Posted by: jmbwineblog | August 18, 2011

Forza Piemonte 2 (Part 4/4); Wines of Four different Kinds…

And so it was up bright and early for the final morning and touch of afternoon before a sleepy bus ride to Milan Malpensa and having to pay overweight baggage for all the bottles of wine that I had bought. It didn’t help that Enrico of Nada Giuseppe had some more 1996 Barbaresco Casot Riserva Magnums labelled and saleable as it led me to buy two more after the dissappointments of last year (one corked and one needing another 10-20 years of bottle age!). Our first stop was to a new producer, with a very long heritage and the owner of the building in which 1772 restaurant is situated, Umberto Fracassi-Ratti Mentoro.

“These? Ten Years Old, but I’ll get rid of them soon… TOO old isn’t good either, like Too Young!”

Those are some wise words from the elder statesman that is Umberto Fracassi, when asked about how old his botti (large casks) are, and a point that I have been trying to make about traditional and modern Piemontese winemaking for a very long time and more often than not, I get staunch replies, occasionally to do with age, experience, and all sorts of other things. Well let me put it this way, most of the people who make these comments have never even visited Piemonte. I will come back to this topic later, because the wines of Umberto are special, in fact they are very special and the man, despite his background (which I have sworn not to go into) and his life in Australia in the wool trade (although he claims to have spent more time surfing than selling wool!!) is, how can I put this, “a right chip off the old block” [please excuse the fake cockney accent; despite hailing from London Town]. Well spoken in English, he is the 14th generation of this family to make wine, which they have done for over 200 years, however the vines and winemaking stems from his mother and her family, hence the Ratti Mentoro attached to the name of the winery.

Mr. Fracassi with some of his barrels.

The winery is under the ancestral house with some of the winemaking apperatus in a small background courtyard. The grapes go into a Rotary Fermentor (aptly named “THE PROFESSOR”) as Umberto lets it do the hard work, which to be fair is a little unfair, as the man isn’t young and they do have steel tanks for fermenting in. On average for the Barolo they are there for a week, and the Barolo is aged only in large botti. The botti are all either 4 or 10 years old, and the 10 year old botti will soon be discarded and new ones purchased. The new botti and any barrique that are in use are only used for the lesser wines like the Barbera Superiore.

The vineyards are mainly in Cherasco (an off-shoot of La Morra and one of the 11 villages of Barolo) and La Morra (just on the other side of the river running through Piemonte and facing Cherasco). The estate hold 7 hectares that are not physically in the designated Barolo area, which are 50% clay soils, and 50% sandy soils. There are 2 hectares which are allowed to be grown and made into Barolo, and the soils are 100% Calcareous Clay.

We didn't try these, but we were offered very old Barolo (time however meant we couldn't... 😦 )

The Wines:

2010 Langhe Favorita; crisp, lemon, fresh, grass, spice, volcanic ash and fire, flint, egg white, zest, clay… very nice persistant length. ****++ or [4+4+4+4=16/20]

Rose; [a blend of Barbera and Dolcetto that spends 6 to 8 hours on the skins]; plum, easy, fruity, crisp, fresh, nice poise and concentration, elegant and simple but very very nice. **** or [3+4+4+4=15/20]

2009 Dolcetto d’Alba; delicate, fresh, plum, chocolate, fire and minerality, spice, pepper, soft, elegant, depth and poise, reserved, elegant, understated, cassis, grapey fruits. ****(**) or [4+4.5+4.5+4=17/20]

2007 Barbera d’Alba “Ciabot Contessa”; [this spends 6 months in barrique]; smoke, flint, shale, spice, chocolate, smooth, a hint of vanilla, funk, earth, plum, spicy, ash, fire, flint, burnt match, minerality, bramble, understated and well balanced. ***(***+) or [4+5+5+4=18/20]

2007 Barolo “Montoetto”; strawberry, spice, plum, tar, roses, round, elegant, soft but powerful, sandy, saline, mushroom, truffle, reserved and refined, coffee, chocolate, fire, ash, smoke, soft structure, broad, wild raspberry. ***(****+) or [4.5+5+5+4.5=19/20]

