Where to Eat and Drink in Barolo:

There is something very special about the wine region of Barolo, located in the Piedmont region of Italy (“Piemonte” in Itailan). Maybe it is the beautiful rolling hills, surrounded by vineyards. Or maybe it’s the laid-back atmosphere of the people who live and work here. It might also be the care, passion, and authenticity of the winemakers and their wines. No matter, Barolo is a “must visit” for wine lovers everywhere. 

 My husband and I visited the Barolo region in early September. We stayed for a weekend and visited a handful of carefully-selected wineries. We stayed in a charming farmhouse B&B, situated amongst the beautiful Piedmont hills. Our B&B also happened to make their own wines. The entire experience of our weekend in Piedmont can be summarized in a few words: romantic, educational, unfussy, picturesque, and memorable. As a wine lover, food and travel enthusiast, and blogger, I’d like to share with you my favorite Barolo wineries and eateries!

Cantina Mascarello Bartolo: Perhaps the most highly regarded winery in the Barolo region, Cantina Mascarello Bartolo is a “must visit” for all wine lovers. Why? Well, the Mascarello Bartolo wines are nearly impossible to find in Italy or internationally. The winery produces a relatively small number of bottles each year, and they are sold out well before the wines are even bottled. They take special care to produce their wines using traditional methods, and they have an extremely loyal following of wine-loving customers around the world. Despite the high demand for their wines internationally, the owner of the winery, Maria Teresa (daughter to the late Bartolo Mascarello), makes only enough wine to comfortably sustain her business, her family, and her employees. Moreover, she refuses to substantially raise the price of the wines, as she believes it would be unfair to the winery’s long and loyal customers. There is no greed or pretense here – just a passion for producing high quality wine in a traditional way. Due to the high demands for Mascarello Bartolo wines, you can’t buy the wine at the winery. Fortunately, you can still have a free tasting and tour of the cellars. If you’re a true wine-lover, don’t pass up this opportunity to experience the Mascarello Bartolo wines. You must call ahead to make a reservation. The winery does not have a website. Phone number: +39 0173 56125.

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Podere Ruggeri Corsini: Podere Ruggeri Corsini is located in the country, nearly halfway between Monteforte d’Alba and Barolo. Our tasting here was perhaps the most educational experience we had during our visit to Barolo. Podere Ruggeri Corsini is a wonderful family-run winery with reasonably priced wines and excellent customer service. The tasting was free, and it was extensive. The wines were all very high quality, with my favorite being their Barolo from Bussia. The entire tasting experience at Podere Ruggeri Corsini was laid back, relaxing, informative – and delicious, of course! They also have the cutest little dog that likes to join in on visit. Call or email to make a reservation. +39 340 6741204.

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Brezza Giacomo e Figli:Located in the town of Barolo, Brezza is a popular winery that also owns a hotel and restaurant. As the name would suggest, the winery is owned by the Brezza family. The Brezza estate spans over 22 hectars and dates back to 1885. Brezza had by far the most wines of any of the tastings, with multiple Barolos that I loved. Bonus? The wines are all sold at very affordable prices! You can reserve a tasting and tour by appointment only. Check out their website for more information.

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Tenuta Montanello: This is the farmhouse B&B we stayed at during our trip to Piedmont. The location is perfect, nestled in the heart of Castiglione Falletto. The prices are reasonable, the scenery is unbeatable, breakfast is included, and the rooms are very comfortable. If you’re looking for a relaxing and authentic place to stay during your visit, I highly recommend Tenuta Montanello. Above and beyond having a wonderful stay here, Tenuta Montanello is also a very small family-run winery. Their wines are all quite elegant and very inexpensive when compared to other wineries in the area. They have an outdoor seating area that overlooks the surrounding vineyards. My ultimate recommendation for Tenuta Montanello? Stay here. Have a complimentary wine tasting. Buy a few bottles of their amazing wines. Crack a bottle (or two) while relaxing outside and taking in the views. Then – voila! You can walk right to your room and go to sleep when it’s time ☺

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Scarzello: This was the last wine tasting during our stay in the Barolo region. In this case, it’s appropriate to say “we saved the best for last”. In my opinion, Scarzello’s wines were by far the most elegant and high quality of all of the wines we tasted. The price tags are a bit higher on their wines, but it is completely worth the additional cost. Scarzello is a family run business, located in the town of Barolo. The setting for our tasting felt like we were casually enjoying wine in someone’s living room. They make very few bottles of wine per year when compared to other wineries in the region, so definitely pick up a few bottles while you’re visiting! Tastings by appointment only.

