Archive for the ‘Barolo’ Category

Piedmont Panorama: Part One

June 14, 2012

I went to Piedmont in May for Nebbiolo Prima, the annual preview of Barolo and Barbaresco new releases. The host city, Alba, remained reliably sunny and comfortably warm, and the wines – nearly 500 of them over the course of the work week – remained astonishingly unpredictable. Last year I thought the use of barriques here in the heart of Nebbiolo-land was waning; this year it was back in force, ruining – for my palate – most of the Barbarescos of the Neive commune and most of the Barolos of Monforte d’Alba.

Every day at Nebbiolo Prima follows the same routine. By 9 a.m. at the latest, you sit yourself down to blind-taste between 65 and 80 examples of the new vintages (this year, Barbaresco 2009, Barolo 2008).

After lunch (and a vigorous toothbrushing, if you have enough time to dash back to your hotel room), you meet the producers you’ve chosen to visit for a look at their vineyards and cellar and whatever tasting they opt to give you. I lucked in this year, and enjoyed a series of vertical tastings that wonderfully complemented the mornings’ intensive horizontals and also showed just why Nebbiolo is so special a grape and Barolo and Barbaresco so special a twin-set of wine zones.

I’ll write about all of Barbaresco in a later post: There were some lovely wines there from the other communes that deserve notice. Today and in my next post I want to focus on some splendid visits I enjoyed to producers around the two zones, and what made them splendid.

Here are my first two producer visits, in the order of their occurrence.

Angelo Negro

This family has been making wine for about 400 years, cultivating now some 60 hectares in the Roero and Barbaresco zones. They make white wines, including a refreshing brut spumante, with local varieties – Arneis and the too-little-known Favorita – but their main effort goes into reds: a Roero rosso called Sudisfà and Barbaresco Basarin, from the Neive commune.

They first poured for me 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 of the Sudisfà Riserva. This is a 100% Nebbiolo from the Roero zone, aged 24 months in French oak – but the traditional Piedmontese large botti, not barriques. This proved to be a lovely wine, with substantial Nebbiolo character that was lightened and freshened (and marked off from Barolo and Barbaresco) by the sandy soils of Roero. The ’04 was developing beautifully, in exactly the manner that will be familiar to Barolo fans, but with greater lightness. It had an almost-delicacy that is rare in Nebbiolo wines. The other vintages showed strong stylistic and palatal similarities – a consistency across vintages that I found impressive – though obviously younger and not as far along the track to maturity.

Next came 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 vintages of the Barbaresco Basarin Riserva, also 100% Nebbiolo, also 18 months in oak (80% botti, 20% tonneaux). This was one of few Neive commune Barbarescos that I enjoyed, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It showed itself a very different wine from Sudisfà: bigger, with firmer tannins, and slower maturing (the ’04 Basarin was far less ready than the ’04 Sudisfà), combining wonderful freshness with depth. This was a very fine sequence of vintages that showed again a fine stylistic consistency – a thing not easy to achieve with a grape as exacting as Nebbiolo.

Aurelio Settimo

Today managed by the founder’s granddaughter, Tiziana Settimo, this small estate (scarcely 6 hectares) works more than half its vineyards in the prized La Morra cru Rocche della Annunziata. Tiziana presented seven vintages of her Barolo Rocche: 2006, 2005, Riserva 2004, 1997, 1996, 1986, and 1985 – a really lovely line-up that showed clearly the exceptional aging ability of the wines of this cru.

All the wines were marked by an almost austere rendition of classic Barolo black-cherry and mineral scents and tastes with aromas in some cases (especially 2004) hinting at white truffle among the more familiar fruit and earth notes. I picked up tastes of mulberry in the finish of several, something I found in other La Morra wines as well: unexpected and intriguing. On the palate, all showed good acidity and firm tannins, the latter at different stages of softening from vintage to vintage.

The ’97 seemed to me to be peaking, something I’ve found true for all the 1997s I’ve tasted in the past year. I don’t think they are going into a secondary eclipse (something that can happen with Barolo and Barbaresco): I think they’re reaching the end of their lives. Very far from that fate were the 1996, the 1986, and the 1985. These showed themselves truly great wines, big and powerful, but with great elegance and still fresh fruit, along with their developing complexity. The oldest of them, the ’85 Barolo Rocche, gave no indication of fading; it still had fine body and balance, still marked Nebbiolo fruit, still vigor on the palate. A great wine, without question.

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It’s worth noting that in part because of the economy and in part because of the extraordinary string of fine vintages Piedmont has enjoyed, many bottles of 2004, 5, 6, and 7 are still on the shelves, and often at prices lower than what this year’s new releases are likely to command. Buyer, take advantage!

My next post will continue the saga of my visits to producers during my week in Alba.

Five Decades of Conterno’s Barolo Monfortino

May 18, 2012

Am I ever a happy camper! Through the generosity of friends and friends of friends, I had the opportunity to share in a nine-bottle, five-decade tasting of one of Italy’s finest wines, Giacomo Conterno’s Barolo Riserva Monfortino. Nick Belfrage, who knows Italian wine well, has opted for a bottle of Monfortino as his “deathbed tipple.” The vintage he asks for is 1990. The youngest wine we tasted was 1985. Am I a happy camper?

The Giacomo Conterno winery, now run by Roberto Conterno, sits near some prime vineyards in Monforte d’Alba, though all its own vineyards are in Serralunga, and its finest wine is called Monfortino (Don’t ask; this is Italy). Roberto still makes wines the way his father and grandfather (the eponymous Giacomo) did, with long, long skin contact and long aging before release. Vintages of the last 15 years that I’ve tasted in Italy have all been impressive and formidable wines, structured on a large scale and packed with complex flavors that will need many years to evolve.

All the wines we tasted here in New York, however, were produced not by Roberto but by the older generations: 1985, 1978, 1971, 1967, 1968, 1958, 1955, 1947, and 1943. To me this made the tasting doubly interesting, because it was a chance to remind myself how the Barolos that first hooked me long ago have developed, as well as a chance to mentally compare them with what I’ve been tasting of more recent vintages.

In my private history of Piedmont wine, 1982 stands as a great dividing year, the year that climate change was first felt in the area. None of us realized that at the time: That very warm growing season gave grapes of such never-before-seen ripeness that it was thought of as a real anomaly: The growers called it their “California harvest.” Then ’85 was very warm again, forcing the growers to start to come to terms with changed climatic conditions. And then came the fantastic trio of harvests – 1988, 1989, and 1990 – that firmly pushed Barolo and Barbaresco into a whole new era.