2002 Barolo; [there was no hail in these vineyards at all, and the problem in 2002 was hail, as Umberto said “the famous say something, everybody says OK!”, no hail and no signs of anything other than a very cool vintage in this wine…]; green pepper, smoke, mint, eucalyptus, fresh, spicy, mushroom, truffle, elegant, forest fruit, strawberry, plum, lovely freshness, cherry, green tea, raw tobacco leaves. Good rosemary and herb length. Wet clay, understated, with a long sous bois, elegant finish. *****(*+) or [4.5+4.5+5+5=19/20]

A quite lovely Barolo!

The wines at Umberto Fracassi are superb… and they are wonderfully mineral, restrained but deep and powerful, with an almost Volcanic ash/magma chamber type fire in the belly! A not I get more with those wines in La Morra closer to the river and to Cherasco but not to the same extent as these. Those closer to Verduno are more perfumed in my experience… I really enjoyed these wines despite having no pre-conceptions whatsoever as to their quality. I was wonderfully surprised as to how good they were, and in hindsight, I think this was my favourite visit of the trip, and I would love to go back and taste a whole selection of their wines going back a few decades. And one of the reasons that I think the wines are so good, is because of the knowledge of how to use the oak whether it be barrique or botti… They are never too young, and never too old! They are just right… the perfect vessals for ageing wine in. I will let you all decide what I mean by that… 😉

Next it was off to see a familiar face in Michele, of Crissante Allesandria.

We are experimenting…

I won’t go into the history of these wineries, as we have visited and talked about them before, but get straight into the wines, and any new news from the winemakers. As you will be able to find any background to these wines, in the following links……the-final-push for info on Crissant Allesandria and Nada Giuseppe

and…a-token-barolo or…known-nebbiolo for info on the wines of Fabrizio Battaglino.

The new Barolo from Michele, "Gallina" from 2007 onwards.

Michele is currently experimenting with a few new wines that are not yet on the market. A sweet wine from the 2008 vintage in the “Capelot” vineyard that is late harvest (Oct/November) and 23% sugar! This will spend 2 and a half years in wood and will only be made in Magnums! He is also trying at a Sparkling Rose made from Nebbiolo grapes which we look forward to with great anticipation.

The Wines

“Affresco; Vino Rosato; [this comes from 10% of run-off juice from other Nebbiolo wines and is from the 2009 vintage]; smoke, strawberries, roses, tar, elegant, plum, cherry, spice, warm, poised, powerful, minerals, grassy, herbs, peach, oranges, soft and easy. ****(*+) or [4+4+4+4=16/20]

2007 Barbera d’Asti Superiore “Ruge”; [no 2009 or 2010 will be made from these vines in order to allow them to rest]; smoke, wood spice, vanilla, smooth, chocolate, plum, cassis, burnt match, flint, poised, concentrated, truffle, toast, sous bois, fire and ash, smooth, coffee, milk, light and delicate, fresh. Needs time for the oak to integrate but should be lovely. Leather, blood, wild raspberry. ***(***) or [4+4+4.5+4=16.5+/20]

2006 Barbera d’Asti Superiore “Ruge”; rounded, dusty, sandy, perfumed, schist, flint, burnt match, more rounded fruit, broad, BBQ crisps, toast, plum, pepper, roses, chocolate, good length. POWER but elegant power. *****(*+) or [4.5+4.5+4.5+4=17.5+?/20]

2005 Barbera d’Asti Superiore “Ruge”; [opened because they opened the wrong bottle! We were not complaining 😀 ]; toast, roasted meat, BBQ chips, soy, worcester sauce, leather, soft, fresh cherry, elegant, delicate, focused and lovely, rosemary, herbs, lovely length, lift, perfume. Excellent. *****(*) or [4+4+4.5+4.5=17+/20]