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La Case della Saracca (in Monforte d’Alba): La Case della Saracca is a small restaurant and B&B, located on an otherwise very quiet street in Monforte d’Alba. It’s a locals favorite, and for good reason. This place is just cool. It’s where I recommend you eat for aperitivo or dinner – but you MUST make reservations. In high season, you might consider making reservations a week or more in advance. The building itself was restored to preserve a medieval atmosphere, but with a modern twist. If you’re lucky enough to score a reservation for dinner, you will be guided upstairs, where there is only one table on each level, for a total of 8-10 tables max! The small number of tables is also why it is very difficult to score a dinner reservation. The restaurant sounds fancy, but it’s not expensive, and their wine list is WONDERFUL (they even had Mascarello Bartolo wines). The food was great. If you can’t score a reservation, come for aperitivo anyway. They have the best aperitivo around. You buy a drink (they have a great selection of wine by the glass, cocktails, and so on) and you help yourself to the very generous and extensive buffet of snacks. More information can be found here

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Trattoria Cascina Schiavenza: We lucked out and got a table for lunch without a reservation here. Cascina Schiavenza has superb wine, food, and views. Established in 1956, Cascina Schivenza is a family-run restaurant and winery located in the region of Serralunga d’Alba within walking distance from the castle of Serralunga. Mum Lucia and her daughter prepare typical Piedmont dishes, specializing in home-made pastas. This is a great option for lunch or dinner. Make sure you try some of their Barolo wine with your meal! Reservations can be made HERE.

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The vast majority of Piedmont wineries (including the Barolo region and other regions) require reservations for tastings. Additionally, the wine region of Piedmont is quite large. If I were to do the trip all over again, the only thing I would do differently would be to hire a local guide. First, local guides know how to pick the best wineries based on your tastes and budgets. You would not have to worry about any of the planning or making reservations at individual wineries. Secondly, hiring a local guide is great because you don’t have to DRIVE! There is no “easy” way around the area – taxis are not common (and they are very expensive). Therefore, you must typically drive around the region. There is a lot of wine to be drunk, and having transportation taken care of is a HUGE benefit – for your enjoyment and for your safety! I highly recommend reaching out to Amanda for your wine and food tasting and tour needs!

For more posts like this (and delicious authentic European recipes), visit www.thetravelingcookabroad.com

Name: Cammy Romanuck Murphy

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Barbaresco Master Class

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Let’s dive into the rules, regulations, and some myths and tales about Barbaresco wine growing area. Barbaresco is a smaller appellation to it’s bigger brother Barolo, and even bigger neighbor to the north Roero. Barbaresco appellation is made up of 3 villages and a fraction of Alba calle San Rocco Seno d’Elvio. The 3 other villages that make up a part of this winemaking area; are Barbaresco, Treiso, and Neive. From these three areas Neive is the largest land area in all of Barbaresco but Barbaresco has them beat with the most amount of Nebbiolo planted in the area. This makes much sense because the quality level of the growing area in Barbaresco is much greater and greater quality to the other regions.

In Barbaresco alone you have the most amount of what we could compare to the French Grand Cru vineyards. In Barbaresco the Grand Cru vineyards would be considered Asili, Pora, Bricco, and Montestefano. Followed by Ovello, Rabajà, Riosordo, Martinega, Roncalini, Roncaglietta, and Trifolera, then Bernino, Vincenziana, Moccagatto, Ronchi, and Faset. The Barbaresco area is the closest to the river Tanaro, it is practically touching the river bed and thus this is very helpful in case of a storm coming from the north area Roero, before the storm will reach Barbaresco it will have been taken up the river by its current.  The soil in Barbaresco village belongs to the Tortonian period, where a bluish marl - clay that is very compact, which is defined as Sant’Agata Fossils.  Barbaresco here is sharing the same soil structure as the neighbors in Barolo villages Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba. Here, because the soil is more compact and more difficult for vine growth we are left with a product more rich in tannin and with more complexity. Which could be why there are the most amount of growing areas of Grand Cru quality.

