Tag Archives: Nebbiolo

A fantastically fresh and cool barbaresco in the 2010 vintage

The 2010 vintage is not as iconic here in Barbaresco as in Barolo, but still a very good one and only vineyards close to the Barbaresco town area, had difficulties with some late rains that diluted some vineyards. We must admit, we had the impression of Cigliuti being a modern producer using a lot of new wood and barriques which usually sets off the alarm for us in this area, but this wine proves to be only raised in Slavonian, neutral barrels (botte). In this case, we just had to admit that we were absolutely wrong and the wine is delicious. 🙂

2010 Barbaresco “Vigne Vie Erte” (Bricco di Neive), Fratelli Cigliuti


Dense red to crystalline blood-orange colour.

And yes, after just half and hour in the decanter, it awakens and blossoms with seductive white lilies, fresh details and down-tuned Asian spices. Yes, pretty, lovely and complex.

On the palate, what clearly makes this special is it’s unbelievably and outstandingly fresh, cool and clear acidity wrapping peach and sweet grape shells. Balance is great and this is already quite approachable, but obviously best in two years. Nevertheless, there is some tiny oak spiciness, but it is not disturbing the palate at all. Aromatics are dominated by loads of massive, dark and tasty blue plums and small and smudgy sweet wild, mature  and earthy strawberries, but here as well are peppers, nutmeg, Asian spices, just a little cinnamon adding gentle lime and crystalline minerals in a very majestic way. All of this is framed in tannins fine and soft that it still need time to polymerise from its current youthfully and tongue-spurring texture. Body is thin, feminine with precision and it is pleasantly persistent too.

A quite approachable wine with wonderful details, a delightful perfume, packed with ripe layers of fruit and unprecedentedly crisp, vivid and most importantly of all, acidity is really fresh. In Sweden you may buy these now, so don’t miss out! Very price-worthy at €32.


Paitin estate in Barbaresco 2015: Impressive Barbaresco from an estate with a long history

In May 2015 we spent a beautiful afternoon at the Paitin Estate in Barbaresco, Piedmont, where we met up with the humble and very friendly Silvano Pasquero-Elia as well as tasting a large selection of their wines. Frederik had been here once before and we tasted their pride barbaresco riserva 2001 here. The estate has a very long history dating back to 1798 and is today run by Secondo Pasquero-Elia together with his two sons; Giovanni and Silvano. Actually, Silvano explains, part of the cellar is from the 15th Century. The family exported their first barbaresco in 1893.


Silvano Pasquera-Elia showing what high grass and pea plants they grow in every 2nd aisle

During our visit we went into the west-side of the Bricco di Neive vineyard which is situated just below their winery. On the south-west facing side of this vineyard it is very steep at the top and has more or less a constant wind which keeps it rather dry and the grapes fresh. Actually, this helps to keep possible mildew away after heavy rains. However, at the top it is too windy for nebbiolo. They use natural fertilisation which means that they let the aisle between the vines grow wildly with high growing pea plants that also forces the roots of the vines to dig deeper that renders more complexity.


Every second row with grass and pea plants


Silvano showing which shoots that they keep

Only every second aisle is treated this way and the next year they switch. They also fertilise with cow manure. The riserva sorì Paitin is made from older vines planted in 1965 from the middle part on the south side of their house. The soil is blue and white containing high levels of calcareous  marls with harder tufa 30 cm below from the Tortonian period, Silvano adds. Silvano explains that all preparations are done before flowering and it is their belief that they render healthier grapes this way and that green harvest afterwards is not the right way and unnatural. They leave a few of the best bunches per plant and during the growth season, the plants suck on the nutrition already in the vineyard. This is what we hear several growers say nowadays that manage to improve quality. It all happens after careful hard work in the vineyards long before the growing season.

On the east side of the house, the soil is quite different. It contains a lot of clay, sand, is loose and is more red-brown-yellow in colour from iron and sulphur when compared to the south-west side of the house rendering a totally different expression with its different micro climate. Here they grow barbera for the Serra bottling and nebbiolo for the Nebbiolo d’Alba labelled Ca Veja.


The rotor fermentor

Silvano explains their canopy management and that the ratio leaves/bunches is really important too.

In the winery several different methods have been used through the years and the process is adapted to the vintage and grapes. Today they do not use any new oak for the Nebbiolo grapes, but only 1-3 year-old. However, for the Barbera both french- and Slavonian new wood is used except for the Campolive. Modern rotor fermenters for fermentation are still used, but to a lesser extent. The change came as they started consulting Dante Scaglione, the famous enologist from the legendary Bruno Giacosa, in 2008. DSC04232Dante also convinced them to start conducting the traditional submerged caps during fermentation. Silvano says that they now use steel, but he and his brother are considering start using cement for its gentle extraction and slow temperature fluctuations.