From that point on, what came into the cellars from the fields was different from what Nebbiolo had been before. It had to be treated differently, even by the most traditional winemakers, and the history of Barolo and Barbaresco had to start over. If the wines of these latter years evolve anything like the wines of the pre-climate-change years that we had at this recent tasting, we all have a lot to look forward to.

So much for prologue: now for the tasting.

Monfortino 1985. Excellent color. Beautiful earth and mushroom nose, which opened in the glass to intense dry funghi porcini scents and finally to rich tobacco aromas. On the palate it was rich, smooth, and full, with very soft tannins and intense black fruits (with the merest suggestion of over-ripeness). The finish was all mushroom again. Wonderful as this wine was – unquestionably a five star wine – it would turn out to be one of the lesser wines we tasted. In contrast with the wines to come, it came to seem underdeveloped and needing more time to grow. And – just maybe – the winemaking wasn’t as sure-handed as it was before and would become again, once the Piedmont had adjusted to its new weather.

Monfortino 1978. Color and aroma quite similar to the ’85 – certainly no older looking, though perhaps a shade darker, and the porcini scents even more intense. The palate showed greater concentration, with the superb black cherry notes growing more intense, even liqueur-like, as they opened in the glass. Although ready to drink – the first ’78 I’ve encountered that I actually thought ready to drink (it was a tough year, marked by the hardest of tannins) – it was still remarkably fresh and gave every indication of having years and years of growth ahead of it. A glorious Barolo, simply off the charts.

Monfortino 1971. A bit more orange showing in the color, the start of truffle in the aroma, a touch thinner, less full, on the palate, with sour cherry and mushroom flavors dominating, and ending in a long, licorice-y finish. Classic pre-climate-change Barolo, with more obvious acidity contributing importantly to its structure and vitality, and everything held in a beautiful old-school balance. For many tasters, this was the wine of the day.

Monfortino 1967. Very pale: Most of the color had faded. Some acetone, some caramel in the nose, but lovely in the mouth: Burgundy-like, many tasters thought. A very balanced and elegant wine, Burgundian in its deportment and especially its finish.

Monfortino 1961. On the heels of the ’67, this wine was a surprise. It showed darker and more youthful-looking and smelled strongly of mushrooms and tobacco. It tasted young and fresh on the palate, with loads of maturing fruit and evident soft tannins. Not at all Burgudian, but pure Nebbiolo, through and through. For many, this wine upstaged even the ’78, which is really saying something.

Monfortino 1958. The color of this wine was slightly muddy, but it had an amazing nose of porcini and spices – really gorgeous. On the palate, fresh fruit with soft tannins and evident acidity (the latter clearly animating the whole wine), followed by a long licorice finish.

Monfortino 1955. Clearer and brighter than the ’58. Unusual nose of cumin and tobacco. Acidity is the factor structuring this wine and keeping it alive, which it very evidently was, in a state of lovely equilibrium. An excellent, still-sprightly wine with a long licorice finish. The prominence of the acidity seems to be a hallmark of pre-climate-change Barolo, and one of the characteristics that may distinguish it from our contemporary Barolos, which – I’m using the crystal ball here – don’t look to me as if their acidity will ever come so prominently to the fore.

Monfortino 1947. A wonder year all over Europe, producing some of the greatest wines of the last century. This wine was probably starting downslope: For my palate it was good but not great. It still had decent color and good aromas – tobacco, mushroom, earth. And its fruit was still sweet, soft, and long-finishing. It had no flaws: it was just playing in a very tough league, and at 65 years old it was showing a little fatigue.

Clockwise from bottom right: ’43, ’47, ’58, ’55

Monfortino 1943. A rare wine from the war years, and – sadly – over the hill. Its color had completely faded, leaving it looking like a sherry – a Palo Cortado or a Manzanilla – which it also smelled and tasted like. This was the only disappointing wine of the day. With so many so old wines, that, I think, says everything anyone needs to know about how high the level of winemaking was and is at Giacomo Conterno.

New Releases: French Whites and Italian Reds

March 12, 2012

‘Tis the season to be tasting! Wine importers are showing their latest arrivals, and there have been some splendid wines being splashed into glasses all over town. Several of these have been fine enough to make me deeply regret that the need for mere survival forces me to spit – but not to do so might be fun for a while and cirrhosis forever, so I have dutifully expectorated some good juice over the past few weeks. But enough repining: Here are some of the wines that impressed me most.

You’ve probably heard a good deal of hype already about how fantastic a vintage 2010 is for white Burgundy. Well, my experience so far confirms that it isn’t just hype: this vintage is for real. Not across the board, of course, but over enough of the appellations (those I’ve so far been able to taste) to make it no more than honest description to say that 2010 is shaping up as one of the best vintages for Burgundy white wine for a long time.

Burgundy as a wine zone has benefitted immensely over the past decade from climate change. Burgundian growers have been regularly achieving the kind of ripeness, and the attendant aromatics and flavors, that in the past were a once-in-ten-years occurrence, if that much. So 2010 really does deserve some bells and whistles.

Christian Moreau

The northernmost of the Burgundian appellations, Chablis, qualifies as one of its brightest stars. I’m a pushover for honest Chablis, with little or no oak intervening between the grapes and my palate – so for me the whole line of Christian Moreau wines that I tasted at a recent Frederick Wildman event were pure enjoyment. Moreau vinifies all its Chablis in stainless steel and uses minimal oak – very little of it new oak – on its most precious crus. Its 2010 wines all showed classic Chablis flint-and-stones mingled with the most austere of Chardonnay scents. On the palate, the wines followed through in similar style, with varying degrees of intensity, from the very nice, basic AOC Chablis through the impressive Premier Cru Vaillon up to a battery of truly grand crus – Vaudésir, Blanchot, Valmur, Les Clos – culminating in the very rare, only-made-in-the-best-vintages Clos des Hospices dans Les Clos.

All these grands crus, although drinking quite pleasurably already, belong to the class of Chablis that cry to be cellared: They are structured to mature and flesh out in what promises to be appropriately grand style. Were I a few years younger, I would try to put a case of these beauties away for a very long time.

