Who says it’s too early to drink wine before 9am?
Clearly if you want to be involved in this Galli Scholarship you better get your act together!
We 15 scholars met at Enoteca Sileno…yes, one of my dear places of work in North Carlton, around 8am (or a little earlier for those of us not wanting to get caught in traffic😐 )
Eventually we were permitted up the stairs into the main room where the masterclasses were going to commence. You could people oo-ing and ah-ing as we entered. Eight glasses per setting were already arranged and pre-poured with some mysterious white wine inside the glasses. Here we go!
All wines were analysed blind. We had a list of the wines that would be in each bracket, but no idea of which order they would have been poured in. The first brackets were quite challenging. I found the northern whites much harder to differentiate, especially when they’re not necessarily varieties I come across in my every-day drinking. However, after these sessions, I think I will be sure to be buying more Friulian, Veneto and Piemontese vini bianchi!
Day 1 – Session 1 – Bracket 1
Wine 1: Franz Haas Pinot Grigio 2009 [Alto Adige]
Pale yellow hue with a greenish tinge, citron fruit, minerally, a little grassy. Really tight acid, gives it great length, quite young, 09? What you smell is well translated onto palate. Guess: Soave.
Wine 2: Livio Felluga Tocai Friulano 2009 [Friuli]
Grassy, green, fresh, gooseberries, lovely texture, spicy notes on the finish, lingering flavours, taut but balanced with texture and body of the wine. Guess: Friulano.
Wine 3: Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis 2009 [Piemonte]
Mid-golden hue, little bit of nail varnish volatility, green apple which is disguising wine’s true aromas. Mid-weighted, lemon pith tartness at the front palate, almost cashew-nut finish. Guess: Gavi.
Wine 4: Villa Russiz Ribolla Gialla 2008 [Friuli]
A little bready (Chris would be so proud!) and more savoury than the others, lemon-scented, less textural but got really good flavour concentration so wine persists, lemon pith and almondy finish this time. Guess: Arneis.
Wine 5: Gini Soave Classico 2009 [Veneto]
Gravel stones, vague banana esters, lovely texture, a little oily, acidity not overly pronounced but I think that works with the body structure. Despite oiliness, finishes clean. Guess: Ribolla Gialla.
Wine 6: La Raia Gavi 2009 [Piemonte]
Pale, water white in colour, a little more intriguing with faintly floral nose, although a bit soapy too. Tart and crisp acidity, draws out the nougat/egg white flavours, really cool mostarda-like mid-palate spice. Guess: Pinot Grigio.
Clearly a bit rusty in the first round!!! Onto the next! This one focused our attention to central Italian and southern Italian varieties. Again, varieties like Falanghina and Vernaccia I am not so well-versed in. Hence, this is the reason why I am here. To gain as much knowledge as I can about this native and unique varieties to Italy and explore later in the masterclass how these can be adopted in our own country and can they perhaps be done better?…Mmm, interesting, no?!
Day 1 – Session 1 – Bracket 2
Wine 1: Benanti Carricante Bianco di Caselle 2008 [Sicilia]
This wine is imported by Enoteca Sileno and thus I have come across it a couple of times before. It is very distinct and hence I and a couple of others were able to pick it immediately. The nose is never fresh, the carricante grape has been handled oxidatively, and this medium-bodied style soaks up that character well. Acidity is really driving. This grape is grown on Mt Etna and they never need to actually add acid, they in fact need to let the wine go through malolactic fermentation (MLF) in order to reduce it! There is a touch of mandarin peel on the finish. Guess: Carricante.
Wine 2: Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano di Avellino Pietracalda 2009 [Campania]
A little soapy, quite sea salty, bright acidity, hint of musk. Screaming orange blossom! Flat beer, leesy character. Battonage? Guess: Fiano (boh?!)
Wine 3: Toscolo Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2008 [Toscana]
Suggestive of oak influence, but later discovered it’s all fermented in stainless steel (SS). Reminds me of the Pecorino served at Enoteca Sileno that has that fermented in oak character but is quite the contrary. A little mild cheese, almond meal in flavour. Taut finish. Guess: Pecorino.