The wines we tasted


The tasting line-up

2014 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia Langhe Arneis “Vigna Elisa”

Arneis is a challenging grape to grow and the name actually means little rascal in the Piemontese language. Much of the taste is in the skin of the grape and the wines can be rather sweet, but using the skins adds a lot of aromas as they conduct a secondary maceration. Silvano says that the grape has a relation to nebbiolo michet variety.

Both on the nose and in the taste we find lots of yellow pears, goose berries, ginger and hints of rather sweet exotic fruit. This gives a generous and pleasant impression and it is a wine which is easy to enjoy. The level of acidity is rather low and quite broad with some lemon notes.


2014 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia ‘Sori Paitin’ Dolcetto d’Alba

This wine is aged stainless steel but for more complex vintages they use wood.

The wine has very clear cherry notes but also some sweeter notes of candy.

On the palate, the fruit is dominant and fresh but has a slightly sharp notes from red current, but also lingon berries and underbrush.
There are some hints of tannins in the finish but in the end we are left with a fresh acidic impression.


2012 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia Barbera d’Alba “Serra”

The soil on the east side of their house has a lot of clay, sand and is more red-brown-yellow compared to the south-west side, so the soil changes and the exposure is east here too. The grape juice are fermented in rotor fermentors and nowadays aged in second passage barriques for a year.

We are greeted with intense red fruit notes on the nose but also some hints of wood glue and some delicate floral notes.

The palate follow in the same style but more dominated by the fruit notes, dry licorice-root, minerals and dry blood orange. The acidity is really good and rather soft for a barbera. Texture is very smooth with any edges at all and it has precision. Delightful.


2011 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia Barbera d’Alba “Campolive”

This wine has been fermented in rotor fermentor and aged for three years in neutral wood.

Very dense, deep, quite intense nose of pure fruit from both black and red berries complemented by some clear oil paint notes, earthy notes and underbrush. Despite the denseness the nose is still very controlled and almost a bit reserved. After a while some ethereal notes and hints of flowers appear along with an aristocratic, delicate perfume lingering.

On the palate there are complex layers of fruit, with everything from blueberries to raspberries, figs, raisins, all clean and ripe. In the background there are hints of barnyard, but it does not get unpleasant. It is persistent, generous and quite elegant too.

The acidity is great, with just enough energy, precision but also a smooth finish.
This is a fantastic wine that shows how good barbera can become in the right hands.


2012 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia Barbera d’Alba “Campolive”

On the nose, this wine comes off as quite direct and with almost sharp red fruit. Probably because of a young age.

When moving to the palate the balance is great with fantastic pure fruit and a fresh acidity, which stays surprisingly restrained.

Again a fanstastic barbera. Compared with the 2011 this wine has more precision but on the other hand the 2011 had more personality and a more dense expression.


2012 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia Paitin Langhe Nebbiolo “Ca Veja”

Very pure red fruit notes that are rather thin but with very precise fragrance. Raspberries and fragrant flowers dominate, but there are also some hints of almond, crushed stones, wood glue and eucalyptus in the background.

Similar impression on the palate but here it is complemented by some quite sandy, harsh tannins that unfortunately gets slightly dry in the finish. Acidity is fresh wrapping orange peel and grape juice.

The wine has great precision and is fresh with nice fruit, but gets a bit harsh with the tannins.


2011 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia Barbaresco “Sori Paitin”

Quite light, but elegant and showing personality with pure, deep vibrant red fruit with a sweet touch, some ethereal notes and lovely rose petals. There are also clear herbal notes; mainly eucalyptus, nutmeg and some white flowers.

Tannins are great with grip but still soft and they complement a rather citric acidity with some balsamic grape notes. Nutmeg, blood orange, sweet blood grape, gravel and exotic flavours.

For perfect balance we would need more fruit notes to balance the acidity and the tannins.
This is an elegant wine with very good potential.


2010 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia Barbaresco “Vecchie Vigne Sori Paitin”

Produced from the oldest vines in the middle of the Bricco di Neive vineyard planted in 1965. This vintage had a 45-days extraction (maceration) and is the first vintage without new oak, but second passage.

The nose is very balsamic and offers some great fruit with amazing purity as well as a really elegant, super-fresh perfume of rose petals and grace. There are both strawberries and raspberries to be found on the nose and the palate.

Tannins are rather grippy and sweet and of great quality, never showing any signs of dryness. In the finish the intense fruit and precise acidity dominate. The balance is impressive and texture is velvety.

This wine has a very restrained power to it and therefore manages to be both elegant and generous.


2004 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia Barbaresco “Vecchie Vigne Sori Paitin”

This vintage had a maceration of 15 days and 20 percent of the wine was aged on barriques.

