Archive for the ‘Nebbiolo’ category

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+

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Produttori del Barbaresco Asili 1999

September 19, 2008

img_5120When the wines from Barbaresco are discussed a lot of generalisations tend to be made: the grapes ripen earlier than in Barolo and the biggest part of the DOCG’s soil consists of the same calcareous marl that is found around the comunes of Barolo and La Morra, all resulting in lighter structured Nebbiolo performing as humble understudy for the more famous and ageworthy examples from Barolo. How inaccurate such generalisations can be is beautifully described in Edward Steinberg’s ‘The vines of San Lorenzo’, an in depth exploration on the superstar of Nebbiolo Angelo Gaja and the making of his famous cru Sorì San Lorenzo. Through conversations with viticulturist Frederico Curtaz aspects as for example exposition, the position of the vines on the slope and methods of planting are lined up in order to unravel the mysteries of terroir, a concept that stresses the uniqueness of a specific site opposed to common characters of a whole region.

When the qualities of certain vineyards in Barbaresco are considered it’s not surprising their wines are more baroleggiano than one might suspect. Montefico, Rabajà, Montestefano and Asili are notable examples, the latter known for its subtle wines, ultimately shown in the 1999 Produttori del Barbaresco. Deep ruby red in the glass, intense, highly aromatic aromas of cherries, red berries, violets, roses, exotic spices and a hint of tar are the prelude to a full-bodied palate where sheer power and great finesse are marvelously balanced with smooth tannins, ample acidity and a long, persistent finish. This is benchmark Barbaresco that rightly deserves a place in any serious cellar.

Source: Enoteca Sileno/The Grocer  Price: $145  Drink: Now-2020+

Produttori del Barbaresco Rio Sordo 2001

September 16, 2008

The Produttori del Barbaresco is a phenomenon. The fact that it is a cooperation is nothing special, there are quite a few on the peninsula, what makes The Produttori really stand out is the consistently high quality of all its wines. When you add to this the fact that it crafts wines from no less than nine different crus, it is not hard to realize The Produttori is something truly unique, an excellent producer to be considered amongst the best of the Barbaresco DOCG.

The Produttori’s flagship wines are all released as Riserva, having spend 36 months in large Slavonian botti and an additional 18 months in the bottle. But before that, the grapes from the 4.6 hectares of Rio Sordo are slowly fermented on the skins for about 21 days at no less than 30°C in order to leach out plenty of colour and tannins. Despite the softening of the latter due to the mandatory ageing before release, the structure of the wine is of such a high standard that even at 7 years of age its life has just begun. Purple red with orange reflections the nose suggests a more developed complexity straight away with cherries, red berries, dried rose, leather, earth, mocha and spices following through to a rather austere palate with a tightly knit tannic structure, ample acidity and a long, elegant finish. This is absolute class that will last for at least another 15 years.

Source: Enoteca Sileno/ The Grocer  Price: $140  Drink: 2010-2020+

Web: www.produttoridelbarbaresco.com

Vietti Barolo Castiglione 2004

September 4, 2008

This is Luca Currado’s and Mario Cordero’s entry-level Barolo, a wine mainly made from grapes from Bricco Fiasco vineyard in Castiglione Falletto, Bussia and La Coste in Monforte d’Alba, Fossati in Barolo and Ravera in Novello. Average yields are around 40 hl/ha – yields for the crus are typically 30 hl/ha – so the quality of the fruit is of what can be expected of Vietti. However, with growing conditions as exceptional as in 2004 the fruit has gained a concentration and richness not often seen at this level. Deep red in colour its nose reveals plums, blackberries, cherries, violets and exotic spices following through to a masculine and tightly knit palate where complexity is locked in sturdy fruit, fine yet powerful tannins and fresh acidity. It’s big, macho, shows class and should be left alone for at least 2-3 years before its more delicate and emotional side will be shown. 92 points  