Wine 4: Santa Barbara Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2009 [Marche]
More textural and a little oily again, mineral freshness, seafood wine, rough phenolic finish. Guess: Vernaccia.
Wine 5: Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino 2009 [Sardegna]
Sea salt freshness, a little herbaceous, but of sage, lemon fresh finish, persistant. Guess: Vermentino.
Wine 6: Villa Matilde Falanghina 2009 [Campania]
A little soapy again on the nose, winter-sweet florals. More medium-full bodied, great texture on the palate, spice bomb, Asian spice, all-spice, cinnamon, perhaps from wood contact? Guess: Falanghina.
Wine 7: Velenosi Pecorino Villa Angela 2009 [Marche]
Lemon curd, grassy nose, quite green…Really bright, lively acidity, flavour’s really drawn out, herbaceous, lime twist. Guess: Verdicchio.
That was the end of the cross-section of Italian whites for the major part of the day and a really thorough look at the variety of styles and the multitude of grapes they have (and that was a tiny example of what they could have shown us!). Needless to say so many of the scholars were impressed with the high degree of quality throughout and the fact that we would have loved to have a little place of sardines, or something fishy along the side whilst tasting! There’s an idea for next year guys!
Day 1 – Session 1 – Bracket 3
Wine 1: Vietti Nebbiolo d’Alba Perbacco 2007 [Piemonte]
I got to speak on this wine blind, commenting on its dusty brick, autumnal colour, red berry and spice nose, salty charcuterie flavour, firm, chalky tannins, but I wouldn’t have though new oak would have been prevalent because there’s a fair marriage between the flavours. Not a style to be aged entirely. It was clear this was the Vietti Nebbiolo d’Alba. Boom!
Wine 2: Sandrone Barbera 2008 [Piemonte]
Beautiful magenta, purple hue, clear him, bright plum fruit flavours, bright acidity, fresh violets but still an underlying savoury tone. Low tannin levels, munch on a grissini inbetween this and the next wine. Already getting hungry and it’s only 10am?! You’ve got to love these savoury Italianate styles! Guess: Barbera.
Wine 3: Massolino Dolcetto d’Alba 2008 [Piemonte]
Crimson hue, purplish tinge, low tannin again, lively on the palate, jooby, raspberry flavours. Guess: Dolcetto d’Alba.
Wine 4: Speri Valpolicella 2008 [Veneto]
More of a dense brick red hue, tomato bush, herbaceous tones that are little confusing, seems like a blend. Chianti or Valpol? Ay yay yay. Guess: Chianti Classico.
Wine 5: Poggerino Chianti Classico 2008 [Toscana]
Dark chocolate and coffee, cherry, black and red fruits, firm tannic structure, concentrated fruit flavours. Still young but flavours to develop more. Guess: Valpolicella.
That was a gentle coaxing into the world of Italian reds. Then we got lead down into more central and southern territory with the following:
Day 1 – Session 1 – Bracket 4
Wine 1: A Mano Primitivo 2008 [Puglia]
Remember when you were a kid and all you wanted for your lunch break was to be like every other normal kid and be given a RASPBERRY FLAVOURED ROLL UP but instead your mamma put Savoiardi biscuits into your lunchbox instead??? Ahh…well this brought me back to those roll-up fantasies. Confectionary, candied red and black fruit lift on the nose. Mid-palate weight, very very high acidity, jooby, fresh and young. Probably better not to have eaten Roll Ups…they would have ruined my teeth. Guess: Primitivo.
Wine 2: Morgante Nero d’Avola [Sicilia]
Pale crimson, dusty hue, fruit forward, raspberry, decadent plumminess to it, christmas cake spices. Guess: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
Wine 3: Antonio Caggiano Vigna Macchia dei Goti Aglianico di Taurasi 2006 [Campania]
Shoe leather, boot polish, metallic finish, slight rustic character to it, firm tannins, plenty of bottle-aged characters going on. Guess: Negroamaro
Wine 4: Antonelli Sagrantino di Montefalco 2005 [Umbria]
Pale, aged, mid-density red hue, boy (!), really grippy, alive and well tannins, vegemite and bready nose, beef stock cubes linger til the end. Guess: Sagrantino.