Very deep nose with notes of oil paint combined with dense fruit. Despite the expressive and generous impression the wine is never over the top.

The palate has much of everything but the different entities stay in good balance. The fruit is complemented with some earthy notes and under vegetation. Acidity is cool and precise and ensures that the wine never gets heavy.

The wine is all about complexity and a well controlled power.




Silvano and Andreas

Luigi Baudana impresses with its classic style in 2011

Vajra bought this traditional winery in 2009 and acquired great parcels in the vineyards Cerretta and Baudana of Serralunga d’Alba. This is the base barolo bearing the previous owners name “Liugi Baudana” on the labels and combines the calcareous minerality, elegancy and freshness of Cerretta with the structure, density and persistence of Baudana from younger vines compared to their single-vineyard siblings. Moreover, they are sold in half-bottles too which is a great if you intend to drink them soon and just want to enjoy a few glasses, which we certainly are. Approachable barolos are rare from this part of the Barolo area, but we have been especially impressed with barolos from Serralunga d’Alba in the very approachable vintage of 2011.

DSC046212011 Barolo, Luigi Baudana

Sir Galahad:

Glowing dark-red to blood orange, clean and dense colour with transparency.

A very dense and complex nose of pedigree with notes of worn leather, lavender and notes of rose petals. In addition, after one more hour; distinct violets, rose hip, mushrooms, some cinnamon cookies and some notion of metals as well, that just adds to the exiting complexity, emerges. A lovely lingering perfume and all together a quite deep and complex nose.

On the palate, it is racy, complex and dominated by dry lime- and mineral infused luscious fruit; dark cherries, tasty plums and black berries as well as spices, worn leather, anise seeds and crushed stone. The acidity is crisp and impressively fresh wrapping balsamic herbs, deep minerals, iron and dry grape juice. Then, slowly the very firm and thick Serralunga-tannins kick in, and with authority, but even though they are pleasantly chewy, they are still too rough and coarse. We sure lack precision and elegance, but it is generous, medium-bodied, well concentrated and persistent with the classic notion of austereness at the finish line.

An overall balanced, approachable, fresh and persistent Barolo with some complexity, but unfortunately framed in rough and coarse tannins. The texture is its obvious backside and elegance too, but It is still price-worthy at €27, but definitely not at the steal-level of the much better 2010 Vajra Albe. Enjoy with thick sauces, tenderloin and well butter-fried chanterelles or just truffle pecorino cheese. It might improve a little in the next two years, but probably not much.



Incredibly dense nose with dark berries, rose petals, tar and tobacco but also strong notes of mushrooms and some under vegetation.

The acidity is direct and energetic but lacks some precision. Very good tannic structure that adds grip and never gets dry.

This is a transparent and honest Barolo with a rather masculine expression.


A very good representative of the warm 2011 vintage in Monforte, Barolo

The traditional producer Fratelli Alessandro is a great and honest one from Verduno in the most north-western part of Barolo and a little in the shadow of the better known Burlotto estate. The estate has been in the possession of the Alessandra family since 1870, but the winery dates back to the 1840’s. Here we taste their 2011 Gramolere which is not from Verduno, but Monforte d’Alba close by the more famous Santo Stefano di Perno vineyard. 2001 was the first time they started producing this single-vineyard bottling which is a Burgundy inspired change. However, this wine is from a very high, open and windy place at 425 m above sea-level, but still quite warm micro climate. Actually, Alessandro owns the best middle part with south-west exposition so a very interesting wine indeed. 2011 is a warm vintage so any wind is appreciated.

DSC045942011 Fratelli Alessandro, Barolo Gramolere

Totally transparent, glowingly blood orange with red purple nuances. Beautifully clean colour.

After some hours, the nose, still quite subtle, emerges with balsamically fresh Mediterranean herbs, glycerin, thyme, notes of leather, tar and after an hour there is a lovely perfume with rose petals and lilies. Great complex nose, but not immediately seductive in a good way.

The palate offers a high quality, balsamic acidity and it is generously succulent with overly, jammy sweet, but cool and ripe red fruits coated in fine crystalline minerals. It is pleasantly dominated by small, concentrated wild strawberries, but we also also find mulberries. Other aromas are blood orange, sweet liquorice, cinnamon and fennel. All these goodies are all framed in very smooth, soft and ripe tannins with fine sandy texture, almost velvety without any excessive dryness at all and the wine is very generously rich, pliant without any hardness or edges. Impressive tannin cut, polish and texture.

It is not as dense as expected and rather normal bodied in this warm vintage. Yes, its backside is its much overly sweetness, but not at the expense of a crispy, cool acidity and even though the label says 15% alcohol, this is not disturbing either. Actually, they rendered very ripe tannins by waiting some days here, obviously. A very price-worthy example of barolos representing this vintage well. It is very sensitive to temperature, so make sure to serve it no warmer than 18 ºC (64ºF). Drink now. It will not benefit from more ageing.



