Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/18/21

Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a couple of lovely white Burgundies from Domaine de Bellene, a project by Nicolas Potel that began when a bunch of the growers he was working with decided to stop producing wines and offered to let him take over their vineyards. Potel also established Roche de Bellene, which is a négociant label under which Potel makes wines from fruit that he does not farm directly.

The first of the two wines is a Savigny-Les-Beaune blanc, made from Chardonnay sourced in the vineyards of three different villages within the SLB appellation: Les Planchots, Aux Champs des Pruniers and Dessus de Vermots that are farmed organically. It is quite pretty and has a warm richness to it.

The Saint-Aubin, which is made from sustainably grown purchased fruit under the Maison Roche de Bellene label, has a wonderfully sappy, tangy quality that resembles more expensive white Burgundies. The vines used for this wine are 48 years old, which would technically allow this wine to be called “vielles vignes” if the producer so desired. Saint-Aubin used to be the cheap seats when it came to excellent white Burgundy, but prices have climbed in recent years. Still, at $50, this is an excellent value for the region.

One more white wine before we head to Italy for some reds, I’ve got the latest release from the ambitious Eden Rift project in the Cienega Valley south of Gilroy in California. Their estate Chardonnay is an excellent value, and continues to improve in balance and complexity.

Only a few people grow Pinot Noir in Italy’s Piedmont Region, but Gian Luca Colombo, a consulting winemaker who started his own project in 2011 is one of them. His organic farm is working towards becoming fully biodynamic, and he produces a number of interesting wines, including this Pinot Noir, and a muscular Barolo, which I’ve also reviewed this week.

Good Barbera can sometimes be tricky to find, but when you do it is almost always affordable. This is no mean feat in a region whose wine prices have climbed to stratospheric levels in recent years. The Gaudio interpretation, from the higher-altitude Monferrato area of Piedmont, offers textbook Barbera flavors and character, and for twenty bucks, it’s a complete steal.

Rocche Costamagna has been the life’s work of the Costamagna family since 1841 when their ancestor, Luigi Costamagna was granted official permission to make wine in La Morra. The family’s last name has changed several times as the estate was handed down through the female side of the family, each taking the last name of their new husband. It is currently in the hands of Allesandro Locatelli, the 5th generation, who has been managing the estate since the mid-1980s and has both replanted the vineyards and moved to farm them more sustainably, avoiding pesticides and herbicides as much as possible.

The family farms plots in the famous Rocche dell’Annunziata area, and I’ve got two wines from those plots to share this week. The first is their standard Barolo, which has a classic character with lots of dried herbs, and the second is their Riserva bottling, which has a surprising mineral freshness to it, even as the fruit is moving towards its secondary characteristics.

Lastly, I have two wines from Reva, a small, certified organic producer in Monforte de Alba whose wines have consistently impressed me. At $30 their Nebbiolo d’Alba is outstanding and their Barolo is positively fantastic, brimming with energy and vibrancy. I highly recommend both.

Tasting Notes

2018 Domaine de Bellene Savigny-Les-Beaune Blanc, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of citrus pith and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, citrus pith, lemon curd, and white flowers have a nice snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a hint of butterscotch in the finish. Made from 40-year-old vines. Fermented with native yeasts and aged in 30% new French oak. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $54. click to buy.

2018 Maison Roche de Bellene Saint-Aubin Blanc, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France
Light gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers, wet pavement, and a hint of resinous sappiness. In the mouth, that sappy quality ramps up with tangy lemon oil, lemon pith, and citrus peel flavors made wonderfully juicy by excellent acidity. A faint struck match note lingers in the finish. Excellent. Made from 48-year-old vines, which would technically qualify this wine to be labeled “vielles vignes.” Fermented with native yeasts and aged in 10% new French oak. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2018 Eden Rift “Estate” Chardonnay, Cienega Valley, Central Coast, California
Yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of pineapple and lemon curd. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon curd and a touch of pineapple mix with sweet cream and white flowers. Decent acidity but could use a bit more to give it some zing. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2018 Segni di Langa Pinot Noir, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color with just a hint of garnet, this wine smells of cedar and raspberries and a hint of animal musk. In the mouth, juicy acidity makes flavors of redcurrant and sour cherry bright and mouthwatering, as a lightly bitter cedar and earth quality emerges in the citrus-bright finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $34. click to buy.