Source: Red + White  Price: $125  Drink: 2010-2020

Web: www.vietti.com

Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia 1999

March 12, 2008

img_4174.jpgOne of the spin-offs from great tastings is that I always long for more. So without the excuse of a special occasion I felt like drinking another great Barolo. This one is from the Monforte d’Alba based Aldo Conterno, a producer foremost famed for his Barolo Granbussia. Compared to this majestic wine the Barolo Bussia is a more ‘modest’ offering, although the quality-standard for this wine is equally high. Made from grapes grown in different parcels of Bussia Soprana it undergoes winemaking techniques that stand somewhere between modern and traditional with the use of temperature controlled roto-fermentation on one hand and the complete rejection of barriques at the other. Modern or traditional philosophies aside, this deep ruby coloured wine superbly expresses its terroir with a clean, attractive and open nose reflecting a complex amalgam of lovely red fruits, raspberries, plums, exotic spice, dried roses, liquorice and tar. On the equally stunning palate the seamingless merged tannins underline the fresh acidity that cuts through layers of fruit while tones of leather, liquorice and earth add background to this characterful and charming wine. In one word: brilliant. 95 points

Source: Negociants Australia  Price: $175  Drink: Now-2015+

Web: www.poderialdoconterno.com

Ceretto Aziende Vitivinicole Part 2: The wines

March 10, 2008

img_4178.jpgFrom Arneis to peaches and back. That is the basic story about the 2006 Arneis Blangé. This grape can be so tricky that its name literally means ‘little devil’ in the local dialect. In its heartland Roero the variety was largely abandoned by growers who en masse planted more profitable peach trees on the fertile alluvial soils. Over the last 25 years the fortunes have reversed with plantings now exceeding 400 hectares in the DOC. However, for Ceretto this rascal has always been good, so good that it is the company’s bread and butter. Around 60 percent of the annual production consists of Blangé, as the wine is called in Ceretto’s dictionary. The appendix has in fact become so common in the region that it is widely used to coin dry white wine. Pale straw in colour it shows aromas of pear, citrus, herbs and flowers that all come back on the richly textured palate where a light fizz adds additional freshness and emphasizes the flavours. The striking packaging will impress at any table although for a crisp dry white it’s a costly affair. 87 points ($45)

img_4179.jpgThe second wine starts where this tasting is all about: Nebbiolo. When smelling and tasting the bright purple 2005 Nebbiolo d’Alba Bernardina there is no doubt about the variety at work. Little red fruits, violets, spice and a hint of earth give the wine a lovely fragrant nose while the acid on the palate presents itself straight-away, making the furry, mouthdrying and firm tannins in this medium-bodied wine even more noticable. Well balanced and approachable it’s the perfect introduction to this noble variety. 88 points ($50)

img_4183.jpgThe 2004 Barbaresco Asij is a wine which name confuses nearly everyone. The proprietary name ‘Asij’ is the dialect spelling of Asili, the famous vineyard that makes Ceretto’s top Barbaresco but also supplies grapes for this regional blend. The Barbaresco Asij always offers fantastic value and the ’04 proves to be no exception to this rule. Beautiful primary perfume reminiscent of plum, raspberry, rose and violet dominates the nose while the ageing of the wine in predominantly large oak casks for 24 months only gives a hint of spiciness. The front of the palate is dominated by rather sweet, concentrated and rich fruit with notes of cedar, leather and earth adding background and the tannins on the mid and the back of the palate seem less overt by the perfectly balanced acid. A lovely wine of classic structure that should drink well from 2010 to 2020+. 93 points ($80)

img_4185.jpgWhen Frederico Ceretto first tasted the 2003 Barolo Zonchera he was shocked. “I remember that despite its youthful age the wine was really evolved, all the primary aromas were allready gone, something you normally see when a wine is at least six to seven years old. But then I really started to see its generosity, something that made the ’03 a complete wine right from the start. You didn’t have to wait to get all these lovely secondary, even tertiary aromas and flavours, they were already there. That we didn’t have to worry became clear with all the positive reactions from customers who liked what they drank, this wine sold out faster than any previous vintages.” The purple-orange Barolo Zonchera is a very approachable wine indeed with loads of plums, prunes, raisins, liquorice, spice and coffee on a foreward, developed nose. The same themes are seen on a palate that is shaped by sweet and ripe fruit dominates with less overt acid and softer tannins. Expressing an abnormally hot vintage this wine is highly interesting although it’s not the kind of Barolo I admire so much. Drink this wine within 5 years from now while there’s still plenty of life left. 89 points ($90)