Piedmont-Trip 2015: A great visit to the legendary estate Bartolo Mascarello


Maria-Teresa with her father Bartolo

On a Saturday morning in May this year we had the pleasure of meeting up with Alan Emil Manley and the charming  and somewhat ingenious Maria-Teresa Mascarello, who is the daughter of Bartolo Mascarello. Alan is an American Barolo lover from Colorado, who has been working at Bartolo Mascarello for quite some time now. At our last visit we met with enologist Alessandro Bovio, but due to our limitations in Italian, we had difficulties in learning more about the estate. Therefore we were certainly more lucky this time, when Alan was around. It is no secret that we are true fans of Bartolo Mascarello and their wines are always a safe and great buy due to their consistency and quality.


Hand-painted barolo of Bartolo

The cantina Bartolo Mascarello was founded by Bartolo’s grand father, Guilio, when he returned from WWI. Bartolo Mascarello, who left us in 2005, was the tenacious guerrilla warfare rebel or as he used to call himself and his gang, “the last of the mohicans” (including his fellows Beppe Rinaldi and Teobaldo Cappellano), when it came to protect tradition and important principles to render honest  and artisan wines without making any compromises to any international markets. An iconic and stubborn man of old school barolos that opposed any unnatural addition to wine making or adaptations in tough vintages, but relying on traditional best-practice. Among these principles was Bartolo’s strong belief that the best expression for a Barolo was to always blend different vineyards, since in his opinion no vineyard was equally good in each vintage. The cuvée in his case is a blend of four vineyards; Rué, San Lorenzo, Cannubi and Rocche dell’Annunziata, and it is still the only barolo they do here. A truly honest estate that with pride celebrates the unique and great expression of Barolo.

Bartolo is most famous for having made the special designed label “No barrique, no Berlusconi” on his bottles making it absolutely clear that he hated french barriques and was not the least in favour of Berlusconi. Two great evils in his world. Actually, Bartolo used to hand-paint the wine labels that today are heavily sought-after bottles at auctions around the world.


The inner glass-lined concrete vats

After knocking on the easy to mis front door at Via Roma, 15, in heart of Barolo, we are welcomed by Alan and suddenly, Maria-Teresa arrives as well and she summarises their philosophy by saying, as Alan swiftly translates into English, that “they do not strive to create the perfect wine, instead their goal is to produce honest wines that reflect the expression of each specific vintage”. Therefore they make very few adaptations for any vintage. E.g. they use the same mix of grapes from the different vineyards for their Barolo. Actually, they don’t vinify them separately either like most vintners do and they always use all the press wine. No secondary pressing is conducted here. No fining or filtering either. They always age their wine for 32-34 months in old and neutral Slavonian oak barrels and they always bottle in August. They always use glass-lined concrete vats with a tiny top opening and Alan emphasises the importance of gentle fermentation that they achieve with concrete. They always use 5 ml of sulphur to protect the grapes, but no pesticides or chemicals is ever used in the vineyards except for copper sulphate to protect the leaves from attacks. In the vineyard, 11-12 shoot-outs are winter-pruned on each 110 cm cain from each root. They wave the tops during growing season to avoid cutting, since they believe it stresses the plants. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit any vineyards.


Alan shows some of the collection in the cellar

Still they do make a few adaptions and one example of these is the extraction (maceration) period that varies depending mostly on tannin quality to extract more colour and terroir-specific characteristics from the grapes. However, Alan says that in general it is between 30-35 days. While the warm, approachable and short-cycled vintage of 2011 vintage only endured for 32 days. the alike 2009 got 35, but the cold, classic and very long-cycled 2010 vintage went on for 56 days which is the longest in their history. Pump over is done twice a day, but after fermentation is final, they continue extraction on the skins using the traditional method with submerged caps. At this stage, they fill up the tank and leave half of the top opening space to let carbon dioxide go out, but avoid oxygen to get in. Alan points out that he can judge how much air is needed by inspecting the colour. As he puts it, if it is beaujolais, then I add more air, but I need to be careful since it is by then in a very reactive state. Malo is carried out in wood and they rack just a few times.

As we leave the concrete tanks and head for the ageing part of the cellar, Alan show us some really old bottles. Some from the 30’s, 40’s as well as obvious great vintages like 1947, 1955, 1958, etc. With a grin, he says that unfortunately they are not for sale. He says that he has put some work into organising the cellar a lot some years back.


The cellar with traditional and neutral Slavonian oak barrels

The 2015 vintage is the first vintage when Alan has been granted the opportunity to lead the work in the cellar. Even though he is very excited about this, he admits that it is a little stressful too. He wants to make them proud and not do any mistakes.