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Neive my home and I cannot tell you how much I love to live here, and you must come to visit! Like me you might not want to go home. Neive is a bit more north east respect Barbaresco and Treiso and the soil structures vary quite a bit.  The more southern part of Neive where you have more Moscato, towards the area Mango you will have more Tortonian-Serravallian with veins of Lequio formations, here you will find more of a grey marl mixed with sand. The vineyards that are on the boarder of Barbaresco share the same Tortonian bluish marl and thus are more complex than the latter. Towards the northern bit you have more sandy soils, better for younger drinking wines. There are only 2 Grand Crus in Neive and that would be Gallina and Cottà with Bordini, Chirrà, Gaja, Balluri.

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Treiso shares a lot in common with Barolo, towards the south western part of Treiso you will find wines that have a lot of the same complexity as Barolo. With this said you will find a lot of the same soils as you will in the Barolo area. Tortonian and Tortonian-Serravallian, lots of clay, grey marl, and iron rich soils with little or no sand. There are less grand crus in Treiso but some vineyards to keep an eye out for are Rombone, and Gresy. Also Montarsino, Varaldi, Castellissano, followed by Rizzi, Bongiovanni, Marcarino, and Stella. Treiso and San Rocco Seno d’Elvio are a lot of the same vineyards, for instance Rizzi, Montersino, and Meruzzano.

Interesting story about San Rocco seno d’Elvio is this fraction of Alba is where an Emperor of Italy was born. Elvio Pertinace and you will find his coin on the bottles of Produttori del Barbaresco labels as an ode to the Emperor who represented this area. Pretty cool?

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In the area of Barbaresco there is not only Nebbiolo grapes, it is a major part of this wine making area but not the only one.  There is even more of a history with the grape varieties of Dolcetto, Barbera, and also Moscato in these areas.  Historically these other grapes were the wines that were consumed most. More as table wines for everyday consumption, and while Nebbiolo would have been the more affordable wine to drink, the people at that time paid a little bit more to have Dolcetto and Barbera. It is funny because today we talk about Dolcectto and Barbera like sports teams, not many people like both varietals. This is because Dolcetto starts of fruity and floral and then has a finish with a little bit of tannins and some almond skins, this flavor gives a bitter aftertaste. Most people don’t get along with this aftertaste but in terms of pairing with food it is very important and thus Dolcetto pairs well with most types of food.  Barbera on the other hand has no tannins at all has lots of red fruits and a bit of iron flavors, and is famous for its bright acidity that cleans the mouth. This wine is then paired with fattier foods, meat dishes, and cheeses.  Then we have Moscato which in the two towns of Neive and Treiso can make Moscato d’Asti, a lightly fizzy sweet wine that pairs well with Panatone, and with fresh fruit like strawberries and peaches, or just on its own as a pick me up in the late afternoon. We will talk more about Moscato in a later blog post as I would like to explain all the hard work and sleepless nights that goes into every bottle of Moscato d’Asti.

After all of this talk about the areas and what makes them so special lets take a minute to talk about the rules and regulations of Barbaresco area. To make a Barbaresco starts at the slope in the vineyard where you can grow Nebbiolo grapes on an East, South, or Western facing slope and you cannot growthe Nebbiolo higher than 550 meters above sea level. This excludes all together the North facing as when the DOCG was put into place the reasoning was that the late ripening variety Nebbiolo would not finish its phenolic ripening process. The maximum amount of grapes that can be harvested per hectare is 8 tons and the alcohol must be higher than 12%, and the vine training must be Guyot. After all of these specifications once the grapes have been brought into the cellar the fermentation and maceration depends on the grower, but the wine can be released on the 3rd year after the harvest and 9 of those months in cellar must be in wooden barrels. From there you can keep the wine in barrel longer and in bottle longer and can release when you would like but the basis is 9 months in wood. The wines when they are finished will need to go through a series of exams, one is a chemical analysis and the second is a sensory analysis where many wine makers who are part of the Consorzio will attend a blind tasting to make sure these wines are meeting the necessary standards.

