The Hills of the Langhe In Piedmont Produce Some of The Best Nebbiolos Yet in 2017…

This famed co-operative in Piedmont dates back to 1894; forced to close in the 1920s because of fascist economic rules, it was regenerated and revived in 1958 by the village priest of Barbaresco who recognized that the only way the small properties could survive long term was by joining forces and combining their efforts. Today the cooperative has 56 members and 100+ hectares of Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco appellation, which amounts to almost 1/6 of the vineyards of the area.

Their Langhe Nebbiolo in particular has long been one of the greatest and most profound value reds on the international wine market, recognised and lauded unanimously by critics far and wide. The 2017 was a much smaller vintage in Piedmont and right across Italy and even before the harvest came in, 2017 was predicted to be -15% to -20% lower than 2016. The 2017 harvest will certainly be remembered for being one of the earliest in 10 years but also with exceptional quality attained specifically in the hills of the Langhe. After Spring frosts kept many a vigneron up at night, a hot dry summer followed with the lack of rain a real worry for many growers. But all the difficult weather did not deter the growers’ efforts in the vineyards and the wineries and final resulting quality was truly excellent and possibly even beyond the growers highest expectations. The legacy of the 2017 vintage will be rich, fresh and fruity wines, thanks to the excellent physiological ripening of the Nebbiolo grapes.

It seems the message of the high quality has travelled around the market place very quickly and after only a couple of months into sales of the Langhe 2017 vintage stock, I was told by the UK importer that they had already sold more than half of their annual allocation. So this wine will sell out well before it normally does and certainly long before the release of the 2018 vintage. So stock up now! It’s a thing of beauty.

Produttori Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2017, Langhe DOC, 14 Abv.

A stunningly complex lifted aromatic bouquet of ripe macerated wild red cherries, potpourri, dried mint leaf, wet granite, aniseed root and salty liquorice stick. The intensity, power and purity is reinforced by a deliciously concentrated, fleshy palate that is full, plump, majestically sweet fruited with comforting nuances of parma violets, red cherry coulis, cherry cola and the most sublime creamy, chalky tannin texture. The density, texture and complexity of this Langhe Nebbiolo go far beyond anything you could reasonably and qualitatively expect from a wine of this classification level. Which probably explains why, according to the producer, it has been one of the fastest selling Langhe Nebbiolos produced to date. I am smitten. Drink this beauty from release and over the next 8 to 10+ years.

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

The Gaja Barbaresco 2015 – Quite Simply the Most Impressive New Release Gaja Barbaresco Expression Tasted in Over a Decade….

Gaja’s Barbaresco is a truly magnificent wine and needs no introduction. A firm favourite amongst collectors, it is produced from fourteen unique vineyard sites in the commune of Barbaresco and offers an incredible insight into the brilliance of Gaja’s Nebbiolo wines. Extremely complex and refined, it is aged in barrels for twelve months before being blended together and matured for a further twelve months in large oak casks. A wine which is normally approachable relatively young, the 2015 will definitely improve for 10+ years and age well over two decades.

Antonio Galloni says that the “warm growing season yielded supple, radiant Barbarescos.” Following a mild winter and a protracted and damp spring, which replenished the water tables, temperatures rose steadily in July and August. The vines responded well, a result in part of the many innovations introduced in the vineyards in recent years by the Gaja family. Ideal weather conditions before the harvest allowed the grapes to ripen quickly and evenly producing perfectly ripe fruit with exceptionally regular bunches.

Widely regarded as an outstanding vintage with great promise, 2015 has broader shoulders with richer flavours than the previous vintage combined with “intense aromas and lovely energetic fruit” according to Gaia Gaja.

Gaja Barbaresco DOP 2015, 14 Abv.