During the visit we also learned that their Langhe Nebbiolo, which is made from their younger vines, from the 2013 vintage in addition, includes grapes bought from a grower in Treiso, Barbaresco. It is a vineyard called San Roccá Suo d’Elvia. This should increase the volumes of today’s about 30,000 bottles a year some more. This incredibly low production is the reason why bottles have been so hard to find in the market.


Frederik, Maria-Teresa and Andreas

The wines we tasted

2013 Bartolo Mascarello Dolcetto d’Alba

Their Dolcetto is mainly on the northern parts of the vineyards Rue and Monrobiolo della Bussia since it will ripen almost anywhere, but here it gets right amount of sun. Alan comments that while it, in contrast to nebbiolo, grows easy, it is hard to vinify.

This is a Dolcetto that is not only about cherries and sharp red fruit. The wine also combines some earthy notes and a slightly tannic structure.

On the palate, the fruit is rather juicy and almost has a chewiness to it. A little classic bitterness, but fresh. The fruit is also well complemented by a fresh acidity.

This is a high quality Dolcetto with a great personality and balance.


2011 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo

Alan explains that 2011 had a burst of heat in April through easter and a very quick bud break. Then it got cooler until August, but from there much like the very hot 2003. However, in total it was not extreme, but certainly not classic.

The nose is mainly fruit-driven where red fruit dominates more than usual for a Mascarello where I usually find large amounts of dark fruit. There are fresh wild strawberries, raspberries, Asian spices and balsamic notes in this very seductive wine.

On the palate, the wine has juicy and mouthwatering fruit combined with a energetic and rather precise acidity. The tannins are present but not dominant and has a sweetness to them.

A very approachable Mascarello which is very generous and fresh but still with elegance.



The tasting this time was a little limited, but still a great visit and we learned several about their principles and vinification by the very engaged Alan. We will certainly be back again to check how they are doing in the very near future.

Earlier tastings of Barolos of Bartolo Mascarello can be found here.

An interesting Brunate from Francesco Rinaldi

DSC045512010 Barolo Brunate, Francesco Rinaldi

Totally transparent, glowingly blood orange with red purple nuances.

Very fine tuned, reticent nose that really take its time to show its overly complex perfume of dog rose, Asian spices and beautiful perfume, classic roses as well as some anise.

On the palate, the texture and softness of tannins impress and confirm this vintage. The acidity is very balsamically fresh and approachable wrapping green pears. Fruit is clean and we are offered balsamic herbs and some typical site-specific anise seeds. Good length and purity.

This is a good represent of the vintage and it is very balanced with fantastic acidity. As many 2010’s it is preparing for a sleep period and needs a lot of time to be woken up now. However, it is not really up to the same level as their Cannubi in this vintage we think. Wait until 2022 to open this.


Vajra’s base-barolo excels in the 2010 vintage

Vajra keeps getting better and better and this barolo is a traditional blend of three vineyards; Fossati, Coste di Vergne and La Volta. Grapes are hand picked from very high altitude, above 400 m. A 40 days of maceration was conducted here and the grape juice was raised in neutral big barrels of both Slavonian and French origin.

DSC04553Vajra Albe, Barolo 2010

Totally transparent, glowingly blood orange colour  with red purple nuances.

The nose emerges immediately with animal notes, raw meat and distinct cherry stone. After just two more hours in the decanter, surprisingly, the dominating animal notes fade totally and give way for a much more balanced, refined and classic nose of anise seed, beeswax, some green curry, sage, leather, subtle raw rubber, distinct dried Mediterranean herbs, spices and notes of tobacco. Actually, the first might have been a unique bottle, because a second one was great directly. Some quite seductive violets, rose hip and cinnamon cookies arrive as part of a quite complex, dense and aristocratic perfume some hours later that usually is enjoyed in more expensive wines. An amazing change on the nose in just a few hours really, so follow this wine.

On the palate it is amazingly pliant, impressively balanced and tannins are still young, but soft, velvety; all in accordance with this fantastic vintage, but obviously not perfect yet though. Acidity is impressively clean and super-balsamically crisp wrapping deep minerals, beeswax, notes of dry liquorice and some menthol. Pure, chewy and very racy black cherries, sloe berries and cherry stone as well as notes of chewing tobacco. It is focused, persistent and offers some elegance that is impressive at this price-level.

A very complex, delightfully fresh, quite elegant and so far the most price-worthy Barolo in this great vintage. Open in 2019 to let the tannins polymerise to perfection, even though it is approachable now. Cost about €24.


