Posted by: jmbwineblog | April 30, 2011

Under the Radar (Unknown Nebbiolo).

So we have come to the end of Bordeaux 2010, and we can now move back to all sorts of wonderful wines, whether Bordeaux or not!

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You all may remember my report from a four day trip to Piemonte in May last year. You may also remember the countless references to tar and roses and even remember that a lot of the vines and roses were devastated by strong hail storms just a few days before we arrived. Well we will be make for another 4 day episode this coming May, but before then, I thought I would bring you some new info about one of the producers who was discovered on that trip which can be found in the early posts on these pages…

Under the radar
One may remember the large number of producers in Piemonte, and that many of them, you probably had never heard of until you read about them in these pages. That is because Piemonte is the Burgundy of Italy with plenty of tiny producers and various different vineyard spots. Like with Burgundy, one could spend a lifetime attempting to learn every aspect and identity that can be found in this part of Italy. Of course, if there already plenty of good producers, why search for more?The answer to that question, is most certainly because those who are known are more expensive. They have a reputation. It is the people who are under the radar, who are making quality wines at reasonable prices. So I invite you to take a short step back into the world of the unknown…

First steps in Roero

The reason I put that link there is to remind you of one producer in particular, a Mr. Fabrizio Battaglino who makes stunning wines that are not hugely expensive. In fact in terms of intrinsic quality, I would happily pay a lot more money for the wines than he charges for them… He deserves all the credit he can get.

Vines behind the garage… Sorry Winery that is Az. Agr. Fabrizio Battaglino
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Azienda Agricola Fabrizio Battaglino
I’ll come out and say that this post was inspired by the quality of the samples that Fabrizio recently sent me, and whilst you will find my old notes for his wines, from the link above and information about his winery, I will recap a little bit here before posting the notes of his exquisite wines.

A third generation winemaker and owner of vines in Vezza d’Alba, situated in the area designated as a DOCG called Roero. He owns 4 hectares of vines, and grows, Arneis (white), Barbera (black) and Nebbiolo (black grape varieties) and produces a number of cuvées. Fabrizio’s grandfather, was a pioneer of bottling ones own wines in the region in the 1960s, but his father sold the very high quality grapes to a number of co-operatives in the region. Upon taking over the reins in 1996, the family built a new house from within which the wines are produced and Fabrizio re-commenced bottling of wines under the family name and it seems that every vintage his skills are improving all the time. On top of this, the run of brilliant vintages in Piemonte has led to some spectacular wines being produced. From 2005 to 2010, the wines across the board are excellent and deserve serious attention.

Fabrizio in the area that I like to call The Garage
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Fabrizio could be considered a modernist in terms of the wines he makes, looking for approachability and softness, but in terms of the quality and flavour these are not wines that are smothered in layers of new barrique. So what makes him a modernist? Generally he has a for Piemonte, a middle range maceration length of roughly 15-20 days on the whole and this takes place in stainless steel instead of wood. The then ages the wines that are oaked in barriques, and he has no larger wood whatsoever. I can see the traditionalists cringing right now. However, I would like to point at here that this is not because he wants to make wines that a big black dark and covered in oak, but to make elegant approachable wines that still age beautifully. He uses these modern techniques because of a lack of space, and uses interesting techniques in order to make wines that taste traditional despite the way they are made.

The tiny barrel room
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He uses barriques, but only a tiny amount are ever new for his top wines. Generally he uses older wood for 75%, and never uses more than 30% new barrique with any of his wines. And it is generally only 25% with the other quarters having seen 1, 2 and 3 wines respectively. It is the lesser wines that see more new wood, allowing the wood to age and leach flavors into the early drinking wines. Thus the wood for the top wine is used as a vessel, and not as an imparter of flavor into the wine. Why do you need vessels at all for this wine? Well the DOCG Roero production stipulations are identical to those of Barbaresco. So this is how he manages to get a traditional flavor from untradtitional production methods.

Sampling the wines inside the Garage!
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The New Wines

Fabrizio was kind enough to send me a load of new samples recently of the current vintages of this wines, except for his Langhe Rosso, Ancreus, as the current vintage is 2007, all of which has sold out, because Fabrizio gained three glasses in Gambero Rosso 2011 for his Nebbiolo d’Alba, “Vigna Colla” 2007 which was a great achievement and well deserved. So here are the notes that I have made, including his new sweet wine that should be missed at your peril.

