Category Archives: Valter Fissore

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

From Rome to Williamsburg, Brooklyn


When in Rome last June, Michele and I enjoyed lunch at Pier Luigi, a favorite restaurant for fish.  After our meal, we got into a conversation with Lorenzo Lisi, an owner, who said that he and his partners were going to open a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which they found similar to the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome.  The new place would be a version of Antica Pesa, one of the oldest restaurants in Rome, known for its classic Roman cooking.

I love the food in all 20 regions of Italy, but as I have often said, if I were a rich man I would live in Rome.  One of the main reasons is the food.

Williamsburg seems like a big trip across the river, but in reality, it took us less than a half hour to get to Antica Pesa from our Manhattan apartment.  When we entered Lorenzo Panella, the general manager, greeted us.  Since it was a cold night, he graciously seated us in front of the fireplace until our other guests arrived

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Fried Calamari

At the table, we ordered the tasting menu.  The highlights included perfectly fried calamari, marinated skate with sauteed escarole, linguine cacio and pepe, schiaffoni all’ amatriciana (a pasta resembling rigatoni, though I would have preferred it with bucatini) and a very tasty lamb crop.IMG_2807We brought our own wines and the corkage fee here is $25 per bottle.  The beverage director, Gabriele Guidoni, is a true sommelier and before long we were having a discussion about Italian wine.

The WinesIMG_2797
Langhe Bianco Nascetta- Anas- Cetta DOC 2010 Elvio Cogno.
Made from the Nascetta grape (autochthonous Novello Bianco). This grape is of Mediterranean origin and might have originated in Sardinia. Cogno first produced the wine in 1994 and there are records of it going back to the 19th Century.  He is one of the few that make it now.  The Nascetta vineyards are at 350 meters and the 4,000 vines per hectare are vertical trellised with Guyot pruning. Harvesting is at the end of September. The wine is vinified in 70% stainless steel and 30% in barriques. It is aged 6 months in stainless steel and 6 months in barriques and is 180 days on the lees. After 3 months of bottle age it is released.
I visited this winery a few years ago and Valter Fissore,  Elvio Cogno’s son-in law and the wine maker, said that it has a mineral character but when it ages, it resembles Riesling! It is a very elegant wine with good fruit, a long finish and great aftertaste.IMG_2803

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 100% DOC 2005, Edoardo Valentini.  The winery is organic and biodynamic. This is a very complex and full bodied wine with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and apple, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste and an extra something that is difficult to describe.
The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months. I do not like to compare types of wine, but if asked what other type of wine this reminded me of, my answer would be a great white burgundy.
In one of her books, Jancis Robinson says that the grape for this wine is not Trebbiano d’Abruzzo but Bombino Bianco. When this question came up when I was at the winery, Edoardo Valentini said that the grape was a special clone of Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo. Both the importer and Edoardo’s son, Francesco say it is Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo.IMG_2804

Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC 1979 Lungarotti 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The soil is clay and sand of medium depth with limestone subsoil. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in September/October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 18 days maceration on the skins. It is aged for 12 months in oak casks and lightly filtered before bottling. This is a wine with red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of black cherry and a touch of leather and spice with a very pleasant finish and aftertaste, Note: this was NOT the Vigna Monticchio but the regular Rubesco which made it even more impressive!IMG_2805

Barbaresco Campo Cros Martinenga 1982, 100 % Nebbiolo Tenuta Cisa Aisnari dei Marchesi di Gresey.
In his book the Italy’s Noble Red Wines Wasserman describes the wine as: “Tobacco and cherries on aroma; full of flavor, extremely well balanced; long finish the best Martinegna to date.” This is his note from 1985; I tasted the wine with him a few years later and was very impressed. 30 years later his description still stands and  the wine is at its peak. Wasserman also says that the 1982 was almost perfect and gives the vintage four stars, his highest rating. He gives the wine three stars with a possible four. After drinking it with dinner I give it the extra star, too.IMG_2806

Amarone 1961 Bertani 70% Corvina Veronese, 30% Rondinella-this is the present blend.
Carefully selected grape bunches are hand-harvested in Bertani’s best Valpolicella vineyards in Fumane, Marano and the Novare Valley. Vines are cultivated using the “spalliera” method while pruning is done using the Guyot  method with 5.000 vines/ha.
Unlike most leading Amarone producers, who buy grapes from outside growers, Bertani’s harvest originates entirely in the firm’s own vineyards. With marly-calcareous soil sheltered by surrounding woodland, these vineyards offer the ideal terroir for Amarone.
Harvest begins in early October and extends over a two-week period. After harvest, ripe, unblemished grapes from the uppermost portions of each cluster — those grapes richest in sugar and extracts — are painstakingly detached and laid out to dry on cane mats. The mats are stored on raised platforms in airy lofts, sheltered by a roof but otherwise exposed to drying breezes on all sides. By the time they are ready to undergo maceration and fermentation in February, they will have lost up to 60% of their water content (appassimento). A lengthy maceration period ensues, a factor responsible for Amarone’s tremendous body and structure. After a controlled fermentation, the wine is transferred into oak casks for a period of 5-8 years (the 1961, I believe, spent a longer time in wood) during which it was racked twice annually prior to bottling.
Dry, full-bodied, and amply structured with hints of cherries, red berries and spice.  The wine was showing its age. 1961 was a very good vintage for Amarone.

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Filed under Amarone, Antica Pesa Restaurant. Brooklyn, Bertani, Elvio Cogno, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lungarotti, Marchesi di Gresey, Mrchesi di resey, Nascetta, Rubesco, Umbria, Valentini, Valter Fissore

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  http://wp.me/p8Gp4-gi “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