2007 Barolo “Gallina”; [the vineyard is planted on sandy soils as oppose to the Calcereous clay of Roggeri]; rich, perfume, soft, ripe fruit, herbs, rosemary and strawberry, lovely balance, truffle, smoke, bbq sauce, cherry, pebble stones, silky minerality, delicate spice on the back end, burnt match, smoke, dusty, elegant, svelt and smooth, nice length. ****(**+) or [4.5+4.5+4.5+4.5=18+/20]

2006 Barolo “Roggeri”; more closed and structured, poised, focused, crystalline fruit, herbs, roses, tar, strawberry, elegant, powerful, lovely length, more rigid, sandstone, sandy minerality, clay, flint, burnt matches, soft tannins, structured, plum, chocolate, mushroom, truffle, long and subtle. Will need more time to completely resolve and open up. Liquorice. Fire, pepper and spice. Big but Beautiful! ***(***++) or [4+5+5+4.5=18.5+/20]

The wines here were as usual up to a brilliant standard and had that typical lower La Morra fire in the belly essence that makes them inthralling for me, despite the fact that they drink earlier than many other top Barolos, and they still for me make if not the best, the only Roggeri that is vaguely drinkable, and that is before we even get onto their Grappa, which is the only one that I actually like!

Grappa di Capelot e Roggeri [oak]; grape, earth, nice sweetness, spice, pepper and power, wood, smoke, vanilla. Very nice aged grapey flavour. *****

Grappa di Capelot e Roggeri [no oak]; fresh, crisp, water-like, delicate, white fruits and flowers, fire, lemon, lime, tonic, smoke, subtle, smooth, mineral, sugar water, peach, sea air. ******

Not only are the Cherries from their tree superb, but they have a typically brilliant La Morra view.

Next it was off to meet some old friends Enrico or Nada Giuseppe and Fabrizio of Fabrizio Battaglino.

Two Very Different Stories to Tell.

You will remember both of these producers from my previous tastings and jaunts around the region and so there is little more to say about each of the winemakers, and their wines, other than to get stuck into the tasting notes for their respective wines.

Fabrizio pouring his wines...Enrico discussing his white wine.

2010 Roero Arneis, Fabrizio Battaglino; crisp, fresh, waxy, lanolin with good perfume, poised, precise, waxy, chalky, mineral, lemon, lime, zesty, lemon juice, good concentration, nice zippy flavour, sandstone, soapstone, elegant, broad, long, grass, spice, sweet spice, cherry, waxy. ****(**) or [4+4+4.5+4.5=17/20]

2010 Langhe Bianco “Armonia”, Nada Giuseppe; [20 days ferment, 30% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Arneis from Fabrizio, 20% Favorita from Barolo]; smoke, flint, gooseberry, zippy and fresh, lemon, lime, a touch of butter and apple, spice, a bit of wax, focused but perhaps a bit linear, sherbt, round, weet chilli, fruit, lychee, green melon. A bit short but very nice. ****(*+) or [4+4+4+4.5=16.5/20]

2009 Dolcetto d’Alba “Casot”, Nada Giuseppe; crisp, perfumed, but much deeper and concentrated, poised, chocolate, dark plum, poised, herby with good length, a touch of spice. Starting to close down, richer, more powerful, broad. The perfume will come, it is hidden underneath. ***(**+) or [4+4+4+4~=16++/20]

2008 Barbera d’Alba Superiore; Nada Giuseppe; classic perfume, roses and earth, delicate, poised, precise, fresh, herbs, expressive, crisp, cherry, raspberry, round, elegant, rosemary, zippy red plum, cherry, nutmeg, cinnamon, bramble, forest fruits, leaves. Lovely. ****(**+) or [5+4.5+4+4.5=18/20]

2009 Nebbiolo d’Alba; Fabrizio Battaglino; tar, roses, plum, cherry, easy, expressive, elegant, a Nebbiolo todrink everyday. Soft tannins, balanced, round, red plum, sandstone, sand, salinity, poised, mineral, rosebush, bramble, good length. *****(*+) or [4.5+4+4.5+4.5=17.5/20]

