Posted by: jmbwineblog | August 15, 2011

Forza Piemonte 2 (Part 3/4); Modern v Traditional v Experimental?? Who cares.

Apologies for the airwave silence, Tastings, moving flat and visiting Burgundy got in the way of continued blogging activity, but now we are well and truly back on form, and ready to take back to the foothills of Italy for the next part of our wonderful trip in Piemonte. And first up (after much chopping and changing to the schedule) we were tasting barrel samples and bottled wines at Domenico Clerico with his head cellar-master.

Understand-Me!!!

We arrived at Domenico Clerico’s winery to be greeted by dogs and wonderful views of the rolling hills around Monforte d’Alba. From which along with Serralunga d’Alba make some of the richest most powerful of Barolos, and for me an area that is much more able in terms of fruit quality to cope with heavily toasted new oak than the more perfumed delicate fruit from La Morra, Barolo and Castiglione Falletto (which falls somewhere in between the two in terms of style). The winery owns 21 hectares of vines, and having set up in 1976, their first vintage was 1979. They aim to make quality single vineyard wines from only Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo. All the vines are situated in Monforte d’Alba, and the team here attempt to match the style to the quality of the vintage.

We started out by tasting some barrel samples and tank samples, as the following wines were not yet bottled but were finished and they were about to bottle them for release onto the market later in the year.

2010 Langhe Dolcetto “Visadi”; [barrel sample]; closed, plum, chocolate, round and a touch of coffee with earth. More perfume with time in the glass, poised, precise, herbs, rosemary, pepper, nice length, scorched earth, bell pepper, grapey, broad, mouthfilling but perhaps a touch too reduced and ripe? **(***) or [4+4+3.5+3.5~=15+/20]

2009 Barbera d’Alba “Tre Vigne”; [barrel sample: this sees malolactic fermentation take place at 20 degrees celcius in barrique]; wood spice, leather boot polish, lots of precision, but woody, oaky, soft plummy fruit and structure. Should be lovely when the wood integrates. Earth, minerals, but the finish is dominated by wood and tannins but there is certainly delicacy of flavour underneath. **(***+) or [3+4.5+4.5+4~=16+/20]

2010 Langhe Nebbiolo “Capisme-e”; [barrel sample; this only sees steel and is for the local market with the first vintage being 2009. Domenico decided to make this because there was plenty of talk about him selling up because of his very serious illness, or which he is certainly over the worst one hopes. He still finds it difficult to get words out despite still being very alert and one wishes him all the best. “Capisme-e” means “Believe Me”, as in believe me when I say I am not selling up. ], reduced, closed nose, some rounded cherry, dusty, earthy, structured, powerful, broad, round with powerful sweet fruit, fresh, clean, strawberry, plum, fruit filled with soft tannins, poised, precise, a bit of grapey rusticity, bramble, tar, roses, broad mouthfilling. ***(***) or [4+4.5+4.5+4=17+/20]

2009 “Arte” Langhe Rosso [barrel sample, young Nebbiolo blended with other grapes which sees less new wood]; powerful, poised, dark chocolate, soft tannins, plum, tar, roses, lots of tannin, cherry, plum, forest fruits, creamy chocolate, very closed but concentrated, very impressive wine that flows and caresses the palate, a chameleon, constantly changing. Rich powerful tannins, elegant, finish is dominated by tannins and a touch of wood, but in the background, there is lovely definition. **(***++) or [3+5+4+4.5~=16.5++/20]

Domenico made a brief stop to say hello when coming back from the vineyards.

Next we were in to tasting bottled wines, and we were in for a treat, and I will temper this by saying I’m not a fan of barrique on my Nebbiolo… 😉

2007 Barolo “Pajana”; [from the Ginestra vineyard, this plot is completely Southfacing, with 5% having a touch of sandy soil]; lovely, round, toasty, smokey fruit, flint, minerals, hints of funk, iron, moss, sandstone, fruity, fun and with good freshness. Tar, roses, bramble, earth, truffle, a bit of wood spice on the finish, meat, blood, tobacco leaf, soft tannins, toast, with nice fruit and spice on the persistant finish. ****(**++) or [4+4.5+4.5+4.5~=17.5+/20]

