VIETTI - TRADITION OF INNOVATION

PRIMA

It was not long ago that I knew absolutely nothing about Nebbiolo and the wines of Barolo e Barbaresco.  As a matter of fact, I still know very little as I learn that there is so much to learn.  I had read somewhere that Barolo was the King of wines and Barbaresco was the Queen. Wines with lasting depth like that of Aglianico in the south but with a more haunting finish than that of Brunello of Tuscany. 
My first trip to Barolo was for a wine -trade event called Nebbiolo Prima, the vernissage of the years upcoming release to market of all wines Nebbiolo including Roero, Barbaresco and Barolo! My invitation was as a Sommelier/Buyer versus that of Media/Journalist. Choose your program was the initial email - vineyard visits, regional tours and choice of restaurants for the evening wine dinners. By the time I researched every single producer and restaurant for their worth, all options I wanted were booked. I was stuck with an initial tour of Roero…WoW!….It was great, it was amazing, what best way to warm up to the great wines of Piemonte than by tasting and learning about the gentle and playful wines of Roero. 
I did manage to make but 3 rather crucial and important vineyard visits, really without knowing. The first was to Elvio Cogno in Novello. Walter (son-in-law and wine maker) and Nadia (daughter to Elvio) I had met a few years before and fell in love with their wines. The other 2 wineries were Bartelomeo Mascarello and Vietti. I really knew nothing about them, imagine! Well wasn't I a lucky bugger. 5 years later and 3 trips all in total - each time included a visit to Mascarello and Vietti. Recently I wrote a piece which included a few words about Mascarello (see www.goodfoodrevolution.com 'boy-oh-boy' Barolo) and I think now is an opportune time to share a few words about the house of Vietti and the current winemaker Luca Currado. 

First I will reference Jamie Goode once again regarding an article about wine journalism and the subject of favouritism when writing and reviewing wines/wineries. Favouritism certainly and undoubtedly exists but what happens when you get to know the character of the wine and it's maker, after subsequent visits, research and tasting. I do find myself consistently noting that the wines of Vietti, like many others, stand out for their character and impact. Listen, I'm not talking about being the best wine, I'm talking about continually being a reference for erroir, technique and balance. Il est clair ce qu'on trouve tous qu'il faut dans tous les vins de Vietti!

Vietti represents innovation and tradition. I was in a trade seminar focusing on the region of Franciacorta hosted by Ricardo Curbastro and I will never forget him saying that 'a Tradition is the lasting result of an innovation that worked!' 

 My tasting notes from a session not long ago.  

My tasting notes from a session not long ago.  

NO BERLUSCONI, NO CRU SINGLE VINEYARDS!

Real Talk! Circa 1961 - Luca's father Alfredo Currado, the patriarch for the current rendition of Vietti along with Beppi Colla, then of Prunotto, asked the question, 'wouldn't it be interesting and innovative to identify and bottle single vineyard expressions from the whole of Barolo'. Up until this point the rule of thumb was that Barolo was a cuvée or rather a blend of the best vineyards and the best of different areas into one wine. That was the true way to make a balanced wine. What one vineyard couldn't give another would provide, producing a uniform and coherent wine year in and year out. Every wine of Barolo would represent a portrait of the region painted by the hand of the wine maker. But what of vineyards that almost had it all. Alfredo wanted a closer look at the region, at the communes and why and how each hill produced a different wine. Alfredo wanted to find greater value, greater depth and character of Barolo, and this new way of thinking would prove to be a great way to differentiate his wines from the others. 
How would he achieve this and which vineyard to define this idea? The vineyard would be the heart of the Vietti family, the Le Rocche Vineyards in the commune of Castiglione Falletto. This was going to be the Barolo equivalent to the Burgundy 'Grand Cru'. La Rocche is the most challenging vineyard to manage, with aspect and slope so steep that everything must be done by horse and by hand. It is a vineyard that is the most challenging to interpret, making wines that need time. The results are enchanting, distinct and pure Nebbiolo. The second vineyard would be Brunate in the commune of La Morra  with wines that reveals its colours from the beginning with elegance, ripe fruit and 'softer' tannin. 
The third would would be Lazzarito of the commune of Serralunga d'Alba.  Lazzarito a bonafide 'grand cru' with wines tanninc, spiced and rich with depth of flavour like that of Southern Rhône. 