2017 Gaudio Barbera del Monferrato Superiore, Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of boysenberry and orange peel. In the mouth, boysenberry and black cherry flavors are shot through with potting soil and orange peel. Excellent acidity makes the mouth water and lasts through a long leathery finish with hints of licorice root. Contains 15% Freisa. 14% alcohol Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2016 Rocche Costamagna “Rocche dell’Annunziata” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light ruby in the glass with hints of orange, this wine smells of strawberries, dried sage, and lovely dried floral notes. In the mouth, intense strawberry, orange peel, and dried herb notes are mouthwatering thanks to juicy acidity. Faint, fleecy tannins drape like a blanket over the palate as the dried sage and road dust lingers in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/18/21

2013 Rocche Costamagna “Rocche dell’Annunziata Riserva Bricco Francesco” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
A bright carnelian red in color, this wine smells of dried flowers and dried strawberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully savory notes of dried herbs and dried flowers mix with redcurrant and strawberry fruit that is fading towards the dried end of the spectrum. Muscular tannins grip the edges of the palate as orange peel and a hint of smokiness linger in the finish. There’s a wonderful mineral freshness to this wine that is compelling. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2017 Gian Luca Colombo Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass with a bit of brick emerging, this wine smells of cherry, strawberry and dried herbs. In the mouth, tight muscular tannins wrap around a core of strawberry and cherry fruit shot through with dried sage, dried oregano, and dusty earth. Faintly bitter in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2018 Réva Nebbiolo d’Alba, Alba, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of smoky, dusty earth and rose petals. In the mouth, strawberry and redcurrant and raspberry fruit are positively bursting with acidity. Citrus and berry notes linger in the finish along with dusty dried oregano and thyme. Wonderfully fine-grained tannins linger with the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2016 Réva Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry, incense, and lavender. In the mouth, phenomenally juicy flavors of strawberry and sour cherry mix with dried herbs de provence. Gorgeous muscular tannins are very fine-grained and linger, flexing their muscles in the finish. Beautiful, powerful, and elegant. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

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I’ll Drink to That: Winemaker Lorenzo Accomasso

Episode 482 of I’ll Drink to That! features legendary Barolo producer Lorenzo Accomasso, along with a deep lesson in the history of the Piedmont region’s journey from World War II until now.

Italy experienced a civil war in the 20th century, specifically in 1943 through 1945. In those years Fascists backed by Nazi Germany held territory in the north of the country, while Allied troops controlled Sicily and fought to move up the peninsula from the south. At that time, guerrilla warfare was waged by Italian resistance fighters known as Partisans. Italians attacked Italians as well as foreign armies, as Partisans battled the remnants of Benito Mussolini’s Fascists. That period of strife is still within living memory for people such as Lorenzo Accomasso. Accomasso is a vintner in Piemonte’s La Morra area who experienced the Second World War as a child, and the war between the Modern and Traditional Barolo as an adult. Perhaps those two conflicts had more connections than we might first suppose, a thought which occurred to me after listening through episode 482 of the I’ll Drink to That! podcast. That episode contains both a deep dive into the history of the Piemonte in the latter half of the twentieth century and an encounter with the elderly Accomasso, still hard at working making wine each year from his small parcels of vines. Accomasso speaks at length about the changes he has witnessed over the years, sometimes expressing more acceptance of the differences than approval. What wisdom should we take from Accomasso to apply to our own period of massive disruption? “Everyone must stay in their own garden” he tells us, “and I stay in mine.” Accomasso is ready to take responsibility for what he can, leaving us to do the same.

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I’ll Drink to That is the world’s most listened-to wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @leviopenswine

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Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

It’s a bit hard to comprehend that a year ago I was in a throng of New Yorkers and Piedmontese Italians celebrating the release of the recent vintage from Piedmont. Wandering around a Midtown event center tasting Nebbiolo with a bunch of folks in the wine industry seems like a luxury from a distant reality much more removed than twelve months from today. Had the event occurred even a week or two later, it well could have been a super spreader event. As it is, most of us escaped by the skin of our wine-darkened teeth, and are left with what, for me, are among the last normal memories of the Time-Before-COVID.

