Archive for February 2008

Ceretto Aziende Vitivinicole Part 1: The People

February 28, 2008

Wine is all about transformation. From the grapes that slowly change during the season to the proces of vinification, ultimately turning them into wine. At Ceretto one should add the family, whose founding father Riccardo started producing bulk wine at the Casa Vinicola Ceretto in the late 1930’s. In those days winemaking in the hills of the Langhe  was far removed from modern practices, there was little or no information about viticulture, so grapes were picked when everyone else was picking. A conscious perception of terroir didn’t exist, the reknowned slopes of Brunate were regarded as just another vineyard. Wines were made with the means available, laboratories, stainless steel tanks or barriques were unknown. All this changed in the 1960’s when Riccardo’s sons Bruno and Marcello got involved in the business as commercial and technical director respectively. Known as the ‘Barolo Brothers’, Bruno and Marcello developed the present-day philosophy of making great wine while emphasizing the individual characters of distinguished vineyards. 

In order to succeed the Ceretto’s decided to buy and lease some of the regions best sites to grow their own grapes. In 1970 Bruno and Marcello bought Bricco Asili, regarded as one of the best vineyards in the Barbaresco region. Azienda Agricola Bricco Asili is the first estate bought. Named after the vineyard it is surrounded by, it is the winery that now produces the famous Barbaresco Bricco Asili and the Barbaresco Bricco Asili Bernadot. It is also the winery where a revolution took place by the introduction of stainless steel tanks, an aberration in the early ’70’s and a clear indication of the innovations that were implemented in the following decennia. Ceretto’s empire slowly expanded over the next 20 years with the acquisition of parcels in various great vineyards in Barolo’s major production zones: Bricco Rocche (1.75 ha) in Castiglione Falletto, Prapò (2.4 ha) in Serralunga d’Alba and Brunate (5.6 ha) and Cannubi (0.4 ha) in Barolo. The latter is bought in 2002 and with prices for premium sites gone through the roof -around € 825.000 per hectare for Cannubi and € 600.000 for Brunate – this could well be the last big acquisition. In order to produce top quality Barolos the ultra-modern winery Azienda Agricola Bricco Rocche has been build in Castiglione Falletto.

Besides these two estates, the administrative, commercial and logistic headquarters of Ceretto are situated in Azienda Agricola Monsordo Bernardina in Alba. This place also acts as a production centre for an extensive range of wines including traditional wines as Barolo Zonchera, Barbaresco Asij, Langhe Arneis Blangé, Dolcetto d’Alba Rossana, Barbera d’Alba Piana and Nebbiolo d’Alba Bernardina. But if one estate really shows Ceretto’s balancing act between tradition and innovation it is this one. As a result of close cooperation with wineries abroad, including Krug, Cape Mentelle and Petaluma, various international varieties have been planted in more or less successful experiments. The ultimate testimonies are La Bernardina, a sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and Monsordo, a red wine produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Nebbiolo under the Langhe DOC umbrella.

Within a relatively short period Ceretto, as many other Piedmontese producers, has made the transition from a producer of bulk wines to one of highly sought-after wines with pedigree and distinction. In the quickly changing landscape of the global world of wine strategies have been hatched and executed with succes, promoting innovation without losing traditions out of sight. Raised under these circumstances Bruno’s and Marcello’s children have entered the business in 1999. Their contribution runs from winemaking to marketing, mangement and even artistic skills, ensuring the brand will undergo a new positive transformations with respect for tradition and identity.  

With a surging interest in Piedmontese wines all over the world Frederico Ceretto looks after the company’s export markets. On a recent trip to Australia the first stop was WA. While cousin Alessandro went to pay a visit to Cape Mentelle in Margaret River, Frederico stayed in Perth to host a number of tastings with some fabulous wines. All tasting notes will follow very soon.

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Vincent Pinard Cuvee Flores 2006

February 24, 2008

img_4170.jpgThe vintage of 2006 in the Loire Valley was warm and dry with temperatures well above average throughout the whole summer. Sufficient rainfall in August and September relieved the stressed vines so that ripe, healthy fruit with balanced acid levels could be harvested. But don’t look for wines with lush tropical fruit, after all this is Sancerre, but expect to find expressions of grassy and gooseberry aromas with hints of white flowers and asparagus as shown Pinard’s Cuvée Florès. This is a fuller style of Sancerre that gives a soft and round impression in the mouth while crisp mineral acidity adds balance and lively freshness with vegetal tones adding background on a long and dry finish. This is textbook Sauvignon Blanc, leaner and more straightforward than I’ve seen before from this producer. 92 points

Source: Vintage & Vine/Liquid Library  Price: $50  Drink: Now-2009

Birthday Celebrations: Winedome is One

February 22, 2008

Birthdays are moments when I look back. To the day I published my first post with no idea were it would all lead to, the joy when you get your first comments, the thrill of the first samples submitted. All I know is that I got wiser too, it’s fun that comes at a price, spare time behind the PC, writer’s blocks and sometimes the pressure to publish regular when you ought to do something completely different. I reckon it’s just part of the virus called blogging. I’m afraid I got hooked, so when I look forward it becomes clear that opting out is no option. So there we are, proud, philosophical, sentimental, but above all restless. Too much said and too little done already, that’s what I mean, it’s time to celebrate. How? With a fantastic line-up of Ceretto wines coming up, including a mini vertical of Barolo Bricco Rocche Prapo. And of course, toast with the wine it all began with. I’ll keep you up-to-date!

