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. Dante 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