And of course, I ended up with some tasting notes for some really excellent wines that I’m long-overdue for sharing with readers. We are now living in the age of the long overdue, it seems.

The event in question was the Barolo and Barbaresco World Opening, a first-of-its-kind marketing premiere of the recent vintages from the region, which also had as a focus telling the story of the region’s MeGA (Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive), the term used to indicate single-vineyard bottlings. In conjunction with the event, famed Italian cartographer, Alessandro Masnaghetti released his updated maps and encyclopedia of both regions featuring… wait for it… MeGA detail.

Two Excellent Vintages

For the most part, everyone was pouring the 2015 and 2016 vintages, though there were a few random older wines sprinkled about the room and a few 2017 Barbarescos on offer. Both the 2015 and 2016vintages were excellent and largely untroubled by the hail issues that plagued the region in 2012 and 2014.

July in 2015 proved quite hot, but by all accounts, most growers dealt with the heat well, and near-perfect (read: cooler) harvest conditions gave vintners the opportunity to ensure they showcased their best fruit in their wines from this slightly smaller-than-usual crop.

With a later bud-break and flowering than the year prior, thanks to a cool spring, 2016 thereafter proved to be a Goldilocks of a vintage (barring a small bit of hail damage in a couple of spots) building to a warmer-than-usual harvest season and resultant wines that some are calling the best made since the equally acclaimed 2010 vintage.

I don’t taste Piedmont wines comprehensively or regularly enough to speak very authoritatively about the vintages, beyond characterizing them as I have, but I found many wines to like from both, and feel like Nebbiolo lovers can’t go wrong purchasing either from known producers.

Here are my favorites of the wines I tasted in that other era, when milling about in a crowd was not a particularly foolish thing to do. The wines are listed in descending order by score, and a number of them were tasted blind at a seated tasting earlier that same day (look for the tasting notes with better grammar).

Tasting Notes

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2013 Oddero “Bussia Vigna Mondoca” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine is wonderfully floral and citrusy on the nose, while in the mouth, exceptionally fine-grained tannins flex their athletic muscles to grip wonderfully citrus and bright berry flavors tinged with dried flower petals. Gorgeous, poised, and shimmering on the palate, this wine is entering its prime and will likely develop and improve for the next 5 years at least. Incredibly compelling and delicious. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2016 Pertinace “Marcarini” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine has a wonderfully floral berry nose, with hints of herbs. In the mouth, strawberry and herbs, and notes of flower petals are draped in a taut blanket of tannins. Notes of incense and leather emerge on the finish leaving a citrus-peel snap in the end. Excellent acidity and length. Outstanding. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2015 Fratelli Alessandria “Monvigliero” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in color, this wine has an earthy nose of berries and a touch of leather. In the mouth, cherry, earth, and citrus are bound up by tightly wound tannins, which maintain a firm grip through a long, beautifully balanced finish with citrus and incense notes. Fantastic and elegant, and likely to improve over a decade or more. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2013 Fratelli Revello “Conca” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy

Medium garnet in color, this wine has an intense nose of smoky red fruit. In the mouth, cherry, smoke, citrus, and dried herbs are beautifully bright thanks to fantastic acidity. Gorgeously balanced with tight tannins that grip the palate through the very long finish. Outstanding and quite ageworthy. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2016 Renato Ratti “Rocche dell’Annunziata” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberries and a touch of oak. In the mouth, the wood fades to the background letting gorgeously bright and juicy fruit and remarkably restrained, powdery tannins swirl across the palate. Fantastic acidity and impressive length. Juicy and delicious and surprisingly accessible in its youthful state. Highly recommended. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $120. click to buy.