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Once all of this has taken place the government will issue banderols to place on each bottle of wine as proof of its legality. Now the wine is ready to drink! Just kidding, one question I get asked a lot is when should you open a bottle of Barbaresco to maximize its full potential in this wine. Like taste, this answer is not so simple, also there might be many winemakers who have a different idea I would like very much for them to share their experiences. I cannot answer for everyone but I hope to make a diplomatic approach to my answer. Once upon a time Barbaresco and Barolo were wines that were to dink with at least 20 years of age. Because of climate change, and new technologies in the cellar I feel as though these Nebbiolo based wines can be enjoyed at a much younger age. As much fun as it is to save a bottle in your cellar for the next twenty years to one day take it out to share with your friends and loved ones I am of the type that I just can’t wait.  To many things can happen to this bottle of wine from today to the next 20 years and I am not wanting to take a risk.  So I say to many people that the best time to enjoy a Nebbiolo wine like Barbaresco and Barolo is after the first 5 years the wine is in the bottle. Here is the tricky part, how do you know when the wine was in the bottle? Well the safe way to go about it, is unless it is a Riserva you can be safe to say that the wine was bottled near the year it was released, but unless you talk to the winery it is hard really to know. So here is my cheat sheet! About 10 years from the vintage in the bottle is the best time to start to drink your Barbaresco or Barolo. It is not a rule of thumb but it is pretty close to getting you to optimal drinking potential. The first 5 years the wine is growing developing, then after this period the wine starts to age, just like people. Some of us get better while others of us just get a bit worse. Thus my fear of not wanting to wait to long. With this said there are plenty of wines that age amazingly and have a longevity that could out live all of us.

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Someone pinch me, my visit to Giacomo Conterno

Ok I am not the type of girl who asks for jewelry or a designer name bags for Christmas, although its not a bad thought.  However if you are going to spend money on me I much rather it be in wine.  And thus every year my only Christmas wish is some bottles of Giacomo Conterno Barolo to be waiting for me under the tree.  Honestly my favorite wine shop who knows me so well, order it specially for my Christmas gift because they know my husband will be there like every year to buy for me to place under the tree. These bottles mind you only come out on very rare occasions, and if I have the possibility to drink them myself we can safely say I won’t waste a drop.  For many years Giacomo Conterno has been one if not the one, my most favorite producer. I fell in love with Nebbiolo when I tasted one of their Barolo Cascina Francia.

So after much courage to meet the man responsible for such amazing (for me) life changing wines, I piggybacked on a visit to Conterno with some friends, who were very gracious to support by almost embarrassing awe. We arrive to a beautiful modern looking structure, where we were greeted with wonderful hospitality and asked to make ourselves comfortable in their waiting room. We were escorted to this cubical like room with huge windows and a wonderful panoramic view, where there were plenty of couches and comfortable seats to be had. We sat there waiting anxiously sipping some some sparking water before being invited into the cellar.

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I have never been so nervous in my life, I don’t know I guess its like meeting your favorite rock star, or movie star.  I felt star struck, I am such a geek. The secretary Stephanie was very professional and sweet.  She took us to their tasting room where we before going into the cellar she had explained to us about their vineyards and some of the history of the estate.  Giacomo Conterno’s first vineyard purchase was a large piece in the vineyard Cascina Francia, a vineyard located in Serralunga d’Alba. This vineyard is prime Realestate, great Southern facing exposure and about 400 meters above sea level making this area perfect for Nebbiolo grapes. In Serralunga d’Alba you have the oldest soil structure of the Barolo area. Where the hills from Treiso, to Castagnole Falletto/Serralunga d’Alba hills and then down to the Langhe Dogliese, reach a ripe old age of over 14 million years coming from the Serrafallian age.  This was the first point of land when the Padano Sea was moving out to later become the Mediterranean Sea. This land formation is made mostly out of Lequio which is seen as alternating layers of sand, sandstone and marl.  As a matter of fact we were talking about the Francia soil being a red sand and a brownish marl, this helps to give the Nebbiolo its complexity and muscle.

