Tasting the Ethereal Le Brunate Cru Barolo from Francesco Rinaldi…

The 2010 releases from Barolo took the fine wine world by storm, just at a time when connoisseurs and collectors were looking to champion a new region after falling out of love with Bordeaux and its pricing misery. The wines were fantastic from all over the Piedmont region, from east to west, combining concentration, power, classism, balance and age ability.

Then 2011 was to Barbaresco, what 2010 was to Barolo, really putting a number of top producers on the map with extremely fine Nebbiolo expressions. Piedmont was on the ascendancy. 2012 was a ripe, fruit forward, opulent, fleshy, earlier drinking vintage across the region, giving consumers wines they could drink before their 2010s or 2011s. Then came the 2013s, thankfully another cracker of a vintage, especially for Barolo, to help satiate the never ending consumer demand.

This week tasted through the whole range of Barolos from one of my favourite producers, Francesco Rinaldi. The wines may not be as famous or as sought after as Giuseppe Rinaldi, but the elegance, perfume, and ethereal purity that Francesco Rinaldi wines display, make them highly prized by Barolo as well as Burgundy lovers.

My absolute favourite has to be their Le Brunate Cru, from a 2 hectare parcel in the communes of Barolo and La Morra. South east facing with clay soils, the vines were planted from 1979 to 1981. Wines are fermented in stainless steel and concrete and then aged in 2000 and 5000 litre Slavonian oak barrels for at least three years.

Francesco Rinaldi & Figli Le Brunate Barolo 2013, 14 Abv.
Brilliant ruby garnet colour, this is certainly a wine with ethereal, perfumed majesty. Youthful and bold, the nose is packed with liquid minerals, wet chalk, and crushed granite nuances that melt into notes of dried rose petals, parma violets, cherry blossoms, crystallised cherries, fresh fennel, and aniseed root earthiness. The palate is seamless, finely textured, and harmonious severe with ripe powdery grippy mineral tannins, balanced by intense maraschino cherry, cranberry, and sour red plum fruits. The Nebbiolo power married with Burgundian style finesse, fragrance, and freshness make for a supremely attractive wine. Lovely tension, taught tannins, and piercing, ethereal purity, this is one hell of a wine. Drink from 2018 to 2040+.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Castellari Isola del Giglio ~ The Italian White Wine Treasure Off the Tuscan Coast…

Castellari Isola del Giglio is the realisation of the viticultural dream of South African Manfred Ing, better know as the head winemaker for Tuscan winery Querciabella in Gaiole. Together with joint venture partner Simone Ghelli, who had been visiting the island since the 1990s, Manfred started this sideline wine project on this ancient Tuscan granitic island of Giglio in the Mediterranean. 

Manfred’s love of the land lead him to rediscover the ancient, abandoned vineyards on the steep terraced hillside slopes of Giglio, and so he set about producing fine wine from the indigenous Ansonica grapes. This labour of love started with their first vintage in 2013 and has slowly grown to a production of just over 900 bottles for the 2015 vintage.

“Calzo della Vignia” originates in the Castellari and Finocchio vineyards on this windswept island, characterized by its loose granitic soils. The wine attempts to respect the traditional ways of winemaking in Giglio, using only 100% Ansonica grapes that were hand picked from two vineyards in early September. Back in the cellar, once destemmed, the Ansonica was fermented naturally on its skins for up to 3 months. The wine was then pressed off into old French oak barrels where maturation continued for several months before bottling.

Castellari Isola del Giglio Calzo della Vignia Toscana Bianco IGT 2015, 12 Abv.

The dark gold, straw yellow colour reveals this wine’s 3 months ageing on its skins. This really is a tantalising gourmet wine, and one taste would be enough to make the most seasoned sommelier week at the knees. But this wine is certainly not so esoteric so as to only appeal to wine geeks, foodies, and hipsters. The aromatics are profound, displaying complex notes of lime zest, pineapple pastille, white pepper, yellow grapefruit pith, and dusty pear drops. There are also plenty of attractive phenolic nuances melting into a complex melange of peach skins, orchard fruits, baked apple skins and pithy, wet stone minerality. The aromatic components lift out the glass in perfect harmony. The palate too is very fine, focused and intense, with vibrant white peach fruit, soft bright acids, pithy grippy sherbet powder tannins, sun dried pineapples and mangoes, dedicated coconut, and a dry, saltly Sauternes-like finish. Heady and evocative, this wine shows great elegance, power and terroir specificity. A wine for food as well as contemplation. Utterly delicious.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Profound, Ground Breaking White Wine From Northern Italy…

Broglia’s unique Gavi di Gavi Vecchia Annata 2009 comes from the best, hand-picked Cortese grapes from the oldest vineyards of the Tenuta La Meirana, planted between 1953 and 1955. 

