The Laconic Bruno Giacosa

24 May
2011

Today I present one of the fathers of Langhe winemaking in Piemonte, Italy – Signor Bruno Giacosa. Some might refer to him as a stubborn man; someone who lived by the mantra of doing what tradition displayed to be best for the wine regardless of what trends dictated should be done to sell more. Clearly this philosophy has boasted well for Mr Giacosa. His wines are long-lived, penetrating, and at times, breathtakingly magical. This post is all about the Giacosa estates, coated in lots of love, with a friendly review of his Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa Dolcetto d’Alba 2007 at the end. Allora, let’s delve into the mind and world of Mr Giacosa!

Pensive Bruno Giacosa - Photograph by Gio

“More than sixty years have gone by during which I’ve had only one inseparable friend at my side: work. In spite of everything, and in spite of the numerous harvests I have behind me – which are quite a few now – I still feel, as strongly as before, the desire to learn and to make things happen around me, just as at the age of fifteen I used to ask my father about the whys and wherefores of his choices, seeking with all my might to make my contribution to the family farm. That cellar was my schoolyard, my courtyard, where I played and grew up and chased my dreams, which began precisely in far off 1944…

I liked the work and I fell in love with the creativity it transmitted to me. I wanted to understand the secrets and the subtle nuances found in the vine, the perfume of grapes, the mechanisms that determine choice and selection of woods, the times for ageing and the definition of the best period for bottling, all in a continual metamorphosis and adapting to the evolution of the seasons.

I understood and I set out in ’78 to find the best grapes, the best land to plant my vines on and the best wood. And I let my wines age for the right time before marketing them. These choices went against the trend of the period by – with the greatest respect for other people’s choices – I always went my own way.

For the rest, as I said, I can only hope that everything goes well…my substance is all in my appearance: I’m a vine-dresser of few words, I’m the Bruno that you see, nothing more and nothing less.”

Spoken by Bruno Giacosa for Andrea Zanfi’s ‘Piemonte…Noblewoman of wine’

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Mr Giacosa has two labels for his estates. One is simply titled Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa and encapsulates the grapes purchased from long-standing relationships with growers that are then vinified at the cellars in Neive, Piemonte. The other label is produced from grapes grown in vineyards owned by the Giacosa family and vinified in the cellars. These wines bear the name Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa.

Neive - Where to find Mr Giacosa

Wines under the Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa label:

Roero Arneis (2009)

Spumante Brut Metodo Classico Extra Brut (100% Pinot Noir)

Dolcetto d’Alba (tasting note below for 2007)

Dolcetto d’Alba Basarini

Barbera d’Alba

Nebbiolo d’Alba

Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore (Roero)

Barbaresco Santo Stefano (distinguished with Riserva in the best vintages) (2007)

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Wines under the Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa label:

Barbera d’Alba

Dolcetto d’Alba

Barolo Le Rocche

Barolo Vigna Croera

Barolo Falletto (2004)

Barbaresco Asili (distinguished with Riserva in the best vintages) (2004 Riserva)

Barbaresco Rabajà (distinguished with Riserva in the best vintages)

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The Riserva concept is quite a feature of Mr Giacosa, where he is adamant of refusing a vintage should it not be up to the standards he sees fit for his particular wines. Such was the case in 2006, a good vintage for most producers, but one in which Mr Giacosa confessed, “I just don’t like the quality of the wines. I just don’t like the way they are. They are not good enough for me. So I am not going to bottle them.” Controversial words, but the year was also difficult for personal reasons as he suffered a stroke that kept him absent from the cellar during vintage.

The factor that made me me want to write about Bruno Giacosa of late, was that I was able to share one of his more money-friendly buys (OK, so it probably was around $50 AUD but for Giacosa standards that’s sort of, almost, kinda normal) with a good winemaking friend over a delicious Italian pizza at DOC in Carlton, Melbourne. It was his Dolcetto d’Alba 2007. I’ve had his Barbaresco Santo Stefano 2007 at the Lorenzo Galli scholarship back in January this year where it really shone through amongst other commendable Barbaresco wines.

CASA VINICOLA BRUNO GIACOSA Dolcetto d’Alba 2007

Neive, Piemonte

Photograph by La Donna del Vino

I picked this up as the last bottle from a sale at the Prince in South Melbourne. I know that Boccaccio’s have some of the 2009 currently in stock, but I doubt you’d come across the 2007 any more to be honest. I don’t mind getting the scraps that others may neglect and forget about. Actually, I need to write a little snippet about Dolcetto soon. It’s a highly underestimated and neglected variety that needs a little love.

The reason why you probably wouldn’t find a 2007 Dolcetto around is because it is a variety and style of wine that is meant to be consumed in the prime of its youth. Along with the likes of classic unoaked Barbera (another Piemontese delight), Dolcetto is not a grape with a high degree of natural grape skin tannins, nor is it made in a style that would promote long-term ageing. Yet, here we are, in 2011, and there I was just over a week ago, having a 2007 Dolcetto that defied the test of time.

This looked great in the glass, a really deep encouraging violet. Not having had an ‘older’ Dolcetto in the past, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the way of perfume and flavour. The nose was actually lovely and savoury now with hints of liquorice and lavender oddly enough! It was more the strength of this wine on the palate that was really impressive though. The 2007 harvest was mild and a longer growing season had in Piemonte in general. Yields were also about 15% down compared to the previous year which generally shows in better fruit concentration in the resultant wines. The Dolcetto had hints of aniseed and less of that cherry quality you expect when it is younger. There was this fantastic inky quality to the wine that I’ll attribute to the grape quality standards of Mr Giacosa, that gives the wine such unconventional length. This Dolcetto had no sweet-red fruit character about it at all. I’ll call her Signora Dolcetto, the mature, classy lady who is still going places despite most people neglecting her because of a few wrinkles.

Mr Giacosa, you are a genius. If only we could all be as stubborn as you 🙂

“Faithfully pursuing my sole objective of quality…I never drifted from that road” – Signor Bruno Giacosa

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