Wine 5: Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008 [Abruzzo]
Less of a severe tannin structure, roasted beetroot nose, tomato bush, either the restaurant downstairs is brewing some coffee or there’s lashing of coffee in this wine!! Guess: Nero d’Avola.
Wine 6: Torrevento Sino Nome Salice Salentino Riserva Negroamaro 2003 [Puglia] – with a splash of Malvasia Nera
Pale, dusty red hue and a nose full of brett/bandaids. Beyond that you get sour cherry flavourings, a tart acidity. Some might say this is charmingly rustic? Guess: Aglianico.
Day 1 – Session 2 – Bracket 1 – Benchmarking Barolo
Wine 1: Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia 2005
From Serralunga d’Alba. Really tart acid, but overall you’d say it’s balanced, gently rolling tannins, firm, but softened, one for the hard cheeses. Out of the five wines this is the weakest of the lot. Suggestive of the vintage?
Wine 2: Vajra Bricco delle Viole 2005
From Barolo. This wine is meatier than the first, hints of violet and sour cherries, a real lift and brightness. I wasn’t sure whether it would be true that the Bricco delle Viole wines would have a distinct violet hint, but they do, which makes them easier to pick out in a line-up of similar wines. Amazing length and strength to the tannins, totally in line with the flavour profile, great acidity and overall superb structure. Guess: Bricco delle Viole
Wine 3: Poderi Colla Bussia 2006
From Monforte d’Alba. Rose petals. Ahh, so pleasant. More mellowed tannic structure to the previous which made me presume it would be a La Morra or Barolo wine. Chalkier tannins, still really great concentration of flavour.
Wine 4: Vietti Lazzarito 2005
From Serralunga d’Alba. Meaty salami savouriness on the nose, prosciutto, salty flavours on the palate. Tannic structure made me think it was Bussia or Lazzarito. The length on these wines never cease to amaze me.
Wine 5: Azelia Bricco Fiasco 2004
From Monforte d’Alba. Start up the ending credit music to The Bold and the Beautiful, because this, my friends, was the boldest of them all. The colour is a lot more dense than the others, really pristine nose, you don’t get the salami flavours like the Lazzarito, but actually more salty acciughe (anchovies). Super-concentrated tannic structure, a wine with miles ahead of it. Guess: Bussia or at least a Monforte d’Alba wine.
This bracket really exemplified the importance of vintage. With the 2004’s showing more classic styling and overall better longevity over the 2005’s. 2005 was a rainy, and warmer vintage so the concentration in flavour would have been lacking in comparison of the same wine to the earlier vintage I imagine. 2004 and 2006 on the other hand were similar with a longer winter and more time to build the natural grape tannins which give the wine more potential.
Day 1 – Session 2 – Bracket 2 – Benchmarking Barbaresco
Wine 1: Gaja 2005
Geez, my note says summer tar with salami…what the hell is summer tar?!?! Ohhh, wait a minute, I think what I meant was that smell in the stifling heat of summer when the road starts to almost melt!…y’know? Mmm, moving on then. The tannins were overly raspy on this one. It had good flavour length, the acidity was lovely and bright, but the tannins still need a fair amount of time. Don’t think many people would mind waiting though…
Wine 2: Produttori del Barbaresco 2005
A seaweed and soy nose. Light, sour flavours, concentrated and juicy through the mid-palate then you just get the tannin wrapping around the back of your mouth. This is the blend of various crus they make and consequently more fairly priced.
Wine 3: Marchesi di Gresy Martinenga 2006
Fresh with the prettiest nose of sweet tobacco, leather and spice. There’s a certain creaminess to the texture of the wine, a hint of vanilla, and lots of primary red fruits, rich in structure. I love Marchesi di Gresy and have been a big advocate of their wines from when I worked in Piemonte and met the proprietor Alberto several times (see story), as well as the winemaker Geoff Chilcott at the Tre Bicchieri awards or at the best wine tasting I went to during my time there.
