A wine in a state of evolution. Great Langhe Nebbiolo is such a treasure when produced at this level of quality. That haunting aroma of Nebbiolo in its complex and mysterious form. A shape shifter in a glass. To taste it's fine grained and firm tannin with bright lashes of forest berry and strawberry compote, for me is pure delight.
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!'
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
- 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.
- Rocche di Castiglione - the first single vineyard 'cru' for Vietti. The emblem and heart of the Vietti family of wines.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
A NEW FACE OF ABRUZZO : TIBERIO
this entry was composed listening to a mix by Joy Orbison , no wine to accompany, just a glass of water first thing in the morning
I can think of few better ways to spend a Monday afternoon than a luncheon with a visiting wine maker. Mr. Charles Baker of Cru Wine Merchants was hosting one of his producers, Agricola Tiberio of Abruzzo, Italy fame. Cristiana Tiberio the wine maker was here to present 6 wines ( 4 white, 1 'cerasuolo' and 1 red).
Now the image and memory that most have of Abruzzo wines are simple, cheerful and fun wines to have with uncomplicated Italian cuisine. Long gone are the days of the 1/2 litre jugs of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo at your local Pizzeria….wait that is still happening isn't it? Aspetta! Cristiana Tiberio has been working hard to bring wines of 'terroir' and character to a thirsty public. The winery was started with her brother, Antonio in 1999, and they first vintages of their wines were released in 2004. A very interesting and critical component to this story is that Cristiana had spent several years making wine in Champagne and in the Mosel and admires the wines of Alsace and Burgundy. Combined with her vision of Abruzzo and what she has taken from a 'french' approach to wine its that it is more critical to 'follow the terroir, follow the vintage and to respect the vintage' if everything is done in a clear and focused way there is 'no need to force the wine' to be what it isn't.
The wines and terroir she has chosen to work are selected with the aim to express freshness and acidity in the resulting wines. She works only with original massal selection vines of the original Abruzzo Trebbiano, 'The' Trebbiano Abruzzese. Not to be confused with the Trebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC, which can be a combination of any of the many variations of Trebbiano - the Toscana, Emilia-Romagnese, Bombino and Malvasia. All have the capacity of making massive quantities of wine at variable quality levels either for simple table wine or for bulk blending. Cristiana has moved away from this history towards an original source. She is determined to only work with the original Trebbiano Abruzzese from a massal clone selection which originates in an old plot of vineyard she purchased in the mountains outside of the town of Cugnoli located in the province of Pescara. She spent 4 years zoning in on the original vines to propagate her 30 hectares of vines. She tells us that the Trebbiano Abruzzese is of sensitive skin, small berry and quite fleshy and is somewhat sensitive to the light of the sun, hence the traditional 'Pergola' Training with leaf canopy giving just enough radiation to ripen the grapes. The goal is to preserve the freshness of the Trebbiano. The vines are raised on calcarous soils with a subsoil of sand. The wine is made, all the wines are made, from free run juice and ferment in stainless steel. Any and all ageing is done in bottle.
Cristiana presented 2 Trebbiano the first, the 2014 Tiberio Trebbiano d'Abruzzo which was light and lean like a ray of sunlight, with subtle very subtle notes of celery, fennel and citrus and a touch of green apple skins. Compared with the second wine the 2014 Tiberio 'Fonte Canale' Trebbiano of 60 year old vines, the best vines from her winery raised on marl and clay soils with deeper roots. The fermentation here is spontaneous with indigenous yeasts creating a subtle and quite focused wine, only after letting the glass warm did we perceive it's real nature. The wine was mineral, citric, rich and fleshy with saline, olive, sage pine notes. the Fonte Canale is a real wine of the mountains overlooking the Adriatic.