I felt much the same way about the whites from the estate of Oliver Leflaive. Its delightful 2010 Bourgogne Blanc Les Sétilles makes the kind of base line that one can only wish all Burgundian houses achieved – and the wines ascended from there. The “simple” village wines – Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet – each showed the supposedly typical, but not always achieved, characteristics of each commune. If you’re just in the process of inducting yourself into the wonders of Burgundy, 2010 presents you with a good opportunity to taste these villages side by side to learn their distinctions. (What these are is a very complicated subject that needs a blog or two or three by itself. I don’t mean to be dismissive, but I honestly can’t explain it all here. I suggest you take a look at Clive Coates’s Côte d’Or: A Celebration of the Great Wines of Burgundy for all the details.)

The three premiers crus I tasted – Meursault Poruzots, Chassagne-Montrachet Clos St.-Marc, and Puligny-Montrachet Champ Gain – were all splendid, with both the Poruzots and Champ Gain displaying their terroir with great distinctiveness and clarity. The Grand Cru Bâtard-Montrachet, although already a big and graceful wine, clearly needs time; in only a few years, it will be wonderful; in 20 years, probably off the charts. Bâtard-Montrachet has for decades now been my archetypal Lobster Thermidor wine, the older the better.

Most of the red wines I’ve been tasting have been from older vintages than those whites, in some cases even re-releases of vintages that have been available for a while. Which is fine for the Brunellos and Barolos that impressed me at Winebow’s presentation: Additional age does them – and the consumer – a real favor. Both appellations benefit from, and in the best vintages demand, as much aging as you can be persuaded to give them. Fortunately for the producers of both, recent harvests seem to have set up an almost regular pattern of alternating, classic, highly structured vintages that require time to come round with softer, more accessible ones that can be enjoyed much younger – an ideal situation, in fact, for both the growers and the consumers: You get to drink your wine and have it too.

Among Brunellos, 2005 and 2007 are the more welcoming vintages, with many of Sangiovese’s youthful asperities covered by delightful, wild cherry fruit and an enlivening acidity: Salicutti provided excellent examples of both vintages. San Polo’s were equally good, but in a different style, showing more structure and less forwardness, but still with great fruit and balance and easy drinkability. Both houses made beautiful 2004s, with precisely calibrated combinations of fruit and earth tones and the kind of structures, with especially ripe tannins, that will keep these wines evolving beautifully for at least a decade yet. These are really classic Brunellos, the kind of wines the appellation’s high repute is based on.

Roberto Voerzio

Last, but hardly least in my estimation, my great passion: Barolo, from one of the ablest producers, Roberto Voerzio. I still wish Voerzio would use a little less new oak than he does, but for the most part he handles it very well. Only occasionally does it intrude on the Nebbiolo flavors that constitute the whole point of Barolo, and then only to a degree that I believe will subside with time in the bottle.

What comes through most in these wines is not wood but terroir. Voerzio has great vineyard sites – Brunate, Cerequio, La Serra, Rocche dell’ Annunziata – and he handles them very well indeed. I tasted the 2005 La Serra and Cerequio and the 2007 La Serra and Brunate: these all reflected the character of those two vintages in being remarkably welcoming for such young Barolos. This results not from cellar manipulation but from the character of the harvest, combined with all the changes in growing techniques that Piemonte has been adapting over the past 20 years.

The ’06 Cerequio and Brunate were different in character. They are more classic style Barolos – generously structured wines that will take time to come round and then should last at an impressive level for decades. The 2006 and 2001 Rocche dell’Annunziata wines were flat-out gorgeous, the ’06 promising great longevity and the ’01 – with ’04 and ’06, a top-tier Barolo vintage – already showing the beginnings of the classic earth-and-mushrooms nose, even though it is a wine still evolving. Cellar this beauty by all means.

Italian-American Relations

February 21, 2012

For a dinner at home, we recently had the pleasure of entertaining Valter Fissore, the winemaker at Elvio Cogno, and his public relations rep, our good friend Marta Sobrino from the Wellcom agency in Alba. At Marta’s request – this was only her second time in NY and the States – Diane prepared una cena vera Americana, a real American meal. We kept it as local and seasonal as possible (you can read the whole account of it on Diane’s blog) and I sought out good American wines to match the foods – but not too many, because I expected (rightly) that Valter would have some of his own beautiful bottles for us to taste.

We began over hors d’oeuvre with Gruet New Mexico sparkling wine. The Gruet family are the real thing, champagne makers from France, and they have very successfully transplanted their expertise. They can’t, by law, call any of their wines Champagne, but they make all of them by the traditional Champagne method, and the results are as authentic-tasting as any sparkling wine from anywhere. We drank their Blanc des Noirs, which I like because of its fine body and excellent, bone-dry fruit. Not to mention its versatility: it partnered very well with very diverse tidbits. Not entirely by the way, it is also very reasonably priced, which makes it very well worth seeking out.

The next wine, served with the fish course, was Castello di Borghese Chardonnay 2009. This wine originates on the North Fork of Long Island: The vineyards are those of the original Hargrave estate, the first of Long Island’s serious wine producers. This Chardonnay had never been in wood; that was one of my requirements, and you cannot imagine how difficult it is in New York City to find an unoaked domestic Chardonnay. I didn’t have time run out to the North Fork and visit the wineries to look for one – though given the time it took me to find one in town, perhaps I should have. In any case, I came up with this Borghese wine, American-made and Italian-named, and hoped this was a portent that it would be the perfect wine for my occasion.

Well, not really, though it certainly was interesting. It struck everybody with its huge, forward fruit, all of it tropical: pineapple and lichee flooding out of the glass in the nose and on the palate. No evident wood, and decent acidity – Long Island does that – made it more companionable with the fish than I at first feared it would be. Valter seemed fascinated by it, though I wasn’t sure whether that was from pleasure at something so different from the white wine he normally gets or from the strangeness of it. It’s not really my kind of Chardonnay – I like more restraint and more structure – but I can readily see that many people would find it very attractive. And it was certainly genuinely American.

When we moved on to meat, we switched to red. I tried a Ridge Zinfandel I’d never come across before – Buchignani Ranch 2007. Normally I’m very fond of Ridge Zinfandels. I like to drink them when they’re ten years old or so, by which point all the California and Primitivo-kin exuberance of the wine has calmed down and come into balance. They usually remind me, at that stage, of classic clarets – very harmonious and deep, even serene. Well, this one wasn’t serene. It was all forward fruit and tannins, a big push in the face of not-yet-integrated flavors. Like the Chardonnay, it wasn’t exactly what I’d been looking for, but it was unquestionably American – and I think a bit of a shock to Italian palates.