The 2009 vintage was characterized by regular flowering in the first ten days of June and a hot summer with significant diurnal temperature variation. Those conditions, combined with “sur lie” ageing in steel tanks and regular batonnage for 85 months have given this ‘Super Gavi’ great structure and a profound intensity of flavours and aromas. The wine bears comparison to a fine White Burgundy, in terms of elegance, texture and depth of flavour. 

This is a truly unique wine, made in extremely limited quantities and it will not be out of place on the finest wine lists. This collector’s item is a real first for Gavi and demonstrates the region’s quality. If you are partial to some of the Cantina Terlaner Rarita aged white releases, then this is the wine for you. At £89 per bottle, it’s fractionally cheaper than the Rarita £100+ releases, but equally as rare and desirable. 

Tenuta La Meirana Broglia Vecchia Annata 2009, Gavi di Gavi DOCG, 13.5 Abv.

Beautiful lemon lime straw colour. Wow. A very complex nose of pear purée, tarte tatin, baked apples, cinnamon and marzipan spices. Intriguing notes of dried figs, wet straw and cut grass aromatics. Unfurls in the glass as you’d expect from a wine with this type of lengthy ageing and pedigree. Lovely saline notes on the nose carry to the palate in a pithy, zippy, aromatic melange of pear skins, grated apples, yellow orchard fruits and a spicy, dusty, alluring minerality. The finish long, mesmerisingly austere, stony and intense with hints of dried herbs, nuts, brine, ripe pears and dusty crushed chalk. Intriguing notes of red cherry fruit develop together with complex almond skin spice and pithy bitter walnut on a fresh Chablis-like finish. A wine that is very much a ‘gourmet’ food wine that offers up a whole lot of intrigue and impressive winemaking ambition.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Tasting the Impressive Bruno Giacosa Nebbiolo d’Alba Vigna Valmaggiore 2013 DOC, 14 Abv…

No doubt about it, 2013 is another very serious year in Piedmont. Whether Barolo or Barbaresco, or indeed further afield, I have tried so many wines over the past year and have tasted very few disappointments. It’s a cracking vintage for Barbera, Dolchetto, and of course Nebbiolo.

Generally speaking, a cool, wet spring delayed the growing season and lowered overall yields. A cool summer ripened the grapes slowly, but in areas where the rain stayed away through autumn, growers could pick ripe, balanced fruit.

This Nebbiolo from Giacosa speaks volumes for the quality of the estate and the vintage. There is such beautifully seductive, lifted, perfume of dried rose petals, violets, potpourri, graphite, aniseed root and black cherry and earthy red fruits. The palate too is dense, sweetly fruited and nuanced with layers of spicy liquorice, pithy red cherry, red apple skins, granitic minerality and a long, kirsch laden finish. I’ve drunk many DOCG Barolos that don’t have either the depth of fruit nor structure of this mere Langhe Nebbiolo. Whatever political problems the Giacosa estate has experienced over the past years, when they get it right, the results are compelling!

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Tasting the G.D.Vajra Bricco delle Viole Barolo DOCG 2012 with Giuseppe Vajra… 

The Barolo and Barbaresco appellations of Piedmont are riding high on the world stage. Ever since the block-buster 2010 vintage took the region truly mainstream and global, it seems many of the top producers can do no wrong. This week I met up with Giuseppe Vajra to taste the current release 2012 ahead of the imminent 2013 launch.

Bricco delle Viole is a beautiful south-facing promontory in Barolo. Embraced by the Alpine range on the west, at about 400 meters above sea level, it enjoys favourable thermic variations that develop an elegant, perfumed, crystalline style of Barolo and certainly make it one of my favourite sites in most vintages. 

G.D.Vajra Bricco delle Viole Barolo DOCG 2012, 14 Abv. 

The 2012 Barolo Bricco Delle Viole is a dark dense broody wine with perhaps more regional weight of fruit than is typical for this site which normally resembles an ethereal, crystalline red Burgundy. The bouquet is a little fuller and riper with a definite gravitas. The aromatics point to liquorice, tar, musk, rose petals, black cherries and strawberry confit. While the core of fruit is dense and dark, the palate displays a most attractive plush sweet cherry fruit concentration, juicy fresh vibrant acids and fine grained, soft mineral tannins. 2012 is a more tricky vintage in Piedmont but you would be wrong to assume that this means the wines aren’t every bit as drinkable as 2010, 11 or 13. Crack your case now and drink over 8 to 15 years. 

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

The Changing Face of Prunotto, the Antinori Piedmont Gem in Barolo…

Prunotto has always been the one Antinori single estate that has continued to baffle me. After producing iconic wines in the 60’s and 70’s, and then many gems in the 80’s under Beppe Colla, the fortunes of the winery seemed to wane in the 90’s and early 2000’s. But I recently attended a fascinating retrospective tasting at the 2 Michelin star Greenhouse restaurant with their commercial manager, Emanuel Baldi, to taste some very impressive wines.