2007 Barolo “Ciabot Mentin”; [from a different part of the Ginestra vineyard with no sandy particles, and south south east facing]; more poised fruit, more sandstone, mineral and linear, sandy, focused, tar, roses, strawberry, complex, poised, long, wood spice, plum, more structured, clay, more restrained and reserved but with an endless subtle finish. WOW! soft tannins, haunting, complex, starting to sing with time in the glass, smoke, flint, opening up beautifully. Mineral, earth. **(*****+) or [4+5+5+5=19/20]

2006 Barolo “Aeroplanservaj”; [this comes from a 1.4hectare vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba from where they buy grapes, with this being the firt vintage. The name means “Crazy Aeroplane” in Piemontese dialect after both Domenico and the escapades that have occured in the obtaining of this fruit!!]; smoke, sandstone, iron and rust, blood, decaying roses, tar, rosebush, bramble, surprisingly open. Truffle, sandy, sandstone, a touch closed but complex and haunting. Lengthy finish, understated, structured, with lovely balance and freshness. Wild raspberry, strawberry, perfume, herbs, rust and iron ore, rock. Lovely, fun wine. ****(***+) or [4.5+4.5+4.5+5=18.5+/20]

2004 Barolo “Percristina”; [fruit from the Mosconi vineyard, a cuvee that is only released when it starts to express itself, so in theory, the younger examples, could be released before this one! It sees 100% new oak]; round, focused, linear, toasty, smokey, plum fruit, sandy, clay minerality, broad, concentrated and poised, lots of clean, rosebush, roses, understated, long herby, tobacco, earth, decaying leaf finish. Toast, smoke, long, linear finish that goes on and on whilst fluctuating. Wonderful. ****(***+) or [4.5+5+5+5=19.5/20]

The funky labels for the Crazy Aeroplane!!

Whislt I have to admit that I have rarely been a fan of new barrique and Nebbiolo (which is not to say that I don’t think that some modern winemakers don’t make brilliant wines with these techniques, such as Andrea Oberto, Renato Ratti and the like) I did find these wines enthralling and captivating. They were modern, and the team there don’t deny it, but they retain an elegance, delicacy, perfume and understated classic Nebbiolo charactar that so many others fail to maintain. If you don’t like oak, it doesn’t mean that you won’t like these wines, because at the end of the day, they are great wines, full stop. They still speak of Nebbiolo and Barolo, they still speak of tar and roses, elegance and perfume and for me, that is the main thing to look for in these wines. For me whether you are modern, traditional, etc etc, is not an issue. What is, is whether or not you make wines that speak of their soils and their grape! Next up, we were to visit another Monforte producer, with a very different style and swagger in Giovani Manzone.

“They taste more like Castiglione Falletto”

Despite being the sole proprietor of the famous Cru Le Gramolere (although they now lease parts to their cousins, Fratelli Allesandria who you may remember from last year), situated in Monforte d’Alba and having their winery there, the wines are utterly different to those of other Monforte producers and crus from these vineyards. These are softer, more delicate, subtle wines that I believe are completely misunderstood by many because they don’t shout and scream… Monforte. Mauro, son and current winemaker agrees. “They taste more like the wines from Castiglione, but the soils are more similar to there than Monforte!” was his reply to my comment that this feels more like a wine from Barolo or La Morra but without the firey, spicy mineral notes.

Another one with a view to be envious of...

The regime here is all about perfume, minerality, and using big wood such as Tonneau, and Botti. There is a real sense of pride in what this family do, and they are proud of their Cru! Its main subdivision and their other wines, all from particular vineyard spots. I will stick my neck out and say that they have fast become my favourite producer, not least because their 1994 Gramolere (not a great vintage) has turned into a beautiful expression of Nebbiolo grapes in liquid form.

The bigger the better!!

