Archive for November 2008

Coming soon: Produttori del Barbaresco

November 30, 2008

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Ceretto revisited

November 30, 2008

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The quickest way from Neive to Alba is not the most scenic one as the Strada Statale di Santa Vittoria takes you through the industrialist alluvial plains of the Tanaro river, but leaving the outskirts of Alba behind, the backdrop immediately grows dramatic again. In San Cassiano, between Alba and Grinzane, the impressive La Bernardina estate is hard to miss towering high above its surroundings. On arrival it appears to be in the middle of a huge renovation with the relocation of the barrel room just completed and the construction of what is going to be one of the regions most modern tasting rooms in full swing. Host Roberta Ceretto decides the surroundings of the Bricco Rocche winery in Castiglione Falletto are more inspiring at this stage and a short drive takes us to what is the production centre for the estate’s cru Barolos. On arrival another renovation is being undertaken, this time without Roberta’s knowledge, leaving her rather perplexed as vineyard workers are pulling out some of Bricco Rocche’s oldest vines. An entire block is going to be replanted in order to retain an optimal mix between young, mature and old vines, and when this process is undertaken regularly continuity of production and consistency of quality is guaranteed. Apart from keeping the vineyard healthy this renovation also allows to plant the vines at a much higher density than the current 4,300 per hectare.

The winery itself is a stunning piece of architecture à la Ceretto, modern yet meaningful and integrated in the the natural environment. The glass cube on the photo embodies Barolo, sharp edged when young with a great solid structure and longevity. The production in the cellar was in full swing and as we walked past the filled fermentation vessels the content of small 20 hl tank was just being pumped over. As we were told this was the entire production of 2008’s Cannubi, a cru of which Ceretto has only a tiny 0.4 holding, it felt like watchingthe making of a future collectors item. It might not be the greatest single vineyard in Barolo but it is certainlythe oldest as the label of the Langhe’s most ancient bottle reads “Cannubi 1752”. Roberta admits that with the purchase of the parcel in 2003 the collection of the estate’s crus was finalised. The old vines that have been nurished by the church for nearly a century will be left in the vineyard as opposed to the the ongoing renovation of the others as wewitnessed at Bricco Rocche. However, for those who want to buy the first release of Ceretto’s Cannubi patience is the key word as this wine will only be released as a Riserva after 10 years maturation in cask and bottle. If you can’t wait that long the ones from producers like Giacomo Brezza, E. Pira, Luigi Einaudi or Marchesi di Barolo are worth seeking out.

Back at La Bernardina the tasting of some of Ceretto’s 2004 releases proved to be another highlight. Already lauded as one of the best vintages ever, the wines underscored this once more and to fill your cellar you don’t have to wait as those wines are all released.

The 2004 Barolo Zonchera is Ceretto’s entry-level Barolo named after the Zonchetta area around the town of Barolo. This wine has a deep brick-red colour showing bright aromas of cherry, strawberry, flowers, cedar and spice. The full-bodied palate is lush and round with loads of ripe fruit and a long, smooth lingering finish. Although the wine could be enjoyed in all its youthful glory the tighlty knit structure suggests it will be even better after a few more years in the cellar. Good, drink now-2020.

Made at the Bricco Asili winery in the Barbaresco DOCG, the 2004 Barbaresco Bricco Asili Bernadot shows what a stellar vintage can do with the grapes from the relatively young vines of Ceretto’s vineyard in Treiso. Dark ruby red in the glass the nose shows the perfumed opulance of young Barbaresco with aromas running through red berry fruit, wilted flowers, vanilla and exotic spices. On the palate, it is rich and concentrated with ripe fruit on the foreground nicely balanced against firm tannins and fresh acidity on a long and firm finish. This wine is ready to drink in 2 to 3 years and should maintain style for at least another decade. Very good, drink 2011-2020+.