50 years on and these 'cru' are pillars of the Vietti Family of wines. They represent the first single vineyard expressions of and for Barolo. At the time it was an innovation that today has resulted in a widespread and now accepted and necessary 'tradition' of producers presenting an 'ultimate cru' expression of their vineyards. 

A FEW MORE WORDS ON VIETTI

This is not the end of it. If you have not already you must taste the single vineyard expression of their Barbera from both Asti and from Alba with some vines surpassing 85years of age. Now, If you choose to continue reading you will not find tasting notes, but background information on a few of the the Vietti wines. 

ARNEIS OF ROERO 

Luca Currado is the current character behind the the wines of Vietti, along with his wive Elena they make a formidable and jovial pair. He from a family of winemakers and she from a family of restaurateurs.

Another important wine in the family is the Arneis from their Santo Stafano vineyards in Roero. Arneis being a white variety. 

Roero is more than just the 'other' appellation for quality wines of the region of Alba. We seldom see the wines in the Ontario market due to the dominion of Barolo and Barbaresco. Though I will say, that on my first visit to Piemonte a few years back I toured the region and I was so pleased and enchanted by the approachability yet complex nature of the wines. The relatively sandy soils, various elevations make for more perfumed and softer wines. Don't drink 'under-age young vine' Nebbiolo from the B&B (Barolo&Barbaresco), drink Roero for a truer elegant and 'ready to drink' expressions of the grape.

But I digress I want to speak of Arnies, the grape once called Nebbiolo Bianco, As it was the blending partner to Nebbiolo in Barolo wines to create a softer and more complex profile to the wines of B&B in much the same way Viognier is used with Syrah in the Northern Rhône. This practice is no longer. Today Arneis stands on it's own and it was thanks to Luca's father Alfredo - the father of Arneis. At a time when the wine world of Italy was planting Chardonnay. Alfredo said No! We need a white wine that is not Chardonnay, and as an indigenous grape variety with character and moderate ageing potential Vietti in 1968 re-planted the Arneis in Roero, and rescued the grape from extinction. 

PERBACCO - LANGHE NEBBIOLO

Perbacco - the Langhe Nebbiolo of Vietti is in fact a regular Barolo. It is a blend of several of the Vietti Barolo vineyards that include for the most part wines from Castiglione Falletto vineyards and in particular with the 2012 vintage some components of Barbaresco sites in Rabaja and Pajé. The process is that from the year 2000 they now raise the wines in barrel for 2 years as per minimum 'Barolo' specifications, they then taste the wines blind. Certain barrels that do not make the cut for the 'cru' they originate from then get declassified and go into the Langhe. When Luca's grandmother tasted the first wines of this new method she exclaimed 'Perbacco!' which means goodness or by jove!.

BAROLO - CASTIGLIONE 

Castiglione is the Vietti signature house Barolo, comprised of several cru inside of the commune of Castiglione Falletto some of it occasionally be self-declassified Stock from any of the 15 cru estate vineyards around the appellation of Barolo. It is always a consistent wine and a benchmark for understanding their vision. 

A few of the CRU

  1. Lazzarito of Serralunga - was once the site of a famous hospice, or hospital of the region. A quote from the 1600's says that if the hill was good for the people, it should be good for wine'. This wine can take up to 28 days of fermentation. 
  2. Rocche di Castiglione - the first single vineyard 'cru' for Vietti. The emblem and heart of the Vietti family of wines.  
  3. Villero Riserva of Castiglione Falleto - a very special wine that has only been made 10 times in the last 40 years. It is seen only in years of exceptional vintages for the single vineyard Villero in Castiglione Falletto. An international artist is commissioned to make the label for that vintage and the wine is only released 6 years after harvest.
  4. Ravera of Novello - this vineyard is shared by only a few producers. For Vietti this wine presents a very 'polishedstyle that they would every produces. The rule is that 2/3 of the production is dedicated the the Castiglione blend and 1/3 to be released as 'Ravera' Cru. He initially released the wines to much high critical acclaim but personally Luca did not like the wines. They were too slick. As of 2010 he recommenced single vineyard releases of the wine with limited bottles approx 14,000. 
  5. Barbaresco 'Masseria' - is the Barbaresco made with the 'intelligence' of a Barolo wine maker, thus this wine has the same release as Barolo and has the same minimum specifications for barrel ageing, resulting in a deeper and richer style Barbaresco. 

