Tag Archives: Piedmont trip 2013

Giacomo Fenocchio – Respect for terroir and great balance

When we visited Piedmont in 2013 we had the pleasure of meeting up with Claudio Fenocchio, a humble and careful man who produces fantastic wine with great respect for tradition and terroir. We spent much of the time talking about different vineyards and how their characteristics affect the wines. Claudio knows his vineyards and their history extremely well and talks about them with great passion. Claudio emphasises that there are only two vineyards that are truly Bussia; Sottana and Soprana. From their home they have a truly amazing view of the area, with La Morra straight ahead, Barolo down to the right and further to the right we can see Castiglione-Falletto, starting with the Villero vineyard.

Claudio Fenocchio

Claudio Fenocchio

The estate was founded in 1864, has been in the family for 5 generations and is carrying the name of Giacomo Fenocchio, the father of Claudio, who headed the estate after the second world war and who acquired some of the vineyards that still are within the family. They have vineyards in Cannubi (approximately 40 year old vines), Bussia Sottana (25-40 year old) and Villero (appr. 65 year old).

As mentioned before the estate uses traditional methods, which includes long maceration, usage of indigenous yeast and maturation in large barrels (botti) to ensure no oak flavours make it into the wine.

Claudio Fenocchio

The wines we tasted

Bussia 2013 – from tank

This wine was of course way to young to be tested, but Claudio gave us the chance to taste the 2013 before malolactic fermentation. The acidity is very harsh at this point and it is more or less impossible to understand the potential of the wine. This was more in the department of education than a tasting ūüôā

Bussia 2012 – from barrel

The vines are from the Sottana part of Bussia and of mixed ages, but on average approximately 30 years.

At the time of the tasting the wine was very closed and reduced, though there where signs of fresh red fruit, like raspberries and some orange peels.

The wine is quite harsh in the mouth and the acidity needs to stabilise before we get en proper impression of the wine. There are some balsamic notes, blood orange and ginger. Impressive concentration and a texture that already has fine and sandy tannins. Heavy, but of good quality.

More or less impossible, and not at all fair, to score at this time.

Claudio Fenocchio botti
2010 Cannubi – from barrel

From 40 year old vines.

The typical seductive, fragrant perfumes and beautiful rose petals. There are raspberries, some tobacco and the nose shows quite a lot of depth.

The acidity is rather sharp and direct but has a balsamic freshness and is very energetic. We also find fresh red fruit, wild strawberries, raspberries, ginger and some gravel. It is quite persistent and has an impressive balance already.

Texture is already fine sandy and tannins are thick, chewy and of good quality. Enormous potential. This wine needs time to integrate fully but will surely develop in to a wine with good structure and complexity.

92+p/100

2010 Villero – from barrel

From 65 year old vines.

The wine is slow to open up and is a bit reductive but after a while it develops a complex, deep and fresh nose. Fragrant, very delicate with fantastic details, showing both balsamic and floral notes. There are also raspberries and limestone minerals.

The acidity is better integrated than in the Cannubi. Again lots of red berries, distinct blood orange, very ripe, fresh and deep wild strawberries, ginger, nutmeg, loads of fine tuned limestone minerals. Coarse sandy texture and tannins are chewy, thick of high quality.

This is a feminine wine with lots of elegance and fragrance. We are very impressed.

94p/100

2010 Bussia – from barrel

Quite seductive perfumes and fragrant flowers. Super-fresh, ripe red fruit and hints of solvent. Fantastic nose which shows depth and lots of fruit.

Deeper and a bit earthier than the Villero, but still with the characteristic “Fenocchio freshness”. Ripe fruit, boysenberries, blood orange, iron, crushed stone, balsamic notes and herbs. Very balanced already, quite slim structure and persistence. Texture is already polished and tannins are chewy and of great quality.

The wine is very generous with lots of fruit, but it also has complexity, energy and depth.

95p/100

Summary

As always the wines of Fenocchio show great transparency and honesty that celebrate its terroir without adding anything else. In addition, they deliver great freshness, deep aromas and complexity. This was also our first taste of the 2010 vintage and it immediately showed great potential.

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.

DSC03287

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.

DSC03291

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 cuv√©e of min 60% grapes from Brunate and max 40% from Le Coste. The second cuv√©e 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 ‚Äúbureaucracy setup by people that know nothing about wine making from Rome‚ÄĚ 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 ūüėČ 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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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.

Piedmont Trip 2013: Burlotto – The star of Verduno

Burlotto has been around in Verduno since 1850 and was established by¬†Giovan Battista Burlotto. It became¬†highly regarded even outside the Barolo region and was the choice of the royal family of Savoy that once ruled Piedmont. Moreover, Burlotto were among the absolute first who started bottling their own Barolo in the later part of the 1900 Century. This was even before Giacomo Conterno did his first Monfortino. However, when Giovan passed away in 1927, the estate’s supremacy gradually faded.¬†Today’s owner, Marina Burlotto, Giovan’s great-niece, her husband, Giuseppe Alessandria, who is responsible for the vineyards, and their son, Fabio, who having acquired a degree in oenology and viticulture, are the ones that has truly¬†re-positioned¬†them¬†once again as a renowned producer of terroir-focused high quality wines in Barolo. However, they are still yet somewhat under the radar, but we think on the rise to stardom once more.

Now after a history lesson, let’s get the categorisation exercise done¬†immediately¬†and say that Burlotto is a traditionalist. They use long maceration times, neutral wooden fermentation vats for long ageing. This should not be¬†misinterpreted¬†as a lack of curiosity or will to experiment.¬†Fabio Alessandria¬†whom we met is a man full of ideas, searching for new inspiration and has an urge to improve his wines.¬†Fabio is on the surface a quiet, timid and polite man but¬†underneath he is full of strong convictions and ideas. We had a very interesting discussion around both vinification methods and his thoughts on the expression he is looking for in the wines.

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The open vats for maceration

The winery is famous for their single-vineyard barolo from the cru¬†Monvigliero in the very north-west corner of Verduno in Barolo.¬†It is produced with ultra traditional methods including crushing grapes by feet. Fabio tells us that using feet is a very gentle method that doesn’t break the seeds and more importantly the stems, so there is no need of using a machine or other technology. Whole stems and seeds are important to avoid bitterness in the process of wine making.¬†For this wine, they use whole non-de-stemmed grape bunches to add complexity, a method often used in Burgundy to add tannins in vintages low on tannins,¬†as pinot noir naturally contain little tannins. Since nebbiolo on the contrary contains much tannins, this practice is not common in Piedmont.¬†However, Fabio manages to select only very ripe stems and avoid austere green aromas, thus only let it add complexity to the barolo of¬†Monvigliero. In addition, it certainly helps that tannins here are naturally softer in Verduno than other places in Barolo and the very cold winds at nights may also explains how they can wait long until stems are ripe and still render fresh acidity levels in the grapes.¬†Watch our video below to hear Fabio talk about the methodologies used

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Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=p9xwcYA0F8o

The usage of open vats for the fermentation process means that they do not have to add oxygen and it also improves their possibility to control the punch-down and pump-overs of the sub-merged caps. The fermentation period for the Monvigliero is approximately 60 days.