Which were quickly soothed – as was my own – by the wines Valter had brought. From meat through cheeses (yes, they were American too, and excellent), we drank Cogno Barolo Ravera 2008 and Marcarini Barolo Brunate 1986. These were two lovely, very different wines.

The ’08 Ravera, as Valter pointed out and everyone’s tasting confirmed, showed the affinity of Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir. It had definite Pinot Noir flavors and some of the middle-weight suppleness of that variety. It was surprisingly easy to drink for a young Barolo, with clean outlines and beautifully soft, welcoming tannins. For all its readiness to drink, however, it still shows every sign of ageability: it will be a keeper, I think. This is a great wine for anyone coming to Barolo for the first time, particularly for someone making the transition from French to Italian wines.

About the ’86 Brunate, it’s hard to say anything beyond Wow! This was an absolutely classic mature Barolo, elegant, long, totally composed. It had dark, mushroomy/earthy aromas, dark flavors – leather/tobacco/dry black fruits – on the palate, all offering themselves willingly but not brashly: accessible yet restrained, full-flavored yet light on the palate – a short course in what Barolo is all about. This was a wine made by Valter’s father-in-law Elvio Cogno, when he was winemaker at Marcarini before he left to produce his own wines, and it was both an honor and a pleasure to drink it.

After all that intense palatal play, the evening ended diminuendo – coffee, grappa, and good night. Which it was.

The Feast of St. Apoconarcoleptis Magna

January 1, 2012

St. Apoconarcoleptis Magna is the patron of naps, endings, the last days, and ruins, of which I am rapidly becoming one – the latter not merely a function of age and slow time but also the direct result of far too much holiday eating and drinking. Like a volunteer Strasbourg goose, I have been reporting regularly for some first-rate gavage – so here is a roundup of the best of that: my Twelve Wines of Christmas.

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As a preliminary, much bubbly found its way into my glass and thence into my gullet this season. I’ve already given my account of the Wine Media Guild’s Champagne luncheon. The New York Wine Press’s fête at the Brasserie was only slightly less spectacular. It featured rosé Champagnes – eleven of them, so they don’t count in my Christmas dozen – around a nicely balanced luncheon that concluded with a positively sinful dose of triform chocolate.

Rosé is the hottest category of Champagne these days – why, no one is quite sure, though Ed McCarthy opines that rosé makes an ideal dinner Champagne, because of its slightly fuller body and slightly greater complexity. Pinot noir always seems to make a difference, and its greater presence in rosé Champagnes could be the factor behind their current popularity.

All the wines tasted that day would rank as excellent on any scale, but my favorites all bunched up in the middle luncheon flight: two prestige Champagnes, 2004 Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque (approximately $300) and 2004 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne (about $250), plus 2006 Louis Roederer, the youngest and least expensive wine of the flight ($75), and finally my favorite, 2002 Pol Roger Extra Cuvée de Reserve ($100), a great wine from a great Champagne vintage.

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The Twelve Wines of Christmas all came from my own so-called cellar, over multiple dinners for Diane and myself and family and friends. Inevitably, these included some more bubbles: my old reliable Pol Roger NV Brut, a consistently pleasing, medium-bodied, mineral-driven Champagne, and Roederer Estate, vinified by the French Grande Marque in California’s Anderson Valley, and for my palate the best and most persuasively Champagne-tasting of California sparkling wines. Pommery Brut NV made a fine aperitif, working equally well with some duck rillettes and with Diane’s version of Torino aperitivi.

For my palate, the red wines formed the pièce de résistance. Despite that piece of French, they were a varied lot: some French, many Italians, and even some Californians. The latter included my last (sob!) bottle of Ridge’s 1993 Montebello Cabernet Sauvignon, as lovely – and as European-styled – a wine as California produces. It gorgeously accompanied a rack of lamb and garlicky rissolé potatoes, as well as a subsequent cheese course, where it fell in love with a ripe pont l’éveque only to jilt it in favor of a creamy gorgonzola dolce. As you can see, this was a wine of many faces and facets, and I’m only sorry I don’t have any more. I said this very loudly several times, but Santa did not take the hint. Another win for St. Apoconarcoleptis.

One of the most enjoyable Italian reds was an almost archetypal Chianti Classico, 1997 La Selvanella Riserva from Melini. This is a very traditionally made wine from a fine vineyard near Panzano, in the Classico zone’s prized Conca d’Oro. It also has special resonances for me, in that I participated, way back in 1998, in the process of choosing the blend for this wine. This occurred at the estate, in a session led by the very able winemaker, Nunzio Capurso, and attended by Italian and North American wine journalists. Aside from the astounding quality of each component wine that we tasted, my major memory of the session is of an idiot from Rome loudly and persistently declaiming that the wine wouldn’t be any good unless it was aged in barriques. He couldn’t have been more wrong, then or now.

We enjoyed another fine wine of this type – i.e., primarily Sangiovese blended with other native grapes – Lungarotti’s 2001 Rubesco. Although from Umbria, this wine is a kissing cousin of Chianti Classico and fully matches the very best of them in suavity and depth: a lovely wine, from an equally lovely vintage.

Of course I could not long stay away from the wonderful wines of the Piedmont, so I took the opportunity to test a few Barolos of the 2003 vintage, a hot, forward year that, frankly, I feared might already be over the hill – some bottles I’d tasted over the past year were. Well, in these two cases, no worries: Both Conterno-Fantino’s Barolo Sorì Ginestra and Einaudi’s Barolo Costa Grimaldi were live and, in the most complimentary sense of the word, typical. The Sorì Ginestra showed the merest trace of the vintage’s too-ripe fruit and green tannins, the Costa Grimaldi none at all – a nice tribute to careful grape selection and restraint in the cellar.

Equally lovely, by the way, and much less expensive, was an in-theory lesser wine, a simple Nebbiolo, but from a fine maker in an excellent vintage. Poderi Colla’s 2006 Nebbiolo d’Alba was fully ready to drink, with excellent Nebbiolo character (black fruit, leather, tobacco, miles of depth) and no sign that it might not last another five years. All “simple” Nebbiolo should be so good.