We then explored the wonderful world of Pecorino. My first experience with this grape was with those of Guido Cocci Grifone, nearly 10 years ago when I started my career as a Sommelier. The grape was revived to it's current status by the work of Cocci Grifone and a few other producers particularly of Le Marche (the neighbouring province to the north). We bantered about the origins and the natural home of Pecorino. The natural zones being Le Marche and Abruzzo, but both creating wines of different profiles. Cristiana professes and was clear in letting us understand that Pecorino of Abruzzo is meant to be a mountain wine somewhat different than the Pecorino of Offida DOC in Le Marche which is on lower plains and foothills thus producing 'warmer and richer' wines. In Abruzzo the Pecorino grape can take advantage of altitude and unique micro-climate to help accentuate it's aromatics properties with aroma's like that of orange citrus, sage, fresh fig and rosemary. The first of the Pecorino line up was the 2014 Tiberio Pecorino which though lean and tart had sweet clementine, orange, apple and fresh peach aromas with an almost Assyrtiko minearality with honeysuckle. The wine was quite engaging and convincing. Now the 2006 Tiberio Pecorino was a treat, the wine is actually the 2nd vintage of Pecorino for Tiberio. It was bright, with fleshy creamed peach, this is a wine of texture and a rich profile. Though with lower acidity then expected, it made up for it in herbs and lemon and pleasing flavour.
HISTORY AND BIODYNAMICS BEFORE LUNCH
As I am writing this I really can't recall the last time I encountered a Trebbiano or Montepulciano d'Abruzzo on a wine list or at any of the recent Italian focused trade tastings and perhaps there is a reason for that. I did ask Crisitiana to comment on the overriding mentality of the producers and growers in Abruzzo, her response was that 'first Abruzzo is an amazing region with amazing people and though many producers did not take the time to 'study' the region, there still is not such a 'high culture' of wine. Wine is business and not pleasure'. Outside of Valentini Emidio Pepe and Masciarelli there are few producers pushing the envelope, when in reality there is a lot of wine coming from this region. It is clear that Tiberio is investing and studying the region and charting a new style of wine in a rather cool-er climate terroir. I posed the question of vineyard practices and philosophy touching on the art of biodynamics. The response, as I have been receiving more and more lately is that the Philosophy of Biodynamics can be confused with a lifestyle versus how to make wines. There is a distinct difference. She does not practice biodynamics but works organically and as sustainable as possible, the fact that her mountain vineyards are as isolated as they are means there are not other vineyards to 'contaminate' the area. Her mentality is that the 'most important is the life of the vineyard' and that 'she would not risk the loss of her 'patrimony and heritage' by applying what would be extreme or minimal techniques.
cerasuolo is not montepulciano rosé
The Montepulciano d'Abruzzo of Tiberio is a fresh as can be, no oak, 50 year old vines that are fermented in stainless steel, never over-ripe and never over-extracted. It is a modern style but taken from tradition. All sorting is done in the vineyard with the same team year in and out. Her process of vilification with the red wines starts with a Cerasuolo DOC from the Montepulciano red grape. A wine that is not rosé but indeed a DOC wine, that was born in the mountains, the historical zone of production. At the time the Montepulciano vine would not ripen as it would on the lower plains and the Pergola style training helped preserve the freshness of grapes and thus lent itself to a 'lighter' style of 'red' wine. The Tiberio Cerasoulo DOC is...
- Vines/Grapes selected and treated as if they were to be made into a white wine, grape are specifically selected for freshness rather than ripeness.
- 'Salaso' = to make wine from the first free run juice as if it was a red wine. As she explained briefly,the first free run juice is removed from the main core of the pressed juice and this isolated juice is allowed to ferment as if it was a red wine.
The 2014 Tiberio Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo was of a fresh red berry and candy cherry aroma, soft and plush with bright and lifted palate. It was very pleasing and screaming of tradition and the mountains air.
The final wine for the afternoon was the 2013 Tiberio Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. It was rich and fresh, more red berry and a lining of blood orange and sour cherry and moving to the palate which was soft with pleasant red fruit, stewed plum and cherry with it's vibrant tannin and smooth finish. Certainly a wine that would stand on it's own and would confuse most Montepulciano drinkers with it's natural freshness and elegance. This was an everyday wine, a great companion for the dinner table or long lunch that will never disappoint with it charm and playfulness.
Overall the wines were most certainly soundly and confidently made and with a distinct vision and profile that after tasting I could imagine the nature of the land with it's vast and rolling hills at the foot of the Appennine Mountains.
Earlier this year I was whisked off to Piemonte to cover the action and excitement of Nebbiolo Prima 2015. My third visit to this, my favourite part of Italy was an opportunity to develop deeper relationships with many producers some who I had met 2 years prior at the same event.
Here is a 3rd article on my adventures in the hills of the Langhe! Click the link below!
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.