The “grape-by-grape” Arborina from Altare in an approchable vintage

The very experimentally minded and Burgundy-inspired father of Silvia Altare, Elio Altare, initiated the project of doing a true 100% de-stemming of grapes from the 2011 vintage. In Burgundy, originally this was one of the legendary Henry Jayer‘s principles for pureness of wine making back in the 70-80’s in Burgundy that was a very important aspect of quality improvement in those days when numerous vintners in Burgundy were using pesticides and the area was on a declining path.

While the noble grape in Burgundy for reds; pinot noir, naturally consists of comparably little natural tannins, nebbiolo has plenty. Hence, in Burgundy it is brave to rely only on tannins in the grape skin, so many vintners in Burgundy adds stems to their wines, especially in years low on tannins or to vineyards normally rendering less structure and grip. Accordingly, they then render more backbone and persistence, but they run a risk of rendering more bitterness from the stems as well. So if you aim for purity, as Silvia and her father do here, this undertake has great potential.  This is all good and very interesting indeed. However, there is a backside to this and that is that with nebbiolo the chalks holding the grapes are really close to the small berries and they are fragile, so this is a very tedious and absurdly time-consuming work really. According to Silvia, it took 11 days for 10 people for the total production of five barriques from the oldest part of the Arborina vineyard planted mostly in 1948, so clearly a very expensive project that needs to fullfil its expectations in order to be worthwhile. This is about 1,500 bottles only. The name for this bottling has been changed a few times along the way, but they have now settled on “unoperuno” which translates into one-by-one and quantity is insanely low too. However, you must admire the effort.

Interestingly, Silvia has decided to use another label for this bottling comared to the normal Arborina.

This tasting was done at the estate when visiting Silvia and we had the opportunity to taste the normal Arborina side-by-side to the special Arborina version “uno-per-uno”.

2011 Altare Barolo “unoperuno” Arborina

The nose emerges with a light and quit reticent carefulness. However, I notice Bee wax, wallpaper adhesive, lilies and fresh rose petals.

On the palate, the fruit is more clean and supple compared to the normal Arborina, even though more sweet in this vintage. Primarily very clean, pure, blue fruit, dark cherries and notes of Asian spices. A quite aromatic wine in this approachable vintage with generous body but still a light-weighter. However, texture is soft, velvety and tannins are ripe, but not really approachable yet. So it needs more time to settle and integrate. Its persistent and offers an elegantly tip-toeing envelope with delicate and crystalline minerals.

There is a lot of finesse in this warm barolo, but it is the purity and precision that really stand out in this special Arborina. Open in 2017 to let the tannins settle even more.


Piedmont-Trip 2015: A 3rd visit to Roberto Conterno (G. Conterno)

It is the 28th of May this year and sun is shining this morning. As usual I meet up with Roberto Conterno’s assistant Stephanie, who except for helping him with basically everything, also works as his translator. For a more complete description of the estate and their wines please refer to a former visit here.

Suddenly, Roberto walks into the tasting room, welcomes me with a firm handshake and a big smile. You have been here before, he says. Yes, I reply. Actually, It’s my 3rd time. Have you heard the news, Roberto says? I bought a new vineyard, Roberto says filled with exitement and content! I have had my eyes on it for a very, very long time, but I was still lucky when it was offered for sale. It is the Arione vineyard just below Francia (Roberto’s monopoly bought by his father Giovanni in 1974), he says and swiftly brings out a map of Serralunga d’Alba. It is down here in a very small amphie theater with perfect south and slightly south-west exposure just inside the border of the Barolo area, he says pointing on the map in the south-east corner. I know it has great potential, because I have been investigating the terroir for quite some time. It is not well known, but I know it will produce great wines. We discuss its different exposition and I learn that Gigi Rosso is the former owner. See the maps below on the vineyard. Roberto acquired 6 ha planted area in March which is almost the whole vineyard. 3.1 ha with nebbiolo suited for Barolo, 1 ha for simpler nebbiolo d’Alba and 1 ha of barbera.


The Barolo area with famous towns in blue circles


Francia (red) and Arione (blue)

Old roots too, I ask him? Stephanie quickly translates into Italian. Yes, mostly planted in the 60’s and 80’s, so it is an advantage, but there is also a lot that needs to be replanted too so it will take a while until it is up to game. He has done this before with Cerretta that he bought in 2008 and now is a Barolo at his standard. He continues; it is actually a continuation of the Francia vineyard and it is a very beautiful area. As you know,  he says, Francia starts off facing west and slightly turns south-west in its southern part right before stepping into Arione. Altitude in Arione falls from the road 435 m downwards to 350, so it is steep. If you stand at the top by the farm house (cascina Arione), you would see that it is basically two parts leaning downwards to the middle road there on each side. Is the soil different too, I ask? It is very similar to Francia, he says. Some more sand especially in the eastern part, but exposure is what really differs it from Francia.