The samples arrive…
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THE WINES

2010 Roero Arneis DOCG; Az. Agr. Fabrizio Battaglino; Vezza d’Alba
wax, lanolin, citrus, pineapple, lemon, lime, zesty fruit jumps from the glass. Racy, crisp, poised, grassy, herbs, lemongrass and spice, a touch of almond syrup underlies the palate giving a waxy, honeyed texture, but the fruit is fresh and clean. Mineral, marble, pebblestones, and a bit of flint give this depth. Apple, citrus, lemons, minerals, grass and lemongrass intermingle on the subtle, contemplative finish. Corn and flour, add complexity. This isn’t as flamboyant or as rich as the powerful 2009, but this is a deep, sophisticated, complex wine with lovely nervosity and poise. Very well balanced but not rasping like it can be. The finish really lingers but never imposes, but with air the 40+ second finish gives off a strong flavour of spice, cinnamon, chili and Asian spice along with apple and citrus, and it builds, with more lemon grass and pepper a few sips later. A lovely white wine with depth, complexity and elegance. Good freshness and fascinating flavour. ****(**) or [4+4.5+4.5+4=17/20]

2009 Nebbiolo d’Alba; Az. Agr. Fabrizio Battaglino; Vezza d’Alba
sandy, saline, sandstone, mineral nose, subdued and closed to start with. Plum, cherry and more red and black fruits appear with air, round, herby, peppery cherry, roses and tar coming through now. Rose bush, Rose petals, basil, thyme and parsley. Poised, precise, soft tannins that are slightly drying at present. Tumeric and Asian spices now, spicebox and chillipowder, earthy, mineral and spicy. Strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, cassis, Tarmac, ground coffee, baked earth. Fresh, nicely balanced, and showing that it needs time to pick up more classical character. Subdued finish at the moment but all the components are there for something exciting to emerge. Round pretty fruit on the palate emerging now. A tiny hint of truffle and mushroom. Not a huge amount of tannin showing up hinting that it won’t be long before this is very enjoyable. Focused, poised and slick. It will need time to shed the puppy fat and the soft tannins that are there, and let the perfume emerge from underneath, but the fruit is crystalline and concentration is good. Really coming on in the glass. Will be classy in 3-4 years and hold for a further 6-8 years on top of that. I look forward to revisiting this in a few years time! ****(*++) or [3.5+4.5+4.5+4.5=17/20]

2008 Barbera d’Alba “Munbél”; Az. Agr. Fabrizio Battaglino; Vezza d’Alba
wood spice and oak, a touch of vanilla and cream, black plum, black cherry, deep, mineral with a touch of chocolate, coffee and kernel flavors. The oak integrates better with air giving more cedar, tobacco and smokey flavours. Earth, soil, sandy mineral notes, but the main flavors are of chocolate, plum, prunes and mocha. Nice freshness and balance, with good poise and precision. More fresh red fruits coming with air, earth, crushed rocks and pebble stones. A touch of flint/gun powder. Garden herbs, rosemary and thyme. Fairly long but dominated by tannins and wood at the moment. With fruit, spice and minerals hidden underneath. A nice little wine that will need a few more years to soften, but drink really well for 3-5 years after that. ****(*+) or [3.5+4+4+4=15.5/20]

