“Shameful” Ruling Over Barolo Borders

The expansion of the Cannubi ‘cru’ could cast “doubt on the credibility of all the vineyard boundaries” in the region.

© Consorzio di Tutela Barolo e Barbaresco

Producers fighting to prevent the expansion of one of the most important vineyard sites in Barolo have lost their battle.

Rome’s High Administrative Court, the Consiglio di Stato, has overturned a decision that ruled the name Cannubi could only be used for the historic Cannubi area comprising 15 hectares (37 acres).

Read the article: “Shameful” Ruling Over Barolo Borders

Bruno Giacosa: Pioneering Precision in Piedmont

No discussion of Barolo and Barbaresco would be complete without mention of Bruno Giacosa, one of Italy’s most esteemed producers. Paolo Tenti reports on “the genius of Neive.”

He’s the producer who inspired a generation of winemakers. A pioneer in introducing single-vineyard bottlings of Barolo and Barbaresco. And a man who’s not afraid to say no to a vintage if he thinks the grapes are not good enough.

© Paolo Tenti | Bruno Giacosa

Born into the family wine firm, Bruno Giacosa started his career at the tender age of 15 as a grape buyer, sourcing fruit for his father and grandfather, and then for many of Barolo’s large houses. In 1960, he started his own company and soon became famous for both his golden palate and his ability to recognize the best vineyards in the Langhe.

Thanks to his vast hands-on experience with growers – and his years spent seeking out the best grapes – he was among the first producers in the area to bottle single-vineyard wines. They included the now legendary Barolo Collina Rionda.

Read the full  article: Bruno Giacosa

Visiting Piedmont on a Budget

The stars of Italy’s Piedmont region are Barolo, Barbaresco and white truffles, but it’s possible to get an authentic taste of the region without taking out a second mortgage.

Castello di Barolo
© Paolo Tenti | Castello di Barolo

Every year, more tourists flock to Italy’s northwest in search of the latest Barolos and Barbarescos—two of the country’s most famous and expensive wines—and to enjoy the area’s upscale dining, especially in the fall when rare white truffles make an appearance.

Alba and the nearby Langhe hills are the undisputed epicenter of Piedmont’s fine wine and dining scene, boasting 12 Michelin-starred restaurants within a 10-mile radius. 

And judging by the boom of recently opened luxury hotels, spas and golf resorts, the Langhe certainly seems to cater to an upscale clientele. 

Fortunately, there’s another side to these hallowed hills. For visitors who don’t want to break the bank, the region also offers simple country hotels in the vineyards and informal restaurants that specialize in local cuisine. 

Best of all for wine lovers, Piedmont’s famed Barolo and Barbaresco producers also make delicious, affordable wines that can be served with a variety of dishes and offer sheer drinkability—Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto. 

These wines are growing in popularity, and with an increasing number of labels imported to the U.S., they offer a little taste of Piedmont here at home. 

Read the article: Visiting Piedmont on a Budget

Bartolo Mascarello

The classically crafted Barolos of Bartolo Mascarello are cult favorites of Barolophiles around the world.

Unlike many of today’s top Barolo producers – growers who started making their own wines in the late 1970’s and 1980’s – the Mascarello family have been making and bottling their own wines for generations.

© Paolo Tenti | Maria Teresa Mascarello

Maria Teresa Mascarello, who runs the firm today, learned to make wine from her father Bartolo, an iconic producer who died in 2005. Bartolo joined the firm in 1945 and learned winemaking from his father, Giulio, who in turn had been trained by his own father, Bartolomeo.

Read the article: Bartolo Mascarello

Barolo 2009 and Riserva 2007

This year’s annual Nebbiolo Prima tastings in Alba showcased Barbaresco 2010, Barolo 2009, and the denominations’ Riservas – 2008 and 2007 respectively. A selection of Roero 2010 and Riserva 2009 were also displayed.

Clearly the media, representing the top publications from key international markets from around the world, were most interested in Barbaresco 2010, and – even more so – Barolo 2009.

The Barbarescos showed well overall, and 2010 – distinguished by a cool, wet summer followed by a warm, dry September that allowed nebbiolo a long ripening season – is living up to its reputation of being a classic vintage with the structure for laying down and mellowing.