This has always been one of Gaja’s greatest wines as well as greatest value wines. But dispensing with commercial intricacies, this wine has also always been the perennial over performer out punching many Crus (even from Gaja) in blind tastings. The aromatics suggest something grand and complex, something more profound than your average year, and in 2015, that is exactly what this wine delivers. Elegantly perfumed, very precise and pure, with a beautifully perfumed bouquet of crunchy red cherry, freshly plucked rose petals, violets and exotic spices. Quite reticent and restrained, more in the mould of knowing it is great without having to shout about it. On the palate, there is power and depth, concentration and density of fruit, with layers of red cherry, blueberry, sour red plum and piquant, grippy chalky natural grape tannins. There is plenty of energy here, power and intensity, all as you’d expect from a warm powerful vintage in Piedmont. This is an a impressive addition to the Gaja Barbaresco archive and one you should probably look to start drinking in 3 to 5 years and cellar for 20+. A very impressive wine indeed.

(Greg Sherwood MW –  95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting with the great Angelo Gaia at the winery.

A Vinous Exploration into the Old Vine Wines of Campania, Italy – Tasting the Fascinating Wines of Joaquin Winery…

In a small and beautiful town called Montefalcione, located in the Campania region of southern Italy, lies the winery of Joaquin, built in 1999 and known for two of the greatest DOCG wines produced in the area: Fiano di Avellino and Aglianico Taurasi.

Raffaele Pagano, the colourful owner of Joaquin Wines first produced his own “non-family winery” wines in 2006 and ever since has been very clear about what he wants to achieve… “To me, it’s all about finding the right grape that is matched to the right soil. I decided to look for authentic vineyards to grow local grapes, which I think is how everyone should do it.”

According to Raffaele, each of his wines are supposed to be unique with low production volumes resulting in focused, characterful, expressive, individual high end wines with great texture, terroir nuances and complexity.

Owner and winemaker Raffaele Pagano

Originally from a famous Salerno based winemaking family that has more than 250 years of winemaking heritage, Raffaele decided to go it alone and established the Joaquin winery founded on a mission to become the flag bearer for one of the great wines of Campania, the Fiano, starting from a meticulous study and selection of antique, pre-phylloxera vineyards in the area of Lapio and Montefalcione, regarded as the original habitat for this variety. Since 1999, Raffaele has been working tirelessly to create an expression of Fiano which is the quintessence of the terroir of Lapio, with a purebred typicity that is different from the other Fiano wines produced from the local area.

Old vine Fiano vineyards of Joaquin

His winemaking model has also been applied to other varieties, creating a unique production philosophy which has come to characterize the Joaquin brand. With the motto “with each new vintage, a new project,” only the best wines which excel in a given vintage are produced and bottled, a philosophy which can lead to some cuvees not being produced for 2 or 3 consecutive vintages.

Probably the most unique 1.2 hectares of up to 200 year old Aglianico vines used for the Joaquin Taurasi DOCG Riserva.

The Joaquin winery also hand crafts unique wines on the beautiful and prestigious island of Capri, located off the coast of Sorrento. Here they perform what Raffaele likes to call “triage viticulture” … the recovery of indigenous varieties and the meticulous restoration of small, local vineyards, a project in which JOAQUIN DALL’ISOLA (Joaquin from the island) wines strive to safeguard the few vines left on the island, with varietals like Greco, Falanghina, Biancolella and the local “Ciunchesa” (an antique clone of Greco) being bottled, usually together as a white blend.

Over two fascinating days, I trawled many of the multiple vineyard sites Raffaele owns or contracts for the various Joaquin wines. It must be said, I encountered some of the oldest and most fascinating historical vineyards I have seen throughout Europe. With a dry, warm Mediterranean climate, vines in some secluded vineyards have managed to slumber their way past 250 years of age.

It seems only fitting that one of the most passionate, colourful, eccentric and generous winemakers should use these very rare, old vines to craft incredibly unique, boutique but thoroughly authentic natural expressions. While Raffaele remains an unashamed dreamer, the quality he has achieved with his profound Joaquin range of wines is very much a reality. Seek them out and indulge in these fascinating Campania whites and reds.

