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domenica 13 novembre 2016

Langhe Nebbiolo lot 1 and lot 2 with Alfio Cavallotto in Manhattan

Above: On my left, Mark Fornatale, Italian portfolio manager for Skurnik imports and to my right is Alfio Cavallotto tasting a lineup of current releases.  

The Cavallotto estate is on my top 5 list of traditional Nebbiolo no doubt.  All the vineyards and production of Cavallotto wines are located in Bricco Boschis of Castiglione Falletto which is quite unique for a Barolo producer.  They do make a Barolo Vignolo as well which is attached to the Bricco Boschis.  This means all of the Nebbiolo fruit has the potential to become Barolo. I carry the Langhe Nebbiolo on my restaurants list and it is one of my favorite bottles to sell and the value is unbeatable.  They usually release two different lots as Langhe Nebbiolo while they are deciding what to keep for Barolo and what to bottle earlier as Langhe Nebbiolo. 

When we tasted this week I was amazed by how much the Langhe was drinking like a young Barolo and I soon learned how they just released the second lot which has aged 23 months in large botti compared with the normal 18 months of the first Langhe Nebbiolo lot.  Below you can see on the left of the label the dates L 16.02.16 for the bottle on the left vs L 12.07.16 on the right.  This is always reassuring and it seems to me the new generations of wine makers are trying to be more and more informative when labeling wines.  Both wines are absolutely delicious and Alfio thinks you couldn't tell them apart unless you were drinking them side by side. I believe those extra 5 months give it an extra boost in complexity and in aging potential.  All I can hope for is that these wines will remain one of the best values in Piedmont Nebbiolo. 

venerdì 7 ottobre 2016

Matteo Gatti manual disgorging a 2006 Franciacorta Extra Brut

From one cantina to another we discovered that Franciacorta winemakers are doing a lot of experimenting.  Here is an example of Matteo Gatti of Ferghettina disgorging a 2006 Brut that has been hanging onto the lees for ten years. They dedicate a section of their cellar they call the library for saving bottles and playing with aging capabilities.

venerdì 23 settembre 2016

The styles of Franciacorta from the big to the small

The van door closed one last time and I clumsily stumbled back towards the agriturismo buzzed and exhausted with the other four American wine writers for Franciacorta.  We just finished a memorable dinner of lasagne, donkey steaks and polenta and we gathered on the second floor deck to wind down with one last bottle.  After tasting over 20 wines a day we suddenly realized that we hadn't found one wine we disliked during our three days touring wineries.  That dinner we finally opened an offensive bottle that shocked us a bit but hey, it's bound to happen eventually and it actually helped put everything into perspective.  We needed a redemption bottle and we popped a delicious Brut vintage 2009 from Ronco Calino which spends 50 months on the lees.  The sharp cool air was a comforting shock on the skin and the healthy bubbles from Calino reminded us of all the great stuff we drank these last few days.

The wavy vineyards of Ronco Calino in the backyard of the winery

Consistancy and quality is a huge stand out here in Franciacorta and you can see it from a smaller 70,000 bottle producer like Ronco Calino all the way to the gigantic 1.5 million bottle production of Ca' del Bosco.  

Ferghettinas square bottle in the lights of the cellar
There are also many unique styles in production from one winery to the next. Mosnel swears by their horizontal stainless steel tanks to achieve more complexity.  They have some of the most drinkable and refreshing yet complex wines of the trip.  Ca' del Bosco puts all of their grapes through a jacuzzi bath to reduce sulfites before they end up in the biggest stainless steel tank I have ever seen in my life.  They even add Nitrogen to eliminate the presence of oxygen while Mattia Vezzola of Bellavista purposely adds oxygen to the must with his unique method to eliminate impurities, a campaign they call "air your wine".  Another interesting idea comes from Matteo Gatti of Ferghettina who patented a square bottle so there is more surface area for the wine to come in contact with the lees.  The Ferghettina winery is a great example of not judging a book by its cover and if you dig deeper into their story it is a truly fascinating one.  While most of the Franciacorta producers have an Industrial background in common, the Ferghettina family come from a background of sharecropping.  

But, whichever style winery you come across the end product that almost all of the producers want to acheive is a similar one.  Fresh, bright, healthy acidity, limited use of oak only for fermentation and usually the least amount of dosage as possible.  These are great wines that taste of the land and express the passion and thirst of the winemakers.

Jeremy next to the epic million bottle Cuvee' Prestige, stainless steel tank at Ca' del Bosco

First day in Franciacorta with team Classicmethod!

Jeremy Parzen aka Do Bianchi above showing us the topographic map of the Franciacorta vineyards when five of us arrived here on Tuesday.  One of the most important things we learned right away about Franciacorta is the diversity in soil types as shown in the different colors on the map.  The wine makers can vinify up to 40 different expressions of chardonnay seperately and combine those base wines in their own artistic expression for their finished product.  This is a mythical place to grow grapes posted up right underneath Lago d'Iseo.  The lake gives a maritime influence on top of the Alpine climate and a prehistoric glacier slide creates a natural amphiteatre almost enclosing the vineyards in the area.   There is an incredible consistency of quality and movement towards organic viticulture that is not easy to come across in any other wine region.  What a complex area to learn about and as Jeremy has said, "These wines aren't beginner wines and deserve some time and concentration to try and understand them."   So I take a deep breath of clean crisp alpine air before diving into this majestic land of grapes and sparkling wine. 

giovedì 11 agosto 2016

Monthelie from Roulot, a new release worth drinking

Domaine Roulot, Monthelie 2014

Perhaps best known for their white wine and Meursault parcels, Domaine Roulot also has .38 hectares located in Monthelie, just north of Meursault in the Côte de Beaune.  A great example of trusting an epic producer no matter what they are bottling. The 2014 Monthelie was one of the best new release red wines I have tasted in a long time. Super expresive nose that kept getting better throughout dinner.  Tons of minerality, asphalt and purity of red fruits. All of their wines are farmed organically.  The pinot noir is destemmed for the Monthelie and the fermentation typically lasts 12 days in open wooden vats and ages 12 to 15 months in barrel-15% new oak.  The low yields and strict farming practices delivers an expression of Burgundian purity that is hard to come by.  If you can get your hands on any wines from Domaine Roulot, snag a bottle immediately.  

martedì 24 maggio 2016

Freisa is what im drinkin'

Borgogno, Langhe Freisa, 2013

Freisa is the shit because of its ability to be offensive upon immediate evaluation but with time and patience, it will open up and seduce you somehow someway. While sharing similar nebbiolo characteristics it is opposite in approachability and not nearly as obvious in its appeal. Robert Parker once described it as producing totally repugnant wines and that all the more confirms my point of view.  

The fun part about freisa is you can discover this lesser known grape of Piedmont made by some of your favorite Barolo producers at a fraction of the price their Nebbiolos would cost.

This freisa by Borgogno was very acidic with sour tannins upon first opening.  Still enough fruit to make it drinkable, but the difference after 2 hours was crazy.  It became much more inegrated with the delicious salty raspberry fruit that Freisa famously displays.  There is some rose and liquorish reminiscent of nebbbiolo and the after bite of tannin that keeps your spirit floating in the langhe of your fantasies. 

The 2012 Giuseppe Mascarello Freisa is another hot steal.  Not too hard to find in New York City. 

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