During the tasting a few words came up several times; Freshness, softness and purity.¬†Fabio tells us that “you should want to continue drinking directly after each sip”, meaning that he does not want a heavy¬†powerful¬†wine where you need to catch your breath¬†before continuing drinking, but elegance and complexity.

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Fabio Alessandria among the very big botte

The wines tasted

Langhe Dives 2012

This is a Sauvignon Blanc which is aged 11 months in barrels. Fabio tells us that he is aiming for a fresh expression without getting a green result.

Andreas:

Not surprisingly for a Sauvignon Blanc we find lots of nettles, floral notes, exotic fruit, grapefruit and stone. The taste reveals very clear minerals, citrus and an acidity which is quite sharp at the moment.

This is a pleasant Sauvignon Blanc with a bit of a personality to it.

87p/100

Sir Galahad:

Acidity is really fresh, crispy and balsamic, but now a little gnarly. It is just a little sweet, but has got personality and offers very nice with delightful minerals, citrus, balsamic, white flowers, peach, apricot and grape fruit.

86p.

Verduno Pelaverga 2012

This is a grape only grown in Verduno and Saluzzo in Piedmont and it was a first experience for us.

Andreas:

On the nose we are served red fruit, pepper, floral notes and a long lasting experience of freshness. This wine has a very clear and crisp acidity, again there is and abundance of red fruit, some stone and we are left with a bit of sweetness in the end. There is virtually no tannic structure in the wine.

This was a pleasant first experience with the Pelaverga grape. It is an easy drinking wine which has a light and fresh sensation but also some personality.

86p/100

Sir Galahad:

This is simple, but with interesting personality. Scarlet colour.

Very fresh wine. Complex nose and very good acidity as well as impressive balance. Much better than dolchetto.

87p/100

Freisa 2012

Andreas:

The nose is very expressive with red current, pepper, balsamic, strawberries, lingon berries and some sweetness in the fruit.

This wine is very generous with juicy red fruits, like strawberries and some raspberries but also some sweet jam and balsamic notes. Compared with the Pelaverga is has more of a backbone with a good tannic structure complemented by the acidity.

89p/100

Sir Galahad:

Colour is scarlet red.

The nose is balsamic, offers some red fruit and savoury notes.

The palate is absolutely dominated by grape-peel and some fruit. More tannic than nebbiolo and ripe tannins is very important for this grape, closely related to nebbiolo.

88-89p.

Langhe Nebbiolo 2012

Andreas:

The entry level Nebbiolo is of high quality and offers a nose full of fresh raspberries, roses, minerals and some strawberries. The palate is dominated by red fruit and a quite strong acidity. Still this wine has an ok balanced for the young age.

This was a good step into the Nebbiolo wines and can be recommended for anyone looking for an easy drinking Nebbiolo with a fresh expression.

89p/100

Sir Galahad:

Colour is light-red transparent. This slow nose emerges with rose petals, fragrant and delicate perfumes.

The palate is dominated with herbs, pure red fruit. Really great texture and good balance! Not so complex but fresh and pleasant.

89p/100

The barolo line-up of the 2009 vintage

Barolo 2009

Andreas:

A more classical barolo nose with roses, hints of tar, leather and solvent but also menthol and balsamic notes. The palate shows more concentration than previous wines but we still have the pure and fresh fruit in the center of the experience. Tannins are very soft and polished already and provides a nice texture to the wine.

In this wine the pure and fresh fruit is starting to be combined with some concentration and complexity.

93/100

Sir Galahad:

The nose is slow and emerges with roses, fragrant and fresh perfumes and tar.
Very pure, fresh fruit is offered here. Fantastic acidity! Some tar, leather, balsamic, herbs and licorice-root. Quite persistent actually. Slim. Texture is fine sandy. Key words are purity and freshness.

93p/100

Barolo Acclivi 2009

The Acclivi is a blend of their vineyards in Verduno; Monvigliero, Neirane and Rocche dell’Olmo and the mix is decided based on the specific attributes of the vintage. The grapes are de-stemmed.

We have tried the Acclivi several times before and have always enjoyed the wine but never had the great wow-experience.

Andreas:

Compared to Acclivies we have tried previously, the 2009 has a lot more depth and concentration. The nose shows multiple layers of red fruit, but also some darker fruit in the background. There is also an ethereal touch to the wine. The palate offers more dense and pure fruit, again both red and dark. The denseness is well balanced by an acidity full of energy which carries the wine forward in a long finish. The tannins are still a bit tough but seems to be of good quality and should integrate well over time.

This is a very complex wine which managed to combine depth and energy. It is by the best Acclivi I have tried and it should have a long and exciting. Well done!

94-95p/100

Sir Galahad:

This nose is dark, deep and rich but a little closed now. Conserved and ripe boysenberries are dominating here.

Impressive structure, complexity in here and several layers of extremely ripe red- and blue fruit. Fresh acidity with grape-peel and balsamic flavours. It has impressive balance, medium-big body and is weightlessly powerful. Concentration is great but above all, its complexity considering the vintage is impressive and the tannins are extremely silky and soft for a young barolo in a warm year. The best ever, Aclivi so far.

95p/100

Barolo Monvigliero 2009

The Monvigliero has been our¬†favorite¬†among Burlottos wines so far and it is the famous vineyard in Verduno and Fabio’s parcels are on a high altitude which of course adds a lot to the freshness. We have followed the wine through several vintages and have always been impressed by its purity and the seductive strawberries. At it very best, sometimes we have found similarities with wines from Volnay and Vosne Roman√©e¬†in Burgundy.

Andreas:

The nose is full of fresh red berries, roses, some truffles, herbal notes, eucalyptus and some minerals.

In the mouth the wine offers more of the same with raspberries, balsamic notes and  in the end a pleasant sweetness complements the impression. This is very light and fresh wine with a soft and silky tannic texture. At the moment there is a slight sharpness to the fruit, but this should calm down with time.This is not the best Monvigliero I have tried, but it is also hard to follow after the fantastic Acclivi. Still the wine follows the classical style of the Monviglieros from Burlotto.

94p/100

Sir Galahad:

The nose is aromatic, herbs, kinin, notes of truffle, tiny notes of grape-peel and delicate seductive flowers.

