The Bold and the Beautiful – Tasting the New Paolo Conterno Barolo Cru Ginestra 2015…

It all started way back in 1886, when Paolo Conterno founded the Casa della Ginestra winery dedicated to the production of Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto wines. A hard worker with a mind of great intuition, he devoted the most favourable parts of the Ginestra hillside to the growing of the best grapes, subdividing them by type, exposure and terrain.

He also had the foresight to predict a growing demand from a market of educated connoisseurs for superior quality red wines, leading to him selling his own wines in wooden casks produced in his own cellar. Succeeded by his son Carlo and his wife Giuseppina, the winery was subsequently run by Paolo and Caterina Conterno and now today by their son, Giorgio Conterno. As in the past, each generation has made its own individual contribution both in the winery and also in the vineyards.

Their 10 hectares of calcareous-clayey loam is favourably situated at an altitude of between 300 and 350 metres on slopes of up to 38 degrees, prevalently exposed to the south and in part to the south east. The Ginestra Cru in Monforte d’Alba is today one of the most important vineyards in Barolo producing iconic age worthy Nebbiolo red wines.

Paolo Conterno Barolo Cru Ginestra 2015, 15 Abv., Piedmont

2015 was a warm and opulent vintage in Barolo producing wines with great breadth, depth, power and concentration. The aromatics on this Ginestra are bold and punchy with layer upon layer of salty red liquorice, sun dried red cherries, pink musk and aniseed root nuances. The palate is ultra compact and powerful, almost muscular with a real intensity of sweet mineral tannins, raisined cranberries, stewed wild strawberries and a subtle, savoury, earthy, creamy textured finish. A very confident, ripe Nebbiolo expression from one of Barolo’s great Cru terroirs. Should drink well in its youth and also perform over the long term.

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

Tasting the Sensational New Release Marchesi Di Gresy Martinenga 2015 with Jeff Chilcott in London…

If the wines of Angelo Gaja are the Domaine de la Romanee Conti of Barbaresco, then in my mind the pure, precise, fragrant, linear expressions from Kiwi winemaker Jeff Chilcott must surely be the Armand Rousseau. Coming from a site famous since ancient Roman times, the Marchesi Di Gresy estate was originally known as ‘Villa Martis’ with its 11 hectares of single vineyard Martinenga Nebbiolo producing some of the best Barbaresco DOCG reds in the region.

Marchesi Di Gresy own the entirety of Martinenga and split it into three cru terroirs – Gaiun (2.3ha south-facing), Camp Gros (2.6ha south-west facing) and Martinenga (6.5ha facing south/south-west). This ideal exposure at an altitude of 250-280m contains a very special soil composition of blue marl (a mix of clay, chalk and limestone) which all help combine to produce wines of exceptional class, structure and finesse.

Tasting with winemaker Jeff Chilcott in London recently.

The owner Alberto is rarely over in London showing his estate’s wines but these days is more often than not ably supported by his daughter Ludovica and son Alessandro. I recently caught up with Jeff on one of his flying visits to London and had the opportunity to taste the range with him including his sensational new Martinenga 2015 Barbaresco.

Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Martinenga 2015, 14.5 Abv.

From a warm year in Barbaresco, winemaker Jeff Chillcott recons they managed to make a very decent wine. Piedmont of course prefers the cooler years, but in 2015 they had to pick before the end of September. The wine is fabulously perfumed and precise with a piquant note of dried almonds, sour red cherry, pink musk, exotic cherry blossoms and red currant crumble. On the palate there is the usual impressive precision, purity and linearity you find in all Jeff’s Barbarescos. The entry is very seductive with a sweet pocket of spicy, pithy red cherry confit combined with a gravelly minerality. The texture is oh so fine, like polished marble and the acids fresh but soft and perfectly integrated. Medium bodied in weight, silky smooth and utterly seductive, this wine has enough ripeness, freshness and mineral tannin grip to allow good age ability. Definitely one for the collection!

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

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)

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)

Baby Unicorns Taste Even Better – Drinking the New Giuseppe Rinaldi Barbera d’Alba 2015…

Sometimes even just mentioning a wine repeatedly is enough to add to the collector feeding frenzy let alone actually tasting and rating a wine. But any Italian or Piedmont follower will already be fully aware of the explosion in demand for the cult wines of Giuseppe Rinaldi over the past 2 to 3 years. Forget trying to buy their Tre Tine Barolo blend let alone his Brunate Cru! Even sourcing the “lesser” Dolcetto, Freisa and Barbera d’Alba have become a major challenge in itself.

But it is only when you taste the wines that you realise why this traditionally leaning producer has acquired the cult following that they have. The wines are beautifully classical, pure, unadulterated, subtly mineral, full of energy and tension and of course, utterly delicious.

The 2015 growing season in Piedmont included the region’s hottest July since 1880. That might have endangered grape quality but plentiful reserves of water after a wet winter kept vines from shutting down, and growers were better adapted to managing leaf canopies this time compared to the torrid 2003 vintage, thus being able to keep the vines healthy and promote more even grape ripening.

July and August were also windy, keeping air circulating through the leaves and avoiding excessive heat under the canopies. Vineyards higher on the slopes may have enjoyed a slight advantage over warmer, less breezy downhill spots, enjoying longer ripening periods. In addition, higher diurnal temperature swings in September provided the right conditions for ripening both sugars and tannins in not only Nebbiolo but also Barbera.

Giuseppe Rinaldi Barbera d’Alba 2015, Piedmont, 14 Abv.

From a super opulent ripe vintage in Piedmont comes yet another profound expression of Barbera from Giuseppe Rinaldi. The aromatics are so rich and exotic with sweet baking spices, black berry fruits tinged with brûléed oak spice notes and buttered brown toast. This wine is very expressive but also beautifully complex with fine palate weight and superb intense fruit concentration. Multi layered and textural, the brûléed black berry fruits reach all corners of the mouth with creamy blueberry and black cherry depth and such delicious fleshy, harmonious elegance and power. Certainly a facet of this superb vintage, this wine has a definite feel of more modernity and purity of fruit than previously vintages. Really lush, attractive, and so mouth watering and drinkable. You wouldn’t expect anything less from this iconic cult producer. Drink now to 2028+

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

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)