2004 Vietti Barolo Riserva Villero

If you walk along the road from Castiglione Falletto towards Monforte, on one side is Rocche, the other Villero, a dizzying bit of bitumen. Without a doubt this is the most profoundly concentrated and densely delicious wine I’ve ever had the fortune to drink. The deepest fathoms of Nebbiolo born in the Langhe, still just bottled fresh cherries, faded rose perfume and the tar of said strada in summer sun. Liquid geology in the mouth. Immortal rocks in velvet. Flashes of just picked summer fruit like lightening illuminating those hilly vineyards. How on planet wine do you grow grapes with so much flavour and most importantly definition? Gushing words and hyperbole barely grasp the beauty of this. Oh, it’s just a drink.

14% alcohol. Cork. The most generous share ever, particularly seeing the way Vietti prices have escalated.

97 points at first, then 98 of course.

2011 Cantina Antica Hiripinia Taurasi DOCG

It seems this is from the coop that made the very first Taurasi when DOC was granted, now DOCG or is now DOPG? Googling the EU enforced changes from DOC to DOP in Italy, I’m now even more confused. Seems to work for food but wine, no idea, Italians and adhering to rules? I do know this is Aglianico and a lovely word to say with that gli widening of the mouth. The flavours cover the width of the mouth too. Still fresh and bright, spiced plum skins, a swell of age softened red fruit, warm bricks, soot and an iron tang. A clean and clear message from dark brooding volcanic country. Caught it at a good point on its journey, fresh but rounding. Officially not sure what it’s called now but unofficially still what the old boot does so well, grape and flavour settled in its place. Maybe those Romans knew too?

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $35 at auction.

92 points.

2019 Crissante Alessandria Barbera d’Alba

The 2018 was so good that when this 2019 appeared on a local online auction site, difficult not to bid. Writing about the lovely 2018, I was completely wrong to think the maker’s name was one of those family name first Italian formals, in fact it’s the two family names involved. Research is a useful thing for those who think they know of which they write. Anyway, this is just pure and delicious. Like falling face first into an Italian market fruit stall in late summer. Squished berries, brambles and that sort of slightly burnt fruit stew that can lurk in really ripe Barbera. Some Piemonte sweet soil underpins the exuberant fruit and it’s all swept up and clean by the sort of mouthwatering acidity that makes another sip unavoidable. So clean, so carefully made but so true to the soil of La Morra where the land lends a beguiling scent to its fruit, well maybe, or just a half a bottle down fancy? Delicioso they say.

14% alcohol. Diam. $38.

93 points.

2018 Murgo Tenuta San Michele Etna Bianco DOP

70% Carricante and 30% Catarratto. It seems these two are truly indigenous to the sulphurous slopes of Etna, the former particularly so and known for its ability to hang onto high levels of acidity. It must include a lot of malic acid as it’s known for frequent malolactic fermentation to soften things up. Murgo certainly seem to have a pretty good idea of how to make a very tasty bottle from their piece of the volcano. First day, toffee, exotic citrus and pear liqueur richness are pulled into shape by saline, ash and yoghurt sour acidity. Lots of power with much pith and acidity to balance. Second day and there’s an uncanny touch of Chardonnay from the Côte de Beaune about it. Unusually well applied oak, sweet citrus again and honeyed quince all delicious on a bed of drying mineral ash and that tangy yoghurt. A haunting mouth perfume stays around to emphasise the gentle power. Offered a glass without knowing, I would have offered a guess at Meursault or Chassange. Not many volcanoes in Burgundy but some influences in Sicily. Love to know if anyone’s tried this in an options game, had me fooled and I’d seen the label.

13.5% alcohol. Diam, yes. About $55 to 60 RRP?

94 and an argument for 95 possible.

2018 Crissante Alessandria Barbera d’Alba

A new producer for me, based in La Morra, home of Altare the modernist and this looks appropriately clean and fresh, albeit without being clobbered by oak flavour. Bearing in mind the Italian formality of putting the family name before the given name, this could the estate of Alessandria Crissante or not? Lovely to say with a musical Italian voice nonetheless despite the possibility of being unforgivably rude and bad at accents. The contents of the bottle are much easier to understand. Bright with dark sour cherry, digestive biscuits, nuts and that Piemontese austere stony earth. Sort of washy in a good way as the flavours float on the journey down the red lane. Ripe but crisply mouthwatering, yum. Wonder what that is in Italian? They must use the words a lot being so good at putting food on the table.

14.5%. Diam, bravo. $41 at auction.

93 points, better the second day, good sign.

