Piedmont Trip 2013: Giuseppe Rinaldi – Great single vineyard barolo against their will

The Rinaldi family has a long history trailing back to the 19th Century when farmers sold their grapes per kilogram to negotiants and the family at the time had the opportunity to buy their land in the 1870’s.

In November in 2013 on our week in Piedmont, we met with Marta Rinaldi for a tour in the cellar and we were absolutely very exited to taste the very interesting 2010 vintage that is so promising, due to its perfect phenolic maturity conditions. Marta has a degree in enology and has been working along side her father for a while now. She also practices water polo in the nearby town of Alba.

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Big botte everywhere in this cellar

The estate is situated only 300 m outside of the epicenter of the town of Barolo in a brick house that really breathes history having the Le Coste vineyard just below the house. The current owner is “Beppe” Rinaldi and he runs the estate together with his daughters Carlotta and Marta. Actually, his grandfather, bearing the same name, founded the estate Giuseppe Rinaldi back in 1922 after Giovanni Rinaldi split his owning between Francesco and Giuseppe Rinaldi. Beppe who was at the time making a career as a veterinarian in 1992, decided to step into the family business when his father passed away.

Beppe is so much of an integrated part of traditional wine making here in Langha, Piedmont. A visit to the estate really feels like travelling back in time where nothing is thrown away and there are so many things to inspect e.g old bottles on the book shelves, gifts from friends, photos with an important history and old wine making equipment. To be honest, we didn’t talk at all with Beppe at our visit. Marta just tapped her father on the back insisting that he at least said hello and shock hands. Beppe is obviously a wine maker that is totally consumed by and dedicated to his work as a self-taught and stubborn control-freak with a do-it-all yourself approach. For instance, like cleaning a big barrel (botte) himself, even though it is a lot of work, but just because he knows it is done correctly if only he does it rather than trusting somebody else. During our visit he was everywhere in the cellar grumbling about.

In addition, Beppe is a self-taught enologist, so he controls the whole production-cycle thus really everything from working the vines to selecting grapes, vinification and final blending into bottles. In the vineyard they are organic, but don’t care to certify since they just work with nature and have never used chemicals. Marta admits that it has been quite a tough school and that her father is incredibly stubborn with his strong believes and principles where mistakes are not accepted and that he can be quite rude and arrogant at times. Some rumours even say that Beppe used to sleep in the winery at times when the work alone was just too much.

It is no secret that Beppe joined forces with left-wing Bartolo Mascarello during the modernista movement back in the 90’s to protect what they sincerely considered being sacred; only using neutral oak to affect the unique characteristics of their grapes as little as possible, make wines for long ageing and deeply believing that blending vineyards renders the best expression of the site, since no vineyard can be perfect itself every year and that some vineyards are complementary.

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A 100-year-old open vat for maceration is still used

We are talking about fermentation in a very old open vat claimed to be almost 100 years old, lengthy maceration on the skins with the ultra-traditional submerged cap method in about two weeks with daily punch-downs. They used to do extraction in cement as Bartolo Mascarello is still doing, but not anymore. Then, the malo as well as ageing is carried out in large Slavonian oak barrels (botte) for 36 months and is only racked 3-4 times. He does have a few steel vats in where he raises his dolchetti and they are also used when resting the grape juice of nebbiolo, freisa and barbera after alcoholic fermentation. However, nothing here appears to be a precise science, but rather based on intuition from experience. These somewhat hands-off methods renders unaffected wines with fantastic ageing potential and very honest expression from its site; the terroir. The only possible negative effects are that the wines can be a little harsh in their youth, but our experience is that Rinaldi manages to avoid excessive harshness and the wines are surprisingly approachable considering much lower breathing in neutral and old barrels.

Rinaldi has an interesting collection of vineyards, and since 1993 they have produced two Barolo blends, one cuvée of min 60% grapes from Brunate and max 40% from Le Coste. The second cuvée is made of Cannubi-San Lorenzo and Ravera. However, from the 2010 vintage this will need to change since regulations for Barolo blends have been adjusted and it will no longer be allowed to put several vineyards on a label of a barolo. Moreover, under the same laws a single-vineyard labelled barolo needs to contain min 85% of the grapes from its stated geographical designation, so Beppe may still add 15% Le Coste juice into the final blend. And he does. Hence, in practice it is actually not as dramatic change really as you might think as the amount of Le Coste is just lowered from 30-40% to 15. Beppe who is no fan of authorities, especially when it boils down to “bureaucracy setup by people that know nothing about wine making from Rome” is not happy about these regulations which go against the old tradition of Barolo blends. Marta told us that they most likely will produce single vineyard labelled Barolos, but at the time of our visit this was not 100% decided. Now, when writing this post we know from April this year that Beppe finally had decided to put Brunate on one label and blend the other three into a wine that will be called Tre Tine. However, bureaucracy really did force them, but the really good effect of this is that the 2010 Brunate is the best Giuseppe Rinaldi barolo we ever tasted! Maybe even the best Brunate too.

