Tag Archives: La Spinetta

La Spinetta in La Stampa, La Repubblica & Wine News

14 Apr

Contratto by Leonetto Cappiello

My dear friends at La Spinetta have purchased the famed Contratto property and business in Canelli, Piemonte. See articles below for the full story (all translated into English):

La Stampa 15 marzo 2011, Le bollicine Contratto cambiano Padrone translated into English

La Repubblica 15 March 2011 translated into English

Wine News 14 marzo 2011, La Spinetta dei Fratelli Rivetti acquisice Contratto translated into English

The Moscato d’Asti ferment – “Bubble bubble boil and trouble”

1 Mar

Have you ever thought about the risk involved in making a joyful beverage like Moscato d’Asti? Surprisingly for such an easy-drinking wine, it is one with a fair amount of winemaking technique involved. Ladies and gentlemen, Moscato d’Asti is not your standard, sweet, fizzy drink. This is a more serious matter. The trouble only just begins with the bubbles…

La Spinetta Moscato d’Asti Bricco Quaglia

As a means of providing a brief introduction, Moscato d’Asti is a low-alcohol sweet white wine made from the Moscato grape (grown in the Asti province in Piedmont of northern Italy). The sweetness does not come from adding sugar. Instead, it is provided by the natural sugars remaining from halting the fermentation. I prefer not to get overly technical, so here is a short tale from the 2008 vintage when I worked in a small town called Castagnole delle Lanze at La Spinetta winery.

Castagnole delle Lanze – Photograph by La Donna del Vino 2008

It was the beginning of September and the Moscato vineyards were almost ready. La Spinetta has been making Moscato d’Asti since the late 1970’s, when Giorgio Rivetti took control of his father Pin’s grapes and purchased more from other vineyards to create what was to become one of Italy’s most celebrated Moscato d’Asti wines.

The first week patiently waiting passed by with ease with the team’s attendance at a party in Tuscany to celebrate the opening of their winery in the typically Italian named town of Casanova. Upon completion, we herded the team back to Piedmont where we began the harvest, or la vendemmia as the Italians call it.

The harvest – Photograph courtesy of La Spinetta

Continue reading

Back with the La Spinetta gang and the Pilates experience

22 Dec
This afternoon I finally made my way to the Castagnole delle Lanze winery where the La Spinetta gang are based to catch up with everyone else that I missed on Saturday evening. I took the train over from Alba and Pinuccio the agronomist picked me up in his beasty Fiat 4×4 and we had a brief but lovely chat on the ascent up the hill before he dropped me off.
On entrance into the winery I gradually ran into, hugged, kissed and talked with Gianni (only a little because he’s always quiet in general!), Salvatore (sono stata attacato a lui per un po’ parlando delle cose – a me lui e’ molto simpatico), Stefano (non ha detto tanto purtroppo, neanche all’inizio piu’ di ‘ciao’ e un bacio), Zwonko (con chi si parla delle cose piu’ vere e giuste nella vita, mi sembra comunque)m e Natalia (a lei ho detto sinceramente, ‘ma non hai cambiato per niente, sei ancora bella!’ e mi ha dato un bacio e un sorriso e ha detto ‘tu mi manchi’ con gli occhi blu (finto). Manuela came down and we all eventually went into the tasting room and had a bollicino to drink. Andrea finally arrived and we had some more. He doesn’t talk that much but Andrea has such a lovely presence it’s difficult not to smile when you look at him in all his lankiness!
Natalia wanted me to stay instead of going off with Manuela to Alba to do Pilates, but I informed them that Manuela is my passagio(ride) back to Alba so I have to go, despite Natalia’s suggestion that we do Pilates here at the winery all together! She wants me to work for them, they’d all heard I was going to be hired, then wasn’t, but still got work in Toscana. So they’re up with it!
Too soon it was time for me to go and I left with a kiss to them all wishing them all the best for the new year and festive season! Manuela and I did pilates for an hour. Manuela explained to the instructor that I’m keen to try out the class before committing in January, so it turned out to be free! Score!
It was only the two of us in this peaceful room and I followed the lady’s movements considerably well, taking into account it was my first time – the ol’ Pilates virgin hey! It was calming to focus on breathing for so long and working on all the core muscles starting from the legs to the trunk to the arms then stretching yourself out. There was only one time where I was struggling to do a certain pose on my knees and stomach so the lady came and sat behind me and was repeating what I had to do and I was concentrating so hard,finally I clicked that she wanted me to open my knees, raise my feet with my toes pointed outwards while holding my core…then I had to crush her hand she’d placed in-between my thighs (don’t get excited boys) as I breathed out and lowered my legs. Believe me, it wasn’t easy! I did it though in the end and overall she was impressed!
After farewelling Manuela I returned to Ornella’s place and she’d prepared a lovely salad with tuna and eggs. Back upstairs I prepared my bags for the train tomorrow as I am finally off to Sauze d’Oulx to see Lisa and Liana in the mountains after so long!