Our French selections played up very gamely as well. For me, Musigny is the red-wine sweet spot of the whole Côte d’Or. Its wines have a velvetiness and an elegance of fruit and mineral that for my palate define red Burgundy. Drouhin’s 2002 Chambolle Musigny didn’t let me down: it was a soft, luxurious wine whose flavor persisted long in the mouth. More forceful and in a leaner style – mineral to the fore, fruit after – Moillard’s 2005 Beaune Premier Cru Grèves matched quite beautifully with our Pintadeau Jean Cocteau. The wine we drank with the cheese course that evening was in a very different style, being a Bordeaux. 1989 Chateau Brane Cantenac showed the wonderful elegance of Margaux combined with the kind of structure and heft I more often associate with Pauillac: It worked beautifully with a challenging set of cheeses.

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Those are my top twelve, but I’ve also got a few Honorable Mentions. Amidst this red tide, we did manage to fit in a few lighter meals that leant themselves better to white wines. Pieropan’s 2005 Soave La Rocca shone with some shrimp. This single-vineyard wine has always been in the forefront of this too-long-abused appellation, and it remains a standard-bearer even now that the Soave Classico denomination is undergoing a tremendous resurgence. In a totally different style, but equally fine, Umani Ronchi’s 2002 Casal di Serra Verdicchio dei Castelli di Iesi Classico Superiore offered a mouthful of wine almost as big as its name. Still at nine years old showing a light touch of barriques, its biggish body and rich fruit very nicely accompanied a creamy veal and mushroom stew. Both these wines showed very dramatically, for those who may still be skeptical, that well-made Italian whites can age very well indeed.

Finally, lest anyone think that my holidays were just one triumphant sip after another, honesty compels me to record my great disappointment. I had reserved a place for one potentially excellent white wine to serve alongside the oeufs en cocotte and Alsace onion tarts that were part of our Christmas dinner. I was really looking forward to Labouré-Roi’s 2003 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, so you can imagine the depth of my chagrin when my only bottle turned out to be totally oxidized – just plain dead.

There has been a great deal of buzz in wine circles about the problem of premature oxidation in white Burgundies. Apparently the vintages between 1996 and 2006 are involved, and the blight strikes randomly, at every quality level. Some bottles pour brown and dead, while others even from the same case remain sound. No one knows what causes it, and the producers are loath to talk about it – not only because it’s embarrassing to them, but also because (I strongly suspect) they don’t have a clue. So since St. Apoconarcoleptis Magna looks after ruins as well as endings, I’ll conclude on this note: There is nothing like white Burgundy at its best – but be warned: that bottle you’re so keenly anticipating might be pinin’ for the fjords, and might already have joined the Norwegian Blue in the choir invisible.

From that comic note to a serious one: May your 2012 be happy, and both your New Year and your old wines healthy and enjoyable!

“Judicious Drank, and Greatly Daring Dined”

November 19, 2011

Diane and I took a purely gastronomic vacation in Piedmont. I promised there would be no wine business – well, almost no wine business – just low-pressure touring and high-caliber dining and drinking – simply enjoying what we both enjoy most. Piedmont provided that in abundance.

Abundance is the key term – in Piedmont it is also true, as my friend Gene Bourg once observed of New Orleans, that there is no such thing as an appetizer. Or, as the great Renato Ratti warned me decades ago: The Piemontesi will let you dig your grave with your mouth. If you’re dining in Piedmont, wear loose pants.

Anyone planning a gastronomic or enologic trip to Italy, however, could do much worse than to use the little city of Alba as home base. The heart of both the Barolo and Barbaresco zones and the center of an astounding truffle zone, Alba offers some of the finest dining and drinking to be found anywhere. It was the first stop for us of a trip that would go on to include Torino, a sophisticated city that deserves much more attention than its reputation as a mini-Paris indicates, and would wind up in the alta Piemonte, the sub-Alpine zone of vineyards near lakes Orta and Maggiore. Like Torino, this area and its Nebbiolo-based wines – Carema, Boca, Gattinara, Ghemme, Spanna – deserve to be much better known.

We began our trip with high hopes of savoring the great white truffles for which Alba is famous. The Truffle Fair was on, and on the Sunday afternoon we arrived there the narrow shopping thoroughfare, Via Vittorio Emmanuele, was redolent with the scent of the tubers on sale at stand after stand.

Very promising indeed, until we saw the prices, which probably induced several coronary events in casual fairgoers. It turned out that this was not a good year for truffles: Summer and fall had been dry until quite recently – fine for grapes, but terrible for truffles, which were scarce (the abundance on display completely fooled me on that score), of not great quality (this we proved when we tried some at our first dinner), and expensive (also proved the same way). For more about the truffles, see Diane’s blog.

Despite that disappointment, the fearless gastronomes dined very well from start to finish of their trip. I offer purely as examples (I don’t intend to make you read about every mouthful we ate) our splendid dinners at Locanda del Pilone, a short drive outside Alba, and Antinè, in the town of Barbaresco.

The dining room at del Pilone

Normally I avoid Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy, because the higher Michelin rates a restaurant the less Italian it is, and I go to Italy for Italian food, not the mongrelized international cuisine that I can eat any unlucky day in New York. Alba provided these two exceptions to my rule, both one-star establishments, both excellent, both deeply Italian, and as different from each other as can be imagined.

Del Pilone provided almost classic French-style service, crisp and efficient, for a deeply regional meal that included carne cruda and finanziera. At Antinè the service was just as efficient but simpler, the ambience less formal, but the food just as fine and just as regional – agnolotti del plin, snails, and rabbit. The wines at both were superb – and by New York standards, practically giveaways: 2005 Cascina delle Rose Barbaresco Sordo (€45) and 1997 Produttori di Barbaresco Riserva Ovello (€60). Both wines interacted in incredible harmony with the foods.

The quality of those wines and the moderation of their prices – this in the restaurant, remember, not at retail; back home in the US those would be remarkably good retail prices – set the standard for the rest of our trip. Everywhere we went I was impressed by the scope of the wine lists and the gentleness of their pricing. There were plenty of options of wines from outside Piedmont, and even some (mostly French) from outside Italy, but Barolo, Barbaresco and their friends were among the main reasons we made this journey in the first place.