2017 Giovanni Sordo Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass with a bare hint of orange this wine smells of dried flowers and strawberries. In the mouth, intensely bright juicy strawberry and dried herb flavors have a wonderful dynamism and brightness with gorgeous balance and length, fine tannins, great finesse. Outstanding. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2014 Marchesi di Barolo “Sarmassa” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet strawberry and cherry. In the mouth, plush tannins caress juicy and bright citrus and berry flavors. Fine-grained tannins are wonderfully supple, and sweet berry fruit lingers in the finish. Quite lovely. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2016 Marcarini “La Serra” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass with orange highlights at the rim, this wine smells of sweet floral notes layered on top of berry fruit. In the mouth, plush, almost velvety tannins wrap around a core of juicy berry fruit tinged with herbs and dried flowers. Excellent. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2013 Paitin “Serraboella Sori’Paitin” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy

Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of berries, herbs, and rose petals. In the mouth, tight, muscular tannins wrap around wonderfully floral and herbal notes of strawberries and cherry. Notes of dried herbs linger in the finish. Excellent acidity. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2015 Pecchenino “Bussia” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color with orange at the rim, this wine smells of herbs and citrus peel, and red fruits. In the mouth, dried berries and strawberry fruit is wrapped in tight tannins that are gorgeously supple, and excellent acidity lends a stony quality to this wine. Elegant as hell with lovely citrus notes lingering in the finish. Excellent. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $70. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2015 Réva “Ravera” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a slightly shy nose of berries and herbs and dried flowers. Those aromas blossom, though, on the palate with tight citrusy berry fruit and dried herbs tightly wound up with firm tannins. Fantastic acidity, but this wine needs some time to open up. Give it 5 to 10 and watch it sing. Beautiful citrus notes in the finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $90. click to buy.

2015 Gaja “Sperss” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of red fruit with floral overtones. In the mouth, velvety tannins cushion flavors of cherry and strawberry shot through with dried flower petals. Good acidity and surprisingly supple tannins. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $280. click to buy.

2012 Luciano Sandrone “Cannubi Boschis” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass with some purple highlights, this wine has wonderfully floral aromas of strawberries and herbs. In the mouth, plush tannins caress strawberry fruit and wonderfully juicy citrus peel acidity. The tannins tighten over time and linger through a very long finish. Excellent and built for the long haul. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $140. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2015 Produttori del Barbaresco “Ovello” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color, this wine has a snappy berry and dried flowers aroma. In the mouth, powdery tannins wrap, tendril-like around a core of beautifully floral berries as notes of leather and citrus emerge in the finish. A classic expression of Nebbiolo, beautifully structured and balanced. Excellent. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2016 Pietro Rinaldi “San Cristoforo” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and strawberry. In the mouth, the wine is quite stony, with cherry and strawberry fruit crisp and zippy thanks to excellent acidity. A tight fist of tannins gradually squeezes the core of fruit but leaves citrus and strawberries lingering in the long finish. Fantastic, and even more so at this reasonable tariff. Highly recommended. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2016 Tenuta Montanello “Montanello” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of the classic tar and roses notes of Barolo. In the mouth, fantastic acidity lifts flavors of raspberry and cherry to wonderful heights, and notes of dried herbs and dried flowers mix with a touch of aniseed and dried citrus peel in the finish. Excellent tight powdery tannins. A lovely wine. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $70.

2017 Armando Piazzo Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Bright light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of berry fruit and flower petals. In the mouth, juicy bright strawberry and floral flavors have great intensity and length with powdery but muscular tannins. Citrus notes enter the finish. Delicious, fresh thanks to fantastic acidity and quite compelling. Highly recommended. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2015 Marziano Abbona “Ravera” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of a hint of barnyard layered over florals and fruit. In the mouth, cherry and strawberry fruit flavors are juicy and balanced by some nice dried herbal notes. Restrained but muscular tannins put a squeeze on the palate as excellent acidity keeps going through a long finish. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2015 Aurelio Settimo “Rocche dell’Annunziata” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of manure, with notes of citrus and berry. In the mouth, however, the wine is more fruit than barnyard, though there is that leathery quality to the wine along with a deep earthiness. Putty-like tannins and very good acidity. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2012 Punset “San Cristoforo Campo Quadro” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of bacon fat and barnyard. In the mouth, earthy and herbal flavors of strawberry and cherry lean towards the savory as dried herbs linger through the finish. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2016 Ratti “Rocche dell’Annunziata” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of bright floral fruit. in the mouth, juicy raspberry and coffee flavors have fine tannins draped over them that flex as the wine finishes with a hint of citrus peel and dried herbs. Solid, with excellent acidity but perhaps slightly over polished for me? Score: around 9. Cost: $112. click to buy.