The 2009 Barolos are a different story altogether. They represent a mixed bag of qualities and styles that depend not only the individual villages and vineyard areas, but also on the ability of the growers and winemakers to handle the difficult climatic conditions. Of all the recent vintages, 2009 is going to pose the most serious challenges for Barolo lovers – due to the irregular performance even among the usually most reliable estates.

Read the article: Barolo 2009 Riserva 2007

Conterno: Tradition Underscores Celebrated Barolo

Barolo doesn’t get any better than Giacomo Conterno. Kerin O’Keefe explains why.
© Paolo Tenti | Roberto Conterno pictured at the Monforte d’Alba winery

The prized wines include Cascina Francia and the family’s crown jewel: Monfortino. Monfortino is not simply one of the best Barolos, whose name alone can make die-hard Barolo fans weak at the knees, it is one of the finest wines in the world. Italian wine expert Nick Belfrage MW wrote in his 1999 book “Barolo to Valpolicella“: “Indeed if I was given the choice of one bottle of Barolo before I die (I have more than once maintained that Barolo will be my deathbed tipple) I would choose Monfortino.”

© Paolo Tenti | Wooden barrels at the Conterno winery; nebbiolo grapes; Conterno’s sought-after wines

Read the article: Conterno

Angelo Rocca (1948–2012): Barbaresco’s free thinker

The adventurous producer of some of Piedmont’s most acclaimed wines, Angelo Rocca was also a much-loved and respected figure in the region, says Kerin O’Keefe.

© Paolo Tenti | Monica, Angelo and Daniela Rocca

Celebrated Barbaresco producer Angelo Rocca, of the family firm Albino Rocca, died on October 8, 2012, in a plane crash.

Angelo Rocca’s small yellow plane had become a fixture in the skies above his home village of Barbaresco, and friends say he was a passionate pilot who also enjoyed cars and motorbikes.

Read the article: Angelo Rocca (1948–2012): Barbaresco’s free thinker

Italian legend Aldo Conterno dies

Legendary Barolo producer Aldo Conterno passed away in Monforte d’Alba in Piedmont at the age of 81.

Aldo Conterno, who played a crucial role in Barolo’s rebirth as a world-class wine, came from generations of Barolo producers.

His father was the acclaimed Barolista Giacomo Conterno, one of the denomination’s twentieth century pioneers who in 1920 began bottling the family’s Barolo Riserva, so heralding the birth of Monfortino, arguably Barolo’s most iconic wine.

In 1961, Conterno and his brother Giovanni inherited the Giacomo Conterno winery; the two brothers went their separate ways in 1969 and Aldo created his own estate, Poderi Aldo Conterno, in Bussia in Monforte d’Alba.

Read the article: Italian legend Aldo Conterno dies

Bruno Giacosa

This eminent Barolo producer has been around the block more than once since starting in wine 68 years ago. Kerin O’Keefe pays the great man a visit and hears how he has overcome the formidable challenges of recent years, including illness and the firing and re-hiring of his winemaker.

At first glance, things appear remarkably unchanged at Bruno Giacosa’s winery during my recent visit. It is almost as if the daunting challenges that the legendary Barolo and Barbaresco producer has faced over the past five years had never happened. Giacosa, one of Langhe’s trailblazing winemakers and an undisputed expert on the area’s top sites, showed off the latest vintages and discussed the past, present and future of this iconic estate alongside daughter Bruna and winemaker Dante Scaglione.

Giacosa, now 82, began his illustrious career at the age of 14, when he started working for his father’s grape-buying and winemaking estate. The young Giacosa soon gained renown for what many describe as his golden palate, and he went on to create Barolos and Barbarescos of extraordinary complexity from renowned vineyards, while discovering lesser-known sites that he would later make famous. Today, Giacosa’s acclaimed bottlings read like a wish list for wine connoisseurs, and include some of the most hallowed names in Piedmont, such as Falletto and Le Rocche del Falletto in Barolo, and Asili and Santo Stefano in Barbaresco. His red-label Riserva bottlings – made only in the best years – are among the most sought after wines in the world.

