas from Asti are too simple and light or way over the top because of the use of barriques. He also said the land is less expensive in Asti. This Barbera is four years old and showing no sign of age. I believe that it will age for 10 years or more.

 The Nebbiolo vines can be found in the two historical zones of Castiglione Falletto, Bricco Boschis, where the cellars are located, and the Vignolo zone.

 Langhe Nebbiolo Bricco Boschis 2007 DOC 100% Nebbiolo (declassified). This is the same vineyard that they get the grapes for Barolo. It is big for a Nebbiolo, tannic with great fruit flavors and aromas and a hint of spice.

 Alfio said that Bricco Boschis was divided by the family into three vineyards: San Giuseppe, which may be the finest vineyard, Colle Sudovest and Punta Marcello.

 Barolo Bricco Boschis 2005 and 2006 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo. Maceration on the skins for 20 days and aged in Slavonia oak casks of various sizes for three and a half years.

 Barolo Riserva 2004 Vignolo DOCG 100% Nebbiolo. Maceration on the skins for 26 days in stainless steel vats and four years in Slovenian oak casks of different sizes. The Vignolo vineyard is slightly lower than San Giuseppe. I think Bricco Boschis might be the highest vineyard in the zone.

 Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis San Giuseppe 2004 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo. Maceration on the skins for 26 days and aged for four years in Slavonia oak cask of various sizes for four years.

 Alifo said that the Barolo area has been fortunate over the last 20 years and that between 1988 and 2010 the only vintages not to buy are 1991, 1992, 2002 and 2003. I agree with him.

 The first vintage of Cavallotto Barolo I tasted was the 1971 which I had in the early 1980’s. In 2007 at the winery, I tasted the 1971 again and it was still going strong. Not much has changed over the years as they continue to produce traditional wine and classic Barolo with aromas and flavors of faded roses, tar, tobacco and mushrooms.  

   Agricola Azienda Giovanni Manzone

 The Manzone winery was established in 1925 by Giovanni Manzone and it is located in Monforte d’Alba. It is a small, family run winery consisting of 8 hectares all planted with vines. The average production is 4,100 cases a year. The wines are not clarified or filtered. In 2005, Mauro a trained oenologist joined his father, the present Giovanni at the winery.

 It was a cold rainy morning as we made our way along a dirt road that kept on going up and up.  Finally, we reached the top of the hill known as “Gramolere” and the winery. I rang the bell and we were greeted by Mauro.  He took us into the winery where we met his father Giovanni. When he greeted us I knew that this was a farmer and as Gambero Rosso stated, he “… is an authentic wine man…His wines are so typical they are almost textbook in style, perfectly embodying the true Langhe spirit.” I could not agree more. Giovanni was shy and soft spoken and looked like he had just come in from working in the fields.

 In the winery they have 500 liter barrels which looked like they had seen many vintages. Next to them were barrels that were a little larger. When I asked about them I was told they were 700 liter barrels and were traditional in the area. This was very interesting to me because I had never noticed these size barrels before.

Giovanni and Mauro Manzone

Mauro and Giovanni led us in a tasting of their wines.

 We started with a Langhe Bianco Rosserto 2009 DOC made from 100% Rossese Bianco. This is an autochthonous variety of the Lange region. Mauro told us that the wine was saved from extinction by his family over 100 years ago. It was in an old family vineyard close to the house.  About 30 years ago, Giovanni decided to make wine from this variety which he calls “this special white wine”.  It took him 20 years to get official permission for the government to recognize the grape. The wine is fermented for 10 days in 500 liter oak barrels and aged on the lees in the same type of barrels for 12 months with batonnage taking place twice a week. The wine was fruity and mellow with flavors and aromas of peach, orange, acacia and flowers.

 Batonnage was not used in the 2000 vintage of this wine.  It was fresh with undertones of citrus, and a nice finish and aftertaste.  Mauro said that the wine could age between five and ten years but the 2000 was still going strong. Only 2,500 bottles are produced.

 Dolcetto d’Alba 2009 DOC from the “le Ciliegie” vineyard. The grapes are harvested the first week of September and maceration takes place for seven days. It is aged in stainless steel tanks for 11 months. The wine is fruity with blackberry overtones and hints of violets.

Barbera d’Alba  2007 DOC “La Serra” Riserva  the grapes are picked in the La Serra vineyard in the middle of September. Maceration is on the skins for ten days. The wine is aged in 700 liter barrels for 16 months. This was an interesting wine with aromas and flavors of red fruit, sour cherries and hints of tobacco.

 Nebbiolo d’Alba 2008 DOC the grapes come from the “Le Gramolere” vineyard and are picked in the middle of October. Maceration is on the skins for seven days. The wine is aged in 700 liter casks for six months. Good red fruit and a hint of spice.

Barolo “Le Gramolere” 2006 DOCG the grapes are harvested in the middle of October and there is skin contact for 30/40 days. It is aged in 25 HL casks for 30 months. This is a very complex wine with a lot of tannin. It has aromas and flavors cherries, raspberries, spice and balsamic.

 2004 Mauro said was a great vintage and they made a Riserva which they only make in the best years. He said the wine was aged in 500-700 liter barrels for 48 months. This is a big wine but elegant at the same time. We also tasted the 1998 Riserva, a year that was overshadowed by the 1997. However Giovanni felt that 1998 was a great vintage similar to the 2004. I had to agree. This wine will age for a long time.

 We tasted the Barolo 2008 DOCG Bricat  from barrel. It had the aromas and flavors of Pinot Noir. These were the same Pinot Noir aromas and flavors we tasted at Elvio Congo when Valter gave us a barrel sample of his 2008. There must be something about that vintage. I cannot wait to taste them from the bottle to see how they have developed. 

 Barolo Bricat  2006 DOCG  the grapes were picked in the middle of October. Maceration is on the skins for 15 days. 50% of the wine is aged in 500 liter barrels and 50% in 700 liter barrels for a minimum of 24 months. It has flavors and aromas of blueberries, blackberries with a hint of chocolate and walnuts. It is not as big a wine as the “Le Gramolere”.

Giovanni Manzone has a very good website

 Every time that I travel to Piemonte I see changes. For many years I feared that the entire Langhe wine production would veer toward the “international style” of wine making. This method trades off the wonderful authenticity and purity-of-character of the Nebbiolo grape for faster maturation and more immediate gratification. The use of small, new, French oak barriques accomplishes this but adds flavors of oak and vanilla to the wines; flavors that the original Barolo producers never envisioned or desired.

 Although it is true that “degustibus non disputandum” (personal taste can’t be disputed), if the reader wants to experience Barolo in the form in which it was originally conceived and made, producers like Cavalotto and Manzone, and last issue’s Elvio Cogno, are the guarantors of that tradition. As long as these families continue their fine work, those of us who want authentic Barolo wines will be able to get them.

 Finally, I am happy to mention that many of the Barolo houses that veered toward the use of new oak and international style are turning back somewhat; and trying to get closer to the more authentic methods that Cogno, Cavalotto, and Manzone never forgot.

 Listen to Charles Scicolone on Wine every Wednesday at 6:05 PM on Valerie’s New York  internet radio and on demand.



Filed under Barbera, Barolo, Dolcetto, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Piemonte