2016 Roccheviberti “Rocche di Castiglione” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of new oak. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy flavors of berry and herb and earth have excellent acidity and brightness with a citrusy character. A more modern Barolo but with well-managed tannins and very pretty fruit. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2016 Fratelli Giacosa “Vigna Mandorlo Scarrone” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass with a hint of brick, this wine smells of rose petals and a touch of asphalt. In the mouth juicy berry and slightly saline flavors of strawberry dried herbs and incense have powdery drying tannins and a wonderful savory character, excellent acidity and length, with a very nice elegance. Score: around 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.

2016 Livia Fontana “Villero” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Very light in color — a light ruby with bricking on the edges, this wine smells of orange peel and dried berries. In the mouth, delicate flavors of flower petals and berries have a fine-grained, silky tannin and elegant subtlety. Not as intense as it could be but very accessible for its youth. Tasty, but drink sooner than later. Score: around 9. Cost: $136. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2016 Giovanni Rosso “Cerretta” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a nice floral aroma, with bright berries underneath. In the mouth, juicy strawberry and cherry flavors are supple and plush with nicely restrained tannins, but the wine is also missing some acidity to give it a good kick. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $85. click to buy.

2016 Palladino “Parafada” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of berries and herbs with a hint of barnyard. In the mouth, wonderful flavors of citrusy strawberries and cherries are bright with acidity and balanced by a hint of funk. Tight muscular tannins grip the palate. Built for the long haul, but quite tasty now. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2015 Pio Cesare Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of leather and smoky berries. In the mouth, strawberry and cherry flavors are smoky and earthy with lovely dried herb notes that linger in the finish. Very good acidity. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $80 . click to buy.

2015 G.D. Vajra “Bricco delle Viole” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dark fruits and smoky earth. In the mouth, cherry and strawberry fruit is juicy and shot through with the scent of leather and a touch of woodsmoke. Leathery tannins, decent acidity. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2016 Fratelli Revello “Gattera” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of nutty incense and dried flowers. In the mouth, cherry and strawberry flavors have a bright generosity to them but less dynamism and complexity as I would like. Less acidity, too. Shorter finish, fine tannins. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.

2016 Mario Olivero “Bricco Ambrogio” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of darker fruits, black cherry, and cedar. In the mouth, the wine is polished with fine-grained tannins and smoky herb and fruit flavors with great acidity and nice length. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??.

2016 Cavallotto “Bricco Boschis” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium to dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of smoky berry and dried flowers. In the mouth, strawberry and cherry flavors are nestled under a fleecy blanket of tannins, with hints of lavender and other cooking herbs that linger in the finish with a touch of citrus peel. Excellent acidity. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $80. click to buy.

2017 Vite Colte “La Casa in Collina” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells of dusty road and berries and sawdust. In the mouth bright sour cherry and strawberry flavors mix with cedar and earthy dust. Great acidity, fine powdery tannins. Possesses quite admirable savory qualities. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $140. click to buy.