Most days we took a light lunch at a wine bar or a cafe: a glass or two of Barbera or Dolcetto and some bar snacks or a panino. We tried to save our calories and our capacities for our dinners, which were always worth it. In addition to the two I mentioned above, here are the rest of the wines we drank that week (the most expensive of them was €88, the least expensive €40):

2009 Prunotto Arneis: a fine example of one of Piemonte’s few white varieties, and a perfect accompaniment – medium-bodied, distinctive but not aggressive – for our solitary fish dinner.

2009 Castello di Verduno Pelaverga: a lovely light red from an almost-disappeared local variety, Pelaverga made an ideal lunch wine and our only mealtime deviation from Nebbiolo.

2006 Ferrando Carema Etichetta Nera: In Torino we enjoyed this fine Carema, a Nebbiolo-based wine from near the border with Val d’Aosta – a high-altitude, almost Alpine red of great refinement.

2004 Borgogno Barolo Riserva: This stalwart from an old, traditional house (sadly, it has recently changed hands, and no one knows what this portends for the wines) needed more time to breathe, even after careful decanting. Despite its youth, it loved my tortino of funghi porcini and truffle and partnered beautifully with other traditional dishes.

1996 Rocche dei Manzoni Barolo Vigna d’la Roul: a big, velvety wine that impressed us mightily with the elegant way it interacted with the regional dishes. Everything we drank did so to some extent, but this bottle was particularly lovely.

1994 Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Martinenga: our oldest wine rescued a rain-drenched day in Torino and accompanied a huge and splendid bollito misto. By the time we finished the bottle and what we could manage of the meats, we were in (metaphorical) sunshine: a big wine, but perfectly supple, fully ready to drink but not showing the least sign of age.

Next post: Our single wine visit, where we tasted Gattinaras and Spannas spanning eight decades.

More Masnaghetti Maps

July 4, 2011

Alessandro Masnaghetti, publisher of the newsletter Enogea and probably the foremost authority on Piedmont terroir, has released two new maps of Barolo and Barbaresco, showing all the recently approved cru names and sites in each appellation.

Like Masnaghetti’s other Piedmont maps, these two are handsome to look at, easy to read, and packed front and back with the kind of information a Nebbiolo lover otherwise finds difficult to locate – not just the physical where-is-it of a particular cru, but elevation, exposure, who owns it, and who bottles it. It is exactly that identification and location of each individual cru within both the Barolo and Barbaresco DOCG appellations, along with the information about who bottles a wine from it and under what name, that distinguishes these two new maps from Masnaghetti’s earlier maps.

Each of those charted the vineyards of an individual township, provided information about  their altitude and exposure, and listed all the grape varieties  cultivated in those fields (not just the Nebbiolo). Nor did any cru names appear, as they then had no legal standing, or, for that matter, any agreed-upon boundaries – all of which has been resolved in the now-officially-named sites. Used together, the new cru maps and the earlier township maps answer almost any question the most trivia-obsessed Nebbiolo junkie could come up with. In short, the man I think of as the Mercator of the vineyards has raised the bar even higher for vineyard maps, outdoing even his own previous accomplishments.

I’m not the only one who thinks that these maps will one day be (if they aren’t already) collectors’ items, and not just for wine lovers (see Alfonso Cevola’s acute appreciation).

The maps and the information on them are systematically rendered in both Italian and English, so everything on them is easily accessible. In addition these two new maps are also available in digital format, making them usable on all sorts of handheld devices, and enabling such users to zoom in or out on whatever features interest them. I don’t know if Masnaghetti plans to issue his earlier maps digitally, but everything is available through almasnag@tin.it or info@enogea.it or, in the US, www.rarewineco.com.

This detail from the Barolo map shows some of the crus around Barolo township itself:

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You can readily identify the number and size of the different vineyards falling within each cru. And here is some of the kind of information about them that the reverse of the map provides:

Finally, just to give one more example of how good and useful these maps are, here’s a detail from the Barolo map of part of the township of Serralunga and some of its crus:

With Barolo and Barbaresco, it is just as important to know precisely where a wine comes from as it is in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or. Not just the village matters, but where in the village? Which hill? How high up that hill?  It all makes a difference to the wine and to the passionate wine drinker. For me as a wine professional these maps are indispensible, but I know that even as a just plain Nebbiolo-nut, I would want to have them to consult.

The Triumph of Age and Cunning

November 22, 2010

Tasting new releases, as anyone in the wine business knows, is a rarely a pleasure – more of a necessary evil. Especially in these days of intense market pressure, most new releases aren’t ready to drink, and the best of them – wines of texture and complexity – may be years or even decades from their peaks. But science is a cruel mistress, and to keep abreast of the flow, to have an empirical base from which to make judgments and reasonable predictions, a writer has to taste a lot of young wines – many hundreds of them, every season.

That’s why it’s crucially important to drink mature wines at every available opportunity, to remind yourself of what this whole process is all about. It sure isn’t about discriminating between an 88.5 and an 89 point infant Cabernet, whatever the blurbsters may lead one to think: It’s about sipping nectar and being transported, not spitting raw grape juice until they carry you out.

So my cunning plan (as Black Adder used to say) for avoiding that fate consists  partially of trotting out to Brooklyn for dinner at Tommaso’s, which is one of the few places in New York where I can afford to order older wines. (During a recent visit for his seasonal-special white truffle dinner, Diane and I drank his last bottle of Dessilani’s lovely 1970 Gattinara, a dream of silk and subtlety.)  But mostly it consists of raiding my own oldest stock and serving selected bottles to friends who appreciate them as much as I do, partnered with the fine dinners orchestrated by my partner Diane. This fall, we did two such morale-and-palate-saving evenings, extravaganzas approaching caloric megadeath (you can always eat salad tomorrow, or all next week if it comes to that).  The food was wonderful, and the wines played up to the dishes.

For the first dinner, Diane prepared a Piemontese feast for four friends – Charles and Michele, Ernie and Louise – who were about to visit that white-truffle-blest paradise. We didn’t have any truffles, but we tried to give them dishes that would ring true to what lay in store in Italy. I pulled out of my “cellar” (euphemism or metaphor at best) Deutz Champagne brut nv, 1989 Prunotto Barbaresco Montestefano, 1989 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito, 1982 Ceretto Barbaresco Bricco Asili, and Santo Stefano Moscato d’Asti nv.  Ernie, bless his soul, provided a 1990 Aldo Conterno Barolo Gran Bussia and a 1958 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino.