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It is very obvious that Beppe and Marta are dedicated to producing wines that are honest and transparent to the lands of Langha, wines that they enjoy themselves and the kind that are in line with its proud tradition rather than focusing on marketing and sales. This honest approach, is one of the reasons for our love for this estate. The more obvious reason, is of course that they do not have to, since the demand is definitely greater than the supply, partly because of very reasonable price levels and their reputation. Therefore it is a bit ironic that the estate at the moment probably is among the trendiest in the region along side Bartolo Mascarello of the traditionalists as honest and transparent wines finaly are seeing a true renaissance. Unfortunately, it can be a true struggle to even find bottles from Giuseppe Rinaldi on the market. Especially now as Burgundy lovers start to get interested in barolos due to the insane prices in Burgundy of the latest three troublesome vintages with incredibly low yields.Moreover, Beppe is not the least interested in anything modern and shuns email, computers, mobile phones and even though he speaks on the telephone, it still appears to irritate him a little. Hence, you should not expect to book a meeting with him via e-mail and you will probably never follow Beppe on Twitter or Instagram 😉 However, the daughters may open up for modernism in this regard, but hopefully not in the wine making.

Notes from the tasting

This was the first time we had a chance to try Rinaldi’s wines as single vineyards, since all vineyards are vinified separately and blended at stage of bottling. This made it one of the most interesting visits of this trip.

2012 Rosae

The nose is very fresh and has an abundance of red fruit but also some sweet notes.The taste is also dominated by fruit and with a pleasant acidity which gives freshness to the wine.This is a wine which is easy to enjoy and it was a pleasant start of the wine tasting and a wine we had not tried before.

88p/100

2012 Dolcetto

The dolcetto from Rinaldi is produced and aged in steel tanks.

We can best describe this as a classical dolcetto with lots of cherries and red fruit. No surprises here but definitely a quality dolcetto.

87p/100

2012 Barbera

This wine is aged for 7 months in barrel.Here we find deep, quite dark and ripe fruit, mainly cherries and blueberries.In the taste we ageing find lots of blueberries and a quite crispy and fresh acidity. This is a Barbera with well balanced acidity and nice fruit. We also like the freshness of the wine.

89p/100

2012 Langhe Freisa

On the nose we find fresh raspberries, hints of solvent and some menthol. There is an abundance of red fruit, like wild strawberries and the fruit has a tendency towards sweetness. The tannins are a bit sandy and need some more time to integrate.

This is a pleasant Freisa which also acts as a good bridge over to the Baroli we are now moving over to…

89p/100

2010 Brunate – tasted from barrel

As other vineyards in the La Morra, this unofficial grand cru contains calcareous marls with high level of slit and clay as well as micro-elements of potassium and magnesium; 25% sand, 45% slit and 30% clay. It is  a warm site, but retains water well and is composed of comparably less sand than others.The nose is pleasantly not reduced, but quite seductive and quite open considering it is a barrel tasting. The nose emerges with a fruity nose with raspberries, strawberries, clear balsamic notes, cardamom, distinct anise seeds and some licorice-root. However, what impresses us most is the level of depth in here and precision already at this early state.

When tasting the wine we are immediately met by a very clear, precise and crisp acidity. The Brunate is quite balsamic and there are lots of seductive red berries. The tannins are surprisingly soft and almost velvety already and the wine has a quite long finish with everything in place.We are very much looking forward to tasting this wine from bottle soon. It is already surprisingly approachable, elegant, impressive balance and with deep aromas.

94-96+p/100

2010 Ravera – tasted from barrel

Lots of red fruit, dominated by strawberries on the nose. The taste reveals much darker fruit and depth than the nose and we are met by tannis which are quite sandy.

This wine lacks the elegance and depth of the Brunate, but it will be interesting to follow how it develops. We would describe it as quite rustic, but deep.

91+p/100

2010 Cannubi-San Lorenzo – tasted from barrel

It has a classical Cannubi nose with both red and dark berries. We also find blueberries, leather, strawberries and some tar on this complex and interesting nose.This wine has a fantastic structure and should age very well. Right now the tannins are a bit dry but this will likely improve with time.

This is a wine which is characterised by structure and fruit. It has great potential and we expect and interesting development after a few years.

92-93p/100

Summary

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Andreas and Marta

You certainly know what you get when you drink a wine from Giuseppe Rinaldi, i.e. terroir-driven wines produced with classical methods that are truly honest and transparent to its origins. Even though opposing the estate’s principles, the move towards single vineyard labelled wines will be interesting to follow and we were really impressed by the wines, especially the 2010 brunate that clearly stood out from the others and was simply stunning and already approachable in this marvellous vintage.

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