They recently have had the opportunity to purchase a few hectare in a vineyard very close to the Francia vineyard, called Cerretta. They purchased this vineyard in 2008 and at the beginning have only made Barbera d’Alba and Langhe Nebbiolo, with the hopes to make a Barolo when the time is right.  Roberto said that at the beginning when they first started to work the land, it takes a few years until you can see the difference in hand on the vines.  Its not that the grapes were of poor quality and they certainly could make a stunning Barolo but like many new things it takes some time to break in.  So for the first few years only a Langhe Nebbiolo would be made from this vineyard.  Now you are able to find on the market a Barolo as well from the Cerretta vineyard.  What I like about the Cerrettais it has so much elegance and red fruit and a sweeter Nebbiolo tannin where the Francia has all the muscle and power.

We had the chance to taste out of barrel and tasted Barbera d’Alba from Ceretta and Francia 2016, amazing, stunning vintage.  Barbera loves the heat and in ’16 it was a hot and dry vintage so these two Barbera were just big juicy and very giving. The Barolo we tasted was also from tank and was 2013, a rocking vintage especially for the Nebbiolo. It was a nice summer, warm and sunny days with cool nights and we got rain when it was time so for the Nebbiolo had a great hang time.  Today the 2013’s great structure both powerful with supplant tannins, we did find out that the whole lot of the Francia for the first time will all be made into Monfortino!  Monfortino is their Riserva so this wine will spend a few extra years in the large oak barrels before being released. I guess I am going to have to be very good that year for santa will have to stock up on Monfortino 2013 :)

I brought up the question about organic farming, this seems like a good topic because it is a buzz word for just about everyone.  I was pleasantly surprised by Roberto’s answer, he simply said “apart from my family here at the winery two things are the most important. One is the vineyards and the second are my clients.  The vineyards are the most important thing for my wines, if I don’t bring in the best quality grapes I am not going to get the best results. I do not want to follow a trend to make organic wines if I cannot be completely in control of what is going on in the vineyards, I want to be more than organic or natural.  What we do here is we work the land as we see is best, then when the grapes have finished fermentation and are ready to be transferred into barrels we do an analysis of the wine to see if there are any residues left, every test comes back with zero. By not having any residuals means that there is nothing in the wine.  This is exactly what we want. This test we do is for no one but ourselves to see that what we are using are good for the vines and leaves no residue. This brings me up to another fact, that we will begin to test other products for the vineyards. Products so natural that you can literally drink this stuff. We are working with a team of scientists, as well as some of the professors from the enological schools here in Italy to study these products to see if this will be the future.  You see we are not organic, we are at the next level.”

I cannot say enough that the dedication and passion for precision and perfection were found in every aspect of the cellar.  They produce about 30,000 bottles and every single one of them was personally looked after and taken care of as though there were an only child.  The winery was completely spotless and not one thing was out of place. Not one stain of wine on the floor and the presentation and tasting were nothing but a wonderful explanation of all the hard work that goes into a great bottle of wine. Thank you.

