I need to be cautious of what I write on here because even though my nonni (grandparents) do not own the internet or a computer, my dear mother prints off all my posts and reads them out aloud to her elderly audience. Somehow I have not been disowned after all the confessions of my drinking, daydreaming and occasional profanities. So here is hoping that loving feeling they hold deep inside is strong enough to withstand some teasing.
“I don’t have several vineyards in different zones, which would mean that at the end of the year I could obtain a certain number of bottles. No, all of mine are here around the house, and if the weather suddenly changes for the worse and it begins to rain or hail, it’s all up for me: I throw away a whole year’s work. When at last I see the big black clouds with their load of torrential rain move away in the sky above my vineyards I breathe a sigh of relief…How many sighs of relief I too breathe when I see that bank of cloud passing on! In all these years, though much has changed, my approach to the weather hasn’t. When I get up in the morning I look at the sky.
This constant uncertainty prevents me from relaxing completely, maybe the only uncertainty in my life with which I am very happy and satisfied, because in all these years I have built up something that may be small, but it functions.”
– Renato Cigliuti, in Piemonte…noblewoman of wine by Andrea Zanfi
Photograph by Gio’ Martorana, Piemonte…noblewoman of wine
It was my last day at La Spinetta winery and I played my final game of Gin with Stefano in the lunchroom. I won, and as my gift he took me to his car and gave me a red long-shaped box. A wine box. I opened it to find a Marchesi di Gresy ‘Gaiun’ 1986 Barbaresco. What a beautiful thought.
At the end of our shift Stefano and I left for Neive where we went up to Serraboella to the winery Fratelli Cigliuti to meet with Stefano’s respected friend Mr Renato Cigliuti. He took us for a quick tour through the winery and to the barrel hall where we tried the 2007 Vigne Erte Barbaresco that had finished MLF but was still left with a bit of sugar unfortunately. We tried it but it seems dry enough, so hopefully it doesn’t lead to some problems down the track.
Afterwards he took a bottle of 2005 Serraboella Barbaresco to drink in their home and we sat around eating hazelnuts and sipping this delicious wine. His wife Dina came in and we talked about what I’m doing and about studying in schools today for children from Italy or Australia. She also showed me some hilarious photos of my boss Giorgio Rivetti back in the 80’s when he had a handsome mop of hair!
Eventually it was time to leave for dinner and I asked to purchase a bottle of the ’05 wine we’d just tried and she brought it to me and told me it was a gift and that I did not have to pay anything. Normally it is about 40-50 Euro…so I felt so grateful to them for the evening they had just shared with me.
Stefano and I then drove another 5 minutes up the rode to Mango to the trattoria I’d been to once before with a group of Czech Republicans. Here we were having our end of vintage festa! There were 14 of us all together and we went through all the typical Piemontese cuisines over about ten courses! What did we drink?
2007 Riesling Trocken, Germany by Doohaus… – Crisp acidity and fine minerality and not overpowering citrus flavours, mouth-coating texture, from Stefano.
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend by Frank Haas from Alto-Adige. Simple flavours, medium-weighted but not overly Cabernet like (no green vegetal flavours thankfully), so appealing as a simple table wine. Initially thought it might be an old Barbera…brought by Manuela.
2001 Barbaresco Starderi by La Spinetta. Typically Starderi, lots of smooth but firm tannin structure, fresh nose and well-translated palate flavours.
1990 Paolo Scavino Barolo ‘Rocca di Annunziata’. Very old nose, no sign of advancement or oxidation, textured, smooth, savoury palate with tannins that glide across your mouth and linger until the next sip!
2005 Barbaresco Serraboella by Fratelli Cigliuti. Will be interesting to see how this looks in 2015! Can she hold on??…
Vintage work at the La Spinetta winery has been quietening down a lot lately, which means I made the right decision to leave on Monday to continue my travels around Italy. The cellarmaster and my co-worker Stefano Mazzei grabbed me at work and asked me if I would like to go with him to a tasting that was on tonight at the fancy schmancy restaurant in Treiso ‘La Ciau del Tornavento‘ for the degustation of the 1998 Barolo and Barbaresco’s. They hold it every year for the producers in Piemonte to address the vintage ‘Ten years on’. Did I go? That’s a really really stupid question.
When we arrived together we saw our friends Geoff Chilcott and Alberto Gresy from Martinenga Marchesi di Gresy so we sat next to them and tried the 28 wines together, making notes and discussing them. Stefano is amazing and in one of the three-wine brackets in which we conducted the tasting, he said to me he thought the first wine was from the producer Sandrone and the third from Paolo Scavino…he was right! He told me, ‘Tu sei in gamba‘ (You’re on the ball) when I said that I thought there were two wines in the line-up that had flavours akin to Pinot Noir in them and he agreed too, thinking these were ones where a small percentage had been added back in the day. Sneaky boys.