2008 Nebbiolo d’Alba “Vigna Colla”; Az. Agr. Fabrizio Battaglino; Vezza d’Alba
tar, roses, strawberry, rosebush, white truffle, cherry, plum, earth, sandstone, sandy, saline, haunting, beguiling nose, so much complexity and darkness. Never aggressive, but never restrained, open for business and seducing. Broad, mouth filling but not richly tannic, but nice acidity and structure. Forest fruits, forest floor, poised and focused. A hint of earth, with a long truffle, spicy, strawberry and tar finish. Roses and rosebush poking through with time. Herbs, pepper, a touch of cedar, tobacco and smoke, even perhaps some turmeric. A little bit of mocha and chocolate that wasn’t there upon opening the bottle. If anything, this is starting to close down in the glass and will need time to re-emerge. The early flavors hint at the fact that this is truly a vin de garde and will age effortlessly. The nose and the length remain incredibly even if the palate slowly shuts down under the tannin and structure. You could smell this all day and find something different. More open and expressive than the 07 at the same stage of evolution. White pepper as well now. Wild raspberry, smoke, flint, burnt match with more tar, roses, earth, leaves and truffle/mushroom. This is a wonderful, seducing, beguiling wine that although I feel it will shut down within the next 2-3 years, will reemerge perhaps 5 years after that, and develop for perhaps 5-10 years thereafter. A beautiful wine full of hidden secrets and potential. Ignore this at your peril. ***(***+) or [5+4+5+4.5=18.5/20]

2008 Roero “Sergentin”; Az. Agr. Fabrizio Battaglino; Vezza d’Alba
deep, dark, structured, balanced, focused and bright, but slightly closed. Tar, roses, strawberry, raspberry, truffle and white pepper, with that classic sandy, saline, fishy, sandstone character coming through with time in the glass and bottle. Haunting again but not as expressive or as open. Much more tannic structured, and more classic Roero zip to the acidity. Chocolate, coffee and earth. More piercing and focused. This will need a serious amount of time and may even already have closed in itself for the time being. A long persistent finish that seems short and tannic to begin with, but the finish is long and there is plenty of flavor and complexity hidden beneath the tannin. Black plum, black cherry, cassis, cedar, smoke, tar and roses start to emerge more and more with time in the glass. The finish is starting to make for more elegant and again haunting but playful, zippy reading. This certainly has the structure to age for longer than the Vigna Colla and clearly the difference is solely in the terroir, but I find it hard to say that the Sergentin is better. However perhaps it is a vintage issue as I thought the 06 Sergentin was better than the 06 Vigna Colla. The beauty of Piemontese terroir. A touch of crystalline plum evens this out nicely now. Another wonderful wine that will need 3-6 years in bottle and will live for at least 8-12 years thereafter. Super! **(****+) or [4+4+5+4.5~=17.5+/20]

2009 Bric Bastia (100% Arneis); Az. Agr. Fabrizio Battaglino; Vezza d’Alba
A new wine for me from this estate, a slightly later harvest, with the grapes then being dried in the air and sun, before fermentation and gentle pressing. A sort of late harvest vin de paille if you will. Sesame seed, linseed oil, beeswax, apple, lemon, cooked Moroccan lemon and fruit compote. Very much like Sauternes on the nose, with some smoke, honey and grass to add to the flavors, even a hint of Asian spice and chili oil. Very fresh, broad and long but never cloying on the palate. Rich but delicate and expressive, a touch of funk, cheese, and bruised apple, fresh lime soda and garden herbs, rosemary, thyme, even a touch of fresh mint giving this a real zip. A real perfume and lightness make this a beautiful sweet wine. If I’m going to stick my neck out, blind you wouldn’t mistake this as Chateau d’Yquem but it certainly would be considered in the same league! Is this the Italian version of Mullineux Straw Wine? Bready, yeasty, limestone, chalky mineral notes. Marmalade, honey and lime. Broad, concentrated but never cloying, with typical Roero freshness to keep all the elements in check. A bit of nuttiness underlies the flavors and will prevail with age. It is hard to say how this will age due to it being the worst vintage, but I would not hesitate to worry about keeping it for 5-10 years if well stored. A super effort, and shows the true quality of this winemaker. If this is his first attempt at a sweet wine, just imagine what future vintages will be like. 😀 *****(**) or [4.5+4.5+4.5+4.5=18/20]

These are wines that deserve serious attention from The wider world, and I know from the quality of these wines, that in a bad vintage, Fabrizio will still make something super to drink. He is a brilliant winemaker and I hope he continues to make waves. For more information about Fabrizio and his wines, visit here.

For purchasing information, or if you want to discuss these wines, do not hesitate to email jmb_wine@yahoo.co.uk

Until then, Happy Drinking!

Wines from last year.
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Responses

  1. Well done Jonathan, great comments.

    • Thank you… Hopefully there will be more interest now!


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