2009 Langhe Bianco “Rosserto”; [3,000 bottles, aged in tonneau]; crisp, lemon, spice, pepper and wood, waxy, oily, lemon butter, warm on the finish, flint, sandy, gooseberries, broad, lovely acidity, slightly salty and cheese note. Delicate, and will be an excellent white for food. ****(**+) or [4+4.5+4+4=16.5/20]

2009 Dolcetto d’Alba “La Serra”; [40 year old vines in this vineyard]; crisp, fresh, plum, cassis, chocolate, black cherry, nice elegant structure, currants, minerals, blood. Nice fresh, plum finish. Delicate and expressive. ****(*++) or [4+4.5+4.5+4=17/20]

2007 Barbera d’Alba “La Serra” Superiore; [barrel aged]; smoke, herbs, round, dark plum, chocolate, nice poise, elegant, zippy finish, roasted herbs, mint, with lovely understated length of rosemary and hints of vanilla. *****++ or [4+4.5+5+4.5=18/20]

2006 Barolo “Bricat”; [a sub-division from within the Gramolere vineyard; 6,500 bottles produced]; delicate, poised, precise, structured, elegant and light-footed, very fresh, understated, tar, roses, strawberry, plum, marble and sand, sandstone, dusty, earthy, mineral, focused and balanced with violets, truffle, bramble and roses in the beguiling finish. SUPER. ****(***+) or [4.5+4.5+5+5=19/20]

2004 Barolo “Le Gramolere Riserva”; [2,000 bottles]; perfumed, haunting, dense and slightly shut down, smoke, violets, more powerful and structured with a sweet plum and cherry palate, mineral, crystalline fruit, poised, concentrated a touch of herbs and woodspice, delicacy, understated, long tobacco, truffle, earth, plum finish. a touch of chocolate, wild raspberry and strawberry. *****(**+) or [4.5+5+5+4.5~=19+/20]

1998 Barolo “Le Gramolere Riserva”; smoke, sous bois, truffle, musk, decaying leaves, roses, tar, cherry, wet soil, very delicate, tightly knit palate, truffle, strawberry, plum, fresh herbs, mint, eucalyptus, delicate, perfumed, very classically styled, smoke, nice balance and structure. Wonderful freshness, haunting, delicate and in a great place with something left to give. complex but delicate. *****(**+) or [4.5+5+5+4.5=19/20]

The lovely Bricat.

The wines here are understated, elegant and beguiling. They do what I want my Nebbiolo to do to me… haunt me. Certainly a producer to look out for, but remember, these wines are not big wines unless when you say big, you mean sophisticated. Another point to admire about both of the last producers which is such a contrast from some of the more famous names who command huge prices, is that these guys and other producers who I really like, see themselves as farmers from whose produce one makes wine, as oppose to meat or cheese. They are down to earth and laid-back and all they want to do is talk about their land and what they love to do…

Next off to Lunch.

Is this the Enoteca Regionale or a Restaurant??

After a bus ride to Canale (the heart of Roero), we arrived in front of the Enoteca Regionale di Roero where all things Roero can be found. It also houses a superb restaurant called Davide Palluda, and it was a real treat of passionate cooking, good wines to match, and superb value to be had in terms of cost.

The Enoteca...One of the many delightful dishes on offer...

The Wines

2010 Roero Arneis “Serra Lupini”, Fratelli Negro; lemon, lime, zippy, oily and fairly ripe. Well rounded but with the life and zip of the regions wines. Well made, lemon sherbet and spritz, elegant but warm and ripe. Dissappointingly short but tasty none the less. Lemons, limes, lanolin, wax. ****(*) or [3.5+4+4+3.5=15+/20]

2009 Langhe Pinot Nero, Deltetto; crisp, cherry, delicate, zippy and fresh, roses, plum, strawberry, nice fruit definition but perhaps a touch ripe, a slight hint of tar, minerals, flint, a hint of smoke, sandstone, saline. Well made but not elegant enough to be super, which given the soils and similarities with Nebbiolo it could have been. ***(**+) or [4.5+4+4+4=16.5+?/20]

2007 Barbera d’Alba Superiore, “Pardune”; E. Serrafino; smoke, woodspice, perfume, coffee, chocolate, plum, cherry, coffee, kernal but with classic zippy freshness, fun, joker in the box, well balanced. Vanilla and spice. A touch sweet but very very moreish. *****+ or [4+4.5+4+4=16.5+/20]