After a few glasses of the lovely Tenuta Montenisa Franciacorta Cuvee Royale from Antinori (91+/100 GS) to freshen the palate, we dived straight into their reds.

The Marchesi Antinori family first began its collaboration with the Prunotto Company, at first handling distribution, in 1989, and later, in 1994, when the Colla brothers retired, became directly involved in the production, attempting to maintain the excellent level of quality which Alfredo Prunotto had always insisted upon.

Prunotto Barbera d’Alba Pian Romualdo 2011, 14 Abv.

Opulent and vibrant, showing sweet cherry and strawberry fruits, liquorice, and earthy aniseed root. There is a beautiful fragrance too, with resounding rose petal, potpourri, and wood smoke complexity. The palate is elegant with suave powdery tannins, bright acids and a long black cherry, graphite and cherry pip finish. 

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Prunotto Barolo Bussia 2011, 13.5 Abv.

An impressively taught, lifted, fragrant intensity with a pretty perfume of rose petals, red cherry skins, and tart red plum. Plenty of liquorice, aniseed, and dusty, earthy red cherry mixed with smokey charcoal embers. The palate is cool, linear and focused with classic notes of cherry cola, sweet strawberry confit, exotic opulence and a seductive dried guava fruit complexity. Pristine freshness, vibrant acids and a saline cassis, fennel seed and liquorice finish. 

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 
Prunotto Barolo Riserva Vigna Colonnello 2010, 14 Abv. 

A highly anticipated wine from this epic vintage, the palate shows sweet cherry liquor, strawberry purée, plum jus, and pithy frais de bois. There is a tantalising sweet / Sour tart cherry note, fine linear acids with intense fruit concentration. Plenty of elegance with power and depth of fruit. 30% stems kept macerating for 2 weeks adds a sweet, sappy, pithy, tart red cherry character and creamy mineral tannins on a chiselled finish. Class and power abound. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Prunotto Barolo Bussia 2005, 14 Abv. 

The 2005 Bussia is a gorgeous, opulent wine interwoven with scents of dried mint leaf, wood spices and dusty minerals that complement a generous core of fruit. The high quality French oak is beautifully integrated and the wine possesses exceptional overall balance, with a round, concentrated, harmonious finish. Plenty of textural flesh and depth of fruit with a saline, pithy, sweet tannined finish. Very nice.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Towards the end of the evening, we were treated to a few bottles of older Prunotto Bussia Barolo. The 1989 was perhaps not the best condition bottle (89+/100) and the 1982 sadly had a hint of cork taint. But it was the glorious 1986 from magnum that stole the show! A tremendous wine drinking very well indeed.

Prunotto Barolo Bussia 1986 (Magnum)

Complex aromatics emerge with hints of cherry, leather, tar, salty liquorice and a vital fruit balance. Plenty of cured meats and smokey spice, peach tea, herbs, and potpourri fragrance. Creamy fruit opulence gives way to layers of complex earthy spice. Sweetly concentrated, fresh, youthful and opulent, this is a very fine complex classical Barolo example at 31 years old. So vibrant, balanced and succulent. Wow! 

(Safari Wine Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Clearly, Antinori are proud of the illustrious Prunotto past, but also now seem primed to redouble their efforts to make this estate every bit as grand and quality focused as Tignanello, Guado al Tasso or Solaia. Definitely wines to watch! 

The Slendour of 2 Michelin stars…

Prosecco For Connoisseurs ~ Tasting Adriano Adami Garbel Prosecco Brut DOC Treviso…

Prosecco has experienced unprecedented success in the UK market over the past 5 years. Sales just seem to grow and grow and grow. In the past three years alone, this sweet, affable, relatively inexpensive Italian fizz has surpassed Champagne as the UK’s No 1 sparkling wine, and according to retail analysts IRI, the UK market is now worth £365m a year.

Produced in north-east Italy around Treviso, Prosecco has become austerity Britain’s ideal affordable luxury fizz. But unlike Champagne, which undergoes a secondary in-bottle fermentation, giving it a yeasty complexity, Prosecco is fermented in huge tanks, then filtered to produce an easy drinking sparkling wine. 

While supermarket own-brands are significant players in this boom, there are some excellent premium Proseccos out there like Adriano Adami. 
Adami Garbel Prosecco Brut NV, Treviso, Veneto, Presa di Spuma Feb 2017

Garbel means fresh, dry, in the local Treviso dialect. A pale citrus yellow, this is a serious 11 Abv Prosecco made for drinkers looking for precision, purity and complexity in their wines. The nose is super fragrant and pure with crushed gravel, limestone, white citrus, crunchy green apples, pears, and lemon rind complexity. There are no confected notes here, just fine white citrus fruits, white blossom, and a dry, vibrant fresh finish that lingers with great purity and subtlety. A near perfect fruit / acid / minerality balance. 

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)