Over the years it has become clear I love the open and perfumed style of Barolo from around La Morra and at Ceretto this means Brunate. The 2004 Barolo Bricco Rocche Brunate shows a dark red colour that will acquire a brick red tinge with a bit more age. The bouquet is full with complex aromas reminiscent of prunes, plums, red berries, roses, violets, raisin, vanilla and cloves that follow through to a palate with bold fruit, big tannins and balanced acidity. Full and ripe, this wine always remains pretty and elegant and is all about restrained power. This is a must have for every serious cellar. Very impressive, drink 2012-2025.

The last wine shows great Barolo is all about terroir with the 2004 Barolo Bricco Rocche Prapò a showcase for the more robust examples from around Serralunga d’Alba. This wine has a deep red colour and shows aromas of plum, prune, strawberry, cedar, spice and a hint of earthy undergrowth on the nose. The palate offers ample fruit on the front and the middle while big, chewy tannins add even more power towards the finish. The wine will shed off some of its robust character over the next few years and will gain a more velvety elegance with 10 to 20 years of age. Excellent, drink 2011-2025+

Azienda Agricola Cascina Galarin

November 29, 2008

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Piedmonte in autumn is simply magic while the region comes alive in all its splendour. Of course there are white truffles, fuelling the annual Fiera del Tartufo Bianco d’Alba from October to November in the gastronomical capital of the Langhe. Fresh Porcini, hazelnuts and chestnuts are more common – and less expensive – while cheeses as Castelmango, Robiola, Toma and Testun are regional treasures that challenge the French hegemony on mouldy, stinky but delicious dairy. Above all, vinous hearts will beat faster as in this time of the year Piedmonte breaths wine. In about every vineyard and village tractors move piles of little red crates filled with grapes, first varieties as Moscato, Chardonnay and Arneis, then mainly Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo. Because of the relatively big time lag between the ripening of each variety the vineyards show a riot of colours. This majestic spectacle is especially noticeable in areas where the full spectrum peacefully co-exists as shown in the above picture taken near the village of Castagnole delle Lanze which is located only a few kilometres from Neive, the eastern outpost of the Barbaresco DOCG. Here the harvest of Nebbiolo was entering its final stage with leave-colours varying from green-yellow to  brown. This in contrast to the higher and hence cooler Barolo area where most of the picking had yet to start, resulting in the majority of its vineyards still covered in vibrant green.

It’s understandable most tourists look for Barolo while touring the region. Of course I had my fair share, however, with my base at Cascina Galarin in Castagnole delle Lanze I found myself in prime Barbera country which led to what proved to be one of the biggest vinous revelations I’ve ever experienced. Often producing just smooth and plummy wines, this grape can show far more complexity and depth if given the right exposure in the vineyard and serious attention in the cellar, especially in the DOC of Asti where the competition with Nebbiolo for the best possible terroir is absent. Most of the production in this area consists of generic Barbera d’Asti although things are really getting interesting with Barbera d’Asti Superiore, made from the best possible fruit that has aged for the minimum required 24 months of which at least 6 in oak. To prove the quality and age worthiness of these wines owner Giuseppe “Beppe” Carosso hosted a memorable tasting with some truly amazing wines made from grapes grown in Bricco Rorisso, a single vineyard with clay and calcareous soils and a perfect South-West exposition. As far as the blend concerns, the Bricco Rorisso consists of approximately 90% Barbera with the balance Cabernet Sauvignon, Freisa and Grignolino. All grapes are handpicked, crushed and fermented for 4 days at around 28-30°C while the juice is kept on the skins for 2 weeks. After a light filtration the wine spends one year in small Allier barriques and an additional one in bottle before release. 

Cascina Galarin Barbera d’Asti DOC Superiore “Bricco Rorisso” 1998

The 1998 Bricco Rorisso has a deep brick red colour in the glass that only slightly reveals its age. The nose still offers plenty of perfumed primary fruit reminiscent of plum and cherry with notes of undergrowth and spice while the palate is shaped by fresh acidity and velvety, grainy tannins. This is an extremely well balanced wine on its peak that could easily be cellared for at least another 5 years.