Well. That's it. I hope you may find these in your market pick a few and enjoy! 

On the Real! - The Outside Looking In.

Music paired with this entry - Stormzy 'Shut Up' - really it's about striving to be the best at what you do....However you want to interpret…display....portray....it's up to you....as long as nobody gets hurt. 

From Burgundy on King Street to Rum on Dundas… today was a good day of wine tasting and industry harmony. In brief the afternoon started with a Master Class tasting of Wines of Burgundy hosted by Sopexa and moderated by John Szabo. A fantastic and welcome seminar on the 'village wines' of Burgundy. About 20 Village level wines, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, tasted blind for structure and relevance in a new world and old world context. The experience was profound for many of us. A room full of 20 hardcore Sommeliers, Wine Writers and Industry professionals, it's not often we get to taste wines blind and learn…most often we are there to taste and offer analysis and critique and then think of purchasing. Here we were students once again as we are always meant to be. Bravo Sopexa and John Szabo. 

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Then off to service. Normal for a Tuesday night. Though this evening, over at Archive Wine Bar, Will Predhomme and Nicholas Pearce were hosting a unique wines of South Africa tasting. Showcasing some cool wines that they tasted and experienced on a recent trip to the Cape, they shared these wines with a good dollop of Toronto's crème de la crème wine elite in attendance…'the Cru' as Nick Pearce put it in a text to me as I was riding over. Exploring a series of above normal wines from South Africa I missed the bulk of the tasting but had the opportunity to taste the 'Sparkling Horse' sparkling wine. Delicious. Over glasses of Bouzeron, Clos de la Roilette and Toro Albala Sherry we all discussed life in Paris, wines of the County, while I sipped Mount Gay XO Barbados Rum and the Cru rocked out to what's his name…Queen and Freddie Mercury. A good night pre-Christmas Madness. 

A full report in on the Burgundy tasting…in blog format to follow….

A Taste of Bourgogne - April 8th Luncheon Tasting.

ORIGINAL POST FROM APRIL 2014

Earlier this month I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a structured seminar on the fine wines of Burgundy, France. It would be impossible to fully capture the true essence Burgundy in one sitting, in reality it would take a lifetime. I and a few other Sommelier and Media Representatives were presented with a well curated snapshot of the whole region via 15 different wines starting in Chablis continuing down to Rully and further down to Pouilly-Fuissé in the Maçonnais.

 Vins de Bourgogn le 8 Avril 2014

Vins de Bourgogn le 8 Avril 2014

This seminar hosted by Sopexha was presented in tandem, by John Szabo, Master Sommelier (Toronto), and Francois Labet, vigneron and Chairman of the BIVB* Marketing and Communication Commission (France) with the assistance of Nelly Blau, Manager of Export Marketing and Communication for BIVB* (France)

  *Bureau Interprofessinnel des Vins de Bourgogne.

All wines selected for the seminar were sourced from the LCBO and through Consignment Agents. During the introduction given by Francois, it was made clear that Burgundy and Canada enjoy a positive and longstanding relationship that has lasted for many years. The Quebec and Ontario markets are very important to the Burgundians. Recent vintages have been good but reduced in quantity and availability. The purpose for the visit/tasting was to reconnect  with a Toronto public, the Restaurant and Hospitality community and for those of us attending the seminar, it was another opportunity to taste and understand the region, this time in a very non-academic format. 