The taste offers immediate super-ripe strawberries and raspberries. Mid palate goes on with balsamic aromas, black olives, tar, leather, pastry and herbs. Texture is very fine sandy and almost velvety already. Rich and slim. It has got grip but power is impressively weightless, but it is more about elegance than structure. The acidity and tannins are already collaborating. Incredibly persistent, complex and elegant without any astringency.

94-p/100.

Cannubi 2009

Andreas:

The nose is quite deep and earthy and contains blueberries, strawberries, roses, balsamic notes, boysenberries and leather.

The acidity is a bit harder than for the other wines but of very good quality. We also find lots of cherries, strawberries and some earthy notes and iron in the taste. The tannins are as expected a bit sandier and tougher in the Cannubi compared with the other barolos.

This is a wine which needs some time before it peaks.

92-94p/100

Sir Galahad:

The nose is packed with fragrant rose petals, fine tuned minerals, balsamic notes, earth, herbs.

Very ripe red fruit; cherries and wild strawberries. Here is more tar, sweet leather, balsamic aromas, grape-peel and minerals. Quite course and rougher tannins that need time. Very promising acidity, but Cannubi never does its best in warm vintages since it cannot store water well and this stresses the plants too much.

93-p/100.

Summary

For us Burlotto is all about purity, freshness and soft tannins, which is also what we experienced in this tasting. The main surprise was how great and complete the Acclivi was. We will post a tasting soon for the newly released 2010’s which will be exiting, even though it will most likely not be as forward and approachable as the 2009 at this stage.

Piedmont Trip 2013: Old school Barolos from Barale Fratelli

Azienda Agricola Barale Fratelli has a very long history dating back to 1870. Today Sergio Barale is heading the estate together with his two daughters Eleonora and Gloria. Oenologist is Stefano DellaPiana.
We became interested in Barale Fratelli because of their high focus on the work in the vineyards and the vines, and we also have an attraction to producers with long tradition and usage of more traditional methods in the vinification process with long maceration periods and large, neutral barrels.

When meeting with Sergio, he immediately made it clear that the main work is done in the vineyards. Sergio says that if you do your job well there, you have everything you need in the grape, like tannins, acidity, phenol, colour, etc. The vinification process should only make sure the characteristics are preserved. During the years they have experimented with different nebbiolo clones in collaboration with the University of Turin and use different ones depending on the characteristics of the vineyard/terroir. Sergio wants to achieve better grapes that are more optimal to their soil. At harvest grapes are hand-picked and only the best grape bunches are used.
Today Barale Fratelli possess approximately 20 hectars of vineyards, of which seven hectars produce nebbilolo grapes for Barolo wines. Since two years Barale Fratelli is biological and in large parts Elenora was the driver behind the decision.
Sergio on the left and Stefano to the right
When we talk to Sergio he tells us that his work mainly is in the vineyards and that Stefano is responsible for the vinification process. After destemming, gentle pressing, the grape juice for Barolo undergoes a maceration period of 25-30 days with frequent pump-overs and are aged in big barrels (botte) made of french, neutral wood (Allier) which in 1985 replaced the old botte made of chestnut.

Notes from our tasting


2009 Barbaresco Serraboella

40 year old vines in parcels in the very eastern part of Neive. Two years in large oak barrels.

Colour: Dark ruby red, transparent edges.
Nose: Deep darker fruit, earthy, tar, solvent, medicine cabin, balsamic, some strawberries. Quite complex nose, but still a bit closed. Berries comes forward after a while.
Taste: Dark, earthy, tar, dark berries, strawberries comes forward later but here is very little fruit. Acidity is very high and quite harsh but promising. Quite sandy texture, but tannins are a little dry, hard and need to integrate further. Slim structure. Some austere and metallic finish.
Summary: We where not too impressed since the wine lacks the expected fragrant flowers, offers almost no fruit at all and tannins are hard and dry.

88-89p/100

2009 Castellero

Vines are 40 years old. 

Colour: Dark ruby red, transparent edges.
Nose: Earthy, iron, deep dark berries, quite ripe fruit, new tires, delicate perfumes, dried rose petals, glue, medicin cabin, cherries, autumn leafs, a hint of sherry, tobacco and some freshness in the background, probably from the acidity. Has some purity combined with a rustic character. 
TasteRustic, fresh, cool fruit, dusty, gravel, massive minerals, distinct grape-peel, leather, dried autumn leaves, tobacco and something vegetal. Texture is sandy and tannins are thick, fat and a bit dry now. Structure quite big. Good concentration and persistence.
Summary: This wine manages to balance the rustic and earthy nature with some freshness. 

89-90p/100

2005 Cannubi

Colour: Very dark ruby, light-orange edges.
Nose: Fragrant, pressed rose petals, balsamic, orang peels, chemical, medicinal cabin, autumn leaves, delicate perfumes, some tobacco, spices and exotic herbs. Fresh and quite complex but not seductive.
Taste: Fresh sweet fruit, anise, fennel, minerals, dry grape-peel, leather, dried autumn leaves. Texture is sandy and tannins are thick and too hard now. Acidity is energetic and gives some freshness to the wine, though at currently it is a bit gnarly. Structure is quite big. Good concentration and persistence is good, but finish is a little austere.
SummaryQuite complex and some depth in here, but rough now.

90-91p/100

2007 Bussia Sottana Riserva

Colour: Very dark ruby, light-orange edges.
Nose: Spices, dried marmalade, delicate stylish perfumes, quite ethereal and hints of glue.
Taste: Quite fresh dark fruit, minerals, violet, distinct grape-peel, glue, under vegetation, dry leather and loads of minerals. Texture is fine sandy and tannins are thick, chewy and fine. Acidity is quite energetic and promising. Structure is quite big. Good concentration and persistence, but the finish is a little dry, austere.
Summary: The wine has depth and the tannins are of high quality, but dry. The balance is good but it lacks some complexity for a higher score.

91-92p/100

Summary

The wines from Barale are quite rustic and earthy but in our opinion they lack fruit, some elegance and complexity for top scores and the finish is too dry. But if you are looking for classical old style Barolos you will not be disappointed when buying a Barale wine.

Piedmont Trip 2013: A hands-off traditionalist on the rise in the very heart of Barolo

Our visit at Brezza on our week in Barolo and Barbaresco in November last year was split into two parts. First we had a very traditional Piedmontese lunch in their restaurant with Enzo Brezza and tasted some of the 2003 and 2010 barolos that Antonio Galloni had been tasting for an article just prior to our visit. Later in the afternoon we continued the wine tasting with him in their cellar (below the restaurant) with vintages from 2006-2009. This really gave us a much deeper insight into their wines and the expression different vintages.