2017 Musso “Bricco Rio Sordo” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of bright strawberry and sour cherry fruit. In the mouth, bright sour cherry, raspberry, and strawberry fruit flavors are wrapped in a tight skein of tannins. Juicy acidity and nice length. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2011 Batasiolo “Boscareto” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color this wine smells of struck match, citrus peel, and raisins. In the mouth, ripe strawberry and raisiny flavors are wrapped in a tight fist of tannins but the fruit has a nice purity and enough acidity to keep the riper flavors from being flat. Long finish. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2016 Negretti “Bricco Ambrogio” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color with a bit of orange at the rim, this wine smells of exotic woods and incense. In the mouth flavors of oak mix with Chinese herbs and red fruits mixed with a touch of fig and caramel. The oak is a bit too strong for me in this wine, but it is well balanced otherwise. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2016 Cavalier Bartolomeo “Altenasso” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells slightly of struck match smokiness and berries and herbs. In the mouth, drying tannins suck the moisture out of the mouth and make it a little harder to concentrate on berry and herb flavors that take on a slightly saline quality. But for the aggressive wood tannins, this would be a very nice wine. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2016 Rosoretto “Parussi” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells of rose petals and herbs with a touch of sulfur and oak. In the mouth, the oak influence makes itself felt in the form of drying tannins and a toasty quality that somewhat obscures some pretty berry fruit and herbal notes. But good acidity and nice fruit underneath it all. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??.

2016 Oddero “Rocche di Castiglione” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry and dried flowers. In the mouth, muscular tannins close in a tight fist around flavors of strawberry, cherry, and dried herbs with notes of road dust. Good acidity and length, with a touch of sour cherry in the finish. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $85. click to buy.

2017 Taliano Michele “Montersino Ad Altiora” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color with a hint of brick, this wine smells of berries and flower petals. In the mouth intense berry and incense and floral notes are backed by fine, powdery but drying tannins. Good acidity but slightly hollow on the mid-palate. Still, quite flavorful. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2017 Ricossa Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby with an orange rim, this wine smells of sweet oak and red berries. In the mouth, oak and cherry and strawberry flavors have a drying wood tannin quality. Good flavors and decent acidity but too much new oak for my taste. Decent finish. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2017 Bera Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Med ruby with a hint of orange, this wine smells of berry and a touch of oak and dusty road. In the mouth, decent acidity enlivens flavors of red berries and a hint of sour cherry. A touch of bitter dry herbs lingers on the finish. Offers a somewhat creamy complexion. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30.

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Tasting Barolo with Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti

“Born in 1934, Renato Ratti was a larger-than-life figure in Barolo who did much to shape the modern framework of the appellation. He started his career working for Cinzano in Brazil and moved back to Italy in 1965. He immediately founded a winery in the Abbazia di San Martino di Marcenasco. He produced his first vintage of Barolo that same year. Renato Ratti was one of the first to map the vineyards of Barolo and he penned the region’s most elaborate vintage chart. Mostly importantly, he created the Albeisa growers’ association with its distinctly branded bottle in 1973. Renato Ratti died in 1988 and the estate is run by his similarly active and engaged son Pietro. Pietro Ratti completed construction on the new winery in 2005.” Monica Larner, Wine Advocate 

Tasting Barolo with Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti

“Quality, research, passion, respect for our history and our land with a window ever open on the future, are the underlying principles of our philosophy and the expression of our wines.” Pietro Ratti, 2003

Our wine Buyer Jeff recently had the opportunity to have lunch with Pietro Ratti, son of Renato Ratti.

I recently attended a lunch with Renato Ratti an old and brilliant winery in Piedmont established in 1965 by my Fathers host Pietro Ratti at Carmines IL Terrazzo in pioneer square. Renato Rati is hailed as the bench mark of the classic La Morra Barolo Let’s jump in and see what I found, shall we.

Tasting Barolo with Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti#1 we started with the 2015 Barbera d’Asti DOCG. WOW! I really like this wine with its black cherry spice and bight acidity. There is a great energy to this wine with layers and perfect balance not to mention lots of fruit.

#2 2015 Langhe Nebbiolo ‘Ochetti’ DOC. If you can’t afford Barolo then don’t miss this wine. Grown above the Tanaro River @ 800 feet with a southwester exposure ideal for Nebbiolo.  The wine has delicate lasting red fruit aromas and is filled with classic strawberry and raspberry followed by pleasant savory and earthly notes.