2018 Rizieri Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba Sori del Ricchino

To be honest, it’s not that often there’s a new direct import inclusion on the shelves of the one in every suburb now Dan Murphy’s that inspires an immediate purchase. Perhaps Piemonte is now so important in the wide world of wine that even an Australian supermarket behemoth is paying attention? I should pay more attention to my pouring skills so as to keep the label uppermost to avoid those deeply wine coloured streaks. Does look like we had fun despite my clumsiness. Not that hard, bottle to glass and happy to repeat in this case. Good excuse for more practice. Beautifully made, this just got better over a couple of days airing and sipping. Spotlessly clean. Bright red lip smacking cherries, slightly tart, with almond paste and a perfect Piemonte earthy sense of place. An extra depth of fruit and some sweet herbs. All carried long on crisp ripe acidity and a brush of cat’s lick tannin. It seems as if the Langhe 2018s I’ve tried so far look like they’re from the cooler vintages of the last century before the warming harvests of recent times. Some careful growing getting things just ripe rather than worrying over heat, sun and high alcohol arriving before flavour. Better get another bottle and try not to make such a mess.

13.5% alcohol. Diam, good. $23.10, bargain.

93 points.

Following up with a bit of research, it seems that the Sori del Ricchino single vineyard has long been prized for the quality of its grapes, in a village already known for the quality of its Dolcetto. My vote for best value in an increasingly expensive Langhe.

Despite some good words about the quality of the vintage, a 2019 bottle of this was disappointing. Just too savoury and a little green around the tannin department. Started off well, quite firm and structured but never really showed enough fruit ripeness to match the grunt. Oh well, never assume.

2017 Massolino Dolcetto d’Alba

Some producers are good at the whole process from plants to packaging. Massolino would be an exemplar judging by this sadly empty bottle. Dense, clean and pure fruit galore. Authentic ripe sour cherries, tar, earth and a bit of warm year woody spice. Grip and tang in harmony. Second day and the core of picked just at the right time fruit is headed into deep and meaningful territory. If you had to choose a Dolcetto to interest those learning how good Piemonte can be, this would be the place to start. Bonus marks for a Stelvin Luxe screwcap and a lighter weight bottle. The label’s a bit fancy too.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. 420 gms of glass. $37.

93 emphatic points.

2018 Fontanafredda Diano d’Alba

Dogliani and Diano, two appellations recognised for the quality of their Dolcetto. This version lives up to its lofty DOCG. Terrific perfumed impact, pristine crunch of black cherry, like those in the East European preserves, Piemontese tart and polished with stones and sweet soil. No more than medium bodied but fills the retro nasals with a lingering fruit fragrance. Suave tannin and acid, a perfectly tailored suit. No bombast, just subtle charm. Mouthwatering and pizza cravings a consequence.

13.5%. Nomacorc Select Green 300. 530 gms of glass. $43 rrp but thanks to the clever people at Fourth Wave imports a mystery special for $118 a six pack. Glad I cracked the enigma thanks to Winefront.

92 maybe 93 points but a plus for being my cup of Dolcetto.

2015 Renato Corino Nebbiolo d’Alba

Inviting straightaway, lots of ferrous stony stuff, sweet dried roses, cherry stones, all brightly lit and chiseled with tense acidity. Touch of toffee warmth to end shows the warmer vintage maybe? Second day, it’s just as sweet and ripe, for Nebbiolo relatively speaking. More rich dried cherry skins, those sweet rose perfumes and a sort of roast pistachio in muscovada sugar thing. All running up against a wall of rocky acidity to help the pasta go down. Not quite the drive or austerity of the long lasting years as it started to fade on the third day but delicious and so well made. A La Morra Barolo from this address would be something to try.

14% alcohol. Diam, good. 495 gms glass. $36 at auction.

Started 92 points, calmed down to 91 but lovely to drink.

2018 G D Vajra Langhe Rosso

Anyone who’s had more than a dabble in the joys of Barolo will have a particularly soft spot for this producer. From a vintage that seems to have led to crisp, high acid wines, this is probably the usual mix of mainly Nebbiolo with bits of all sorts like Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa and others. The back label is coy this year. Open over three days. First, sweetly pretty with a fizzy cherry drink flavour, in a good way, cut tart and Langhe tense and earthy. Almost a natural wine feel, pure and alive. Second, deeper colour, more obviously Nebbiolo, spiced cherries, floral built on a puckering balance of almost glassy acidity and finest tannin. Third, better again, more fragrant red cherry and roses, such a tasty crunch of succulent acid controls the shape. So much in something light to medium weight at best. As good as anything with good pasta. In a fascinating interview with Aldo Vajra on Levi Dalton’s excellent podcast, I’ll Drink To That, it seems the new generation are learning from their papa and vice versa. The wine just gets better. Now, to find a bottle of their 2016 Bricco delle Viole.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $30.

92 then 93 then 92, daft as a linear scale is for such subjective pleasure.