After the tasting (to which I will post notes below), the dinner commenced at 10pm. The meal was delicious and as expected, totally Piemontese. We had fantastic, fresh carne crudo di vitello, insalata russa, pepperoncini, roast beef that was left a little raw (salivate) and for main it was sage and butter ravioli. Dessert was an orange rind and sultana moist cake.
We all drank: *** equals favourites
1998 Fratelli Cigliuti Serraboella Barbaresco, Neive – Brick red hue, softened strawberry nose mixed with bottle-aged character, fine grain tannins give good legnth in flavour, lacking body though ***
1998 Vietti Barolo Rocche, Castiglione Falletto – Brick red hue, stronger bottle age, slightly Cabernet-like nose, more body, firmer and grippier tannins, tighter acidity, dryer flavours, more forward/advanceed. Salami on the nose, a little reduced character.
1998 Damilano Barolo Liste, Barolo – Cork affected (not TCA, but advanced), dry in mouth, lacking flavour but hints of what it was like,
1998 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy Gaiun, Barbaresco – Richer, vibrant brick red hue, nose a little volatile, mouth-coating flavour, hot finish, fine length, mid-palate weight and persistent flavours on palate ***
1998 Nada cru Rombone Barbaresco, Treiso – Dirtier brick red/brown hude, riper joobier fruits on nose, firm, stripping tannins but softened, a little unbalanced flavour forward, tannins in dietro, hollow middle
1998 La Spinetta Starderi Barbaresco, Neive – Bright fresher fruits than previous, concentrated mid palate but good balance with acid brightness and tannin length and fruit flavour still showing through. Great body, elegant wine. ***
1998 Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra, Monforte – Mellowed, closed nose, shorter palate weight, nutty flavours, advanced a little , drying.
1998 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito, Castiglione Falletto – Soft but evidence of sour fruits, Pinot-like, femininity suggests Barbaresco but everything is soft and elegant. Perhaps from La Morra or Barolo? Bow bow ***
1998 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy Camp Gros Martinenga, Barbaresco – Bright autumnal hue, fresh and aged nose, molto savoury, fine tannins, good acidity and flavour, typical. Think it’s Barbaresco, elegant and lengthy. Woo hoo! ***
1998 Piero Busso Barbaresco Vigna Borgese, Neive – Brown, aged hue, cooked, dry, horrible, like fortified with nutty characters.
1998 Rocche Dei Manzoni Barolo Vigna Cappella, S. Stefano – Nose volatile and hints of parmesano (rustic much?), sporco (dirty), flavour in dietro della bocca, hollow
1998 Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato, Serralunga d’Alba – Bright red ruby hue, nose a little cheesy but also alike to Cabernet (Bordeaux). Palate completely different, soft strawberry red fruits and a salty finish. ***
1998 Albino Rocca Barbaresco Riserva Vigneto Brich Ronchi, Barbaresco – Dusty red hue, oaky nose, soft fruits on nose too, lots of bottle age, length is good, fine and elegant. Think it’s Barbaresco.
1998 Bruno Rocca Barbaresco Rabaja – Heavier style, more body, thicker and grainier tannins, flavour a little subdued, think it’s Barolo.
1998 Armando Parusso Barolo Bussia Vigna Rocche, Castiglione Falletto – Duty red hue, soft elegant red fruit nose, palate akin to the nose, savoury and salty flavours, fine length, Barbaresco? ***
1998 Sottimano Barbaresco Pajore, Barbaresco – Brick red, piu’ corpo, un po’ chiuso e un po’ short on the finish, olive, kalamata nose
1998 Moccagatta Barbaresco Vigneto Cole – Oaky nose, lacking fruit weight to account for the fine tannins.
1998 Azelia Barolo San Rocco, Castiglione Falletto – A little cheesy, lacking freshness (svinat0), salty flavour, fine grain tannins.
1998 Moccagatta Barbaresco Bric Balin – Stinky socks, old nose, but palate flavour thin carried by tannins, wood on back palate
1998 E. Pira e Figli Cannubi, Barolo – Closed nose, softer coating fruit on palate, richer flavour, great length. ***
1998 Sandrone Barolo Cannubi – Rounded nose, fruits open but detect high alcohol, a little soft and Pinot-like flavours, very suspicious
1998 Albino Rocca Vigneto Loreto, Barbaresco – Bottled aged and slightly cheesy nose, tart start, fruit weight lacking a little for the high acidity and little body.