#3 2013 Marcenasco, Barolo, DOCG. Marcenasco is the site were Renato created La Morra’s first single vineyard in 1965 and historical documents show that the cultivation of Nebbiolo dates back to the 12th century. Today, the Marcenasco a blend of vineyards in the Annunziata subzone. A combination that yields a Barolo of structure and elegance, with those classic markers of dark red fruits rich and full- bodied. 93 WA

#4 2014 Rocche dell’ Annunizata, Barolo DOCG. The Rocche dell ’Annunizata vineyard on a steep hillside is considered one of the most important in all of Barolo. Pietro considers the site a “grand cru” of La Morra for its supreme elegance and aromatics imparted by the rare soil of blue marl with steaks of white sand. This is a slow ripening site which makes for a very complex wine of red fruits darker in color and denser in body. 95 WA

# 5 Conca, Barolo, DOCG 2014. The small Conca vineyard is in one of the oldest sub-zones in Barolo. It is less than two acres and is in the hollow of the Abbey of Annunizata where Benedictine Monks made wine as far back as the 12th century. The name Conca in Italian means basin or dell and the vineyard is a shell-shaped basin sitting with a southwest exposure. The wine is more elegant and dialed back. 94 WA 

“The pedigree of origin of a determined sub-zone and the delimitation of its area, the classification of the characteristics pertaining to the various vintages and the process of bottle refinement to both propitiate and maintain distinction, smoothness, elegance and longevity, are three crucial moments to be lived in the first person, concepts that I consider both as matters of substance and style.” – Renato Ratti, 1971

This is something that isn’t seen every year here in Seattle the distributor gets very little so if you would like some contact me Jeff@esquin.Com or call (206) 682-7374 ask for Jeff. There are no guarantees on this particular wines availability.

Thanks for reading.

Jeff Fournier, Esquin Buyer

Tasting Barolo with Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti

The post Tasting Barolo with Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti appeared first on Madewine's Sippy Cup - Blog.

Loving Grana Padano

You're at the store with two pieces of cheese in your hand. They are equal in size. They are the same price. One is Grana Pandano the other is Parmigiano Reggiano.

You'd buy the Parmigiano right? The king of cheeses, why not go for the best? But think for a second. These two pieces of cheese are the same price. That means you're probably getting top-of-the-line Grana Pandano, while the Parmigiano is almost certainly mass produced and on the lower end of the Parmigiano spectrum. Do you want to pay for the name or the cheese?

You're at the store with two bottles of wine in your hand. They are equal in size. They are the same price. One is cabernet sauvignon the other is syrah.

You'd buy the cabernet right? The king of wines, why not go for the best? But think for a second. These two bottles of wine are the same price. That means you're probably getting top-of-the-line syrah, while the cabernet is almost certainly mass produced and on the lower end of the cabernet spectrum. Do you want to pay for the name or the wine?

Grana Pandano and Parmigiano Reggiano are the same type of cheese. While at its pinnacle many connoisseurs consider Parmigiano the ultimate expression of this style of chesse, there are many passionate producers and consumers of Grana Pandano that would take exception with their position.

One thing I've learned is that dollar-for-dollar you get better value for Grana than you do with the more famous Parmigiano. Often it's a far better choice to buy the most expensive product with a less famous name than the lowest price product with a more exalted name.

I apply the same strategy to buying wine. If I have $30 to spend cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and chardonnay don't even enter my mind. My thoughts go to gamay, syrah, tempranillo, aglianico, vermentino, chenin blanc and on and on. Today it seems the choices are limitless.

Like the Reggiano cheese place name, many wine appellations get bonus points for name recognition that spot them extra dollars on each bottle over their competitors. When you buy wine from a famous place name you pay a premium for that privilege. Is it worth it? Sometimes yes. There are experiences you can get from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo and Napa that are truly sublime. But with the $30 I want to spend, sublime will not be found in those appellations. You can find extraordinary wine experiences on a budget if you're willing to go beyond these famous place-names. Think El Dorado, Mendocino, Rogue, Sablet, Madiran, Languedoc, Corsica, Sardegna, our own Applegate Valley and, as with the varieties, the options go on and on.

Never in the history of wine has it been easier to drink great wines without spending a fortune. Next time you're in a wine shop hold that bottle of cabernet in one hand and a different wine from a place or variety you don't know in the other and ask yourself what you want to pay for - the name or the wine?