Despite the lack of recent wine blogs, we have been doing plenty of tastings in between guests, surprise, surprise. As well as regular visits to some of our favourite neighbours, we have also checked out some new cantinas mainly driven by general tastings both blind and open. A recent visit to the UK confirmed that the supermarkets there have almost zero examples of Piemontese wines on their shelves; not really surprising as they demand size and uniformity. Quite a few friends have been buying wine here and using the services of Mail Boxes Etc. In larger quantities e.g. 100+ bottles it’s possible to ship wine as a private individual to their home in the UK for £2-3 a bottle or less.
Here are some of the Cantinas that have attracted our attention:
Living in the heart of Barbaresco I am biased. I love Barolo but as a generalisation, oft repeated, the price differential compared to my immediate neighbours often sways me against. Having said that my preference for Serralunga took me to Guido Porro this week and I was taken aback at the quality of his Barolo Vigna Lazzairasco 2008 (the 2007 won 3 bicchieri in Gambero Rosso) and especially the price, sub €20 ex cantina. It’s young but very drinkable now with a remarkable complexity, balance and length. The 10,000 bottles he makes from the ancient vineyard below the cantina would sell out in an instant if he were better known. The Vigna San Caterina 2007 is not far behind at a similar price. I am sure I will be back soon if only to taste again the Nebbiolo 2011 soon to be properly bottled. It had only spent 3 to 4 months in Botti Grandi before stainless steel but will provide hours of simple inexpensive pleasure once it has settled. The Barbera d’Alba 2011 was all sour dark cherries but perhaps a little bitter on the finish for my taste and anyway I wanted to save my money for the Barolo. There is Bed and Breakfast available which could be dangerous.
Adriano, Marco e Vittorio, San Rocco Seno d’Elvio
I have tasted Adrianos’ wines on several occasions and met them at various tastings but had never got round to visiting their impressive new cantina. I have now put that right and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours there in the company of the welcoming Luciana (Marco’s wife),with my German importer friend Clemens Caplan (Mon-Vino). There are 22 hectares of vineyards which, apart from a small piece of the famous Basarin cru in Neive , are all close to the cantina in San Rocco Seno d’Elvio and produce around 100k bottles). Although the family business has been in existence for more than 100 years they only stopped selling their grapes and making their own wine in 1994.
For me the Barbarescos are the stars of their range and fantastic value and what is particularly exciting is that there are older vintages, and larger formats available. Also some Basarin Riserva (4 years in the making with an extra year in wood) 2004, 5 & 6. All three were very good, particularly the 2004 with its smooth long finish. The 2005 and 6 need more time but importantly the fruit shines through the tannins. The 2008 Sanadaive ( a more sandy soil) has a rose/strawberry nose and a delicate, floral elegance reminiscent of violets in the mouth. The Basarin 2008 was a cut above with a spicy long finish. The tannins are very evident and will need more time to soften but will be worth the wait as the dark fruits are already in charge. Typically the 2007s are already drinking well and will keep you going while you wait for later vintages to mature. They only use Botti Grandi as they feel that the use of barriques tends to overshadow the wine and mask the individuality of the different crus. The 2010 Langhe Nebbiolo was light and fresh and only sees stainless steel.
The Barbera which comes from a small piece of 20 year old vines in Basarin was pretty good with the 2011 fruity, fresh and for every day drinking and the 2010 Barbera Superiore smooth with good length, if average nose. The price represents value particularly magnums. We also tasted the 2011 Ardi dry Moscato (the 1st year) which is a work in process and had a slightly bitter finish. The Sauvignon Blanc 2011 had a typical, recognisable nose and was fresh with good acidity but rather light. The Dolcetto 2011’s nose offered more than the taste and lacked a little fruit to counter the traditional bitter finish.
Impressive Cantina, friendly people and top value reds.
Bera is a familiar story for the zone. For many generations the family had been growing and selling grapes until about 40 years ago when they created their own brand and started making, bottling and selling the wine themselves. Valter and Alida and sons Umberto and Riccardo carry on the traditions today.
They are best known for their Moscato d’Asti which accounts for almost half their production of 130,000 bottles but we didn’t taste it, preferring to concentrate on the drier wines. 3 wines that stood out for us were:
- La Lena Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2008. Blackberry/currant/cherries that persist with the good length. Elegant roundness. Time in the bottle has obviously helped.
- Alladio Nebbiolo 2008. 18 months in used barrique (up to 4 passages). Classic nebbiolo. Roses/violets/ spice, length and soft tannins. Better than lots of Barbarescos but not…
- Barbaresco 2007. Well made, well priced, drinking well now
The other wines were decent:
- Bera brut – lightly sparkling 50% Chardonnay /50% Pinot Noir, biscuity aperitivo
- Arneis 2011- apple scent, soft, fruity. Straightforward.
- Chardonnay 2011 13% more body, pear. Both whites were bottled very recently and will be better once settled in the bottle.
- Barbera 2010 . Peppery spicy. Simple acidity.
- Sassisto 2008. Mainly Barbera with a little Nebbiolo and Merlot (20%). Another International attempt. Tar. Not bad but lacks balance. With 2 years in barrique and only 2 months in bottle it needs time to settle.
Having avoided dentists for as much of the past 40 years as I could, I have finally found one not to be frightened of. In fact Paolo Tenino gave up dentistry to make wine with his beautiful wife Monica Rinaldi, and washing out your mouth at their new cantina is rather pleasurable. It is still a work in progress but hopefully we will return to see the finished article. The simple reason for our visit was that at the first Barbaresco a Tavola this year we rated his Barbaresco numero uno of those tasted that evening. I also bumped into him at Prima Nebbiolo tastings in Alba.
We came away from the visit with not only a few bottles of their excellent Barbaresco San Cristoforo 2008 but also Barbera Superiore “La Cichetta” 2010 and Dolcetto d’Alba 2010. The Barbaresco is relatively dark in colour and quite tannic with hints of tobacco but also concentrated sweet dark ripe fruits that make it it very accessible: “4 stars-Highly Recommended” in February Decanter Magazine. “Vini d’Italia 2012” thinks the star wine is the Dolcetto but despite being moved to buy it, as it is one of the better ones around, Nebbiolo is my passion. The Barbera is a big wine with lots of dark fruit and excellent acidity and length and I will not be in any rush to drink it. A tad expensive but something that compares with other favourites. It will be interesting to compare them with a hearty winter meal. The whites were not particularly to my taste however