Vinification and philosophy

The vinification at Brezza is very straight forward and their philosophy is to intervene as little as possible and make honest wines that are as transparent to the specific territorial characteristics of Barolo. However, even though Enzo is a traditionalist carrying on the heritage of his family estate (established in 1885), he points out that even traditionalists needs to evolve too to render even higher quality wines, e.g. selection and the work in vineyards has improved through the years. He says that all he really wants to do is to convey the quality and expression of the nebbiolo grape from the vineyards into his wines, nothing else. Grapes undergoes different length of maceration with floating caps and daily pump-overs in open vats depending on the vintage and vineyard (minimum eight days but often about three weeks, four for the Sarmassa) at quite low 28 degrees Celsius, the malo is carried out in steel and cement and then the wine ages in large, neutral oak barrels (botte).

Enzo, Frederik and Andreas

 

 

The wines and vineyards

The pride of the estate is the Bricco Sarmassa, a barolo that is made in vintages from a selection of the best grapes in highest part of Sarmassa vineyard with south south-west exposition at 300 m altitude. Enzo explains that this vineyard, which is located on the west side of the road to Alba that crosses the Barolo valley below the great Cerequio, stores water well in hot years and that it produces better quality grapes in warmer years without stressing the plants. He says that this partly has to do with the higher levels of clay in the soil compared to Cannubi. It is also in the Sarmassa where the snow melts first every year, since it is a quite closed and warm vineyard. The soil here is rich in calcareous clay and fossil marl that produces elegant and comparably approachable and expressive wines of which characteristics are typically aromatic with mint, anise, herbs and complex, earthy minerals from the soil. Moreover, Enzo points out that Sarmassa produces very soft tannins so they let maceration endure a little longer to extract more aromas and expression from the soil. In addition, with Sarmassa he can wait until tannins are really ripe at harvest too. All nebbiolo fans know how important this is for high quality barolos. Some of the vines here were replanted in 2000 and some are over 70 years old.

The much younger parcels in the classic barolo vineyard Cannubi (planted in 1994, 2003)¬†was acquired in 1994 and¬†is very different from Sarmassa. On the contrary, it produces best grapes in cool years when the plants are less stressed to dig for water that it doesn’t store well here. The vineyard has east exposition in an open and colder valley, where there is a fusion of two different geological soil compositions; the Sant’Agata¬†bluish-grey¬†fossil marl¬†with lots of calcareous clay¬†from the¬†Tortonian¬†period from¬†the west side of the valley meets the more sandy and grey Diano sandstone type of soil from the helvetian period having its¬†epicenters¬†around Castiglione-Falletto on the east side. The characteristics here is more typical flowery with roses, violets, tar and high levels of saline energetic acidity, but thinner vertically than the Sarmassa.

The vines in Castellero vineyard is more than 40 years old, but does not produce equally high quality fruit as the other two and even though powerful because of more sandstone and less calcareous clay, it is still not suitable for long aging, so Enzo will stop making this wine and let all the grapes from here go into the blend barolo. He says it makes more sense to add a little more structure and lifting power to the blend than to produce a single wine.

When asking Enzo about what is important in the expression of his wine and not surprisingly, he focuses on transparency of the terroir, but underlines that freshness is very important too and he says, with a smile, that after drinking a wine you should be ready to continue drinking more.

We talk a little about the contemporary change in the market from the international style of wines into the more traditional transparent wines that recently, finally has seen a renaissance. Actually, Enzo says that he is selling more and more to the U.S. than he used to do. He thinks that the market there has evolved now and more and more consumers are looking for personality and character in wines these days that are more expressive of its origins. It is becoming a big market for him, but his market is growing everywhere. He also points out that people discovers that barolos can be quite approachable in just seven-eight years, especially from La Morra and the Barolo communes.

Here is an interview with Enzo about his opinion on the new interest in traditional barolos.

Wine notes

All the barolos we tasted at our visit.

2010 Barolo Castellero

Andreas:

Fresh raspberries, balsamic, some hints of alcohol and floral notes.
Red fruit, very clear acidity but in total quite thin.

88p/100

2010 Barolo Cannubi

Andreas:

Red fruit, quite generous on the nose.
The tannins are clear and gives structure. Again quite clear acidity. A classical example of Cannubi. This wine has good potential to develop well.
Quite long finish. Very good structure and with nice energy but it needs a few years to settle and integrate more.

91-92p/100

Sir Galahad:

Nose: Typically fragrant roses, minerals.
Taste: Fine, fresh red fruit, orange-peel. Offers great balsamic, saline acidity and good concentration, but lacks some complexity and depth. Finish is a little austere.

91p/100

2010 Barolo Sarmassa

In this great vintage, no Bricco Sarmassa was made, so all the grapes went into the normal Sarmassa bottling.

Andreas:

Floral, perfume, elegance, red fruit, minerals, wild strawberries, and a hint of sweetness.

Quite sharp acidity but very clear and fresh. Lots of red fruit and raspberries.

The tannins needs to soften, and are a bit dry now. This wine should develop very nicely when the tannins and the acidity integrates better. The wine has both complexity and elegance.

93p/100

Sir Galahad:

The nose is deep with elegant perfumes, red flowers, red fruit and minerals.

On the palate, there are complex, quite deep and fresh wild strawberries, cranberries, cherries. grape-peel, truffle, ginger bread and pastry. Fresh, energetic and balsamic acidity that is very promising. Great somewhat sweet, x-mas spice finish already. Texture is sandy and tannins are a little heavy still, but chewy and of very ripe. It is perceived as a little thin at this stage. However, this will be great and also confirms that this is a great vintage.
94-95p/100

2003 Barolo Cannubi

Andreas:

The nose is still very fresh and has red fruit, leather dried roses, cherries and tobacco.
Iron, leather, roses, cigar and some red quite ripe fruit. The tannins are quite dry. This is a powerful wine with a bit dry tannins.

91p/100

Sir Galahad:

The noise is typically fragrant, fresh roses, violets, tobacco, some limestone minerals.
Fine, fresh red fruit, licorice, worn leather, tobacco and orange-peel. Offers great balsamic acidity and good concentration, but lacks complexity and depth. Texture is fine sandy and tannins are thick, chewy. Finish is a little austere and a little dry.

91p/100

2003 Barolo Sarmassa

Enzo and his father decided to harvest early this very hot year and his satisfied with the result.

Andreas:

Lots of red berries, cherries balsamic and floral notes. Very elegant but also generous nose.
In the mouth the wine is extremely fresh with a well integrated acidity. This is a generous wine with a bit of sweetness.
The finish is very long.

93p/100

Sir Galahad:

Nose: Very complex nose. Balsamic. Very delicate rose petals.
Taste: The mid palate offers very deep fruit; wild strawberries. Spices, pastry, mint, tar. Incredibly fresh acidity from such a warm year. Tannins are polished, quite elegant and it is very persistent.

93p/100

2003 Barolo Bricco Sarmassa

Enzo and his father decided to harvest early this very hot year when the tannins were ripe and he is satisfied with the result.