(Available in the UK from Woodwinters and throughout the EU from Classico)

Tasting at the Joaquin Winery:

Joaquin dall’Isola Bianco 2017, Campania, 12 Abv.

(1,700 bottles) Field blend of Greco, Fananghina, Biancolella and Ciunchesa. A striking, lifted nose showing intense savoury pear purée, tangerine peel, briney maritime notes, banana rock candy and attractive orange blossom complexity. There is a very fine sleek texture, fleshy, creamy round mouthfeel and a very vibrant salinity. Quite light on its feet, but displays impressive acidity and a long savoury, yellow stone fruit finish. Very young but a great terroir expression. Give this time or drink with food.

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

Joaquin dall’Isola Bianco 2009, Campania, 12 Abv. (Produced only in Magnum)

Deep dark yellow straw, the aromatics are exotic and complex, revealing tertiary notes of truffle, grain meal, bruised yellow orchard fruits, baking herbs, waxy green apple and savoury creamy peachy fruits. Round, fleshy and full in the mouth, this wine shows a riper vintage character with softer acids, pithy herbal green tea spice and a long, unctuous finish.

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

Joaquin Iviaggi Aglianico Bianco 2006, Campania, 13.47 Abv. (2,300 bottles)

Aged 5 months in acacia oak, this was the last bottle of Raffaele’s first vintage of Joaquin. Superbly complex nose with herbal candied gooseberry notes, dried Seville oranges, pithy marmalade, orange cordial and exotic peach tea nuances. Similar in many ways to a dry botrytis white with a delicious hard toffee sweets character, peach tea, orange pastille, and grapefruit marmalade, all framed by incredibly vibrant, fresh crunchy green fruit acids. It teases the senses, plays with the palate, enchants and seduces without any trickery, just with its innate complexity and terroir expression embellished by the passage of time.

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

Joaquin Piante A Lapio Fiano Bianco 2012, IGT Campania, 13.5 Abv.

100% Fiano from 80 to 100+ year old vines. Natural yeast ferment, then aged in chestnut oak for 10 months with a natural flor cap developing as barrels are not topped up. The nose is exotic and complex with aromatics of grilled herbs, fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, savoury pork fat with youthful pithy yellow orchard fruits peeking out from beneath. The palate follows suit with incredible intensity and concentration with massive saline, peppery honied lemon peel depth, baking herbs and orange pastille sweets. A very profound expression with inspired winemaking and exceptional Old Vine fruit. A wine that pushes boundaries and challenges the mind and palate.

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

Joaquin Taurasi Riserva DOCG 2010, Campania, 15.10 Abv.

100% Aglianico grapes with 30 days post fermentation maceration on skins in 500 litre barrels. The colour is comparable to a 2010 Gevrey Chambertin with a fine translucent garnet character on the rim. The nose is multi-faceted and complex with enticing notes of coffee granules, salty liquorice, stewed black berries, black cherry and subtle savoury notes of balsamic drizzled over bresaola. On the palate there is incredible power, freshness and definition with textural layers of brûléed coffee beans, black liquorice, grilled herbs and baking spices merging synergistically, underpinned by gravelly, basalt mineral tannins. A whole lot of wine packed into a bottle. Fabulous with food, perfect for ageing and drinking beautifully with 8 years of age… and it’s only the estate’s current release.

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

The unique unicorn wine that is the Buona Morte Taurasi Riserva DOCG 2009 red, as yet unlabelled.

Joaquin Taurasi Riserva DOCG Buona Morte 2009, Campania, 15.3 Abv.