Cheers

Salvador Poveda Toscar Monastrell 2005

February 22, 2008

img_4166.jpgThe huge transformation the Spanish wine industry is undergoing becomes clear when one has a look at Salvador Poveda’s brand new winery just outside Monóvar in the Denominacíon de Origens Alicante. Although build to cater for the hordes of sun-seeking tourists that visit the Costa Blanca, it’s also a natural continuation of an extremely succesful family business that started in 1919. Monastrell is the name of the game as shown in the rosado, Alicante’s unique Fondillón and some of the red wines. Toscar is the joven offering in the Monastrell range, a bright purple wine that is packed with ripe plum, blackberries, spice, mediteranean herbs and earth. Medium-bodied on the palate the balance between sweet juicy fruit, generous fruit tannins and refreshing acid is just right, making this wine an uncomplicated and ultimate quaffable crowd-pleaser. At this price it offers extremely good value too. 87 points

Source: Ce Soir Wine Importers  Price: $13  Drink: Now-2009

Web: www.salvadorpoveda.com

Bodegas Castano Gran Decarado Monastrell 2004

February 21, 2008

img_4168.jpgI’ve tasted my way through quite some French Mourvèdre blends last week and regarding the fact that with more than 100,000 hectares this is Spain’s second most planted variety, the journey continues at the other side of the Pyrénées. Commonly known as Monastrell, it is the main black grape variety in DOS as Alicante, Almansa, Valencia and Yecla. Bodagas Castaño is the most significant producer in the latter with 400 hectares of vines of which two thirds are Monastrell. Not shunning innovative blends with varieties as Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, the bodega’s single varietal Monastrell is undoubtedly my favourite. Deep purple in colour it offers a charming nose with aromas of blueberry, plum, liquorice, game, earth and a hint of ash. The same themes appear on an impeccable clean palate which is loaded with fine, mouthcoating tannins that gradually grow more assertive towards the finish. Ten months maturation in American oak add spice and structure while fresh acidity balances the richness of the fruit. A lovely, well made wine that drinks perfectly now. 88 points 

Source: Toro Wines  Price: $25  Drink: Now-2010

Web: www.bodegascastano.com

Domaine du Meteore Les Orionides 2004

February 17, 2008

img_4164.jpgIf you like to know what’s really happening on the French wine scene it is a must to have a good look at new names from the southern corners of the hexagon. Innovative winemaking, ecologically friendly viticulture, tremendously exciting terroir-driven wines at reasonable prices are the keywords for regions as Languedoc, Roussillon and Provence. Domaine du Météore is one of those small producers that have emerged from the New South with rapid speed and its wines are indeed as fascinating as the meteor showers they are named after. The 2004 Les Orionides is a cuvée of 55% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre, 15% Grenache and 10% Carignan, varieties that all contribute their own unique virtues to this modern styled wine. Deep purple in the glass, the nose is marked by the relatively large Syrah component and élévage in barriques for 12 months with aromas of blackberry, raspberry, violets, thyme, juniper, earth, cedar and spice. The palate is concentrated and rich with powerful, mouthdrying tannins, yet it always retains its softness and elegance with fresh mineral acids cutting through layers of fruit. This is a delectable wine that offers a honest and different experience. 90 points

Source: Ce Soir Wine Importers  Price: $30  Drink: Now-2010

Domaine du Meteore Les Leonides 2004

February 15, 2008

img_4161.jpgWith surging prices for wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhône it sometimes pays off to hunt for wines from lesser known regions like the Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. In those regions the bulk of production consists of Vin du Table or Vins de Pays, offering total freedom for producers to make some innovative wines from commercial varieties as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. But to experience true character and optimal expression of terroir one has to look for wines that are produced within the regulations of an AOC. One of the most exciting ones is Faugères, situated on the steep south-facing slopes of the Cévennes. Poor schist soils and hot, dry conditions during summer form the conditions in which Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan thrive as blending partners for the red wines. All four are found in Les Leonides from Domaine du Météore, a wine made in the traditional mould with no oak contact during fermentation and élevage. This allows the intense fruit to express itself fully in the wine by showing fragrant aromas of cherries, brambles, blackberries and garrigue. The medium-bodied palate has a nearly creamy softness where fruit, superfine tannins and mineral acidity are perfectly balanced. Add a Carignan derived rustic finish and voilà, a challenging and interesting wine that absolutely over-delivers at this price. 89 points

Source: Ce Soir Wine Importers  Price: $20  Drink: Now-2009