Oh how I missed you, Piemonte!

19 Dec

This morning I grabbed my bags (plus 6 bottles of wine of Giorgio’s to pass on) and we drove to Cecina and had breakfast at the Principe Cafe. They took me to the station and I asked for a train ticket from here to Alba…the man behind the counter laughed and gave me the most doubtful look. Why? Perchè ha riso?

It’s snowing here still a little but they have had a surprise dump last night so trains that were leaving this morning from Firenze, or from the north have been delayed an hour, or two, or three. He suggests I leave tomorrow or try my luck anyway but anticipates I will run into problems in Genova. I call Anja (I am headed to Piemonte fyi to stay with the La Spinetta gang for whom I worked last year) and tell her I am going to try my luck! I will just buy my ticket to Pisa Centrale for now then we will see what they say there. Giorgio tells me if there is no trains, to use the same ticket to come back and try tomorrow. Anyway! With all this negativity about my subsequent journey I decide to give it a go nevertheless. Also because Anja informed me that tonight there will be a surprise birthday party for my old boss Andrea which means it will be a great opportunity to see everyone again.

Arriving into Pisa it’s a bit of a brothel. People everywhere in the main foyer, a queue a mile long to buy tickets from the teller, and the main screen is blacked out because perhaps there’s no point with so many delays. The smaller screens in the station list only those trains from this morning that are hours behind so there is no space to write the new trains on arrival. All one can do is wait! I decide to buy my ticket from the machine – stuff having human contact – and wait patiently at platform 4 in the bitter cold with others for our IC510 train to Torino Porta Nuova. We’re all hoping there’s no delay, it seems that only trains from this morning are really late. Otherwise, others have arrived a maximum of 20minutes late. Finally at 12:30pm the screen lights up to indicate our train exists! Woohoo! But will it arrive punctually? That is the question my friends! Everytime the screen goes black for some changeover we all expect to read that it has been cancelled or to read how many minutes ‘in ritardo’ it will be. Fortuunately my stars were well-aligned and the train arrived and we departed a measly 10minutes behind. Che fortuna!

The coastal landscape we took was beautiful and interesting as it was like winter in Pisa, spring in La Spezia, and winter again with snow in Genova. Overall, no problems and we arrived on time! My next train at Asti I took to Castagnole delle Lanze. Ahh…memories! Here at 17:30pm Anja with Giorgio and Lidia in the back picked me up and whisked me away from this cold, bitter chill in the Piemontese air. -1C outside it said. Brilliant.

I learn that Giorgio has lost his licence for drink-driving, and Lidia has grown and says my name and sings ‘Tanti aduuuri Andrea’ the whole way as we drive up Via Annunziata to the Castagnole delle Lanze winery of La Spinetta. I haven’t told any of the gang here that I am coming – only Clara knows as it was her organising the surprise party for her 30-year old son Andrea. When I get out of the car my old Italian mamma Emiliana was there and trying to see who it was so I said, ‘Ciaooo Emiliannaaaa’, and she got a shock and after a bit of ,’O Dio‘ (Oh God) I passed cautiously over the icy pacement and gave her a big hug and recollected what I am doing here, etc. Then I saw Clara and France, the other mums who live above the winery, and did the same. They haven’t changed, though France cut her hair short so she’s cute!

I grabbed a bottle of Impronte to give to Andrea as a birthday gift then went inside to the new degustation area they’ve finished. Impressive room! Eventually the parents of Andrea’s partner Noemi arrived and I chatted with the mum for awhile, she remember me from the Tuscany party last year. I went into the bathroom and when I came out I gave a surprise to Ele and Manuela, the girls I lived with for three months. Manu has cut her hair short and is a little pixie! We were speaking in Italian and she congratulated me on how well I speak. But then it was strange for her to be speaking Italian with me as last year all we spoke was English. I also met her boyfriend Simone who is very handsome and lovely and on meeting me said, ‘Ah, si si, Krystina Menegazzo, ma non sei in Turchia?’ Strange that he knew my last name and they’ve all seen my Turkey photos from Facebook!