Wine 4: Albino Rocca Brich Ronchi 2005
I’ve had the 1998 of this wine before (see link for ‘best wine tasting’ in previous tasting note) which had stood up to the test of time, had ages to go and was an overall beauty. At this stage I’d say the 2005 was suffering from the vintage conditions. It’s shorter, with still great rich plum concentration, quite meaty and a dense currant nose but I’d bet it doesn’t look like the 1998 did ten years on.
Day 1 – Session 2 – Bracket 3 – The crus, communes and vineyards of Barolo
Wine 1: Sandrone Cannubi 2006
From Barolo. Phwoar! Smells like an Argentinian barbecue, lively freshness in acidity and flavour, really firm with a cat’s tongue tannin texture!
Wine 2: Brezza Cannubi 2004
From Barolo. Really distinct. Volatile lift, orange rind notes, really velvety tannin structure, mouth-coating flavours and driving length.
Wine 3: E. Pira e Figli Cannubi 2006
From Barolo. Slightly sweeter fruited, mountain herb characters, alpine-like, even the palate is a little pine-y but fresh and a hint of violets. Very delicate style.
Wine 4: Vietti Brunate 2005
From Barolo. Older but denser fruit than the previous. Smokey, tight tannins, really astringent, sour cherry finish, the oak is standing out in this one at the moment.
Wine 5: Elio Altare Brunate 2005
From Barolo. Salami0like flavours, dried rose petals, puckering, leather, tannins are still better than the overt oak tannins in the Vietti. Cinnamon stick finish.
Wine 6: Marcarini Brunate 2005
From Barolo. Nose seems a little subdued, super fine tannin structure, totally coats the mouth. Despite this, I don’t think the flavour concentration stands up to it. Wee bit of funk showing through.
Wine 7: Azelia Margheria 2004
From Serralunga d’Alba. Margheria’s tannins are more pronounced and the wines tend to have a denser hue over the Cannubi and Brunate. There’s lots of loveable chocolate with this wine, but the alcohol sticks out and the tannins are still pretty coarse.
Wine 8: Massolino Margheria 2006
From Serralunga d’Alba. Sweeter fruited than the previous, I think I’m getting palate fatigue. All I get is that the back palate is lingering. We’re almost finished with the Nebbiolo brackets!
Wine 9: Luigi Pira Margheria 2005
From Serralunga d’Alba. Well-aligned tannin structure, with savoury mid-palate centred on a core of sour fruits. Beef brothy and bretty to the finish. Aww😦
Day 1 – Session 2 – Bracket 4 – The crus, communes and vineyards of Barbaresco
Wine 1: Roagna Asili 2004
From Barbaresco. Bretty. Chocolatey hints, oyster shells, spicy. Shame about the brett. At least I know their 2004 Roagna Paje is a beauty (available at Boccaccio Cellars, North Balwyn).
Wine 2: Produttori del Barbaresco Asili 2004
From Barbaresco. Really clean nose compared to the first and third wines. Dried roses and soft red berry fruits. Palate flavour a little bit lean, chewy, firmer mid-palate weight. I’d like to see it open more in the glass. Guess: Produttori because it’s so clean.
Wine 3: Cerretto Asili 2005
From Barbaresco. Bretty. Bloody hell! What you are left with is some lean acidity and good mid-palate weight…and not much else besides the ‘sticking your head in a stable’ aromas.
Wine 4: Giacosa Santo Stefano 2007
From Neive (part of Albesani vineyard). Bright berry nose, alive, hint of strawberry’s, tighter acid structure than the previous wines, but helps carry these bright flavours, really astringent and really elegant.
Wine 5: Castello di Neive Santo Stefano 2006
From Neive (part of Albesani vineyard). Bretty. Effing hell. Dead-fruited, metallic iron-like meaty touch, hotness that stands out on the finish.