Last time I was here, it was a lot of reconstruction going on outside and as I mention this, Roberto says that finally things are in their places and that he is pleased with the new extended cellar space. Before making the usual and immediate left turn down the stairs to the cellars, he walks straight to a big machine in the bottling room. Let me show you another new thing, he says. Here is my new bottling machine. It is fantastic! It is an ingenious engineering piece of art.


The brand new high-tech bottling machine

The bottling machine from local company GAI does everything automatically from cleaning, de-airing, filling, corking and labelling 3,000 bottles per hour. It even screens and detects bad corks as well as checks that they are sealed properly. Halleluja. Besides making bottling easy and fast it is done with remarkable precision that no human is capable of he assures me. Everything is easily configured and controlled from a user’s panel developed by Schneider-Electric who also helps GAI with the control system. It is a misconception that I am not fond of great technology Roberto says. Being an engineer professionally, but visiting mainly for experiencing the wines, I can still agree with him that technology at this level where everything is carefully engineered with accurate precision but still with the user in mind, is always impressive.

After inspecting the bottling machine, I ask about this year’s vintage. Roberto, says that flowering is one week ahead now this last week of May and that the 1st week of June is normal. May has been quite warm with very short showering rains. Even flowering, I ask? Roberto says it is ok, not perfect, and about 40% is flowering already now.

NextDSC04135 we do the usual cellar tour. On the way down, Robert explains that because of the acquisition of Arione, he really need to make room for more production. Do you remember that my Austrian vats (The mobile wooden open top vats from Franz Stockinger in Austria used for fermentation) used to be here? Now they have been moved to a new room over here, he says while walking me to the other room pointing them out.

Shall we start with 2013 Barbera Roberto suddenly asks me and I nod positively. The 2013 vintage is a cold vintage that was saved by a warm summer, but went very cold in September until mid October and suffered from rain just two weeks before harvest that caused dilution in some parts. However, fruit was fine for those who were lucky and prepared their vines well and so far it resembles the 2005 vintage, but maybe with better tannins.


2013 Barbera Francia

1,600 polyphenols [mg/l] in here he adds which is a measurement of the amount of tannins. It should be > 1,000, so here is plenty. Most importantly, the tannins are ripe.

A very deep, fine and dark scent with fine minerals.

Really good balance already and fine texture. Dark cherries infused with rocks and chalky minerals. Fine structure and high level of balsamic acidity.


2013 Barbera Cerretta

More earthy and underbrush tone in here. Herbs, tea bush and notes of leather. Fresh. Moving to the palate, there is obviously more fruit in here and I am surprised that is so good now. Great precision already this young and quite large body too. Tannins are thicker than in Francia, but insanely ripe. Complex darker fruit, gravel and crushed stone at this stage.


2005 Barbera Francia

Roberto, insists that I taste a mature and well integrated Barbera so I clearly see where it is going. Very mature and well developed. Suddenly a big and very subtle perfume with a wide spanning nose of details.

High precision and impressive balance indeed. Drier fruit. Leather. Well integrated Barbera indeed and with super-fresh acidity. Full-bodied, generous. Underbrush, forest floor, minerals. Quite persistent too. No dilution due to the rain that some vintners suffered from this vintage, but rather good concentration.


He smiles when he notice my satisfaction with this wine. Now he gets serious and says; shall we try the 2011 Baroli? Hmm, yes, absolutely.

2011 Barolo Francia

No Monfortino was made in this year.

When I comment on that I think this is better than anticipated, especially the tannins, Roberto quickly nods and says that he absolutely agrees. He says that it has just started to close down some, but it will be opening up again in four years. Roberto says September was very warm, but it is a very approachable and good vintage.

A very, very approachable, forward and pretty nose with precision and lots of seductive flowers. On the palate, fruit is very forward, but still with great balance and high quality acidity. Tannins are still just a little edgy, but ripe and thick as usual. Roberto says that they will most likely not improve much, but they were still inside the ripening window that is they are not anywhere near green, but barely when he needed to pick to preserve the acidity and avoid excessive sugars.


2011 Barolo Cerretta

Roberto says that this is bottled in two weeks from now. I comment on that it has really gone far from the first bottling from this vineyard in 2008, when he acquired it. It was labelled as nebbiolo d’Alba until 2009, but from the 2010 vintage it is sold as Barolo. He reminds me that 2008 suffered from hail, grapes were too uneven even after hard selection and the vineyard was far from ready yet back then. It actually improved faster than he anticipated really. However it is a young vineyard with about 20 year-old vines.

Some autumn leaves emerges from the glass, morning dew, underbrush, stones,. Incredibly complex, earthy scent. Very forward with a slightly more masculine and saline perfume. On the palate, very much herbs, stone, gravel, earthy notes and much dark fruit. Interesting development I must say.