1998 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc, Castiglione Falleto – Rich, ripe and fresh nose, jooby, palate the same; juicy and like a Pinot, but with long length and great structure. ***
1998 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Brunate, La Morra – Nose seems old, hot, Cabernet-like, short on palate, dry, no flavour, black licorice notes, currants.
1998 Giorgio E Luigi Pelissero Barbaresco Vanotu, Barbaresco – evidence of lively soft fruit flavours, well-rounded but on nose it’s dirty.
1998 Conterno Fantino Barolo Vigna del Gris, Monforte – Well-balanced wine, everything in it’s place; tannin structure, fresher fruit flavours, length etc. Che bello. ***
1998 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Rocche – Cabernet-like, currants, darker fruits, good length, fine but very firm tannins.
Today was speciale, magnifico e troppo buono. I had been planning on attending the Salone del Gusto festival all week and last night Manuela tells me that Giorgio has asked her and I to accompany him to the awards ceremony for Tre Bicchieri in Torino. Phwoarrr!
Tre Bicchieri is part of the Slow Food festival (a global organisation promoting healthy living and eating) and gives out awards (maximum of two per producer) to wines that are outstanding in all of Italy. There were 331 wine awards and two of them went to La Spinetta, the winery I’ve been working for the last few months. One award was for the 2006 Monferrato Rosso Pin and the other for the 2005 Barbaresco Starderi. La Spinetta have a really strong export component with their brand, especially in the United States where their modern styles appeal to a large number of palates. It has helped them reign in the status of a winery that ranks second to Gaja in terms of the Tre Bicchieri awards.
After the awards ceremony, there is always a tasting that takes place on alternate levels of all the wines involved in the Tre Bicchieri program. Considering time constraints and the fact we also had to work, Manuela and I determined we would have to swap shifts between manning the La Spinetta table and assisting with the tasting. Manuela, the dear, took the first stint behind the table, leaving me ample time to wind my way around the circular structure, glass in hand, trying Elio Grasso, Bruno Giacosa, Gaja, Giacomo Conterno, and so many more Nebbiolo wines. Piemonte was first on the list, you see. Well it was for me anyway. Call me lazy, but this event was so ideal in my view because instead of going around to visit all these wineries, I could taste the best wines of what they offer right here.
I also ventured downstairs and tried a range of Tuscan wines, as well as other reds to the likes of Amarone della Valpolicella and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, before having to return to give Manuela a break.
At the start of the day Manuela and I had joked that I should pretend to be some famous Aussie journalist as we wove our way around the room. Thinking it was a ridiculous idea but persisting with the joke nevertheless, I said, ‘How about Jane Faulkner?’ It turns out I couldn’t pretend because she was there! I recognised her immediately when she first stumbled across the La Spinetta table as she had been a judge at the 2007 Rutherglen Wine Show that I stewarded at. I got such a shock at seeing her, especially after our comments from the morning, so before I knew it, ‘Jane Faulkner!’ in full Aussie fervour and excitement had blurted out of my mouth in her direction at the table.
She looked up at me with such a shocked face and muttered, ‘Oh no’.
I laughed, ‘Hey, you’re a celebrity!’
After introducing myself we had a quick chat and she commented that she would be hosting a tasting of Australian & New Zealand wines the following night with my friend Geoff Chilcott from Marchesi di Gresy. Such a small world! She asked me to join them, but I was unable to attend as I had been invited to winemaker Andrea Rivetti’s house for a special dinner with the family.
As the day progressed, I ran into the crew from Vietti as they veered towards our table. My friend who used to work at Shadowfax, Eddie McDougall, worked the vintage there this year and I had seen his photos so knew who Luca Currado was from that. Luca is the winemaker and was so lovely. It was clear why Eddie did not pick up any Italian when that whole crew spoke extremely good English.
Tre Bicchieri Highlights:
2006 Brancaia Il Blu – Toscana. Peppery start, mid-weighted, lacking finish but has decent flavours to make up for that.
2005 Cepparello by Isole e Olena in Toscana. Closed nosed but with slight hint of sweetened fruits. Very savoury and tight on the palate but nicely balanced acidity.
2005 Flaccianello delle Pieve by Tenuta Fontodi – Toscana. Closed nose, lacking fruit weight on palate, thin tannins.
2005 Colline Luchesi Tenuta di Valgiano – Toscana. Great smooth texture, fine length, flavour a little lacking.
2005 Sammarco by Castello dei Rampolla in Toscana. Sour cherries and fine tannins.
2005 Tignanello by Marchesi Antinori in Toscana. Nose like a good parmesan cheese, salty characters but great texture and very intriguing.
2006 Terodego Armilo by Bolognani. High alcohol, hot fruit, lacking length.
2003 Amarone della Valpolicella by Marion. Smoky bacon-like nose, textured and flavoured palate, lacking substantial structure to hold out much longer. Hot finish.