Andreas:

The nose is rich and generous but also floral and elegant. There is also a hint of solvent and some sweetness.
It has a fresh and clear acidity which gives energy to the wine and balances the ripe fruit. Good depth.
A long finish with clear but pleasant tannins.
This is a complex wine which balances power with elegance.

95p/100

Sir Galahad:

Nose: Very complex nose of delicate stylish perfumes, lilies, lots of rose petals. Balsamic acidity.
Taste: A mid palate of very deep fruit; wild strawberries. Tar, menthol, x-mas spices, cinnamon,  pastry, dry meat and fine tuned minerals. Incredibly fresh, balsamic acidity from such a warm year. Texture is silky and tannins are polished, firm and the wine is rounder and more balanced than the normal sarmassa. Very persistent, elegant soft finish.

It is an impressive, balsamic-fresh wine and it is obvious that the vineyard is at its best in this type of hot vintages.

95p/100

2009 Barolo

Andreas:

Quite fruity, a bit acidic, and with some floral notes.
The acidity is quite fresh. There is fruit, but in general it is a quite light wine.
Quite short finish driven by acidity.

88-89p/100

Sir Galahad:

Nose: Delicately floral, dried rose petals, rosemary and red fruit.
Taste: Mint, spices, fresh fruit and loads of minerals. The finish is iron-sweet and traditional. Texture is polished already and tannins are of high quality. It is very approachable now too and very good for an entry level barolo.

89p/100

2009 Barolo Cannubi

Andreas:

Red fruit, earthy, raspberries and iron.
The taste delivers what the nose promised, with red fruit, but it is also a bit rustic.

90p/100

Sir Galahad:

Nose: Delicately floral, dried rose petals and red fruit.
Taste: A mid palate the offers some mint, dry herbs, pastry, fresh fruit and earthy minerals. The finish is iron-sweet and traditionally rustic. Texture is polished already and tannins are a little dry here. It is quite approachable, but lacks depth and complexity.

89p/100

2007 Barolo Cannubi

Andreas:

Quite rich fruit, raspberries, tobacco. The nose is quite generous.
It has a good tannic structure and lots of raspberries.

92p/100

Sir Galahad:

Nose: Delicately floral, dried rose petals, iron, menthol and red fruit.
Taste: A mid palate the offers some mint, ginger, dry herbs, fresh fruit and earthy minerals. The finish is iron-sweet, has a little metal sharp and traditionally rustic. Texture is polished already and tannins are a little dry. It is quite approachable and balanced, but lacks some concentration, depth and complexity.

91p/100

2009 Barolo Sarmassa

Andreas:

Now it is still quite sharp on the nose and has lots of red fruit and some alcohol.
It is quite sharp with very crispy acidity, rowan berries and some hints of jam.

91p/100

Sir Galahad:

Nose: Seductive, fragrant perfumes, rosemary and fresh fruit.
Taste: The mid palate offers mint, orange-peel, pastry, leather, sweet-fruit, some tobacco and tar. The wine is a little volatile and the aromatics evolve all the time and keeps changing in the glass. This has deep layers of sweet, jammy darker fruit and acidity is not yet fresh and a little gnarly, but very energetic. Less power, round and more about fresh, fruit. This is great already and confirms once again that hot vintages suites this vineyard best. Open 2014.

91-92p/100

2008 Barolo Sarmassa

Andreas:

Still quite closed but the nose shows both fruit and some minerals.
Pleasant tastes of raspberries, minerals and red current.
The finish delivers some silky tannins but also some acidity.

91p/100

Sir Galahad:

Nose: Vibrant minerals, fragrant perfumes and some fruit.
Taste: Mint, spices, layers of fresh fruit and loads of minerals. The finish is iron-sweet and full of minerals. Texture is polished already and tannins are quite soft and of high quality. This will take some time to integrate and come together and appears to be in closed phase now. Open 2017.

92-93p/100

2007 Barolo Sarmassa

Enzo says that the top hill in this vintage from which the bricco sarmassa is made was more approachable in this year and the tannins were exceptionally softer.

Andreas:

Generous with red fruit and raspberries, but also a very clear acidity.
Fruity, generous, red current and some hints of sweetness.

92p/100

Sir Galahad:

Nose: Seductive, fragrant perfumes and fruit.
Taste: Mint, spices, tar and layers of deep, fresh, opulent fruit. It is forward, rich and the finish is soft, persistent, very structured and quite powerful. Texture is polished already and tannins are of high quality. This is great already and confirms once again that hot vintages do this vineyard best. Open 2015.

92-93p/100

2006 Barolo Sarmassa

Andreas:

Quite deep nose with nice fruit and a hint of paint.
Earthy, deep with good levels of fruit, mainly raspberries.
Quite a lot of structure but the tannins are a bit sandy.

94p/100

Sir Galahad:

Nose: Fragrant red flowers, dried rose petals, spices and herbs.
Taste: Very dark, lovely fruit, menthol, orange-peel, pastry, sweet metals and minerals. A very rich, aromatic, generous and very structured wine that will have a very long life. Texture is quite polished and tannins are chewy, ripe.
The wine is very persistent and only suffers from a somewhat austere finish and is muscular with a firm grip. Open 2016 or better to wait in this case I think.

93-94p/100

2009 Barolo Bricco Sarmassa

Andreas:

Red fruit, strawberries, and hints of rowan berries.
Crispy acidity, very nice fruit and some nice depth.

94p/100

Sir Galahad:

Nose: Seductive, notes of tobacco, fragrant perfumes and fresh fruit.
Taste: Orange-peel, pastry, leather, sweet-iron, minerals and tar. This has deep layers of fresh, sweet fruit and acidity is balsamic-fresh and quite energetic. Texture is fine sandy and tannins are firm and of good quality. Structure is classic but not very powerful and approachable. The finish is a little austere, but not dry. This is great already and confirms once again that hot vintages do this vineyard best. Open 2014.

93p/100

Summary of the visit

The wines we tried from Brezza overall impress with their freshness and deep layers of fruit and aromatics, especially the Sarmassa. It is very clear to us that we are visiting a quality producer that is on the rise with a clear focus on delivering wines that are truly transparent to its territory and vintages. In addition, we had a chance to get an idea of the upcoming 2010’s barolos that made us very exited.

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 Fr√®res (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: Cott√†, Fausoni, Curra and since 2001 they produce one langhe nebbiolo from the young Basarin. In addition, one barbaresco is made from the Pajor√© 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 Cott√° 

The vines in the Cott√° 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 Pajor√©

The vines are 50-60 years old and it is situated at 420 meter altitude. Pajor√© 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 Cott√° 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 Curr√°

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.