Andrea finally arrived and was a little surprised, he also had his new baby boy Giulio with him too. Andrea had a big smile when he saw me. Stefano wouldnt be coming tonight which is a shame, I would have liked to see him too! Clara had made everything herself so we ate delicious Piemontese food. I tried a morsel of most things, insalata russa, carne crude di vitello, etc, everything bar the cheese and salami. Giorgio was doing the right thing and made sure I always had something in my glass as did his son Andrea, showing me the next vintage of La Spinetta Campe’ Barolo 2006…just like old times…vini vini vini! Turned out to be a superb evening seeing most of the crew, but I will try come back on the weekday to see everybody else properly too.

Fratelli Cigliuti

21 Nov

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

Renato, Dina and the daughters Claudia and Silvia Cigliuti

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??…

The greatest tasting of my life: Torno al Vento – Barolo e Barbaresco … dieci anni dopo

19 Nov

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.

All roads lead to … Liechtenstein?

15 Nov

Andrea, Stefano and myself met at 5am at the winery this fresh Saturday morning and left for Liechtenstein where we were to conduct a degustazione (wine tasting). We weren’t the only ones of course participating. On the way we stopped in Neive and picked up Claudia Cigliuti who is one of the two daughters who work at Fratelli Cigliuti of Serraboella and Vigne Erte fame. The other vehicle we went with had Chiara Boschis of E. Pira e Figli stunning Barolo wines, the dude from Prunotto and Alberto Gresy of Barbaresco and the owner of the famed Gaiun and Martinenga crus. Claudia and I shared the 4-hour journey together in the back seat through Piemonte, Milano, Switzerland and finally into Vaduz, Liechtenstein. The scenery along the way was gorgeous with the towering Alps around us and already there was snow on top of the caps.


The national language of Liechtenstein is Deutsch but they can usually speak alright English and some of them Italian or French. So between the three of us La Spinetta crew we had it covered (Andrea – Italian only, Stefano (French and Italian) and myself (English and some Italian).

Seven hours later with very sort feet we retired to the dining room with the other winemakers and and shared a delicious, intimate dinner on a long table and drank the leftover wines, chatted and acted a little silly. The song ‘Tintarella di Luna’ came on and I surprised Andrea when I sang the first verse correctly. I was seated next to Alberto Gresy who is very well spoken and explained his entire family history to me. His cellarmaster of the winery he owns is Geoff Chilcott who I’d met previously a number of times so I think I’ll make the effort to stop in and visit their winery when I get the chance.

We drank:

2007 Gelbert Muskateller Clos Domaine by Domane Wilfersdorf, Austria for Hofkellerei, Liechtenstein. Overly sweet fruit flavours like Gewurztraminer but not actually a sweet style of wine. Interesting though, but pretty simple.

2007 Riesling Clos Domaine by Domane Wilfersdorf. Simple wine yet again.

2007 Sauvignon Blanc Clos Domaine by Domane Wilfersforf. Not overly fruity but less textural than the Italian styles.

2007 Vaduzer Pinot Noir Herawingert AOC by Domane Vaduz, Liechtenstein. Tank wine, simple, rose’-like, blah.

2006 Vaduzer Pinot Noir Selection AOC by Domane Vaduz, Liechtenstein. Barrel fermented, overly oaky, no marriage. Bowbow…

2007 Verdicchio by Pignocco DOC, Le Marche by Santa Barbara. Delicious example!

2007 Chardonnay from Langhe DOC by Brangero. More typically Chardonnay with greater fruit weight and classic peach flavours with more obvious oak use. Picked later style.

2004 Nebbiolo Barolo ‘Mariondino’ DOCG by Armando Parusso in Montforte d’Alba. A decent standard, lots of body. Chewy.

2004 Nebbiolo Barolo ‘Bussia’ DOCG by Prunotto. Great barolo! Better than the previous, more harmonious and balanced.

1999 Barolo ‘Bussia’ 10 years Riserva by Prunotto. Oxidised and buggered.

2007 Dolcetto d’Alba DOC by Conterno Fantino in Montforte d’Alba. Actually the best Dolcetto I have tasted so far. I was pleasantly surprised. Great body for a Dolcetto.

2007 Barbera d’Alba ‘Vignota’ DOC by Conterno Fantino. Well made, good fruit concentration and not overly tannic.

2006 Monpra’ Rosso del Piemonte DOC by Conterno Fantino. Basic red blend, quite simple, a little touch of Cabernet Sauvignon.

2004 Nebbiolo Barolo ‘Vigne del Gris’ DOCG by Conterno Fantino. A wine with a hell of a lot of body, still needs time in the bottle, little off on the nose but palate overpowered by the strength of the tannins.

2005 Nebbiolo Barolo Sori Ginestra by Conterno Fantino. Just bottled four months ago so like the previous one was overly tannic with too much body and needs time in bottle.