Despite the whopping percentage of Bretty wines in this bracket, I did think it was a great insight into two varying zones within the same Barbaresco region. I thought it was clear that the first three wines had some sort of similarity (besides Brett) amongst them, and purely because I have tried a few Produttori del Barbaresco wines and understand they are a brilliant cooperative winery, I was able to assume that the second wine would be theirs, judging by the fact that if they had found Brett in their winery it could have been blended away to the lower crews because of the quantity they produce. For me, the Giacosa Santo Stefano was a highlight. The best word I thought of to describe it for myself was ‘alive’. It was singing in the glass, and I actually set that particular glass aside before the next round of wines were poured so I could have just a little more. Galli is giving me beautiful experiences one after the next.
Day 1 – Session 2 – Bracket 5 – How Nebbiolo morphs – an insight into aged Barolo and Barbaresco
Wine 1: Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole 1999
From Barolo. This wine was the most aromatic of the bracket, and led me to believe it was the Bricco delle Viole only because past experience has also shown it to be the most aromatic again. As a young wine you typically get the violets, but in this wines case it had strong salami flavours on the finish, super meaty chew, excellent length and persistence of flavour. The colour was brick orange. Still gorgeous.
Wine 2: Produttori del Barbaresco Montestefano 1999
From Barbaresco. Really, really excellent. I’d never had a Produttori Montestefano opened for me yet at work, so had no idea what to expect though I’d heard from a few people and read that it is classified as the most Baroleggio (Barolo in style) of the Barbaresco’s. This was exactly what I found. It had an interesting minty twist to it, but feminine in overall structure but again, there was something Barolo-esque about it and to get that in a wine is an intriguing thing.
Wine 3: Gaja Barbaresco 1989
From Barbaresco. Persistence in flavour, herbal, coffee, leather, meaty finish, strong iron-like core, and Bordeaux-like. Funnily enough I was right to have suggested a Cabernet hint because this was in fact part of the Gaja Barbaresco back in 1989. I love it when your nose detects something, it translates to your brain as something, your logic tries to win the battle but in the end gut-feeling prevails and it’s good when you actually prove your nose isn’t so bad after all
Wine 4: Ca Rome Barolo Rapet 1996
From Barolo. A hint of orange rind on the nose, this needs time in the glass to really evolve but as is, it is swamped with layers of flavour, tar, dark earth, crushed branch, bizarre, beautiful, and one wine we all continued to talk about the next day too. This was also the wine Dan Sims gave me a glass of on the final night’s dinner at Scopri, maybe because he could tell I was into it or would just adore him for it. Either way, it was something we were pretty fortunate to come across as it was a bottle belonging to Michael Trembath’s private collection! Thank youuuu Trembles!
After this session we had Giuseppe Vajra give us a bit of a chat, describing older Nebbiolo wines to those who had never experienced them as developing more of a herbal, aniseed character. Wines in the 21st century that have stood out so far have stemmed from the 2001, 2004 and 2006 vintages, heralded as more ‘classic’ overall. My favourite comment would have had to be two words from panellist Dan Sims who after we all commented on the beauty of the 1996 and let Michael Trembath discuss how for America however the 1997 was marketed as being better to sell more of it over there, Dan yelled out, “Fooled you!” in a Nelson from The Simpsons voice! Ahhh…good times….moving on!
Day 1 – Session 2 – Bracket 6 – The Aussie perspective. What regions and styles are best-suited to nebbiolo?
Wine 1: Arrivo 2007 [Adelaide Hills]
The wine’s looking quite hot, still really young. I’ve had a 2004 of this recently which was had a more suitable amount of time maturing in bottle before drinking it. So of course it’s going to look a little closed I supposed. The lacking of flavour might be due to young vines or the fact it still needs more time. There were lovely subtleties to it too though, albeit a little hidden. The red berry fruits are attractive, but they fall away too early. An interesting menthol touch…which I later find out is from the gumtree in the middle of the vineyard.