Piemonte Trip 2013: Aurelio Settimo – The true traditionalist from La Morra

This estate is interesting because of its very traditional methods as well as owning very good parcels with south-west exposition in the lower parts of probably the best grand cru in the commune of La Morra in Barolo – Rocche dell’Annunziata. Today the estate is run by Tiziana Settimo.

The concrete vats

They use concrete vats for fermentation and malo. For dolchetto and nebbiolo d’Alba ageing is taking place in steel whereas for the barolos, they first rest in steel for a year and then age in neutral french oak barrels from Allier and Never. The replacement of Slavonian oak into french is Tiziana’s addition and the purpose is to get equal micro oxidation, but to avoid the somewhat austere tone and to get better softening of the tannins that Tiziana thinks renders a more elegant wine. She is a firm believer that nothing should be added to the wine that is not natural and that it should only convey the territorial character of the Langhe area. A principle that we certainly respect.


2012 Dolchetto

Colour: Dark purple red.
Nose: Fresh breeze.
Taste: Fresh, cool, sweet fruit. Very delicate complex fruit, quite sweet. Licorice-root, blood orange and fennel. Good concentration, incredibly balsamic and fresh.

We are not usually fans of dolchetto, but here we were surprised and impressed by the high quality and terroir characteristics.

89p/100


2008 Nebbiolo d’Alba

Colour: Dark ruby red transparent edges.
Nose: Cool, super-fresh red fruit, balsamic notes like olive oil.
Taste: Cool, very fresh red fruit that is very sweet. Licorice-root, blood orange and fennel. Good concentration, incredibly balsamic and fresh. Texture is sandy and tannins are quite soft, but a little hard now and a little dry. Structure is as expected slim.

This is wine is too sweet for our taste. This is sad, since there are some good aromas in here. However, alcohol is pleasingly low at 13%.

86p/100

2009 Barolo

Colour: Dark garnet, light orange edges.
Nose: A little medicinal cabin, floral notes, perfumes, super-fresh red fruit and balsamic, cool breeze.
Taste: Cool, wild strawberries and concerved boysenberries that is very sweet. A mid palate of grape-peel, anise, minerals and fennel. Good concentration considering the vintage, incredibly balsamic and fresh. A very fresh, energetic acidity. Texture is rough sandy but tannins are good, but a little tough now. Structure is as expected slim.

This wine conveys the uniqueness from soil of La Morra, but again the style is a little too sweet for our taste. This is sad, since there are a lot of aromas in here.

87p/100

and now to the vertical barolo single-vineyard tasting..

The line-up of Rocche dell’Annunziata vintages; 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009


2009 Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata

Colour: Dark ruby red middle, transparent edges.
Nose: Wine gum, dried autumn leaves, dried autumn leaves, some fresh vegetative component.
Taste: A mid palate of very cool, sweet fruit, prune, massive minerals, iodine, distinct grape-peel and anise. Good length with but a volatile envelope and loads of minerals. Incredible concentration, balsamic and fresh, energetic acidity. Texture is now rough sandy but tannins are extremely heavy. Structure is big here and it is very tannic.

This is way too sweet, some bleak metallic-minerals. It is surprisingly big and tannic. Open 2017.

87-88p/100

2008 Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata

Colour: Dark garnet red middle, scarlet edges.
Nose: A little glue, stylish perfumes, fire coal and broth.
Taste: A mid palate of very cool, fresh but sweet fruit, herbs, massive minerals and grape-peel. Good length with but a volatile envelope and somewhat austere, rustic finish. Incredible concentration, balsamic and fresh, energetic acidity. Texture is now rough sandy but tannins are very heavy. Structure is as expected bigger here.

This is not great. It is way too sweet, somewhat heavy, austere and volatile now, but may improve in the long run since the acidity is really alive. Open 2020.

88-89p/100

2006 Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata

Colour: Dark ruby middle, light-orange edges.
Nose: A little glue, balsamic notes, cherry notes, dry herbs and broth.
Taste: A mid palate of very cool, fresh but sweet fruit, herbs, gravel, minerals, grape-peel and broth. This wine starts out good and interesting and persistence is good, but a volatile building envelope and somewhat austere, rustic finish loaded with tough minerals takes over. Incredible concentration, balsamic and fresh, energetic acidity. Texture is now rough sandy and tannins are too heavy and hard. Structure is as expected bigger here.


This is not great now and very heavy, but there are quality elements in here and may improve once everything settles down tremendously. Open 2020.


89-91p/100

2005 Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata

Colour: Garnet red middle, orange edges.
Nose: A little medicinal cabin, glue, cherry notes, minerals, herbs and broth.
Taste: A mid palate of very sweet fruit, blood orange, herbs, minerals, balsamic notes and asian spices. Starts up with pleasing cherry, spices and is fresh, but then after a some seconds it gets too sweet in the finish and the freshness is killed by hard minerals and tannins. Good concentration, balsamic and fresh in the beginning, energetic acidity. Texture is sandy but tannins are too harsh, heavy and not of good quality. Structure is as expected slim.

This does have freshness in the beginning, but then in the middle the sweetness and the hard minerals take over and cover everything and it gets heavy, rustic. Hard to see this getting better since 2005 is an early drinking vintage. Open 2018.

88p/100

2004 Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata Riserva

Colour: Garnet red middle,brown-orange edges.
Nose: A little medicinal cabin, distinct cherry, delicate autumn leaves, red fruit, minerals, delicate floral, dry chemical notes.
Taste: A mid palate of preserved boysenberries that is still sweet. Grape-peel, anise, cinnamon, menthol, minerals and asian spices. Good length with distinct cherry and sweet finish. Good concentration, incredibly balsamic and fresh, energetic acidity. Texture is sandy but tannins are quite soft, but still a little tough. Structure is as expected slim.

This is the most interesting of the wines in the vertical and offers complex aromas from the soil of La Morra and it is the least sweet here and have good balance and is fresh, but the tannins still need to soften more. Open 2017.

92+p/100


1999 Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata Riserva

Colour: Garnet red middle,brown-orange edges.
Nose: Distinct cherry notes, white pepper, bitter herbs, nutmeg, fragrant rose petals and stylish perfumes. Nice nose indeed.
Taste: A mid palate of cool, fresh and ripe fruit that is still very sweet. Grape-peel, mint, cherry, dog rose, earthy minerals and asian spices. Good length with distinct cherry and sweet finish. Good concentration, incredibly balsamic and fresh, energetic acidity. Texture is quite silky but tannins are quite hard still. Structure is medium-bodied but it is weightlessly powerful.

This is a very true wine from the soil of La Morra too, but here they were using Slovenian oak and the tannins are noticeably a little austere. Great balance here and even though it is still on the sweet side, here there is some complexity. Open now.

