A treat for a winter weekend from Castiglione Falleto’s cooperative, named after its instigator. A blend of all the eleven Barolo communes. It’s interesting that in a time of revered single vineyard bottling, some of the great old timers thought their blends to be more than the sum of their parts. Opens clean and dark fruited with a poker face. Time lightens the fruit to bright red and brings a smile. Aniseed gob stoppers, old pot pourri, muddy rocks. Creeps up on you sotto voce and then plonks a great big blob of tart cherries in the middle of the tongue. Leaves with a wave of pure Piemontese perfume. Great Barolo mash up.
14% alcohol. Cork. $60 from auction.
94 points but probably biased.
From one of the pioneers of Barolo, a Dolcetto as it would be drunk at the table on a daily basis. Much as Nebbiolo and Barbera command the prices, if you order a carafe of rosso with your meal in the Langhe, more than likely it would be this under appreciated, early ripening beauty. This one has all the tart, red cherry fruit cut with the sort of challenging acidity and an austere stoniness that really suits a forkful of rich pasta. Not a drink for the novice discovering the sweet allure of berries and vanilla plumped by alcohol but a real taste of perfumed ripeness teetering on a high wire of tense acidity. After 24 hours of air, the colour darkened, fragrant flowers and more dark cherries emerged. The acidity, still glassy, crackled with life and that fierce dryness. Time will settle things and this will be compulsory on the table in 2022. Hopefully with some friends allowed to share.
13% alcohol. Diam, brilliant. $30 on the shelf at Boccaccio cellars.
92 points of pure typicity, if that’s a word.
The 2017 vintage reports suggest it was hot and sticky work for a bunch of Nebbiolo grapes in Piemonte. First impressions were of brisk warm fruit and a chunk of firm tannin and acid without some of the perfume and for want of a better words, intricacy of flavour possible around Barolo. Nebbiolo can be contrary and slow to articulate though. So sure enough, by the third and particularly the fourth day of airing some rich cherry fruit and warm rose fragrance unravelled. Perhaps there’s not the sweet earthy complexity but it finally turned out round, satisfyingly ripe, with the tannin meets acidity fun of good Nebbiolo falling into place. Only medium bodied and gently extracted, perhaps showing a light touch in a hot vintage? Just landed from a long sea journey, some imports can look surly and take up to twelve months to open up, maybe the case here? It would be good to revisit in a couple of years.
14% alcohol. Diam, I think, guilty of an incomplete note. $45.
If you’re looking for value, lots of flavour for your money and a good place to step into the world of savoury Italian wine suited to the table, then the full Monte is the grape. Nothing to do with the Tuscan town of Montepulciano where they grow Sangiovese under a different name, typically obtuse Italy. Zaccagnini predate the designer labels, sort of obvious really, and they still tie a vine wood twig to the bottle as a badge of authenticity. The contents are still very authentic too. Starts off a bit surly and reduced but air draws it out. Mouth filling tastes of those sour Italian cherries, roadside berries, coffee grounds and sweet tar. Good grainy tannin and enough well meshed acidity to carry those honest, rugged flavours. If you were a fan of Italian football a while ago, you could say this is more Gennaro Gattuso than Rui Costa.
12.5% alcohol it says but feels warmer. Cork and a good old fashioned lightweight bottle with a twig. Around $25.
Dolcetto from Piemonte deserves to be as widely appreciated as it is close to home and amongst us few who love it from afar. Those growers still persevering with it do so as a labour of love as they could make a much better return from Nebbiolo, particularly as some have it planted, like Musso, on land where Neb would be eligible for a Barbaresco label. This one is particularly clean and bright. Red cherry, bakery spices, a little of that Langhe soil and clip of something savoury to finish. Firm but fair tannin and acidity make it so typically adept at coping with a good bowl of pasta. Bright and bouncy from a warm season. Would love to see what their 2016 was like from such a good vintage for Barbaresco.
13% alcohol. Diam, hooray. $23.30, a lucky bid at auction, $35 RRP indicates how undervalued, shhh.