 Francois Labet introduces the Wines of Burgundy

Francois Labet introduces the Wines of Burgundy

During the introduction to the tasting there were a few important key facts about Burgundy  that were brought to our attention, facts that I feel should be shared with you for a greater understanding of Burgundy and its' importance in the continued history of wine. 

1. Burgundy, and particularly the vineyards of the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits are soon to be recognized as an Official UNESCO World Heritage Site. A worthy consideration because of the Burgundian geographical history of soil, and for it's European Cultural and Historical significance of which a great part of this history is based on the vine and wine.

2. Some would argue that the notion of 'terroir' was born in France, with Burgundy as the clearest example. John Szabo offered up this formula for the argument supporting the 'terroir case for Burgundy. The following is the formula: Soil + Climate + Vine + the Intervention of Man + HUMILITY. Humility being the key factor, stemming from the Burgundian history of the Cistercian Monks crafting the first of Burgundy's great wines. The life purpose of the monk was to work and live by god and to produce the best wine that they could offer up to the heavens. In producing such wine only an extreme amount of Humility would allow the the best possible wine, even in the face of the ever unpredictable nature of the elements of the earth, sky and the heavens. The monks discipline was to perfect gods work exemplified through wine. It was the monks that identified that different plots of land that gave way to different qualities of wine. Thus the creating of the base for 'cru' vineyards and the notion of terroir that we know and understand today. 

 John Szabo defining Burgundy and Terroir

John Szabo defining Burgundy and Terroir

3. Burgundy has a history of wine making that started in the middle ages, a history that has been more or less uninterrupted throughout the ages. Even through the decades of political, economical unrest and the turmoil due to war, the vineyards of Burgundy have remained intact thus creating a long period of production which has allowed continual development and growth. There are few regions around the world that have been so favoured by so many. A long and rich history is a key factor adding to the prominence and importance of this region in current times. 

soil + climate + intervention of man + humility = the true notion of Terroir. Humility being an important factor determining man’s purpose in wine.
— John Szabo

Here I will list the wines tasted and highlight the wines which I found of particular interest. Based on my limited experience these notes are by no means based on a score or critique. They are simply a sommeliers analysis of wine. The omission of notes on a wine is by no means an indication of judgment or a lack of quality. 

 An intimate conversation with Nelly Blau, a native Burgundia

An intimate conversation with Nelly Blau, a native Burgundia

CHARDONNAY based wines.

1. Chablis AOC,  2012. Domain Gautheron. $24.95. Vintages 207902. A wine with a bright lemon and citrus attack, a nice touch of lees leading to slight melon and banana with a nervy amount of acid. Some texture on the palate, mineral and driven of medium complexity. Oak maturation was evident but restrained.

2. 1er Cru Montmains AOC, 2010. La Chablisienne.  $28.95. Vintages 265090

3. Bourgogne Blanc AOC, 2013. Louis Jadot. $20.95. Vintages Essential. 

4. Mâcon-Villages AOC, 2012. Maison Joseph Drouhin. $17.75 Vintages 356956

5. Rully 1er Cru, Mont-Palais, 2011. Domaine Jaeger-Defaix. $41.99 Consignment. I found the wine to be quite taught and focused, with a nutty almond character under the fruit. There was a slight spiced component to the aromatics of the wine which I found intriguing and added to the complexity of the wine. Palate was dry, saline, mineral and tart like that of plum skin. 

6. Pouilly-Fuissé AOC, 'Vieilles Vignes', 2010 Château Vitallis $27.95 Vintages 360495

7. Pouilly-Fuissé Ver Cras AOC Château de Beauregard 2010. Masion Joseph Burrier $49.95 Consignment. This wine was deliciously tart and lifted, rosemary, lemon, lime, chalky minerality and bright presenting a complex 'nose'. The follow through on the palate was equally tart and textured, fresh pear to slightly bruised apple, soft spice and a certain viscosity t the palate. 

NOTE: I found the Pouilly-Fuissé wines to be of great value and quality. The discussion upon tasting the wines lead to the admission by our hosts that some vineyards had been submitted for 'premier cru' status, which would lead to an eventual stratification of Pouilly-Fuissé, much like the rich cousins of Côtes de Beaune and des Nuits to the north. Creating a new profile of quality for the region of Pouilly-Fuissé. 