Giacosa was one of the first Italian winemakers to fully understand the importance of Langhe’s vineyards and, in 1967, he began bottling the famous hillside vineyard yields separately. Thanks to decades of experience as one of Langhe’s foremost grape buyers and winemakers, Giacosa decided years ahead of time which properties hewanted to own. The main object of his desire? Falletto. Located in the venerable village of Serralunga, perhaps the most prestigious of all the Barolo villages, Falletto has perfect southwest exposure that allows the grapes to mature slowly but fully, while its calcareous soil adds complexity and structure. ‘I’d been buying grapes from Falletto since 1967 and had always wanted to buy it,’ says Giacosa. ‘In 1982, I finally realised my dream.’ In 1996, he went on to acquire a parcel of land on the top of the notable Asili hillside in Barbaresco. Today he admits that this is the vineyard closest to his heart. ‘No other vineyard in Langhe yields a bouquet as elegant, or possesses such finesse and balance as Asili,’ says the veteran, who attributes the vineyard’s performance to its sandy, almost silty soil, full southern exposure and high altitude.

Read the article: Bruno Giacosa

Cult Barolo producer Teobaldo Cappellano dies

Teobaldo Cappellano, the respected and controversial Barolo producer, has died at 65.

Cappellano – known to friends as Baldo – was an outspoken traditionalist who often joined forces with Beppe Rinaldi and the late Bartolo Mascarello. They referred to themselves as the ‘Last of the Mohicans’ for their fierce determination to defend classically crafted Barolos.

A purist who believed that the future of Barolo lay in the denomination’s traditional winemaking methods, he shunned barriques, over-extraction and excessive concentration. He also denigrated contemporary scoring systems and refused to submit his wines for rating.

The late winemaker’s complex Barolos were produced in tiny quantities. His Barolo Otin Fiorin Piè Franco, made with grapes from ungrafted vines, was particularly sought by collectors the world over.

Read the atrticle: Cult Barolo producer Teobaldo Cappellano dies

Gaja Barbaresco over four decades: 1961-2003

Angelo Gaja, one of Italy’s most charismatic and successful  winemakers, is credited not only with drawing Barbaresco out of obscurity but with triggering the quality revolution that pulled the country’s wine scene out of the doldrums. Yet while aficionados and pundits automatically associate Gaja with Italy’s modern winemaking movement and sleek single-vineyard bottlings, the great aging potential of his wines should also be remembered.

© Paolo Tenti | Barbaresco 1961-2003 Gaja
© Paolo Tenti | Barbaresco 1961-2003 Gaja

Tasting through four decades of Gaja’s Barbaresco at an informal private tasting held for this author by Angelo and his daughter Gaia on January 12, 2007, at their cellars in Barbaresco was a chance to experience Italy’s quality metamorphosis at first hand. Changes and improvements in viticulture and vinification were subtle but unmistakable, while Gaja’s hallmark elegance was evident in every bottling, like a family resemblance.

© Paolo Tenti | Barbaresco 1961 1964 1967 Gaja
© Paolo Tenti | Barbaresco 1961-1964-1967 Gaja

While Gaja’s fans applaud his world-class wines, cynics often claim that his modern winemaking methods have changed the tipicità of his Nebbiolo. Yet these same critics often fail to note that Gaja persists with more traditional techniques whenever he thinks them worthwhile. He is among the few top producers in Italy who still resist selected yeasts for the alcoholic fermentation, except in very difficult years when, as a last resort, he will add a small amount of nutrients to feed the native yeasts. Gaja’s use of barriques has also come under fire by advocates of traditional Nebbiolo. But it should be pointed out that all his Nebbiolo wines are aged one year in barriques of various ages and one year in giant, perfectly maintained Slavonian casks that are, on average, 100 years old, so the new-wood sensations are minimal.

Read the article: Gaja Barbaresco over four decades: 1961-2003

Nebbiolo is viognier cousin, conference hears

Nebbiolo, one of Italy’s most famous black grape varieties, is related to the aromatic viognier, DNA boffins have found.

Nebbiolo grapes
© Paolo Tenti | Grapes from old Nebbiolo vines in Barbaresco

The noble Piedmontese grape, which gives Barolo and Barbaresco their power and longevity, has been found to relate directly to another indigenous grape from Piedmont called freisa, which in turn is a cousin of viognier.

Genetic researchers Dr Anna Schneider from CNR of Turin and Dr José Vouillamoz of UC Davis and Istituto Agrario di San Michele all’Adige, released surprising preliminary findings from their research into nebbiolo’s DNA composition, at a conference in northern Italy at the weekend.

Read the article: Nebbiolo is viognier cousin, conference hears