Tocca te Silvia Altare di Cantina Elio Altare

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Elio Altare 2006 Barolo Classico and the Barolo 2009 Cerretta

Elio Altare is a radical. He woke up one day with an idea to change the name and idea of Barolo once and for all, and well, he did. Barolo used to be known well it used to be not so well known or not known at all in the 1950’s, 60’s, until the mid to late 70’s early 80’s. Elio understood that there was something special about the Nebbiolo grape and something could be wonderful coming out of the Barolo wines. He one day packed up his bags and headed off in his (what is today) vintage Fiat 500, that was not in the best condition at the time.   His direction was France, Burgundy. After a long trip Elio finally arrives at a winery that he was familiar with. Elio parks next to the bright red Porsche and proceeds to the door to ask to have a tasting. A gentleman answers with a suitcase in hand, “Can I help you?” He asks. Elio “I would like to know if I could come to have a tour of the winery?” The reply from the Burundian winemaker was “we are closed, it’s Friday afternoon and I have my Porsche parked outside ready to go to Nice where I plan to spend the weekend on my boat. “ After hearing this Elio was devastated, but also made him think if this winemaker can have a Porsche and a boat why can’t I?

After this trip he headed home to clean things up a bit. His idea was to modernize the winery to use barrique barrels instead of large botti. To ferment in stainless steel instead of wooden fermenters. To have the winery be sterile and not a mix of a chicken coop, tractor garage and ageing room.  In the middle of the night he would head out to the vineyards where he would for the first time in this area begin to cut off certain bunches of grapes to ensure that the ones hanging would ripen better and have more concentration. This today is called green harvest and is practiced in almost every winery. He would talk about his ideas to his friends and classmates and from this started a gang of modernists called today the Barolo Boys.

Since the year 2000 Elio’s daughter Silvia has been looking after the winery. I think today she has gained full responsibility of the winery as he has a few other projects he has been looking after. I think that Silvia has some big shoes to fill, and I think that she is doing a great job. She is charming, charismatic, and full of passion and excitement for what she is producing. If you are in the area or if she is in your area you should really go to visit her and chat a bit.

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I recently had the chance to work beside Silvia at a tasting in Trieste. It is funny because working in a winery really the only time we get to see our neighbors is when we attend tasting events. So I tasted her line up, the 2011 Barolo I have to tell you a lot of the 11’s are drinking great now and this was one of them. Fresh, fruity, elegant, with soft ripe tannins, this bottle would not last long in my house.

The 2009 Barolo Cerretta, this is coming from a vineyard located in Serralunga d’Alba. An area known to make stronger wines, on this wine I got a lot of darker fruits, tobacco, and even truffles. The tannins were well intergraded and they had a bit more presence than the 2011. Which is good because I like a lot the tannins I have tasted in the 2009’s, they are a bit more nervous.

Lastly was the Barolo 2006 Classico, which is a blend of three communes in Barolo. This one rocked the house and could have been my overall favorite from the whole tasting! This 2006 showed very young for being 10 years, it had all the classic Nebbiolo nuances, the red cherries, dried rose pedals, leather, tar, and almond oil. The tannins are soft and elegant and displays great this important classic vintage.

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The Harvest Report 2012 - Should I stay or should I go??

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Harvest work didn't scare me away as now it is my first official year here in Piedmont. I came in 2011 to work harvest but had arrived in the end of August. In 2012 I was here during the summer months and got to see the year build up. The vintage 2012 was a big year for me I got married, I moved out of the country, and I got my first foreign speaking job. Mind you I did not speak very good Italian but it was helpful when finding a job that my English is pretty good. I had in mind to work in a tasting room tasting and educating guests on Piedmont and even more on Barolo and Barbaresco. My first job-seeking stop was a hit, I drove up the steep driveway to Brezza knocked on the office door and luckily there was Enzo Brezza in the office, by himself, and not on the phone (nor did the phone ring during our meeting). In my super broken Italian I asked if he was looking for some help in the tasting room and he kindly invited me in to the office and then for a tour in the cellar. At the end of his explanations of the winery he asked me if I could start the day after. Of course I agreed. I went home super pumped, and so it began.

That summer as I remember it, in Neive it was super hot during the day the temperature was between 35-40, I remember like it was yesterday I was wearing my blue dress talking to my mom on the phone telling her that I have never been so hot in my life I was suffocating.   Then September came finally, and so did the rain. It hailed a few times in Barolo damaging a good amount of the fruit in some of our vineyards. But the rain never seemed to halt. I remember Enzo pacing back and forth in the office rubbing his head every time he walked toward the window and saw that it was still raining.   Finiamo questa vendemmia, mai. “We will never finish this harvest”, he would say in a worried tone to me. “We cannot harvest during the rain, we need to wait at least a day for the grapes to dry off before we can start to harvest, and if this rain does not stop and the sun does not come out we could also have problems with mold.” The sun did not come out, the rain did not stop, and every once in a while we would have a surprise of hail. In the end we did finish. We finished the harvest late.