8. Chassange-Montrachet AOC, 'Vieilles Vignes' 2012. Maison Vincent Girardin. $55.75 Vintages 364141. The aromatics on the wine gave way to ginger, lemon and a nice mineral touch. The wine was tart, mineral and with a bright acid structure, all of this contributing to its great elegance on the palate. Sourced from 50 year old vines there was a lot happening in this wine, with chalky, stoney and some vegetal tones shining through. 

PINOT NOIR based wines: 

9. Bourgogne Rouge AOC, 2010. Maison André Delorme. $20.95. Vintages 366427. 

10. Givry 1er Cru, Cellier aux Moines AOC, 2008. Domain Thénard. $32.50. Consignment. A pleasant wine of fresh red berry fruit, some caramelized chocolate, floral and a slight herbed nose, to a palate that was earthy, mineral, elevated in acid, with medium tannin. Some bitter vegetable, and more earth adding a complex dimension to the wine. 

11. Beaune 1er Cru, Beaune du Château AOC, 2009. Dom. Bouchard Père & Fils. $36.90 LCBO Signature 325142

12. Beaune 1er Cru, Les Grèves AOC, 2010. Maison Roche de Bellene. $46.95 Consignment. 

13. Pommard, Clos des Ursulines AOC, 2011. Dom. du Paviollon, Masion. Albert Bichot. $49.95 Vintages 23820. This was a very attractive wine, with dark bramble and rhubarb fruit, wrapped by smokey and hickory tones, celery and a touch of espresso or raw chocolate. The mouthfeel was that of bright red cherry fruit over the dark berry from the nose. firm tannin and great structure.

14. Morey-Saint-Denis AOC, 2010. Domaine Aurélien Verdet. $36.25. Vintages 354316 One of the few wines in the tasting based on biodynamic practices. The wine was plush and elegant with a soft earthy feel. more bramble of red and black fruit, fleshy. A sweet and tart pleasant sipping wine. I think future vintages will certainly produce better wines as a result of biodynamic practices. 

15. Nuits-Saint-George AOC 'Vieilles Vignes', 2011. Domaine Daniel Rion & Fils. $53.75 Vintages 356600. A continuation of that delightful bramble fruit nose, that wafts between cherry and other red berry, nice cinnamon and warm wood spice - similar in tone to the Pommard but a different range. The palate had what seemed like sweeter, rich black fruit, with candy cinnamon to fine elegant acid and tannin. 

CAPARZO - Media Luncheon and Tasting.

The year 2014 kicked off with the 'polar vortex' and sub zero temperatures all throughout the GTA, some of us in the wine trade had been fortunate enough to attend wine seminars and luncheons with visiting wine makers and export managers from abroad. This past January 23rd, I had the fortune of attending a delicious 3 hour luncheon showcasing the wines of Caparzo of Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany) at Tutti Matti | Ristorante Toscana

A few food writers and wine buyers headed down to the warm environs of Tutti Matti, for a 4 course tuscan themed lunch prepared by Chef Alida Solomon. We tasted several wines from the Caparzo portfolio, all presented by the proprietor herself, Elisabetta Gnudi. The event was staged to celebrate and introduce the fact that one of the Caparzo entry level wines was selected as the LCBO Vintages Winter Wine. A 3 month promotion that awards 1 winery from 100's of wines submitted to be represented in 275 LCBO stores across the GTA. The wine selected was a 2011 Sangiovese IGT Toscana - a blend of Sangiovese, with Alicante, Petit Verdot and Merlot. The grapes being sourced from individual vineyards from the Caparzo triad of estates located in Chianti, Brunello and Scansano. Borgo Scopeto (Chianti), Caparzo (Montalcino) and Doga delle Clavule (Maremma) - represented by the three roses and three lillies in the crest pictured below. 

The following is a brief summary of the wines we tasted and a few notes. Wines can be purchased from the Ontario Agents : The Case For Wine. Lloyd Evans and Terry Milne. 

