Giuseppe Mascarello Langhe Nebbiolo 2014 ~ A Snapshot Into the 2014 Barolo Vintage…

This week I met up with Giovanni Gaja to taste Gaja’s new 2012 Brunello di Montalcino. But discussions soon drifted to Barolo and Barbaresco and what we can expect from the upcoming 2014 vintage.


This chat raised a small perennial gripe I have… how Italian wineries, wine critics and wine consumers are very quick to talk down a vintage when it’s not necessarily a “blockbuster” or if it’s a cooler, fresher, more elegant, accessible vintage. You never hear the Bordelaise talk any vintage down, even when it’s a shocker like 2013. 

But it’s the Burgundian’s who are very well versed in the professional art of describing a vintage without saying it’s great or poor. Instead they focus on the weather and how conditions affected the terroir and final wines’ expression. Vintage variation is celebrated. Perhaps this is a better model for Piedmont to follow?


Giovanni Gaja confirmed that 2014 was indeed a difficult vintage and required growers to manage their vineyards and cover crops very carefully in a challenging but potentially good quality year. The summer was wet, cool and cloudy, requiring countless hours in the vineyards. In some areas, like Barolo and Barbaresco, September sun ripened grapes fully. 

So like all vintages, consumers should expect variable quality… everything from block busters from some of the top domaines to the occasional weedy dilute wine from lesser growers utilising lesser terroirs. Ultimately, there will be no substitute for tasting before buying. But still, there is no reason to write-off the whole vintage just because the upcoming 2015 is yet another 5 star stunner.


Tasting early release cuvees like Langhe Nebbiolo allows an early snapshot into the quality of fruit. Mauro Mascarello has been at the helm of his family’s estate for more than forty years, building up the winery’s reputation. Their flagship wine may be the fabled Barolo Monprivato, from a stunning south west facing vineyard in the village of Castiglione Falletto in the heart of Barolo, but they also make one of the most respected Langhe Nebbiolo wines in Piedmont.


Tasting Note: Crisp crystalline pale cherry red colour, this little Langhe has slightly subdued, delicate aromas to begin. Soft red plums, macerated cherries, earthy raisined strawberries, charcoal embers, blood oranges and dusty, granitic minerals. The palate is soft, harmonious and moderately fleshy, with a good glycerol mouthfeel freshened up with crisp, pithy acids that emphasise the wines dusty gravelly minerality and fine powdery, silty tannins. There is breadth, spice and warming earthy red summer fruit notes. Red cherries, spicy cranberries, orange peel and red plum skins. For just a modest classification, this Langhe Nebbiolo has lovely typicity and purity of fruit. Classic Nebbiolo that feels like it’s been gently extracted and the grapes not worked too hard. The wine finishes with pithy orange citrus, spicy red cherry, strawberry pips, and soft suave potpourri and liquorice stick complexity. Drink this wine from 2017 to 2024+. 

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

Giuseppe Rinaldi Rosae Vini Rosso 2014 ~ Tasting Barolo’s Burgundy Roots…

It’s not a secret that Giuseppe Rinaldi is one of my favourite producers in Piedmont. Making an attractive and distinctive Barolo style, Beppe Rinaldi and his daughter Marta, have focused on retaining the traditions of the past while embracing the excellence and purity of modern Barolo. 


But this modest wine from the Rinaldi range is a first for me. Vino Rosso Rosae 2014 is made from the Ruche variety, supposedly a grape originating in Burgundy, a region very close to Beppe’s own heart. 


Tasting Note: Beautifully bright ruby red with crystal purity. There are multiple complex aromatic layers of spicy, pithy, peppery red fruits, stalk sap, gun smoke, graphite, and red apple skin spice. Such purity and minerality, the palate is elegant and sweet fruited with subtle, classical tart red cherry, raisined cranberries and spicy red plums with sappy, peppery tannins. There is vibrancy and intensity with a lovely natural feel to the wine that finishes with an animated, salty red liquorice and rustic aniseed twist. 