Wine 2: S.C. Pannell 2007 [Adelaide Hills]
A hint of volatile acidity, but it’s bright with confectionary fruits, again the flavour concentration is not as bold as I would have preferred. The great thing about S.C. Pannell’s wines though are that he restrains the level of oak used on his wines so you’re getting the best expression of the Nebbiolo grape as possible. This should be something that should see the wines evolve and open up more in the glass one hopes. Alas, we do these brackets in 10-15 minutes intervals so the allowance of evolution in the glass does not occur😦
Wine 3: Luke Lambert 2007 [Heathcote]
Bright cherry, a lot more flavour concentration and persistence. Riper. There is a sour cherry finish, and it’s not dead-fruited in the slightest. Overall, quite lovely.
Wine 4: Pizzini 2006 [King Valley]
Meatier, more savoury approach. Excellent acid, length. It is a little bretty I thought. But just more earthy overall and a nice comparison in styles.
Wine 5: Galli Estate 2009 [Heathcote]
Rose’-like in colour, sweet strawberries and raspberries, a little too confectionary for my tastes but is easily a more approachable style for someone not wanting to chew their head off in tannin on their first Neb experience.
Wine 6: Glenwillow Vineyard d’Yandoit 2008 [Bendigo]
Great mid-palate concentration and a little hint of spice on the finish. Pleasantly surprised to see something of this density coming out of Bendigo!
Day 1 – Session 3 – Bracket 1 – Prosecco
Wine 1: Canella NV
Green apple acidity, tightly wounded wine, tight like a tiger, fresh and vibrant
Wine 2: Adami NV
Smells like a day spa, with cucumber and lychee wafting up the glass…and a hint of body odour…perhaps I’m looking at a day spa with a gym? The palate is a lot more creamier than the first, so I think more residual sugar too. Despite the odd connotation that this wine gives, it’s refreshing as it should be.
Wine 3: Alice Vintage
A little bready, fresh bread dough nose. Really creamy bead, completely different to the two previous, seems more worked, or perhaps it’s a vintage wine. We’re later told it is.
Wine 4: Brown Brothers 2010
More fruit forward, riper style, automatically pick it as an Aussie sparkling.
Wine 5: Dal Zotto L’Immigrante 2008
My notes aren’t overly sympathetic towards this wine. It’s been a massive slog of hard-core Italian wines and we’re right at the end of the day and drinking the frivolous wines. It’s all fun and light-hearted now so I’m enjoying it nonetheless…Yet all I got was glue and a hint of lemon sherbet. I’m sure if I had this at the beginning of day one I would have said much lovelier things.
Day 1 – Session 3 – Bracket 2 – Moscato
Wine 1: Vietti Moscato d’Asti Cascinaetta 2009 [Piemonte]
Wine 2: La Spinetta Moscato d’Asti Bricco Quaglia 2009 [Piemonte]
Wine 3: Marcarini Moscato d’Asti 2009 [Piemonte]
This was a great way to finish a big day. The Moscato wines taste just like the Moscato grapes if you’re ever fortunate enough to eat them straight from the vineyard or just prior to crushing. I talked about the La Spinetta wine just because I’d worked vintage there in 2009 and made a shitload of it.
La Spinetta are one of the best producers of Moscato d’Asti in Piemonte. Giorgio Rivetti claimed his fame for the wine by commencing production of two styles back in 1977. Their two Moscato’s are Biancospino and Bricco Quaglia– a wild yeast fermented brew. The beautiful thing during the harvest of Moscato is the smell in the cantina (winery), because everything is just so grapey! We harvested the fruit at the beginning of September, or more like the second week in after the Tuscan party! The wine stays in tanks after being filtered until it’s ready for the autoclave (pressure tanks). Here the Moscato stays in the autoclave for up to a month at 15C until we’re ready to clarify and fine and have it ready to be bottled in November! Now, Giorgio’s son, Andrea, monitors the Moscato fermentation and production from start to finish. It is something that keeps him awake constantly during vintage!
The Marcarini Moscato is a little less in your face in aroma and flavour, but that just might appeal to someone who finds the fragrance overbearing but enjoys the frivolity of Moscato d’Asti. The Vietti is more on par with the La Spinetta wine, but doesn’t have as creamy a bead. The wines are all very easy-drinking and only 5.5% alcohol…so go nuts!