2011 Caparzo Sangiovese IGT Toscana - blend of Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Alicante.  $12.95 Vintages LCBO. Note: this value to quality wine of a youthful intensity showed classic cherry and red fruit notes, with some red apple skin. A subtle vanilla underlining earthy and warm spice notes translated on the palate to a fresh, med body wine. The sweet red cherry fruit and apple giving moderate complexity. Good value for the money.

2005 Le Grance IGT Toscana - blend of 80% Chardonnay, 15% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Gewürztraminer. The first vintage of this 'burgundian styled' white wine was in 1985. Sourced from a north facing slope in a vineyard situated in the northern quadrant of the Brunello appellation. The philosophy is to make a wine from Tuscany with burgundian feel and the capacity to age. I cannot comment on the burgundian reference as I have not tasted enough to make a sound judgement but I can say that the wine was elegant and well structured.  On the nose the use of oak was present but judicious with Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer giving a combination of high tone citrus, lemon rind, ripe stewed pear, with orange pith and a subtle florality. Celery and fennel fronds, nut and biscuit aroma led to a palate of moderate acidity, soft texture and a balance that was pleasing based on the blend. This 2005 showed well and should develop more complex aroma over time. 

2010 Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico - 95% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino. A decidedly more plush and rich styled Classico, with classic Sangiovese flavour indicative of the southern hills of Siena. I felt the nice warm cherry, berry and dusty leather nose so familiar with classic sangiovese, though some notes of darker berry emerged. Suggesting that I may have got the Colorino wrong for what might be a touch of Merlot. As for the flavour profile, dry, with firm fine grained tannin, wrapped around red berry fruit, cherry, vanilla,  and fennel/liquorice. I would say a very polished and pleasing wine. 

2008 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - 100% Sangiovese. This Brunello displayed an intense nose of red cherry and berry, red apple skin to an uplifting floral , rose like perfume which quickly moved into more leafy, earthy and mineral tones. As a mouthful the wine had great structure exemplified by good acidity and great tannin. The fruit on this wine was riper and sweet strawberry, tart cherry, vanilla spiced to chard, fennel, tea leaf and bay leaf highlights. Certainly a full bodied red, with great complexity.

La Casa is the label for the  'cru' single vineyard plot in the north of the Brunello appellation. I had the pleasure of tasting 4 older vintages of Caparzo's top wine. 

2008 La Casa Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Immediately showing dark black cherry, intense in colour and aroma, still with vanilla and oak lingering from the wines release from barrel. Overall, an interesting herbed and candied amaro profile, switching to bold fruit with a richness that will resolve itself over time.

2006- La Casa Brunello di Montalcino DOCG comes from a 5 star vintage that was warmer for Tuscany overall the producers located in the south would have full flavoured higher alcohol wines, but great for the producers in the cooler top end of the appellation for elegance and power. Here is where Caparzo makes it mark. Cherry, full fruit berry, black currant, floral, rose, leather, to an iron and sanguine feel, star anise, fennel seed, earth, with balsamic notes. The palate reflects this complexity with firm tannin and acidity to hold a the components of red fruit berry, currants, bitter cherry, and bitter chocolate.

2004 La Casa Brunello di Montalcino DOCG goes a step further, still with more time to evolve and develop. Cherry, raspberry and tart fruit, over wood aroma of birch bark, root herbs. There was fennel and rhubarb stem. On the palate bitter and sweet black cherry, black and red currant, leather and earthy with similar house style of herbed and mineral amaro on the back palate and finish.

2000 La Casa Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - still showing it richness of dry vanilla and dusted barrel, but with complex and developed aroma, tea, leather, coffee bean, dry cherry with pepper and turned leaf aroma. Again a notion of root, amaro and birch bark of sorts. The palate shrilled with acidity, tannin and similar flavours of leather, spice, cinnamon, roasted game meats, torrified coffee beans. Certainly a wine Brunello/Sangiovese lovers should taste, we drink our Brunello wines far too young. Give them a chance and the magic will happen.  

So concludes some notes on a fantastic producer tasting way back in the depths of January.