Cascina Galarin Barbera d’Asti DOC Superiore “Bricco Rorisso” 1997

Deep red with a brown tinge, this wine is the living proof of the ageing capacity of Barbera from extraordinary vintages. With an open nose of lively fresh fruit and a full, round and powerful palate this wine unfolds as if it was made yesterday. According to Beppe the wine has evolved very slowly and will keep doing so as the structure of fruit, firm tannins and fabulous acidity is solid and in perfect balance.

Cascina Galarin Barbera d’Asti DOC Superiore “Bricco Rorisso” 1996

Although this wine has a youthful deep red colour, secondary and tertiary aromas initially dominate the nose. With time in the glass the wine opens up and allows fresher berry fruit to shine through. The palate is full and flavoursome with pronounced acidity and less roundness than the ’98 and ’97 Bricco Rosisso. It’s certainly not as approachable as these wines, however, its character and complexity make this wine absolutely more intriguing.

Cascina Galarin Barbera d’Asti DOC Superiore “Bricco Rorisso” 1990

I must confess that when I first saw the line-up I had my doubts about this wine. I mean a Barbera of this age, it must be a joke. How wrong I proved to be! Brick red in colour the rich nose oozed aromas of plum, cherry and little red berries following through to a smooth and round palate where relatively low acid further enhanced the sweetness of the fruit. This wine reminds me of fresh picked grapes squeezed in a glass. Hors Category, a wine that will be in my memory forever!

Laurent-Perrier Alexandra Rose 1998

November 15, 2008

Last week I got an unexpected invitation for a Laurent-Perrier tasting hosted by Ludovic de Lageard that I couldn’t resist. A house with a long history and a remarkable chairman in Bernard de Nonancourt, ups, downs but above all some truly magnificent wines. Freshness and fruitiness are near New World characteristics with  oxidation avoided at all cost. At an annual production of around 8 million bottles – the third largest in Champagne – this approach has clearly paid off in impeccable pureness of every wine in the range with the majestic Grand Siècle at the pinnacle. This Cuvée Prestige surely can be regarded as the essence of Champagne with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from three different vintages blended in a wine with brilliant elegance, finesse and harmony. However, for me the real star of the tasting was the Alexandra Rosé 1998, a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay so delicate and sophisticated de Lageard decided to start the tasting with it. Pink salmon in the glass with a fine appearance and mousse it shows complexity and depth with scents of orange peel, flowers, cherry, currants, strawberries, dried apricots and hint of controlled oxidation. The palate is all about the indulgently soft, velvety and creamy mouthfeel, with lively fruit and crisp acidity further adding shape. It’s pureness, balance and elegance make this one of the better rosés I’ve had so far. 95 points

Source: MGM Wine Distributions  Price: $400  Drink: Now-2015+

Web: www.laurent-perrier.co.uk

Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1985

November 11, 2008

So Barack Obama has finally claimed victory in what certainly was a historical election. On the 20th of January 2009 he’ll be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America, exactly 24 years after Ronald Reagan started his second term in 1985. What amazes me is how things have changed over this period of time, politically, physically and technologically, testimonies of an ever evolving matter called World. How could an event as this be welcomed better than with a little note on one of the more lustre Champagnes, changed in its own way since it was born in what is described as one of the region’s more elegant and subtle vintages? After 14 years on lees – this 1985 has been disgorged in 1999 – and a further 9 years in bottle, its colour has slowly evolved from the usual pale straw to a deep golden yellow with a fine and persistent bead disclosing its ongoing youthfulness and longevity. The palate is full and voluptuous showing citrus, hazelnuts, yeast, toasted bread, vanilla, mushrooms and earth with an ever present framework of lemony acid creating liveliness, freshness and elegance carrying through to the long finish. Given its extended lees ageing and relatively long time on cork after disgorgement, this wine clearly shows its age and with its current level of freshness I’m glad this hasn’t been kept in the cellar for another 10 years. 94 points 

Source: Cellar   Price: $500  Drink: now-2012