2006 Barbera d’Alba ‘Campass’ DOC by Fratelli Cigliuti. A decent example but not overly impressive. Lacking in body and concentration of flavour.

2004 Nebbiolo Barbaresco Vigne Erte by Fratelli Cigliuti. Light style, savoury flavours in balance with a lighter body and salty (?) finish.

2004 Nebbiolo Barbaresco ‘Serraboella’ DOCG. Better than Vigne Erte, older vines, so concentration of flavour is higher, well balanced acidity to flavour and body all in one. Delicious!

2004 Nebbiolo Barbaresco ‘Camp Gros’ Martinenga by Tenuta Cisa Asinari di Gresy. Lots of body in the wine, needs time but will eventually sing.

2000 Nebbiolo Barbaresco ‘Camp Gros’ Martinenga by TCAdG. Better after time in the bottle, ready to be drunk. from south-facing vineyards, balanced but with some real guts, more masculine.

2000 Barbaresco ‘Gaiun’ Martinenga by TCAdG. Elegant and a more feminine style of wine, in my opinion more approachable and more attractive in flavour profile.

1996 Nebbiolo Barolo ‘Cannubi’ DOCG by E.Pira e Figli. Drying tannins, mouth-coating bottle-age characters. The low pH and high acidity are apparently typical of the ’96 vintage. What a wine.

Dinner with i ragazzi!

30 Oct

Tonight was to be a night of hanging with the La Spinetta boys. After Gianni picked me up from work we went to Andrea’s house where we had a superb dinner with Stefano and un amico Alberto. We had little hot plates in front of us on the main table and cooked different sorts of meat all night, from salsicce, to beef, to chicken and veal. Can you imagine what these guys would have done if they’d had to put up with a vegetarian? Pfft!

The night wore on until 2am and I was so exhausted, but it was an enjoyable evening and isn’t this what it’s all about? Eating and drinking with friends?

We Drank:

1993 Scarzello Barolo 13.5%, lightly coloured, fine tannins, savoury flavour, smooth and balanced.

1997 Riesling from Alsace, France, by Meyer-Fonne’ Kaefferhopf (that doesn’t sound French, does it?). A little bit sweet, so smooth and delicious!

1995 La Spinetta Barbaresco Gallina. First year vintage for Gallina for La Spinetta, stronger colour than Barolo, looking fresh, and smooth to the finish.

1998 La Spinetta Barbera Superiore (Bionzo). Fabulous colour, flavour and concentration.

1995 La Spinetta Monferrato Rosso Pin. Alive and well, full of a conglomerate of flavours and still driving through to a strong finish.

1961 Borgogno Barolo Riserva 13.5%. Vegemite-like nose (I was clearly the only person in the room to ‘get’ that descriptor), lots of sediment, old Cabernet-like nose, great smooth tannins, great length, flavour is concentrated in the middle and back palate and the weight is still there too! A-mazing.

Dinner at Andrea Rivetti’s

26 Oct

Drank: 1998 Sottimana Barbaresco Cotta’. Smooth tannins, great colour still, ready to drink now, delicious with pollo!

2001 Matteo Correggia Roero Arneis. Fresh flavours still, Chardonnay-like texture, but with a minerality to its flavous  that suggests Arneis. Good ageing potential…something that surprised me.

2006 Gancia Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Barbera and Nebbiolo. Colour very young, rich ruby red, fresh fruitier style, nice blend!


24 Oct
The entrance to the Grinzane Cavour winery ‘Gallo’

I have been working at the winery in Grinzane Cavour called Gallo for a while now. The last of the Barolo has already been pressed off and we’ve also put the Barbera d’Alba from the Gallina vineyard into barriques. It’s a stunning small winery this one compared to the one at Castagnole delle Lanze, which has to accommodate the Moscato, the Barbera d’Asti and Barbaresco fruit. But it’s a very ‘designed’ winery, and there for its looks and not necessarily for its functionality.

The barrels at Grinzane Cavour. Super clean

“Lasciate mi cantare”

13 Oct

Last night Manuela, Ele and I went to Grinzane Cavour for dinner with Anja and Giorgio’s friends to celebrate their daughter Lidia’s first birthday. The party was held in the degustation room above the winery and when we arrived we received a glass of Champagne from Andrea: Philippounat Imperial-sized!

The degustation room at Grinzane Cavour

The night commenced with appetisers cooked by some Californian appretice chef dude who thought he was awesome. But he did make some crazy dish of prune wrapped in prosciutto and oven baked. I commend you for that sir, but not your ego I’m afraid!

After that Giorgio and some other vecchio competed with cooking their two pieces of capretto to see who’s was best. They were judged to be equal but in my opinions , Giorgio’s was lacking in a little flavour. Scusa!