2009 Langhe Nebbiolo, Nada Giuseppe; more closed, more stewed plum, cranberry, earth, spice, roses, tar, a lot more power than the 08. Tobacco leaf, herbs, poised, complex, liquorice, precise, raspberry, flowers, violets, rosebush, bramble, even more tar, broad. More serious, lacks a touch of composure due to the vine age. ***(***+?) or [4+4+4.5+4.5~=17+/20]

2008 Nebbiolo d’Alba “Vigna Colla”; Fabrizio Battaglino; [vineyard planted in 1967 in Roero but bottled since before Roero DOCG came into force, and thus always bottles as Nebbiolo d’Alba]; perfume, smoke, earth, truffle, depth and complexity, dusty, sweet, crystalline fruit, plum, roses, lengthy finish, zippy and fun. Dense, powerful, earth, elegant, sous bois, tobacco, tar, roses, earth, forest floor, wet clay, persistant and wonderful. *****(**+) or [4.5+5+5+4.5=19/20]

2008 Roero “Sergentin”; Fabrizio Battaglino; [a vineyard planted 15 years ago]; tar, roses, less complex and focussed but a nice expression of fruit, elegant, spice, earth, depth will come. a touch closed on the finish. Herbs, zippy, fresh, tobacco leaf, herbs, pepper. Good length, coffee, kernal, strong powerful tannins, spicy, round, pulling together with density. Very long, focused, clay, zippy and fun. ***(***+) or [4+4.5+4.5+4.5=17.5+/20]

2008 Barbaresco “Casot”; Nada Giuseppe; [30 year old vines, aged for one year in either 225 litre, 500 litre or 1000 litre barrels of which 99% are old, with a further year in botti]; perfumed, delicate, sweet, tar, roses, cranberry, plum, wild strawberry. A touch of toast and vanilla, a bit of tropical fruit, round, expressive, lovely depth, nicely complex and delicate, nice length, herby, tobacco, reserved and understated, round and voluptuous. ****(**++) or [4.5+4.5+4+4.5=17.5/20]

2007 Barbaresco “Casot”; Nada Giuseppe; more earthy,, linear and focused, spice, more power, structure, long, roses, tar, poised, precise, herbs, tobacco, rosemary, lovely… sous bois, truffle, good length, leather, forest floor. Really really good. ***(***++) or [4+4.5+5+4.5=18/20]

2006 Barbaresco Riserva “Casot”; Nada Giuseppe; poised, precise, with a big structure, roses, tar, tar and more tar, perfumed, tobacco, expressive. Slightly closed but very very long. Sous bois, wild strawberry, plum, leaves, herbs. Excellent stuff. ****(***+) or [4.5+4.5+5+4.5=18.5+/20]

2007 Barolo; Nada Giuseppe; liquorice, closed, powerful, herbs, round, structured, tar, roses, a touch tropical, regal, sweet fruit, nice length. Will be super, but being so traditional, will require a serious amount of cellar time. **(****+) or [3.4+4.5+4.5+4.5=17++/20]

2009 Bric Bastia, Fabrizio Battaglino; [the new sweet wine from Fabrizio, air dried grapes from a slightly later Arneis harvest… tiny quantities], crisp, wax, lanolin, lemon butter, marmalade, apple, complex, poised, grapey, lean, delicate but with ripeness, round, clean, expressive, citrus, honey. *****(*+) or [4.5+4.5+4.5+4.5=18/20]

The famous title deeds for some of Gaja's "Casot" vines!!

Once again the wines from both these producers were excellent, and whilst there will always be issues of taste and style, there is no doubting the quality. All in all, another super trip with a few new eye-opening discoveries and some classy reconfirmations of class in some of the wines. Whilst last year was more traditional in terms of winemaking focus, this year was more mixed, and whilst everyone seems to associate modern with oak, and traditional with botti, it really isn’t that simple… there are all sorts of other points to look at. Fermentation times, how much pumping over, how old is the wood, and a whole host of other considerations, so before you go branding someone as something they are not, actually ask them all the intricate details of how they actually make the wine… I think you may just get a bit of a shock!!!

Until next time.

Happy Drinking…

Monfortino!! YUM!


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