[This article was first printed in the latest Summer/Autumn newsletter for my workplace. I have adjusted it to be a little more casual for LDdV.]
Castello di Ama is a unique place, a fusion of art and vines, located in the heart of the historical zone of Chianti Classico in Gaiole. The 90 hectares of vineyards sit high up in the quiet hamlet of Ama, surrounded by rolling hills of calcareous soil full of shale and large rocks. This land is what defines the Castello di Ama terroir and makes it such an inimitable landscape for vines. The property is run by Lorenza Sebasti and her highly skilled winemaking husband and former President of the local consorzio, Marco Pallanti. Together they are ambassadors for the great wines of Chianti Classico.
Massolino, also known as Azienda Agricola Vigna Rionda, is the name of one of the small grape grower/wine bottling families in the Serralunga valley whose business is named after their most famed and popular vineyard, Vigna Rionda. The business began with Giovanni Massolino creating the estate in 1896, followed by his son Giuseppe subsequently building the cellar a number of years later. Today, the winery is still in the hands of the Massolino family with brothers Roberto and Franco Massolino along with Giovanni Angeli acting as winemakers for the estate.
Back in August 2011, the Australian wine importers for Massolino, Bibendum Wine Co., held a long-awaited masterclass to highlight the producers various vineyards. The event was held at the gloriously spacious and sea-view aligned restaurant The Stokehouse in St Kilda. Just to heighten the opportunity to make someone green with envy, see the menu below for what delights were in store:
The well-dressed Italian representative (because there always has to be at least one good-looking Italian at these events) was none other than winemaker Giovanni Angeli. Softly spoken, but groomed within 007 standards, he acted as our amiable host along with head of Bibendum, Robert Walters.
Fratelli Speri is located in the the wine zone known famously as Valpolicella within the Veneto region of north-east Italy. It lies within the province of Verona. Working back that’s the winery (Speri), then the zone (Valpolicella), then the province (Verona), then the region (Veneto). Don’t worry, I get confused too. They make a number of wine styles including Valpolicella, Ripasso, Amarone and Recioto (all to be explained later). There is also a casual review of their Speri Valpolicella Vigneto La Roverina DOC 2008 to finish things off. But firstly, here is an excerpt by the Speri family that I enjoyed.
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!
ABOUT MATTEO CORREGGIA
The wine world lost one of its greats back in 2001 when the driven and ardent Roero vine dresser Matteo was taken unexpectedly in an accident in the vineyard. Prior to his death, Matteo had worked fervently to establish the sandy soils and the vines of the Roero as fruit that could one day be held next to the great Langhe vines. His dedication to his craft meant he gradually bought the vineyards that he knew ripened the best and had the best exposures and sold off those he knew he would rather do without. When at last the world took notice to his beautiful wines, it was all be taken away from him and the estate was left in his wife Ornella’s capable hands. The wines are now made under the direction of enologist Luca Rostagno – the man Matteo wanted to make the wine in his cellar.
ABOUT THE ROERO
Matteo Correggia’s estate is based on the northern side of the Tanaro river in Piemonte in the area known as the Roero (rather than the more southerly and well-known Langhe wine region). It is an area long-renowned for the native white grape Arneis, a wine that is usually unoaked and consumed when young and is a beautiful accompaniment to fish dishes. It is the reds though that are commanding due attention, with a classic Roero rosso like Matteo Correggia’s La Val dei Preti or earlier maturing Roero made from 100% Nebbiolo in the Canale d’Alba region of the Roero hills. These wines tend to be lower in price also due to a lower demand with the majority of people going for the more publicised Langhe wine region. So I say, scoop up a bargain, put your feelers out there, and the next time you come across a wine with Roero on the label, well apart from knowing a little more about the area now, you can feel confident that it is an area producing reputable, delicious wines worthy of the purchase! Trust me!
Allow me to present Giuseppe Rinaldi and his wines of Barolo in Piemonte, Italy.
To his friends, he is simply known as Beppe.
“I could tell you a whole lot of things, since I belong to a complex generation that lived through a historical period of great ideals and upheavals which cast doubt on everything, including the ways of interpreting the countryside and agriculture. A generation which with great effort carried the burden of older generations on its shoulders. I still recall the greyness and destitution of the postwar years…
Oh dear, I was glancing through photos and realised I hadn’t even written up the trip to see Luke Lambert and his wines in the Yarra Valley back on November the 1st.
My cousin Amanda is a massive cheese geek and overall foodie. We complement one another perfectly because I’m the massive wine nerd who also loves to eat food. Do you see how we mesh so well now?
After little debate, I convinced Amanda to take the day off work for health reasons and to accompany me on a visit to the Yarra Valley. First stop? Madden’s Rise Winery off the Maroondah Highway and also Luke Lambert‘s hideaway where he weaves his own magic.
After a home-brewed coffee in the lab, a tour through the vineyards to see his nebb (nebbiolo vines) and a sip through and comparison of the Heathcote and Yarra Valley Nebbiolo in barrel, we were met with this:
“It may be because I’m Taurus, an earth sign, and perhaps in that starry sky of 1953 it was written that my character would be somewhat stubborn, pernickety, and I would like good food, slow and relaxing atmospheres and reading in front of an open fire. Lazy and robust but also as active and strong as the land I love to work.
Over the past twenty years I’ve always sought the role of a simple craftsman of wine, oriented toward the continuous search for a profitable collaboration with nature who is the true artist, the only one capable of creating unique, unrepeatable wines that are different from one year to the next. It’s an ongoing research that I still haven’t concluded, with moments of joy and moments of consternation, especially when there is adverse weather that I can do nothing about.
Now and then I pause to look at my land and I observe the vineyards which, like me, have changed: today I see them differently, just as my approach to nature is different. But what haven’t changed for me in these years are certain needs for interior clarity, authenticity and transparency that I carry within me. Maybe the need to look at the world with placid and peaceful eyes, no longer those of an impetuous “bull” but, in Carducci’s words, of a patient pio bove (pious ox) silently ruminating on the lush grass and enjoying the tranquil moments that life brings.”
ALDO VAJRA – “Piemonte…noblewoman of wine” by Andrea Zanfi 2005
“I consider myself very lucky because life gave me, almost for fun, the chance to live an uncommon ‘agricultural’ experience.” – Alberto Cisa Asinari di Gresy, in Piemonte…noblewoman of wine by Andrea Zanfi
Photograph by Gio’ Martorana, Piemonte…noblewoman of wine
Today I recalled a beautiful moment after bottling some La Spinetta Ca di Pian 2006 at work one day in 2008, when the cellarmaster Stefano took me to see Martinenga vineyard at the Marchesi di Gresy winery in Barbaresco as we knew Alberto the proprietor would be there to show us around. Stefano used to work there for a great number of years before moving to La Spinetta so it’s not like he needed to be ‘shown around’, but hey, it had been more for my sake anyway. Continue reading
“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??…