There’s no fancy wine making polish here. Nebbiolo from around Barolo as it was, still sometimes is and, Bacchus willing, will be. Smells typically of red cherry, liquorice root, pot pourri, dusty roads and a haze of old oak. No messing with shorter time in contact with those tannin rich skins after ferment, the thump of traditional Barolo tannin pulls a rugged dryness through the mouth. Irish breakfast tea left to stew. There’s enough red fruit weight and earthy depth to buffer the scaffolding but only just. Without animal protein, it’s a challenge but at the table it makes sense. Nothing wrong with tradition that a bit less musty oak wouldn’t cure. Nothing wrong with some modern techniques that wouldn’t miss a bit less new oak. Happy to explore, oh yes.
14% alcohol. Cork. $38.
Based on only a bottle or three and some encouraging reviews, it looks like the big cooperative, Cantina Terre del Barolo, is just getting more and more convincingly quality conscious. It’s fascinating to visit the cellar door, sprawled at the foot of Castiglione Falletto’s big hill. The name Arnaldo Rivera is celebrated by a range of wine produced from the Cantina’s members’ best grapes. Seeing as this extraordinary man was many things, school teacher, mayor of Castiglione and founder of the Cantina, it seems more than an appropriate memorial. Imagine trying to persuade over five hundred very individual growers to trust each other enough and band together in the late 1950s. Particularly at a time when the grape market was loaded firmly in favour of the big negotiants. The model apparently was a school project raising hens and selling eggs. If the kids can work together? Sixty years later and there’s a lovely Dolcetto on the table. Just over medium weight, fat juicy cherries, an undercurrent of liquorice and earthy spice and those soft but furry Dolcetto tannins, all freshened up with food friendly acidity; this is Piemonte after all.
14% alcohol. Cork. An extremely lucky win at auction for $9, helps knowing your obscure Piemonte denominazioni.
From one of the original modernista Barolo boys, this is a seriously ripe, deep and chunky Dolcetto. I think I remember reading Altare’s family have some connections with the best Dolcetto denominazione of Dogliani and this certainly has some of the thickness and depth of the best of that less famous bit of the Langhe. Dense and reticent on opening, the fruit finally emerging after a couple of days, showing a toffee and espresso edge to really ripe blueberry and the darkest tart black cherry. Mouth filling skin tannin extract and some cheek sucking on a firm finish. The heat of the vintage shows maybe but this is always a favourite Dolcetto, clean, even and beautifully made. Time to change the variety’s name perhaps, as this certainly isn’t little or sweet.
14% alcohol. Cork. $32 at auction.
A lucky win at auction fulfilled a wish to see how something from an absolute favourite Italian white wine maker ends up after a while asleep. Indigenous Friulano from the Friuli Colli Orientali bottled under a screwcap had to be worth a bet and yes, a winner. Opened still with a light yellow glow and aromas of ripe yellow stone fruit, a sort of autumn golden leafy linger, amaro herbs and a twist of tonic bitters. The same sort of flavours gained poise and focus as the air met wine and just got better to the last drop. The producer’s purity of fruit and gentle extraction held up so well under that wonderful screwcap. One day when the world opens up to travel again, Friuli and its own Friulano will be on the map, certo.
13.5% alcohol. Screwcap thank Bacchus. $20 bid was all it took!
Early one Saturday morning a friend rang and said he was standing next to a six pack of this at the importer’s wholesale bin end sale. Shame it’s only from Asti and not one of the Alba versions I said, thinking I knew something about these things. Well, wrong, as this vineyard has plantings going back to 1932 and is as much treasured by the Vietti as anything closer to Alba and similarly priced, alas. Hooray for bin end sales. Opens as cleanly and impeccably fragrant as Viettis always seem to do. Rich dark blue and black fruit, sort of cherry and a hint of blueberry, classic Piemonte earth and licorice. At first there’s that very ripe fluidity that suggests it’s a bit too slick but over a day or two the fruit gets fresher and carries further on that superb Barbera acidity. Refreshment and authenticity. The oak’s only a nutty hint hiding behind the weight and drive of some deeply generous fruit. Great craft in the growing and the making. Vietti, authority writ large. Don’t think I can resist opening one of my tiny collection of their Baroli soon.
14.50% alcohol. Cork. Bargain thanks to the wine frenzy sale.