img_4186.jpgIn the second part of the tasting we leave the regional wines behind us to focus entirely on the contrasts between wines from different vintages, crus and even parcels within the same vineyard. A perfect illustration of the latter is the 2003 Barolo Bricco Rocche Brunate, made from the best fruit that is always grown on the mid and upper parts of the vineyard. Its power, concentration and fragrance is many times bigger than in the 2003 Barolo Zonchera, predominantely made from grapes grown on the lower part of the same vineyard. The sheer quality of the fruit allows different winemaking techniques with longer macaration and ageing in small 300 litre barriques only. Purple with a brown-orange tinge it shows a fragrant and seductive bouquet of violet, rose, cherry, raspberry, blackberry, plum and exotic spices. The extremely balanced palate has all the intensity and richness to be expected from a cru, with Brunate’s fresh acidity adding swiftness to the still furry tannins. Despite a hint of prune and raisin shining through on the mid and back of the palate, an expression of the hot vintage conditions, the wine clearly shows a lot more can be expected over the next 15 to 20 years. 92 points ($160)  

img_4189.jpgHighly interesting is the comparison between the 2003 Barolo Bricco Rocche Brunate and the 2003 Barolo Bricco Rocche Prapò. With vintage and winemaking exactly the same, terroir is allowed to express itself at its maximum. The relatively lightness and freshness typical for wines from the Barolo and La Morra subzones give way for the more seriously structured fruit from Serralanga d’Alba where clay subsoils produce fruit that reflect notes of tar, earth, balsamic, violets, little red fruits, undergrowth and spice. The sweet fruit, less overt acidity and smooth impression on the front of the palate gradually give way to rich and extracted flavours reminiscent of plum, prunes liquorice and a hint of raisins while mouthdrying tannins flex their muscles on the long and satisfying finish. Although the legacy of extreme vintage conditions is again clearly noticable, the sheer power of the fruit keeps balance, freshness and finesse. Although the wine seems accessible now it drinks best from 2010 to 2025+. 93 points ($160)

img_4191.jpgAccording to Frederico Ceretto Barolo’s from the Prapò vineyard are always progressive and full of surprises. “They go on themselves, you can’t really drink them young, they need a lot of time to show their real characters. If it was up to me I would release those wines only after 6 or 7 years, still full of attractive primary fruit but with evolved characters adding far more complexity and interest”. The 2000 Barolo Bricco Rocche Prapò completely supports this statement. Purple with brown and orange shades in the glass it exudes a lovely combination of fragrant primary floral, cherry and berry fruit aromas with exotic spice, toffee, tar, cedar and liquorice adding dramatic depth to an intriguing bouquet. The same characters continue on the palate that shows a delicate balance between rich and powerful fruit, fresh acidity and firm yet integrated tannins. Despite all this I wouldn’t unleash this pup for another 3 to 4 years as it will futher improve for 15 years or more. 95 points ($160)

img_4193.jpgThat patience and an excellent vintage can result in something extraordinary is fully demonstrated in the 1998 Barolo Bricco Rocche Prapò, a wine showing what great Barolo is all about. Don’t get tricked by the brown-purple colour of the wine as the combination of slow macaration and the low natural content of anthocyanins in Nebbiolo produces relatively light coloured wines at Ceretto. “The marketing department has repeatedly asked for darker, more intensely coloured wines as they are more popular on the modern markets, but with our winemaking philosophy it’s just not possible. At the end of the day they can all go asleep peacefully because there is no relation between the colour and the ageing potential of our wines, in fact it’s amazing how slowly the colour of the wines evolve over long periods of time, they just seem to stay like they are when young”. When tasting the wine this statement comes true with a near paradoxal difference between the mature colour and the aromas and flavours noticed. The nose is ethereal and complex with constantly changing notes of plums, tar, roses, liquorice, earth, spice and coffee while flavours of earth, tar, balsamic, truffles and loads of spices offer even more interest on an amazingly fresh and gracefully balanced palate. A long and hauntingly complex peacock finish show this is a wine of class, distinction and pedigree. Although it perfectly drinks now it is one of those collecters items that will go for another 20 years. 97 points ($245) 

Source: Enoteca Sileno/The Grocer

Web: www.ceretto.com

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.