100% Aglianico fruit from vines up to 200+ years old from the village of Paternopoli. Aged 30 days on skins post fermentation and then aged for 8 years in one 225 litre barrique without any topping up. The wine has the colour of a 10 year old Barolo and the complex, tertiary aromatics of blood oranges, cognac spice, grilled herbs and a bold lick of raspberry balsamic savoury depth. There is VA lift in a Chateau Musar meets traditional Cru Barolo style but the wine’s stability keeps its integrity in check. As Raffaele says, ‘there is no power without control’, and this wine exemplifies his philosophy of long ageing of terroir-driven old vine fruit combined with winemaking knowhow. The finish is unctuous, glycerol and almost sweet, with seductive length and power. Profound on so many levels. Only 150 bottles due for first release in 2019.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Church of the Venerabile Confraternita della Buona Morte that lends its name to the Joaquin Taurasi Riserva Prestige Cuvee red DOCG.

http://www.joaquinwines.com

An Attractive Brunello di Montalcino Made Using Biodynamic Principles – Tasting Piombaia 2013…

It is always a pleasure to visit Montalcino, especially when the region is riding high in popularity. This trip, I was fortunate to visit Francesco Cantini, the winemaker at Piombaia winery.

Created out of the union of the Rossi and Cantini families, the estate has always been run in a sympathetic way but it was only in 2009, after decades of ‘Lutte raisonnees’ that the winery turned to organic and biodynamic principles.

Francesco Cantini discussing biodynamics

The terrain of Piombaia Estate covers an area of about 210 hectares at an altitude of between 400 and 600 metres, with the 12 hectares of vineyard plantings divided into 12 separate 1 hectare plots, ensuring the best quality grapes can be managed and harvested separately.

From a cooler, more classical vintage, the weather was perfect until August with just a little refreshing rain in June and July, before the weather became noticeably cooler. Harvesting started on the 10th October and the natural yeast +-10 day non-temperature controlled alcoholic fermentation commenced with an additional 28 days skin maceration post fermentation before ageing 3 years in 70% Slovenian oak, 25% large French oak and 5% in large tonneau.

Rossi.Cantini Soc. Agricola Piombaia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013, 13.5 Abv.

The nose is precise and intense with attractive aromatics of cherry blossom, red cherry skins, red apple and sour red plums. The oak is beautifully integrated lending the most subtle earthy, savoury, foresty wood spice notes and is almost imperceptible on the palate which is dominated by bruised sour plums, chalky pithy red cherry and vibrant fresh acids. So delicious, cool, harmonious and elegant, with a really classical mineral graphite slant and a piquant, saline, crisp energetic finish. An impressive and slightly alternative expression of Brunello. Drink now or cellar for 10+ years.

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

It’s Nero d’Avola But Not As You Know It – Tasting The Tenuta di Fessina ERO 2013…

Tenuta di Fessina is an winemaking project which took shape based on Silvia Maestrelli’s love of the land. In 2007, with the help of winemaker Federico Curtaz, who had worked as Gaja’s agronomist for twenty years, the Tuscan wine producer purchased an old vineyard of Nerello Mascalese grapes dating back to the past century. In the middle of the vineyard stood a true gem: an eighteenth -century lava millstone with the chianca – the winepress – still intact.

L’vigne di Fessina, as the locals have always called the Rovittello vineyards, located in the town of Castiglione di Sicilia, show all the love and care poured into them by the previous owners over generations. Their ERO is produced from Nero d’Avola fruit sourced in Val di Noto, south west of Syracuse.

In 2013, a dry spring followed a long and not too hot summer. August and September were characterized by abundant and unusual rainfall, favouring a slower and gradual maturation of healthy grapes with an interesting aromatic profile. After a rather cold and wet September, an October of fine dry weather followed, which allowed for a favourable harvest with fully healthy Nero d’Avola grapes.

Tenuta di Fessina ERO Nero d’Avola 2013, DOC Sicilia, 12.5 Abv.