91+p/100

Summary


The overall impression is that the wines are too sweet for our taste and several lack depth and complexity, but in some cases they may turn out well after more ageing in bottle. To be honest, this was a disappointment. With such great combined parcels in the fantastic Rocche dell’Annuniziata vineyard, we expected this estate to produce higher quality baroli. However, the 2004 Rocche Riserva truly stands out as the more refined in the line up and offers some depth, complexity and is fresh.

Piedmont Trip 2013: Conterno – The great protector of tradition and terroir

The estate Giacomo Conterno is legendary in¬†Piedmont¬†and the estate has had a leading role in establishing Barolo on the map as one of the top wine regions in the world. However, still it is the modernist Gaja and legendary Bruno Giacosa who both are more well-known outside Piedmont. Roberto Conterno, who is the third generation vintner, were forced to take charge of the estate when his father Giovanni passed away in 2004,¬†is a man of few words, but with power behind every statement. Since 1988, he had¬†been working closely with his father so he was well educated for the task, but unprepared. Since the last time I was here I get¬†the feeling that even though Roberto is proud of the family’s great wines, he apparently has a heavy legacy on his shoulders to continue on the path set up by his father and ensure its excellence. Amazingly, he appears to be doing most of the work himself, except sales and bookings. Two people in the staff seems to be working with importers and sales as well as one assistant, but there is one elderly man helping out in the vineyard too. Still it is a small team.

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Roberto Conterno

The crown jewel in the estates production is the Monfortino which was first produced in 1920 by Roberto‚Äôs grandfather Giacomo shortly after returning from World War I. Actually, the estate was established in 1908 by Giovanni Conterno, grand father Giacomo’s father, but it was Giacomo, who realised his vision of making a really great Barolo for long ageing and supremacy. Monfortino was given its name to celebrate the town of Monforte d’Alba where is home to the Conterno family. At that time the grapes where bought from a selection of local farmers in the same fashion that Giacosa still does. This later changed during the 1970s when many of these growers¬†started bottling their own wine. To solve this problem Roberto’s father acquired the complete Francia vineyard in 1974, a very steep vineyard with¬†south-west exposition, very high altitude for freshness and soil suitable for longevity¬†and since 1978 all grapes for the Monfortino comes from this vineyard.

The Monfortino is only produced in exceptional vintages and with the top selection of grapes.

In June 2008, the second time in the estates history, a vineyard was acquired and this time two sections in the Cerretta vineyard in Serralunga. About 2 ha of nebbiolo and 1 of barbera. Compared to Francia, it has less calcareous and more white clay. The wine from this vineyard has been sold as declassified Langhe Nebbiolo since then, but from the 2010 vintage Roberto has confirmed that the wine will be bottled as Barolo.

Suddenly, Roberto’s assistant, Stephanie, tells us that he is ready to receive us after a previous visit and we shake hands, he apologises for being a little late and we quickly move down for a tour in the cellar. Visits with Roberto is not what we would call informal and laid back, but Roberto is not the open type and apparently he has a tight schedule with multiple things to attend to all the time. Even though, Roberto¬†obviously¬†understands English he still keeps an assistant that translates everything back and forth. The cellar is impeccably clean as it was last time I was here for some vat tasting of the 2008’s about two years ago and there is still plenty of room down here among the big neutral, large 45-50 hl Slavonian and Austrian barrels.

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The Austrian open top vats for fermentation on the skins

Roberto is especially satisfied with his wooden Austrian open vats used for maceration and alcoholic fermentation from Franz Stockinger that are both mobile and has a removable top as well if needed. Actually, he has in recent years exchanged old, used big Slavonian barrels with ones from Stockinger. The vinification process is adapted to the vintage but for the Monfortino they always use an uncontrolled fermentation at high temperature levels with open tops. The maceration period is up to about five weeks, but the exact length is dependent on the vintage and the grape juice is then stored in large oak casks for seven years or more. This produces wine with great structure, complexity and a very long life. Roberto explains that he makes the decision if he will produce a Monfortino during vinification and if it is not up to standard, he pours it into the Barolo casks. The Barolo from Francia undergoes 3-4 weeks of maceration with daily pumping over and/or submerged cap depending on vintage, temperature-controlled fermentation and shorter ageing in cask, typically four years.

Even though the open vats are great, it is in the vineyard the real magic takes place, Roberto assures us, when I ask him what is most important. Without high quality grapes, there is no quality wine no matter what vinification you use appears to be the obvious principle and we can only agree fully. Roberto keeps very high trellising system with his vines for, as he explains, get correct leaves-grapes ratio to optimise energy into the grapes and the rows are very wide to avoid shadowing. The Cerretta vineyard is very young planted in 1994, but in Francia many are much older and the youngest vines were planted in 2002. Moreover, he prunes his nebbiolo and barbera grapes differently but short to perfect ripeness and yields are controlled at about 25-30 hl/ha to achieve top quality. Grapes are harvested entirely by hand.

Back in the tasting room, Roberto offers us his two Barberas from 2011, the 2009 Barolo Cascina Francia and the sought-after 2006 Monfortino. Roberto tells us that the quality of tannins is the key for making great wine of¬†nebbiolo and that is why he usually waits longer to harvest than many others. He explains that he is less focused on sugar levels, but chewing on the skin and seeds to determine when the tannins are ripe. “The tannins shall be ripe, not hard but chewy”, Roberto quickly adds “and the seeds shall be brown and taste wood”. And of course, this is the single most important reason he only use traditional, neutral wood, since new wood or barriques, except for adding non-terroir wood sensations, they add tannins that are not from the soil and the unique terroir of Langhe. Moreover, back in the late 1800 and first half of 20th Century, most farmers still picked very early in classic vintages with cooler temperatures, so the tannins would not be perfect ever and once the tannins had finally polymerised, the fruit had dried out long time ago. This became the vast opinion about barolos for along time as being undrinkable, harsh and dry, which never was the case with Conterno’s barolos. However, still the wines have never been made for early drinking, but to be perfected by slow ageing to be drinkable in two or three decades while¬†stay¬†alive and fresh for more than 50 in classic vintages. According to Roberto, all of this reached another quality level during Roberto’s father’s time at the estate.

The tasting

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The line-up for our tasting

The vintage 2011 for barbera, that we are tasting today, Roberto explains, is great for this grape that does its best in warmer years and in this case it rendered more structure and complexity than usual, whereas nebbiolo gets its most classic expression in cooler years when the growing cycle is slower and the tannins may reach perfect ripeness very late, Roberto points out.