2008 Nebbiolo d’Alba “La Val dei Preti”; Matteo Correggia; rich, spritzy, perfume, lifted expressive nose, deep, powerful, very fresh, perfumed with crystalline fruit, earth, soil, good length, crisp, tar, roses, marble, pebble stones, rosebush, bramble, very serious. Fabulous, Fantastic. ***(****) or [4.5+5+4.5+4.5=18.5/20]

2006 Roero Riserva, “Valmaggiore”; Cascina Chicco: smoke, toast, a hint of sweet spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, fresh, zippy, dark plum, sweet vanilla oak, a touch drying but with quality and poise. Big, broad but with poise and underlying delicacy, plum, currants and a touch of blood. Excellent quality with a nice finish but too modern in style and obviously so for me. *****++ or [4.5+4+4+4=16.5++/20]

2005 Barolo “Brunate”; Andrea Oberto; powerful, roses, tar, wild strawberry, wild raspberry, plum, a touch of stewed cherry, poised, complex, herbs, rosebush, rosemary, eucalyptus, long, precise, structured, restrained power. Classic Brunate minerality. Poised, elegant, herbs and peppery spice, plum, decaying leaves, truffle, truffle oil. Wonderful length, super. *****(*++) or [4.5+4.5+5+5=19/20]

The Gang of Six

After what was a great lunch, with superb food at a good price and four good, and two outstanding wines, it was back on the bus. It was time to meet MR. Rocca, Mr. Bruno Rocca.

The Bryan Ferry of Barbaresco…

Not only does the man look like Bryan Ferry, but he is tall like Bryan Ferry and has a wonderfully bubbly fun extrovert personality, and makes wines how he wants to make them. OK, so he is a modernist but that doesn’t mean his wines aren’t tasty, and it is worth going to see this youthful 60 year old (he looks 40 by the way) to meet the man, enjoy the views and experience and to have ones eyes opened to the potential in this great vineyard that he has a major plot in, La Rabaja!

Looking out over Rabaja with Bruno Rocca...

His wines are certainly polished and he likes to use barrique, but his wines maintain an elegance and subtlety that is so key to Nebbiolo. In many ways, based on his personality, I wouldn’t want him to make traditional wines. He is intelligent, alluring, vibrant and clearly doesn’t want to be stuck in the past, so if there were chickens running around, and the winery wasn’t new with a large lift and immaculately laid out, I’d have been both shocked and surprised. This man is a Rocca (excuse the lame pun! 😉 ).

A barrique with the trademark feather!

Everything is temperature controlled, everything is controlled for humidity, the air is purified, everything spends time in barrique (not all of which is new I tell you). Nothing is left to chance, and the wines are super.

2010 Dolcetto d’Alba “Trifole”; fresh, round, wood spice, elegant, spice, pepper, sweet toasty, blackcurrants, vanilla, coconut, poised, precise, very serious, earth, soil, herbs, minerals, rocks, rounded and balanced. Very impressive, with good length. ****(*+) or [4+4.5+4.5+4=17/20]

2008 Langhe Rosso “Rabajolo”; [a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Barbera, 25% Nebbiolo which spends 18 months in 2 year old barrique]; mint, eucalyptus, herbs, cassis, roses, tar, earth, funk, soil, blackcurrants, strawberry, long understated finish, a touch of melon, smoke, lift, well balanced, plum, strawberry, lychee, complex and broad. Very nice but not really really exciting. ***(**+) or [4+4+4+4=16+/20]

2008 Langhe Nebbiolo “Fralu”; [only the second vintage, taken from a single vineyard, but Bruno feels the vines are at 8 years old, too young to be called Barbaresco, eventually it will be a Barbaresco!]; round, toast, earth, soil, minerals, nice breathe, sandy, saline, very good length, slightly tight, dense and poised. should be good in time but it lacks real depth. Superbly made, with complexity, perfume and herbaceousness but the finish is dominated by wood tannins. funk, earth, saline, sandstone, decaying leaves and wild strawberry. ***(***+?) or [4.5+4+4+4=16.5++/20]

2008 Barbera d’Asti; [which sees 6-8 months of new barrique]; chocolate, plum, sweet spice, zippy, fresh, perfumed, coffee, plum, kernal, vanilla, wood spice, poised, precise, with good length. chocolate milk, brazen but with a hidden delicacy. Warmth, fire, smoke, ink, squid ink. Very impressive, a hint of mango, melon, lychee. ****(*++) or [3+4.5+4.5+3.5=15.5++/20]