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We fermented and kept separate our vineyards of Barolo and had aged them like we normally would. Enzo would come into the office every once in a while after tasting the barrels and would say “I don’t know if we are going to make cru Barolo for this vintage I might just blend the vineyards together and make a Classic Barolo.” So we waited until August 2015 when we decided to bottle. Normally before we bottle Enzo will set up numbered glasses for me to taste and give him my opinion. When I started to taste through the 2012 I was completely blown away by the elegance and the sweet Nebbiolo fruit that hit my tongue. At the end the Nebbiolo in this vintage turned out to be spectacular, power with elegance and a real great expression of the terrior, tasting the lineup today you really get a feeling of a classic vintage a bit more of the sensations of a cooler year. I see a great potential for these wines and I think that they will have the age ability of the 2010’s but will be able to be enjoyed younger, thanks to that great fruit.

Enjoy!

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Here I come Fratelli Alessandria

Fratelli Alessandria Verduno Pelaverga “Speziale” 2014

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I have driven by this winery many times. It is located in the heart of the town Verduno, but I have never stopped by. This year it will be on my “to do” list. After having done a little bit of research on this winery it seems as thought they have been making wine since the 19th century and have been making it well, so well that they have received two medals one from King Carlo Alberto and the other from Count Camillo Benso from Cavour. This says a lot because one: the King Carlo Alberto loved his Nebbiolo and Barolo but most of what he drank as the story goes, was wine from the town Barolo given to him from the Marchesa (a female Nobile Giulia Falletti di Barolo who was very passionate about her Nebbiolo so much so that she gave the name Barolo to this wine). So the fact that Carlo Alberto was also enjoying Barolo from Verduno is also pretty good. Another thing is that the King every once in a while enjoyed a glass of Pelaverga.

Pelaverga has two different varietals one which is believed to be the original varietal grown in the north around Torino (Saluzzo) is called Pelaverga Grosso. As you can imagine the berries of this varietal are larger with respect to the better-known Pelaverga Piccolo (small). And story has it that the Pelaverga Piccolo was brought to Verduno in the 18th century by Sebastiano Valfre’.   A genetic study has shown that actually these two varietals are not related in any way. I’m thinking because both varietals have similar characteristics in the glass and act the same in the vineyards that they were thought to be related.

The Fratelli Alessandria has given to their Pelavera the name Speziale. This in Italian is a play on words it has double meaning bother spices and special or “especially spicy”. This wine took a while to really open up to its full potential but I blame that a bit of the vintage, 2014 was not the easiest year to produce wine. Once it did open up, this wine then showed all the signature characteristics of a Verduno Pelavera. Strawberry fruits, fragrant flowers, and that hint of peppery spice. I am very excited to taste their 2015 once it has been released and get a chance to visit their winery and meet the family.

The Queen of Barolo Chiara Boschis

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E. Pira Chiara Boschis

Barolo 2002 Cuvee Chiara

This was a gift from Chiara, and a very good one at that!

I don’t know how many of you actually have met or know Chiara, but there is no one with her energy, rambunctiousness, or passion. She is definitely a spark of energy and great inspiration. Being one of the first women to take on a task of running a winery in Barolo, Chiara is a very important part of how Barolo became what it is today.   She was also the only woman to be a part of the modernist movement “Barolo Boys”. Working only 6 hectares and producing a small quantity of bottles Chiara is able to really have a good eye on quality control over the whole process.

