Friday, 10 January 2014

Piedmont Trip 2013: A very Burgundish estate in Barbaresco

The Sottimano estate was founded in 1974 by Maggiore Sottimano, and is currently run by Mr. Rino Sottimano together with his son Andrea and his daughter Elena. We visit the estate in November last year and met with Elena and Rino Sottimano.
Elena and Rino Sottimano
Sottimano has to be categorised as modern in Barbaresco, but it is in a very Burgundish way meaning mainly that they are skillfully using french barriques and keeping very low controlled yields in the vineyard. The vineyards are kept organically with grass growing between the vine rows. After gentle pressing, alcoholic fermentation in steel, they move the grape juice into barriques of which 25% are new for the malo and then it ages on the lees for 18-20 months in 1-6 year old barriquesThe same applies to all the barbaresci wines. Maceration has recently been extended a little up to 24 days. They tailor their wood at the french company Francois Frères (Tonnellerie) for each vineyard, since they strongly believe that this is necessary to reach perfection in terms of elegance and still be transparent to the expression of the soil. A serious handcrafting with oak is employed aiming to avoid adding little flavours from oak to the wine. No filtering or fining is carried out. They make three barbaresci from vineyards south-west of the town of Neive: Cottà, Fausoni, Curra and since 2001 they produce one langhe nebbiolo from the young Basarin. In addition, one barbaresco is made from the Pajoré in Treiso, in the south of the Barbaresco area. It is the best vineyard from Treiso and famous in the area especially for the work of Enrico Giovannini-Moresco back in the 70's, who was a pioneer with insane low yields in Piedmont at the time.

All in-all five barbaresci including a riserva that is a blend of a selection from grapes from Cottà and Pajoré. In addition, they produce a barbera too from Pairolero, a dolchetto from Bric del Saito and a brachetto from Mate.
Elena and Andreas in the cellar
We have previously been impressed with the freshness, roundness and elegance of Sottimano wines from the 2006 and 2008 vintages. The wines are usually relatively quiet and careful in their youth and handcrafted to perfection. The average quality level also seems to be very high, making the Sottimano wines a "safe buy". When we ask Rino about which expression he wants in his wines he says that their focus is on finding the right balance between elegance and structure, but without being powerfully heavy. Rino quickly adds "You should want to finish the bottle" with a smile, as a way of describing it in a more obvious and simple manner.

We discuss the vintage 2010 and Elena explains that even though there was some rain causing issues close to the late harvest for some producers, mainly in Barbaresco, they were lucky here in Neive but also in Treiso. Actually, she thinks the rain was good for them, since it was quite dry at the time. She thinks it is a great vintage with its very slow ripening for nebbiolo and all their wines turned out really well. They started harvesting nebbiolo in mid October beginning with Fausoni.

Notes from our tasting 

2012 Dolcetto Bric del Saito

Color: Scarlet, light purple edges
NoseClassical dolcetto notes, cherries, red fruit, fragrant and fresh. 
TasteThe acidity is quite soft for a Dolcetto, and there is an abundance of fresh red fruit.

It is fresh, soft and full of fruit, but quite short.

86p/100

2011 Barbera Pairolero

A really good year for barbera that does best in warmer years.

Color: Dark purple red with deep red purple edges.
NoseNice fruity nose which is not too sharp. Deep, both red and dark fruit, some floral notes and hints of grape and peach. Quite complex nose. 
Taste: Full bodied and round. Very energetic and with a balsamic acidity. Fresh, ripe and quite deep fruit. 

This is a very good Barbera which is very generous but also offers elegance and good balance. This was definitely a positive surprise.

90p/100


2011 Langhe Nebbiolo

The grapes are from the Basarin vineyard, but since the vines are quite young (15-20 years) they are not used in order to produce a Barbaresco yet. The soil in the vineyard is clay, brown and compact. The wine is stored 12 months in barriques of which 25% are new.

Color: Garnet red, light orange edges.
Nose: Perfumes, generous with raspberries and other red fruit, some herbs, marzipan, mint, rose petals and delicately fragrant. 
Taste: Fresh and cool acidity, ripe and clean red fruit, blood orange, grape, gravel. Acidity is freshly balsamic. Texture is fine sandy and tannins are relatively soft and of good quality.

This is a very approachable Nebbiolo which can be described as seductive with its freshness and fruit. As expected with relatively young vines it lacks complexity. Drink now.

89-90p/100

2010 Barbaresco Fausoni 

The vines in the very small Fausoni vineyard is a south west-facing vineyard in Neive planted in 1970The soil here is predominantly limestone and clay, with streaks of sand.