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All the wines were in excellent condition – not a cork problem or bad bottle in the lot – and each showed the elegant depth and heft and complexity that uniquely belongs to mature Nebbiolo of fine vintages. We didn’t drink them in order of age but as I felt their body and power and relative vigor or fragility matched with the food.

The Champagne accompanied some light hors d’oeuvre (toasted hazelnuts, some salume) and continued with an antipasto of fennel spears wrapped with prosciutto and roasted.

Tagliarini with a sauce of wild mushrooms and veal called for first the 1990 Gran Bussia, then the lovely ‘58 Monfortino, both of which provided the elegance and restraint that sauce wanted. The two ‘89s, both big-bodied and vigorous wines, and the 1982 Bricco Asili, fully evolved and very complex, accompanied roasted squabs stuffed with chestnut puree and afterward a plate of cheeses.  Finally the light and charming Moscato, a refreshing palate-cleanser after all that impressive Nebbiolo, paired beautifully with a pear timballo topped with mascarpone cream.

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Opinions were pretty evenly divided as to whether the wine of the day was the ’89 Vietti for its concentrated power or the ’58 Conterno for its elegance, but the entire group of wines counted as champions. Truth to tell, it was really one wine too many. They were all so good that they began to interfere with each other. They gave my palate and aging brain almost too much to deal with. I think less would have been more: One fewer bottle – though which of those gems I would omit I can’t imagine – would have focused us better.  A valuable lesson, that, and one I will bear in mind in the future.

In fact, I did bear it in mind for our second dinner. This was less tightly regional, though largely Italian again, for four Italophile friends, Livio and Betty, and John and Vicky.

Here are the wines for that dinner: Roederer Estate Brut nv; 1997 Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva; 1982 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva; 1991 Serego Alighieri Amarone Vaio Armaron; Santo Stefano Moscato d’Asti nv.  Unquestionably, fewer wines worked better: the matches of food and wine just sang.

Once again our sparkling wine went from hors d’oeuvre through roasted prosciutto-wrapped fennel (when you find a good thing, stick with it). The characteristically Rufina earthiness of the Nipozzano played beautifully with bucatini all’amatriciana (made with la vera cosa, real Italian guanciale). The ’82 Brunello – in that vintage, this wine would have been made from Banfi’s oldest vines, the former Poggio alle Mura vineyards – showed its lively Sangiovese acidity and freshness with a pork loin roast that had been lacquered with Dijon mustard, brown sugar, and chopped pistachios.  At the same time, the wine displayed its velvety Sangiovese tannins with the vegetal bite of the contorno of braised Swiss chard and mustard greens.

With the cheese, that glorious Amarone gave us not an aria but the whole opera, opening different facets of its enormously complex personality with the different cheeses – Gorgonzola dolce, Chabichou, Brunet, aged Gouda. This wine demonstrated conclusively what nonsense is the belief that Amarone can’t accompany a meal. Nothing could have completed the substantial courses of this dinner better.

Finally, the same lovely Moscato as in the previous dinner worked just as effectively with a featherweight pumpkin chiffon pie.

Readers of my earlier rants know just how deeply I love older wines. Dinners like this are the reasons why. If anyone thinks it’s too much trouble to lay wines down and wait for them, I have only one thing to say to you: You’re wrong. It is hardly any trouble at all: the biggest difficulty is to keep your hands off them long enough for the wines to evolve.  The times we live in aren’t conducive to patience. But it is worth acquiring the discipline, because the pleasures properly aged wines afford – as I’ve tried to give some inkling above – are of a wholly different order from, and light years beyond, the best that young wines can do.

Not Ready for Prime Time – Yet

July 26, 2010

This is my long-promised post on 2006 Barolo, and here is the gist of it: If you want to enjoy this potentially great vintage, plan to live a long, long time. Right now it’s almost as mean as the proverbial junkyard dog, but behind its off-putting tannins and deeply veiled fruit, it has the stuff to become one of the great vintages. It reminds me of some of the legendarily tough wines of the past – 1961 Bordeaux, 1978 Barolo – a few of which are only reaching their peak now.

Foreground, Cogno Barolo vineyards; background, classic Barolo skyline

You can see why I was in no great hurry to post this news: This wine is going to be around for a long time. In addition to its being structured for very long life, it is also competing for shelf space with a lot of attractive predecessors: 2001 and 2004 are top-flight vintages, both of which are still on store shelves, as is the lesser but still pleasing 2005. And coming down the pike is 2007, which early on is giving every sign of resembling 2005: friendly, easy drinking, and easily good for ten years or so.

With all that competition, I doubt 2006 Barolo is going to be walking off the shelves. But if you love good, old-fashioned Barolo – deep Nebbiolo fruit and character wrapped in the kind of tough (not green, just tough) tannins that may take five or more years to become drinkable, but then get better and better for maybe more than a single human life span – if that’s your pleasure, this is your vintage. Buy some, and bury it as deep in your cellar as you can. Try to forget about it for a decade, then look in and see how the kids are doing: you’ll probably get some lovely surprises.

Tasting the 2006 vintage at Nebbiolo Prima was brutal work, one of the toughest tastings I’ve ever experienced, in both its physical and intellectual demands. One young Barolo like that is hard enough – but one after another of them for several hours leaves the mouth coated with tannin and makes it almost impossible to taste fruit even when it’s showing well. This absolutely necessitated tasting the wines again in different circumstances – with some food, or in a vertical, or as part of an individual producer’s whole line of wines – anything that would give some relief from those punishing tannins and allow me to come to grips with other aspects of the wine.

In those other circumstances, I was invariably very impressed with what 2006 Barolo has to offer. And for that reason, by the way, I apologize to those producers whose wines I didn’t get to retaste and whom I have almost certainly underestimated because of it. With the limited time I had in Alba, I couldn’t manage to taste everything again, outside the formal procedure. I will do my best over what remains of my lifetime to correct those omissions.

I did at least get to visit three excellent producers – Elvio Cogno, Giacomo Fenocchio, and Massolino – and they didn’t disappoint. Far from it, in fact: They made me realize just how good a vintage 2006 could be.