The 2009 vintage was far from ideal for nebbiolo and suffered from a too hot summer that endured into September causing precisely this undesired fast growing cycle as well as an¬†early, patchy ripeness.¬†However, by doing a ruthless selection in the vineyard, he rendered a really good result.¬†The 2009 barolos were bottled in June this year and¬†Roberto thinks that the 2009 vintage offers just a little less fruit, but more tannins compared to for example another warm year, 2007.¬†He likes the more simpler early drinkable, but still quite impressive, 2009’s, but like 2007 it obviously did not have the classic expression of the terroir and quality for long¬†ageing¬†suitable for Monfortino.¬†In the Cerretta, he thinks the vintage is even better than the more classic and in his opinion fantastic 2008. In Francia, it is the other way around and here the soil contains more minerals, whereas in the Cerretta, tannins and fruit dominate. We ask him about the somewhat unexpected coolness and freshness of the fruit in the warm 2009 vintage and his reply is that this is very much due to the altitude in Francia. In fact, the altitude reaches 420 meters above sea-level so this make sense and you can easily¬†grasp that cool winds from the mountains at nights can build a lot of necessary fresh acidity.

2011 Barbera d’Alba Cerretta

The colour is very dark, crimson with light-light orange edges.

The nose is fresh, pure dark fruit; mainly dark cherries and plum. Some herbs and minerals.

The mid palate offers creamy, quite deep layers of black fruit (cherries, plum and blue berries), smoke, herbs, spices and complex minerals. Incredible concentration, the structure is quite big for a Barbera and it’s fat, rich and intense. Texture is fine sandy and tannins are thick and chewy. Acidity is energetic and needs to calm down further for a few years.

Right now this vineyard is a little more about earthy notes and loads of minerals, but we think in some years the vines will most likely produce more fruit. It is already an impressively deep, pure and overall balanced wine considering how young the vineyard is. Open 2015-2020.

92p/100

2011 Barbera d’Alba¬†Cascina Francia

The colour is dark garnet red with light-purple edges.

Immediately deep, elegant perfumes and dried rose petals emerges from the glass. Incredibly fresh and ripe fruit. Very balsamic notes and some solvent and autumn leaves.

The palate offers deep, complex and very fresh layers of ripe black fruit. There is some shale here too, crushed stone and balsamic notes. A very energetic and very balsamic-fresh acidity. Quite weightlessly powerful but with slim structure and a lot of fine tuned, complex saline lime stone minerals. A slimmer, more fresh, a more balanced and much different expression of the two Barberas, that is really conveying the unique terroir of the Cascina Francia vineyard. Impressive depth, concentration and balance. Simply a fantastic Barbera. Open 2014-2025.

93p/100.

2009 Barolo Cascina Francia

The colour is dark ruby red with transparent edges.

Very deep, very fragrant, quite feminine, perfumes and dried rose petals emerges from the glass. Incredibly fresh and ripe fruit follows. Very balsamic and there are some complex autumn scents.

The mid palate offers impressively deep, complex and super-fresh layers of cool, very ripe and pure fruit; typically raspberry, cherries and wild strawberries. There is some shale here too, crushed stone, tiny grape-peel, some tar, dry licorice-root, mint and balsamic notes. A very fresh, balsamic acidity that is already quite integrated. Texture is fine sandy, almost silky already and tannins are thick and pleasingly chewy. Weightlessly powerful and with slim structure and a lot of fine tuned, complex little saline lime stone. A very approachable Barolo with a lot of complex aromas and great cool, fresh and ripe fruit indeed. This is a wine of impressive depth, concentration and balance as well as being incredibly persistent and very elegant at the same time. This year, all the grapes went into the barolo, since no Monfortino was made. Open 2017-2035.

96-97p/100.

2006 Barolo Monfortino

The colour is dark ruby red with orange edges.

Very deep, very fragrant top notes, feminine, perfumes and dried rose petals comes out of the glass. Incredibly fresh and ripe fruit. Very balsamic too and complex autumn scents at the base.

The mid palate offers impressively complex, super-fresh, breath-taking depth of cool, fresh and very ripe fruit. In addition, there is shale, some licorice-root, very balsamic, tiny notes of grape-peel, gravel, notes of tobacco and distinct minerals. The little saline, balsamic acidity is already well integrated with the tannins that are polished, ripe and chewy. From a vintage that is very powerful and tannic, it was a surprise how soft and polished they are already.

With this wine, everything gets up a notch and you grab for descriptive words like purity, insane balance, complexity, unbelievable depth and sheer elegance. Wow! What an iconic wine. It is all in here, the combination of power and elegance as well as the deep, complex aromas to be explored and all so effortlessly balanced into wonderful harmony. A surprisingly very approachable Barolo this young when considering the vintage, but it will most likely peak much later. Open 2020-2050.

99p/100

Summary

Well we already knew that people around the world worship this estate’s wines and especially the Monfortino, but after this tasting and meeting with Roberto, we can confirm that we are more convinced now of the estate’s importance and quality level where the wines ranges from fantastic to extraordinary. The 2006 Monfortino was the best wine we tried during our week long visit in Piedmont.

We did expect depth and complexity in the wines but in addition we where impressed especially by the cool freshness and impeccable balance the wines offered. And there is the 2010 barolos to be released next year too and we can hardly wait.¬†It is obvious that this estate makes top quality wines that with pride celebrates the greatness of Barolo, “the wine of kings”, whose unique territorial expression is best conveyed by its delicate, noble grape nebbiolo.

We will certainly be back.

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Andreas, Roberto and Frederik

 

A Rabaja from a traditionalist..

The Rabajà vinyard in Barbaresco is one of the true unofficial grand crus in this area has the potential like Asili to produce really silky, complex and really elegant wines.

Castello di Verduno is traditional and uses open vats for fermentation and only uses big, neutral casks for ageing. The young enologist Mario Andrion with guidance from Franco is the wine maker and they focus on intervening as little as possible in the wine making process and focus on high quality fruit in the vineyard.

The vintage 2007 is a warm year with an unusually early blooming, a whole month earlier than usual, and it was saved by a late cooling period right before an early harvest. The wines are usually very forward, a little fleshy, opulent, intense, but not heavy, with a lot of fruit and still with fresh acidity.


2007 Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva, Castello di Verduno


Sir Galahad:

Colour: Dark garnet red with light-light orange edges.

Nose: A beautiful, seductive and intense scent of roses, lilies, feminine but stylish perfumes. Notes of wood glue, dry jammy raspberry and fine tuned chalky limestone.
Taste: Immediate very sweet layers of fruit, fennel, distinct anise, exotic spices, orange-peel, balsamic, shale and some tar. It offers a very energetic, fresh acidity that is great and very promising for a quite long life. Structure is as expected on the slim side and tannins are still just a little heavy, but of high quality and texture silky. On the sad and bad side, there is an austere, way too sweet cherry tone that takes over totally in this wine.

This is generous wine with a lot of pleasing broad palate, a very intense, beautiful nose and good concentration but suffers from too much candid residual sugars and some austere tone.

91+p/100