Color: Garnet red, light-orange edges.
Nose: Very closed and quiet at the time, but there are fragrant notes in here; peons, red flowers, raspberries and also some eucalyptus. We hope it will open up and reveal more with time.
TasteExtremely fresh wine with good, but still a bit sharp, acidity. The mid palate offers boysenberries, peach, menthol, grape juice, orange peel, leather, some gravel and fine minerals. The texture is not silky yet and tannins are just a bit dry and harsh at the moment.

This is clearly now a very, very quiet, shy wine that needs more time before it opens up and get better integrated, but the quality seems good and it is complex, probably the softest wine of them all and delicately floral, so we expect it to be just a question of time... A fair guess is to wait until 2017.

90-92p/100


2010 Barbaresco Cottá 

The vines in the Cottá vineyard is 45-55 year old. Soil contains a lot of lime stone here and some clay.

Color: Garnet light red, transparent edges.
Nose: This wine is much more open and fruity than the Fausoni. There are many layers of fruit and we also notice some glue, fragrant notes, red flowers, perfumed, some minerals and it is quite balsamic. This is stylish and complex.
Taste: Incredibly balsamic and the mid palate offers very pure darker fruit, orange peel, mint, anise, lots of limestone minerals and some tar. Clear, energetic acidity which will develop nicely. Good structure and body is slim. Fine sandy texture and tannins are chewy, but a little hard now.

This is already a good wine fresh and fresh, energetic acidity that we expect it to develop nicely over the coming years. This is a very clean, smooth wine with feather-weightless power and building structure that offers some depth and has the potential to be quite elegant with time. A little more fruitier than the others. Open 2017.

92-93p/100

2010 Barbaresco Pajoré

The vines are 50-60 years old and it is situated at 420 meter altitude. Pajoré is the top vineyard in Treiso in the Barbaresco area and the soil contains more limestone than calcareous clay and it is very poor. We drank this bottle twice; the second time the day after it was opened, but not decanted. For the vintage that offered both an unusually prolonged, cool growing-cycle that is desirable for nebbiolo and a much rain late right before harvest this vineyard was the one that excelled this year and did not end up having tendencies of being thin, diluted.

NoseThis wine has a very seductive nose. It is fresh with a lot of cut flowers and inner perfume in here that emerges from the glass. Then it continues with exotic spicessome tar, nutmeg, wild strawberries, ethereal, even hints of tobacco, and some cherries in the background. The second day the wine added dark fruits and there where hints of black current, solvent, and it offered more depth.
Taste: Very cool, fresh and very ripe (not sweet) fruit; prominent are wild strawberries and raspberries. Moreover, the mid palate offers tar, leather, some orange, menthol, fresh herbs, very clear balsamic notes, vibrating minerals and some tobacco. Structure is a little more powerful than expected, fruit is a little intense and it is quite persistent. The texture is fine sandy and the tannins are a bit softer, rounder and maybe riper than in the Cottá but still needs some more time to settle. The complexity of the wine increased a lot the second day as well as the freshness once the saline acidity has calmed down tremendously.

It may lack some complexity now, but it is impressively balanced, offers really good concentration, high-quality tannins and its mineral-balsamic freshness is fantastic. Great wine that offers both finesse, details and structure at the same time that we expect to develop really well. Open 2016.

93-94p/100


2009 Barbaresco Currá

We did drink this wine twice, where the second time was one day after it was opened. The vines are 45 years old. Elena tells us that this is the nose of Neive, with the herbs and eucalyptus.

Nose: Wood glue, ethereal notes, dry raspberries, quite ripe strawberries, mint, nutmeg, subtle herbs, some smoke, water-on-stone, ethereal. Very complex, broad-spanning and fresh nose!
Taste: Super-balsamic acidity that wraps cool and fresh fruit, orange, some tobacco and white pepper. Medium bodied with quite intense flavors and many deep layers of fruit. Texture is sandy now and tannins are firm, but obviously of very good quality and they have silk potential. Almost full-bodied, great concentration and offers some building power to the quite long final.

The second day, we tasted the same bottle and it had opened up more and actually the depth and complexity had improved a lot. This was our favourite wine in the Sottimano line-up, especially because of the overall combination of complexity, depth, richness and freshness. It may be that the vintage was more ready too of course, since 2009 is a warm, early approachable vintage. Obviously the bigger, deeper and more structured wine in the line-up. We guess opening this in 2015, even though the vintage suggests an early drinking window.

95p/100

Summary

Sottimano continues to deliver elegant wines that are as always a bit quiet and very delicate in the beginning, but with personality. The base level is impressively high which is a good sign of a quality producer. They are very skillful with small oak barrels in a very good way and steer clear of producing wines where oak is dominating and in stead render wines that are round, elegant and are transparently expressing the characteristics of Barbaresco. In addition, we had the chance to experience the 2010 vintage that appears so unusually balanced in most parts of langhe, where the rain was not an issue.

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