2004 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico by Allegrini. Nose a little more vegetal and capiscum-like flavours. Funnily enough that vegetal character is translated well onto the palate, mouth-coating flavours, well-weighted.
2004 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano by Fratelli Speri. Has a stinkier nose, still quite vegetal and herbaceous, well-developed flavours and a firm finish. Balanced really, really well.
2006 Colli Piacentini Cabernet Sauvignon Luna Selvatica by La Tosa. Soft cheese nose, soft tannins, lack of flavour overall and mid-length palate.
1998 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo by Emidio Pepe. Smells just like the feet of a man gone camping and stinky gorgonzola, gritty tannins, firm finish and good palate weight.
2005 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Marina Cvetic by Masciarelli. Not as strong of a stinky cheese nose but still there and will probably develop into something much more appealing (?) with time. At least it has good weight and textural aspects.
2006 Montevetrano. Herbaceous but clean, tight and firm palate. Still a bit too young.
2006 Terra di Lavoro by Galardi. Like a Cabernet Sauvignon, similar vegetal characters, firm tannins with a long, persistent finish.
2004 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva. Lightly coloured, stinky cheesy nose, cooked cherry, strong powerful palate, delicate balance between the fruit with great acidity and firmness of tannins.
2004 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto, Neive. Highly appealing nose, savoury on the palate, tight, quite acidic but evenly balanced with the flavour and weight.
2004 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Gaiun. Nose like a Pinot Noir, sweeter fruits, newer world style, heavier fruit on palate but still with tight acidity and sourness on finish. Mid-weighted, needs more time in the bottle.
2004 Fratelli Cigliuti Barbaresco Vigne Erte. Savoury, delicious and has superb length.
2006 Barbera d’Asti Bricco della Bigotta by Braida. Quite a nice Barbera, a little lacing in flavour but plenty of acidity, maybe needs more time to open up…I got in early.
2004 Silvio Grasso Barolo Bricco Luciani. Firm tannins, chalky actually, perfumed nose a pleasant surprise, a little ordinary though overall.
2004 Barolo Enrivo VI by Montalletto – Cordero di Montezemolo. Weak flavours but good length and fine texture, so promising.
2004 Elio Grasso Barolo Ginestra Vigna Casa Mate’. Perfumed elegant nose, clean, vibrant acidity and really nice length. A delight!
2004 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito. Good concentration of fruit and drives through for a persistent finish. What a star.
2004 Aldo Conterno Barolo Romirasco. Nose like thistle, flavour quite thin, tart finish, acid acid acid.
2001 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva. Poor colour for a 2001, parmesan-cheese like nose (Brett.?), savoury and smoother tannins, salty-like sensation.
2004 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia. Musty and old nose but quite intriguing, savoury on palate but smooth, good length and totally delicious. I love how these wines continually surprise me.
2004 Giacomo Brezza e Figli Barolo Sarmassa. Still young, needs more time in bottle, tannins mouth-puckeringly harsh.
2007 Ca’ Viola Dolcetto d’Alba Barturot. Wish I’d tried more Dolcetto’s in my time here to really understand the variety better.
2004 Giancarlo Travaglini Gattinara Tre Vigne. Cheesy nose (what’s with all the cheese today people?!), firm tannins give a lovely mouthfeel they do not overpower.
2005 Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Costa Russi. The Barbaresco-savoury nose but not sour on palate, fine tannins and elegant.
2004 Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Sperss. The Barolo-firmer tannins, good fine length and acidity. Prefer the Barbaresco…
So it’s Sunday and into my second week at La Spinetta where I’m doing vintage in Piemonte, Italy. The winery work has not begun to reach that state of chaos just yet though. Fortunately this gives me time to do other more local things!
Today Gianni took me out for an aperativo in Neive where we then went to the brilliant restaurant La Contea for a long lunch. It was set up in the town’s courtyard with rows and rows of long tables for all the guests. The first course had a couple of things on the plate, one being shreds of yellow capsicums with sardine paste on top, or a minced baby veal shaped like a tomato (salted and seasoned to perfection) and insalata russa.
Following the spuntino was the primi of small basil-sauced ravioli, then the obligatory second alternative of meat-ragu home-made pappardelle pasta.
The secondo was capretto (baby goat) in a rich sauce and the dessert was a stunning peach sponge cake with nocciola (hazlenuts) sprinkled over the top. You could have killed me with happiness then and there.
Wines we drank:
2006 Ugo l’Equio Langhe Nebbiolo from Neive
2005 Fratelli Cigliuti Barbaresco from Vigne Erte (younger vines than Serraboella)
2005 Ca Veja Paitin Bricco di Neive Nebbiolo d’Alba by Pasquero Elia