Fantastically expressive nose of ripe red and black berry fruits, sun dried cranberries, bruised black plums, stewed winter fruits, wet straw and subtle peacan pie and molasses hints. While there are ripe, raisined black berry notes, you’d be mistaken for thinking this was just another run of the mill, over-ripe, sun drenched, sweet fruited, simple Nero d’Avola from Sicily. While the fruit for ERO is not from the Etna region where the winery is situated, it is handle in a more delicate Etna’ish manner, showing wonderful freshness, elegance and delicacy on the palate. The palate bristles with fresh acids, suave textured red fruits, cranberries, raspberries and logan berry with a delicious underlay of chalky, mineral tannic grip. So cool, so elegant, so fresh, this wine totally defies the stereotypical style of Nero d’Avola. Already 5 years old, this wine is as fresh as a daisy and should drink very well for another 6 to 8+ years. A really classy expression.

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

Possibly the Greatest Value Red Wine in Piedmont ~ Tasting Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2016…

There are not many certainties in the world of fine wine, but there are some. One is that Cantina Terlaner is the greatest white wine Co-operative in the world. The second is that Produttori del Barbaresco is the greatest red wine Co-operative in the world! It is also one of the most innovative, consistent and highly acclaimed producers in Piedmont, making exquisite traditional Barbarescos that are among the best examples of the appellation.

This famed co-operative in Piedmont dates back to 1894; forced to close in the 1920s because of fascist economic rules, it was regenerated and revived in 1958 by the village priest of Barbaresco who recognized that the only way the small properties could survive long term was by joining forces and combining their efforts. Today the cooperative has 56 members and 100+ hectares of Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco appellation, which amounts to almost 1/6 of the vineyards of the area.

Their Langhe Nebbiolo in particular has long been one of the greatest and most profound value reds on the market, recognised and lauded buy critics far and wide. The 2016 is no exception and once again pushes the boundaries of red wine quality even further.

Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2016, 14.5 Abv.

This is a super attractive 100% Nebbiolo wine sourced from DOCG certified Barbaresco vineyards. Grapes were picked from both younger vines, lower aspect sites and vineyard spots that don’t quite meet the high standards of the Produttori Barbaresco co-operative. There are beautiful aromatics of sappy red cherry, red liquorice, star anise and tarry spice. The palate is gorgeously pure, finely poised and elegantly harmonious. It seems almost inconceivable that a wine so attractive can cost less the £20. It possesses such wonderful core focus and finishes with tender, sleek fine grained tannins and deliciously fresh mouth watering acids. Such a pleasure to drink and impressively, you’d never detect the 14.5 alcohol such is it’s cool, polished refinement. A truly tantalising release. Drink now to 2026+

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

Another Superb Giuseppe Rinaldi Red Reviewed ~ Tasting the Barbera d’Alba 2016…

I visited the Gaja estate in Barbaresco just before harvest in 2016 and everything was looking set for another high quality harvest across Barolo and Barbaresco. So now it seems the consensus throughout the Piedmont region is that 2016 stands as a very promising and potentially exceptional high quality vintage.

Most producers in the region felt happy with the final results of the harvest season, reporting a crop both high in quality and quantity, with grapes possessing sugar concentration to rival the richness of 2015 but with greater structure and livelier acidity.

Giuseppe Rinaldi Barbera d’Alba 2016, 14 Abv.

This beautiful 2016 Barbera d’Alba from Giuseppe Rinaldi echoes the above sentiments and is evidence of another very good vintage. The nose is slightly exotic but very alluring. Plenty of black cherry coulis, wood smoke, hints of tar, sweet tobacco, black plum spice, oyster shell and salty cassis. Obviously very youthful still, however there is a silent confidence to this wine. The palate reveals ripe fruit and ample textured roundness but with perhaps a little more mineral grip and piquant tannins than the fleshier, riper 2015 expression. With such opulent bright black and red berry fruits bolstered by a mouth watering refreshing acidity, this wine impresses from start to finish. Wonderful depth and harmonious balance, you get to see the real ability of this great classical Piedmont estate to deliver iconic reds vintage after vintage. Barbera can really be a real thing of beauty when handled with serious intent. Drink now to 2028+.

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