I have to say it has been fun that we have been tasting some difficult vintages lately because it helps to show who can swim and who will sink. Chiara in 2002 was the wine of the night and as the judging panel had said that hands down from the Piedmont area the Cuvee Chiara 2002 was the best 2002 they have ever had. Now we are tasting this wine in 2016 giving it 14 years of age. This says a lot for a wine who had such a horrible vintage, with all the rain and particularly hail in the Barolo area a lot of producers didn’t even think or have the courage to make a Barolo in that year.

Right off the bad this wine was fresh super fresh, black fruits, herbs, chocolate. In tasting the finish lingered on the pallet and the tannins were again right there, fresh, clean. WOW! As it continued to sit in the bottle the wine continued to get better. It was too bad that we didn’t wait another 5 years because this wine really had the potential to continue to age wonderfully.   And what a surprise that would have been. Thank you Chiara.

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ChiaraBoschis

Easy Breezy Brezza

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Brezza Giacomo e figli Barolo 2003 Cannubi

Not many people can say that they get to work by the side of an important wine maker. I can. I have been working with Enzo Brezza and his family for the past 4 years, and I can say that I have learned a LOT. It has been an honor to watch first hand the thought and detail that goes into every bottle, be able to taste frequently from the barrel, put in my opinion and help out whenever needed. It also has been wonderful to get all the secrets and hear the stories and unwritten history about Langhe. These stories I will fill you in on later posts.

Back to the wine, Cannubi is probably the most famous MGA (menzioni geografiche aggiuntive) in the Langhe. This is likely because it has the most history, it could actually be the first planted vineyard in Barolo. The name on paper dates back to a bottle of Nebbiolo coming from Cannubi (Cannubio) in 1752. This is 100 years before the name of Barolo (not the town but the wine). So that means that the farmers and locals knew that Cannubi was something special. Was it the positioning? Could be because Nebbiolo a very hard grape to grow due to it’s long ripening season ripened much better on this hill. It is the first one to bud and the last one to be picked, and back in those days the contadini (farmers) were harvesting their Nebbiolo in November. Today for example we harvest more in October. The soil in Cannubi is made up of Sant’Agata Fossil Marl and Diano Sandstone, these soil structures are very poor and thus making it wonderful for grape production.

The 2003 vintage was a record breaker of all sorts. It was one of the hottest vintages in all time. You ask why on earth would I be interested to taste a hot vintage wine one you would think is not meant for ageing and now being 15 years old? Because even in the toughest vintages great winemakers will stand out. It is a sink or swim vintage and I think that Brezza Cannubi 2003 is still fresh and lively. Never judge a wine by it’s vintage, and here on the nose it is like to walk into a pastry shop. The sweetness of powdered sugar and candied fruit are in the air. You still have the nuances of violets and rose. On the pallet the finish almost never ends. Tobacco, chocolate, and dried orange peel yet it is fresh, the acidity is vibrant and it does not seem tiered it still has the potential for another 10 years. Cannot wait to taste it then.

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Barolo and Barbaresco: what are the differences?

The Barolo and Barbaresco wines both take its names from the villages of Barolo and Barbaresco, where they are produced using Nebbiolo grapes. Nebbiolo is an Italian wine grape variety and its name derives from the word "nebbia" (fog), due to the intense fog in the Langhe region during the harvest. The history of the Barolo and Barbaresco wine is the first difference between those typical Langhe's wines: while Barbaresco requires a minimum of 2 years storage, the Barolo wine is released after 3 years of storage. The aging of the wine reduces the tannins in the wine and enriches the flavor, so the Barolo wine requires a longer aging process due to the higher level of tannins.

The chemical difference between Barolo and Barbaresco, despite the same grape variety used for the production, is due to the difference of the soil between the area of Barolo and the area of Barbaresco. While the lime contained in the soil of both Barolo and Barbaresco is alkaline (high pH), the soil in barbaresco has more nutrients and the wine produces less tannins and tastes differently on the mid-palate.

Named after the noblewoman "Marchesa di Barolo", the Barolo wine has been produced since the 1850's and both its color and taste changed a lot during the years, partly due to the changing of climate and also the technology in the wineries helping to make these products cleaner, and also more approachable at younger ages. The Barbaresco wine is 50 years younger (the first production is dated 1894).