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

Guiseppe Rinaldi Langhe Nebbiolo 2013 ~ A Harbinger to a Great Barolo Vintage…

Guiseppe Rinaldi’s history goes back five generations to the late 19th century, when his family and so many others sold the fruit of their vineyards to the Falletti family. The first Rinaldi winery, still running today under Luciano Rinaldi, was acquired in 1870 from the Falletti’s estate manager, and in the 1920s Giuseppe Rinaldi, grandfather of the current owner, established his own estate with vineyards in Barolo’s best sites… Cannubi, Brunate, Le Coste, and Ravera.


Giuseppe’s son Battista later took over the winery and developed their cellar techniques in order to refine wine quality further. When he passed away in 1992 his son, also named Giuseppe, left his career as a vet to carry on the family work in the winery. 


When I visited the winery last year in 2015, Beppe’s daughter Marta kindly hosted us and presented all the estates current releases. The winery just oozes character, the best of everything that’s traditional and authentic about Barolo, one of the greatest appellations in the world.

The rustic Rinaldi tasting room

Tasting Note: This sexy wine displays a beautiful blood red ruby colour. The name on the label elicits numerous emotions but also an expectation of traditional classism and an element of rusticity. The nose is very expressive with red cherry fruits, sweet black plum, earthy forest floor, dusty chalk and a pronounced truffle oil and earthy beetroot complexity. The palate is sleek, vibrant, energetic with wonderfully fleshy, trufflely, red forest berry fruits. There are layers of gravelly minerality, graphite and dry aniseed root nuanced powdery tannins and hints of salty red liquorice. An extra accessibility with exceptional depth of fruit gives drinkers a suggestion of things to come with Beppe’s Barolo 2013s. A wonderful vintage that can’t be far behind 2010 in stature. Drink now to 2024+ (Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 


Antichi Poderi dei Marchesi di Barolo Barolo 1971 ~ A fine birthday birth year bottle…

The historic Marchesi di Barolo cellars are located in the town of Barolo, in the building overlooking the famous Castle of the Marquis Falletti. It is here that more than 200 years ago the estate’s story began.


Beginning precisely in 1807, in Paris, when the Marquis of Barolo Carlo Tancredi Falletti married Juliette Colbert de Maulévrier, a French noblewoman and the great granddaughter of the Sun King’s well-known Minister of Finance.

Juliette saw the great potential of the wine made in Barolo that, after fermentation and long aging in wood, would reveal all the qualities typical of the soil and of the Nebbiolo grape, with its power, richness, spice and mineral austerity.


Today the Abbona Family continues the work that began more than two centuries ago producing traditional, high quality wines meant for ageing. While not considered an icon estate in Piedmont terms, it is a universally famous winery with good stocks of older bottles still fairly plentiful on the broking market.


Tasting Note: A fine bright rim of garnet red. Nose is beautifully classical showing coffee bean, burnt orange peel, red cherry skins, peppercorns and pot pourri spice. Lovely raw meat savoury notes of blood and iron. Palate is polished and silky, with tannins showing a hint of spicy bite but are generally sweet, suave and resolved. Dipping my nose back into my Zalto glass reveals more gun powder and smokey gravelly notes. The palate continues to sweeten up the more time the wine sits in the glass. I’m looking for that tantalising moment when the wine blossoms, peaks, then starts to recede and fade as it inevitably will. This wine is a tertiary treasure trove of evolving aromas and flavours. Intriguing macadamia nut spice and red cherry notes lead the wine to a savoury, elegant mineral laden grippy finish. A snap shot of history….and my vintage of course. (Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fine Wine Friday… at Chez Bruce

A thoroughly enjoyable gathering of wine friends today at restaurant Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, London, with a super selection of Autumnal dishes cooked by chef Bruce Poole. 