There was plenty of La Spinetta wine ot be drunk and by the end of the meals a guitar was pulled out and a gentleman sang songs in Italian for the next few hours. A couple of English ones were thrown in too and it was so much fun singing songs that I actually knew in Italian so I could join in with everyone, like ‘Marina’, ‘A sole mio’, ‘Rosa Rosa per te’, ‘Lasciate mi cantare’, etc.

Harvesting parameters

1 Oct

Typical harvesting parameters of the varieties here in Piemonte as discussed with Stefano:

Babo Baume Brix pH
Moscato 18.5 12.2 22 3.1-2
Sauvignon Blanc 19 12.4 22.4 3.2-3
Chardonnay 19.5 12.7 23 3.2-3
Barbera 21-22 14.35 26 3.4
Nebbiolo 21.5 14 25.4 3.4

Bonding with the boys

25 Sep

Today I was la regina di riempire le barrique (the queen of filling barrels). I did not spill anything which winemaking Andrea Rivetti informed me was a first for a person who is here for only vintage. After work someone pulled out some bottles.

The barrique hall at Castagnole delle Lanze

Myself and the boys drank: 2001 La Spinetta Pin Monferatto Rosso – I thought the 2001 had some real Bordeaux-like characters, which understandable once I was told some Cabernet Sauvignon was added in that year to the Nebbiolo and Barbera blend.

We continued drinking and then my mamma Emiliana arrived with some gorgonzola so we migrated to the degustation room and ate until 7:30pm when I realised my dinner was probably ready upstairs so I left the lads and ran to eat some trout. Afterwards, I decided it would be more beneficial to my Italian and to my reputation with my alcohol-loving boss Andrea if I went back downstairs after dinner to drink some more vino with them…so I did.

We had Franciacorta’s and Valentino’s and whilst the men sang, shouted and teased, I took it all it. I did get the chance to ask Andrea if he was happy with how I am working so far to which he said yes, definitely, which was a relief to hear. We were a little inebriated so I think he would have said something positive whatever I asked!

Drank: Cuvee Valentino sparkling from Piemonte, Riserva Spumante. Dangerous on an empty stomach!

I stumbled back to bed at 11pm and fell into dreams with my head spinning like it never has before!

Under Stefano’s wing

23 Sep

The last two days have been fantastic with work. The cellarmaster Stefano has taken me under his wing and I’m actually in the winery a lot more now and doing all things with him. This is such a huge change from the way they treat the other ragazza Danila. She has not shown any initiative or extra sort of physical capabilities and is happy to help Gianni do orders, so is delegated to that part of the winery instead of the exciting cellar during vintage! Go figure…

Winemaker at work, Stefano Mazzetti

At the end of the day Giorgio came into the winery and we went and tasted the 2008 Barbera they’d just pressed and put into tank to see if it was still sweet. It was, just. He was saying how this vintage 2008 reminds him of 1996. A good vintage for Barbera, Nebbiolo, Moscato, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but not for Dolcetto. The reason being that the hot days and cold nights are great normally, but one really cold night will completely stop the maturation of a dolcetto grape. Risky business.

Tonight drank: 2000 La Spinetta Gallina Barbera d’Alba – great nose, good lenth and structure.


14 Sep

Drank: 1997 La Spinetta ‘Lidia’ Chardonnay. Lovely complex and textured palate, lacking on the nose but still in good condition.

La festa a Toscana!

8 Sep

The winery crew congregated at 8am to take a large white bus all the way to Toscana for the two-day party that was going to celebrate the official opening of the La Spinetta Casanova winery. It took 3.5 hours to get there but that was compensated by stunning views (quick scenic snapshot of Portofino or Pisa for example) to pass the time.

The countryside here is beautiful and considering we’re not even in the Chianti DOC area I can only imagine how stunning it must be where the majority of wineries are.

The afternoon and evening were spent incredibly well-made food and drinking all Tuscan La Spinetta wines. They sure know how to through a party!

On the night of the second party just after midnight once the majority of guests had departed, Giorgio Rivetti, his brother Bruno and the head chef of the function decided to cook three huge T-bone steaks. The meat was cooked to absolute perfection, raw on the inside! Giorgio thinks I speak nice Italian too, which is good to hear.

La Contea, Neive

7 Sep

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.

La Contea, Neive

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

Arrived at Castagnole delle Lanze, Piemonte

22 Aug

Chilling on the balcony after a long flight

Drank: 2003 La Spinetta Pin Monferatto Rosso. 65% Nebbiolo and 35% Barbera. Beautifully balanced, concentrated savoury flavours