2007 Barbaresco “Rabaja”; [which spends 18 months in barrique, of which 50% are new]; smoke, earth, truffles, perfumed, expressive, plum, herbs, vanilla, coconut, silky smooth, wood spice, strawberry, wet clay, poised, precise, broad, focused, strong wood tannins, sweetness, tropical fruits, chocolate, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, mineral, powerful, complex, plum, wild raspberry, very fresh, long, truffle, dark plum, cherry. Really SUPER wine. ***(****) or [4+5+5+4.5=18.5+/20]

Birds of a feather... tasted together.

You might not like the flavours, you might not like what comes out of the bottle, but that is opinion, and there is no doubting that these are modern wines. However, they are very very tasty and the best wines, do not dismantle and destroy the flavour of the grape itself and retain a sense of where they come from. These are excellent wines, if you don’t like them, it is not because of the modern techniques. Next up was another Barbaresco producer, one who I had yet to experience, and these guys produce fantastically good value wine. They are, Cascina Saria.

Find me better value wine and I’ll give you a bottle!!

Cascina Saria, are another family winery who have some older vines, but only started bottling their own wines in 1999, despite being in business since 1973, which was also their first Barbaresco. They have 15 hectares of vines and their soils are 40% clay, 30% sandy soil, 30% limestone. Whilst I do not necesarily think they are the best Barbarescos that money can buy, they are certainly the best value, and their best wines are excellent in their own right as well.

Some of Cascina Saria's Vines

It is hard to put into context, exactly what sort of style this winery is looking to produce, but at the end of the day they make good wines with a sense of place. They do however use barriques due to the fact that they have very little space. They certainly wish that they could use botti and build a large underground cellar. Unfortunately they can’t but fortunately, it doesn’t detract from the ever improving quality.

2010 Dolcetto d’Alba; [a tank sample, as this only sees stainless steel]; chocolate, plum, soft, elegant, crisp, fresh, earthy with herbs, poised, a touch green, but lovely length, and caressingly soft acidity. Mint and eucalyptus. ***(**) or [3.5+4+4+3.5=15+/20]

2010 Langhe Arneis; crisp, zesty, lifted, sprightly, oily, waxy, lemons, limes, nuts, a touch of butter, wonderfully balanced, focused, with nice lenght. Very very good. Grass and Gooseberries. ****(*+) or [4.5+4+4+4~=16.5+/20]

2009 Barbera d’Asti “Vigneto Corvento”; [again only stainless steel hits this wine]; spice, round, chocolate, plum, perfumed freshness, redcurrants, blackcurrants, herbs, rosemary, eucalyptus, with good depth, poised, nice earthy, chocolatey finish. ****(*+) or [4+4+4.5+4=16.5/20]

2009 Barbera d’Asti “San. Lorenzo”; [40-45 year old vines, this sees barrique]; powerful, woodspice, vanilla, chocolate, smooth, poised, broad, well made but it is hard to get past the sweet wood induced flavours. Spice, minerals, plum, cassis, rich powerful and with structure. Needs a few years to really open up, but already long, precise and focused. ***(***?) or [3+4.5+4.5+4~=16++/20]

2008 Langhe Nebbiolo; [this sees on year in barrique with 10% of them new]; perfume, nail varnish, a touch disjointed, nice sweetness, nice lenght, vanilla and woodspice, focused, poised, long, herbs, lacks the depth of old vines but is lovely drinking and it will age nicely. ***(**+) or [4+3.5+4.5+4.5=16.5+/20]

Next up was a small vertical of their Barbarescos. They all spend 18 months in barrique, of which 40 to 50% is new. The malolactics take place in wood, and the vines are on average 40 years old. They produce roughly 8000 bottles per vintage and they charge 15 euros at the cellar door. If that ain’t value, I don’t know what is!