 Cogno: a family firm, working 11 hectares in the commune of Novello. The winery sits atop Bricco Ravera, an esteemed cru of Barolo. All wines are lightly contemporized traditional styles – i.e., most see a small amount of new oak, which does nothing to interfere with the classic fruit flavors. Top wines are the Barolos: Vigna Elena, vinified entirely from the rosé clone of Nebbiolo; Ravera, from lampia and michet clones; Bricco Pernice, entirely from lampia clones; Cascina Nuova, from their youngest vines, and designed to be easier and earlier drinking than its more austere elder siblings.

Valter Fissore, winemaker at Cogno

Cogno also produces top-flight Barbera and Dolcetto d’Alba, plus a distinguished Langhe Rosso called Montegrilli, blended half and half of Nebbiolo and Barbera. And if your palate should need freshening, Cogno also has been working to revive a very localized white grape called Nascetta (probably descended from Vermentino) with which they make an intriguing white wine they call Anas-Cetta.

Giacomo Fenocchio:  A very traditional producer. The family works about 12 hectares in several communes; the winery and home vineyards lie in Monforte d’Alba, one of the most esteemed communes of the Barolo zone. The wines all show great continuity of style and structure and fruit presence – elegant and forceful without being overpowering or in-your-face. No new oak anywhere, just great Nebbiolo fruit and Barolo terroir. Top wines include Barolo Bussia, Barolo Villero, Barolo Cannubi – this is a roll call of great crus – and a monumental Riserva. Also very fine Dolcetto and Barbera d’Alba and an excellent Langhe Nebbiolo.

Claudio Fenocchio, winemaker at Giacomo Fenocchio

Massolino: Once more, a family-owned estate and largely traditionally made wines. Headquartered in Serralunga d’Alba, Massolino has long been identified with Vigna Rionda, one of the zone’s and the family’s prized crus. They also vinify two other excellent crus, Margheria, like Rionda very traditionally made, and Parafada, which until recently had been aged in new barriques, but from which it has been steadily weaned over the last few vintages. All three are superb, long-lasting wines.

Franco Massolino, winemaker at Massolino

As a traditional house, Massolino also makes a “basic” Barolo, blended from Nebbiolo of all its vineyards. And as a market experiment, Massolino has just released Dieci Anni, a ten-year-old Vigna Rionda, which is unquestionably the best wine I’ve yet tasted of the 2000 vintage.

Beauty and the Beast: Barbaresco 2007 and Barolo 2006

July 5, 2010

Add two more – 2006 and 2007 – to the already improbably long list of better-than-average-to-great Barolo and Barbaresco vintages that has been accumulating since 1988. These two – the most recently released of the two appellations – are a little different, however, both from each other and from what has preceded them over the past 22 years. Side by side, they look like Jekyll and Hyde: Barbaresco 2007 seems gentle, friendly, good company, while Barolo 2006 is rough and tough and, at this moment at least, decidedly unfriendly. Together, both resemble pre-1988 vintages more than any more recent ones, the ’06 closed and ungiving as superior Barolo vintages used always to be in their youth, the ’07 softer and more welcoming, as good lighter vintages used to be, especially in Barbaresco.

No one ever said Nebbiolo was an easy grape variety to grow or to know. In the past, it was more often heartbreaking than heartwarming, and outside of a few very restricted areas of Piedmont, it still is – a highly localized glory that it shares with Pinot noir, to which it is often compared. And while we appear now to be in a sort of Golden Age of Barolo and Barbaresco, Nebbiolo still occasionally reminds us all – producers and consumers alike – that it is no pushover.

Some of the tasting samples at Nebbiolo Prima

Any wine journalist who might have forgotten that fact was forcibly reminded of it every morning at this year’s Nebbiolo Prima (formerly the Alba Wine Event). Every morning the participating 50-odd international journalists confronted approximately 85 newly released 2007 Barbarescos and 2006 Barolos (plus some few Barbaresco Riserva 2005 and Barolo Riserva 2004).

By noon every day, almost all of us had black teeth and tongues, and cheeks that felt as thoroughly tanned as our best shoes. Make no mistake: this annual Alba marathon is penitential tasting – but it is worth it, for what you learn about the vintages and the way the producers have handled them. Nothing gives you a better sense of a whole vintage across an entire important zone than does this annual endurance contest.

A selection of the Barbarescos at the tasting

As a sort of gentle start, we always taste first the Barbarescos, which get a year less aging before release than do the Barolos. (This also gives us a sneak peak at next year’s Barolo prospects, since there isn’t that much difference between the two zones.) This year, most of the ’07 Barbarescos showed very well indeed. Some examples from Neive were overoaked, but even there I could still taste the vintage’s cheerful, enjoyable fruit. All these Barbarescos displayed lovely balance. Overall, 2007 in Barbaresco has medium body, delightful fresh fruit of an authentic Nebbiolo character, and a nice touch of elegance. These aren’t wines for long cellaring; they are already approachable, and they should be thoroughly enjoyable drinking for the next seven to ten years – which isn’t bad at all.

Here are some of the wines that for me stood out from the (very pleasant) crowd:

  • Cascina delle Rose Rio Sordo and Tre Stelle
  • Castello di Neive, the basic Barbaresco and the Santo Stefano
  • Marchesi di Gresy Martinenga
  • Moccagatta Bric Balin
  • Poderi Colla Roncaglie
  • Produttori del Barbaresco, the basic Barbaresco
  • Albino Rocca, the basic Barbaresco and Vigneto Brich Ronchi
  • Bruno Rocca Rabaja

Most of these names will probably be familiar: they are among the perennial top performers in Barbaresco, turning in excellent wines vintage after vintage. New to me was Cascina delle Rose, which I wish I had known about years ago. I managed to visit the property, a little gem – just about three hectares – in the sweet spot of Rio Sordo. Its nearest neighbors are Gaja on one side and di Gresy on the other, which speaks volumes about its terroir.

The proprietors of Cascina delle Rose, Giovanna Rizzolio and Italo Sobrino, at the cut-out in their cellar that shows the dramatic striations of their terroir

The owners are charming people and very traditional winemakers: no fancy tricks, just straightforward Piemontese craftsmanship. They produce lovely Dolcetto and Barbera d’Alba, as well as their classic Barbarescos, and they also have accommodations for travelers and vacationers (www.cascinadellerose.it).

Still to come – but this will have to be another post: this one’s long enough already – are the 2006 Barolos, which are a whole nother story.


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