Then he suddenly and calmly says; “the monfortino” ? This is the moment, the holy grail. Fortunately, I am able to compare the wines on a table this time as well as making notes easier too.

2008 Monfortino

Insanely graceful, beautiful and elegant perfume. Rose petals, some underbrush and so incredibly complex and assembled into a true unit that turns description almost pointless. Fantastico!

On the palate, precision is masterly as always, but its balance is even more impressive. Everything is in its place with perfectly cool, fresh balsamic acidity coated in chalky and crystalline minerals. The multiple-layered fruit is super-clean, ripe and without any sweetness, but genuine fruit aromas. Do I need to say that the tannins are ripe, but probably needs a number of years for perfection.


Roberto describes how the development-cycle was in fact a week longer than in 2010. He started harvest as late as on 30th of October and he remembers that it rained the day after, but he was lucky. No dilution or issues. A very cold September when temperature got as low as zero degrees at night simply stopped the growing-cycle for several days, which had him worried. Roberto says 2008 is so unique to him that he thinks it is more interesting than the 2010. After saying so I ask him about the 2010’s development knowing that he made more Monfortino in 2010 than ever before. He says that just some days prior to my visit, the 2010 behaved strangely; tannins were not developing correctly and was backward, but then suddenly steered into a really good direction again. Yes, he will make more Monfortino this time; about 55% more he thinks it was. It will most likely be released in 2017. He smiles and goes after some more sacred wine..

2010 Monfortino

The first sniff just makes me totally confident about its quality. A very beautiful, yet careful and graceful perfume filled with wonderful red flowers emerges from the glass. Ahh.. What a graceful beauty.

Incredibly pure and deeply layered red fruit and the precision and its perfect balance hallmarks the vintage, but goes beyond anything. Surprisingly, it is tremendously supple with already super-soft tannins and the acidity is just there lifting and refreshing everything. The wine trips elegantly with incredible precision and grace to the lingering finish. It is just a baby, but it will be the perfect wine!


The show is over for this time, but what a show this man can put on and it is just to start saving for Monfortinos. His wines really speaks for them selves too and I can once again confirm that the wines are world class that easily compares to the best Burgundies. As we return back to the tasting room, I shake his hand and tell him that I really appreciate his great work and thank him for his time. It doesn’t matter if some people thinks that Arione is only an average vineyard, with time Roberto will make wonders with it. I am sure.


I and Mr Roberto Conterno with Roberto’s father on the frame behind us

However, afterwards we make a fast tour to the vineyards. Unfortunately, Roberto himself couldn’t join this time due to another business meeting, but I have added some photos from my tour with Stephanie in his beautiful vineyards below.


The Francia vineyard



Stephanie and Roberto’s right-hand explains the canopy management to optimize for energy into the grapes


The Cerretta vineyard with its white clay






Both sides in Arione that lean towards the middle road. The left part is the eastern side that needs to be replanted a lot.


The right handside as seen from the top in Arione

The Cerretta 2011 from Schiavenza impresses us

The estate Schiavenza is a really interesting one and with a good restaurant in Serralunga d’Alba that offers a great panorama view of the site while having lunch there as we did on our recent trip to Piedmont this May. The estate is run today by Luciano Pira, his wife Maura and Maura’s brother Walter Anselma. They use cement for fermentation and only neutral, big Slavonian barrels (botte) with multiple racking.

The 2011 vintage had a warm spring with a whole month earlier flowering and no rain and a mild winter. Summer turned normal but without much needed rain, so when some warmth finally arrived in mid August, dryness caused some stress in warm vineyards whose soil doesn’t retain water well. However, the vintage is nothing like in the very warm, sweet and forwardly opulent 2007 that we are no fan of. Rather, it resembles the 2009 vintage and is perceived as even more approachable and so far we find it even slightly less sweet in general and still with pleasant terroir slipping through. An overall, better vintage than anticipated after all.

2011 Barolo “Cerretta”, Schiavenza

Blood orange middle with red purple tints and orange edges.

A lovely, fresh nose with loads of rose petals, dried oil paint, leather, tobacco, dried herbs and bee wax.

The palate emerges as very fresh thanks to the vivid, fresh and crisp acidity. Texture is already soft and tannins are riper than expected, thick and smooth, but yes, they still are present in the quite persistent finish. Very elegant and no unpleasant dryness what so ever with an abundance of very ripe fruit, notes of chewing tobacco, licorice-root and dried herbs.

This is an elegant, smooth and quite feminine Cerretta and still with that pure, thick Serralunga-touch and pleasant firmness when it is really singing without being too sweet and with fantastic high-quality acidity. We are impressed. This may be even better in two years, but don’t wait for too long.