2007 Barbaresco; [this is the exception to the rule with only one year in barrique of which 50% were new]; perfumed, floral, round, ripe fruit, vanilla, effeminate, fleshy, sweet, with freshness, depth, truffle, plum, strawberry, voluptuous and appealling. ****(**+) or [4+4+4+4=16+/20]

2006 Barbaresco; more focus, more poise and structure. truffle, minerals, more clay flavour, a touch of sandstone, wonderfully balanced, crisp, good length, warm, ripe, mouthfilling, poised and lovely. ***(***+) or [3.5+4.5+4.5+4.5=17+/20]

2005 Barbaresco; fresh, mineral, poised, restrained, focused, structured, classic and powerful, warm clay, sandstone, plum, perfume, roses, bold and long. ****(**+) or [4+4+4+4=16+/20]

2004 Barbaresco; warm, round, mineral, blood, wonderful, balance, long, structured, long marble mineral charactar. Needs time, but with some elegant power. Long, complex and really super. *****(*+) or [4+4.5+4.5+4.5=17.5/20]

A small part of our vertical.

Next up, it was time to meet a very experimental winemaker, who makes some interesting wines in their own right, a one Fabrizio Ressia.

Peach trees in the Press!

Fabrizio Ressia is a relatively young, but talented winemaker, who experiments and speaks his mind. He produces 30,000 bottles across all his cuvees per vintage, his vines are all between 30-36 years old. He ferments in steel and ages in wood. Mainly tonneau (500litres) and Botti (10 hectolitres and 20 hectolitres), although he does have a few barriques which are used with his experimental wines. He experiments a lot with different grapes and techniques as you will see, but he also uses a fascinating technique of putting peach tree branches into the press and fermenting tanks with the wines, as he believes that these branches remove any of the harsh, stalky elements from the stems and pips and also any underripe tannins. An intriguing thought. He also makes a point of showing the potential of the Canova vineyard in Neive, where he is based in the Barbaresco DOCG.

Fabrizio with his barrels.

2010 Langhe Favorita “La Mironda”; grapey, lemon, crisp, lots of acidity, very crisp, hints of butter, minerals, smoke, flint, lime, white roses. *****+ or [3+4+4+4=15/20]

Vina do Tavola; “Evien”; [2010 Moscato d’asti but vinified dry mainly in steel, but occasionally aged in wood depending on the vintage. Fabrizio has experimented for 4 years, and this is his 9th vintage that has been on sale and he is fighting for a DOC, despite being the only person to make this style of wine]; crisp, fresh, melon, grapey, lemon, lime, honey, Moscato nose, nice length, elegance and poise, acacia flavours as well, but like a dry Gewurz or Pinot Gris on the palate, lovely presence and persistance, but perhaps the alcohol is a touch high at 14.5% if not more, vinified dry. *****(*+) or [4.5+4+4.5+4.5=17.5/20]

2010 Dolcetto d’Alba “Canova”; perfume, fresh, red fruits, plum, elegant, soft, chocolate, zippy, long and broad. Very fresh with beautiful elegance. I very impressive young wine. ****(**) or [4+4.5+4+4=16.5/20]

2009 Barbera d’Alba Superiore “Canova”; [this spends two years in botti]; very fresh, delicate, herbs, menthol, length, freshness, broad, powerful and long, excellent crisp acidity, structured but with a tannic finish. Lovely poise, soft tannins, red fruit, plum, strawberry. Should be fabulous in a year. ****(**+) or [4+4.5+4.5+4.5=17.5/20]

2009 Langhe Rosso “Resiot”; [a blend of 10% Barbera (aged in stainless steel); 10% Nebbiolo (10% of which is aged in new wood) and 80% Merlot (of which 90% is aged in barrique and 10% in stainless steel); The wine is assembled in steel, and the percentages for each grape are decided based on which grapes performed best in the vintage. So every year this will be utterly different.]; fresh, elegant, perfumed, plum, redcurrants, cassis, clean, soft, caressing structure, herbs, wonderful effervescence with good length, but this needs time to really truly unfurl. ***(****) or [5+4+4+4.5=17.5+/20]

2006 Langhe Nebbiolo “Gepu”; [parts of the fruit in this cuvee come from the Canova vineyard]; deep, perfumed, roses, herbs, tar, rosemary, elegant with structure, length, strawberry, plum, mushroom, truffle, very high quality. Wonderful freshness but the finish is long, caressing and seamlessly balanced. ***(***+) or [4.5+4.5+4.5+4.5=18/20]