Fine wine is of course not made to be tasted, but drunk, and preferably enjoyed with great food. Our first course, Tagliatelle with braised duck paired beautifully with an impressive Gaja Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo 1986 (94+/100) and a mature but impressive Carretta Barolo Cannubi Riserva Speciale 1971 (93+/100).


The Carretta 1971 showed alluring notes of blood oranges soaked in cognac, with hints of stewed winter fruits, sour plums, orange rind, and barley sugar. Very sweet and plump, the tannins were powdery and the structure seamless and lengthy. Evolved seductive wine showing plenty of tertiary, foresty complexity. 


Next blind pair was very intriguing, matched with venison medallions served with a mini shoulder pasty. Beautiful dish, delicious wines. First up, a Chateau Lynch Bages 1970 Pauillac brought along by Neal Martin. This was a rich, earthy wine with lipstick and leather, black berries, licorice, burnt sugar, sweet meat juices and a slightly rustic grainy elegance. (92/100). 


The second wine of the pairing was another Bordeaux, a Chateau Haut Bailly 1970 Pessac-Leognan. A touch stinky to start, this wine opened up beautifully to reveal classic cedary spice, earthy gravelly forest fruits, bloody irony complexity and precise, linear acids. Very pretty, regal wine. (93+/100). 


Other notable wines on this Fine Wine Friday included a tantalising Francois Mikulski Meursault 1er Cru Genevrieres 2013 (95/100), Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 1995 (92+/100), Bodegas Protos Gran Reserva 1964 Ribera del Duero (89/100) and a Joseph Leitz Riesling Beerenauslese 1997 (91+/100).


Many thanks to the wonderful Chez Bruce staff who helped make the day so enjoyable. 

A once in a lifetime fine wine event…

It was never going to be easy deciding what to write about for my first ever ‘fine wine safari’ blog post, but fortunately, the opportunity to attend one of the most anticipated food and wine celebrations of 2016 presented itself… and the rest as they say is history.

On the 8th and 9th of September 2016, a small select group of UK wine trade buyers, journalists and big hitting private clients were invited to Barbaresco, Italy, to join the iconic producer Angelo Gaja and his family, in celebrating their 20 year long relationship with UK importer Armit Wines. I was privileged enough to be invited on this once in a life time experience.

Here are my highlights…

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My vintage and one of the finest wines of the entire trip.
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A name that resonates in the fine wine world.
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Sitting on the top table next to Angelo. A true honour.
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Nebbiolo. The grape that makes it all possible… here in the Costa Russi vineyard.
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The beautifully photogenic Gaia Gaja.
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Rossana Gaja in the Costa Russi vineyard.
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Sunrise over the hills of Serralunga.
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Giovanni Gaja talking viticulture.
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The infamous Barbera vines that used to be included in the Gaja Cru’s until 2012.
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The famed honey bees above the Costa Russi vineyard.
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The chapel in Barbaresco.
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Dusk over Barbaresco.
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The Gaja cellar… one to be envied.
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The Gala celebration dinner.
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Fantastically long aged whites.
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The epic maiden vintage of Gaja’s Gaia & Rey Chardonnay 1983. Fresh as a daisy!
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Two of the Crus of Gaja, Sori Tilden and Costa Russi, and the Barbaresco 2001.
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Barbaresco 1958. Drinking fine wine history. One of the wines of the night with the 1971.
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The 2013 new release Barbaresco DOP Crus. The dawn of a new era at Gaja.
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Name the mystery fine wine buyer… ??
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Trattoria Antica Torre… a favourite of the Gaja family and winery staff.
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Vitello tonnato… to die for.
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Who doesn’t enjoy a wagon wheel of fresh Parmesan?
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Why open one bottle of 1958 Barbaresco when you can have five?!
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Beautifully pure and fragrant Gaia & Rey Chardonnay grappa to end an historic evening.
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A wine selection to die for. Almost certainly never to be matched or repeated anytime soon! With Angelo’s signature of approval….