2007 Barbaresco “Canova”; round, ripe, full, truffle, earth, sandstone, lots of acid, it is almost painful the acid is so piercing, lots of concentration, freshness, earth, soil, coffee, plum, strawberries, white truffle, crisp tobacco leaf, rosemary, herbs. ****(***) or [4.5+4.5+4.5+4.5=18/20]

2006 Barbaresco “Canova”; more rounded and deeper, more plum, fresh but more fruit forward, breathe and depth, but the 2007 is more exciting. Soft, balanced, earth, truffle, wild raspberry, violets, complex, earth, sandstone, depth, power, structure and length. ****(***) or [4+5+4.5+4.5=18/20]

Fabrizio's quite lovely Dolcetto.

Fabrizio makes superb, elegant, perfumed wines that have depth and complexity. He also experiments and pushes the boandaries of what is generally thought to be acceptable. He is innovative and his wines taste good. At the end of the day, if the wines taste good, does it really matter whether or not the producer is modern, traditional or experimental. Some talk of oak smothering the grapes charactar, but if that were the case how is it that they age so well. For me the correct use of oak is as a vessal. Of course oak may give the wines certain flavours, but if they sit in the background they won’t be offensive. A wine should speak of where it comes from, and what it is made of, NOT what it is made in. I don’t believe that oak necesarilly smotheres anything, unless it is heavily toasted, and in this sense, a heavily toasted botti of 10 hectolitres could impart the same flavours as a heavily toasted barrique. It is all relative… if it tastes of Nebbiolo and it tastes good, then who really cares!! Next it was off to dinner in Cherasco where we were staying at a place called 1772.

Inside an old Castle.

Well, it isn’t really a castle, but more a gentry house where one area has been donated to this very old fashioned but still good value and tasty restaurant. There were 14 of us, and we started with enough appetisers with apperitif to keep us all perfectly fed without even going into the main meal. Quite a site to behold. The food was good and wholesome but for me the wines were slightly variable.

The full splash of starters.

We had the usual full spread of Piemontese food with the following wines:

NV Berlucchi, Cuvee Imperiale Brut; fresh, crisp, lively, lemon, lime, a touch aggressive but a decent quality sparkler. **** or [3+3+4+4=14/20]

2005 Gavi “Manaia”; Franco M Mertinetti; melon, spice, white pepper, poised, fresh, elegant and zippy. Mineral, soapstone and sand. Delicate but with restrained power. Nuts and honey, depth, length, not particularly exciting but very well made and easy drinking. ****(*) or [3+4.5+4.5+4=16/20]

2005 Dolcetto di Dogliani di Alba, “Cursalet”; Gillardi; blueberries, smoke, earth, funk and minerality. Plum, chocolate, concentrated and rich. Fairly mineral and powerful. Long, blackcurrant, oyster and muscle shell, schist, round, chocolate, plum and currant finish. ****(*+) or [4+4+4+4=16/20]

1999 Barbaresco; Oddero; herbs, perfume but subdued. Plum, crisp, poised and precise, earth, rocks, sandstone and minerals, nice freshness, decaying leaves, mint, eucalyptus (but only just… verging on green). dusty, earthy, tobacco and cedar. Peach tree stems, nice but actually a bit dull, and with time in the glass it doesn’t improve. Nice length, but the nose is too forward for the age of the wine and this particular vintage. Asparagus in boiling water, under-ripe, provencale herbs, Mint, grain. Another example of a famous name resting on their laurels. ****(*+?) or [3+4+4+3.5=14.5/20]

Another example of good food with liberal Truffle distribution.

I wouldn’t say no to returning to 1772, but perhaps some more careful picking of wines would be in order, to compliment the excellent food. We did have a Moscato as well with desert, but by this time I was falling to pieces with the amount of wine and travel we had done, and I remember it being very pleasant but nothing that needed much serious attention.

And so it was off to bed, as we had more visits and then a flight back to London to contend with the next day.

Until next time, Happy Drinking!

The wonderful old town and tower of Cherasco.

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