Archives for the ‘Italy Tour Visit Post’ Category

Pass some Etna Passopisciaro

Mount Etna, Sicily’s spectacular volcano, is home to luxury wine growing. The mountain villages, known here as contrade, on its northern side, are excellent participants in the move towards fineness in red wine.

You see you need an address from these villages: Passopisciaro, Randazzo, Castiglione di Sicilia, Linguaglossa or Solicchiata to be an Etnean player in the steady race for wine fame. This is nerello mascalese country.

Wines from volcanic regions such as this high part of Sicily are on trend. They are excellent participants in the move towards fineness in red wine.

Italian entrepreneur Andrea Franchetti bought an old run-down winery (about 200 yo), last used at the time in 1947, which he renovated in 2002, and now our tasting tour party is drinking Passopisciaro wines there.

Icon wine Franchetti- a petit verdot-coda volpe blend

Icon-Franchetti- serious deep tannin, petit verdot-cesanese d’affile blend

The house vineyard, at 800m up the mountain looks a treat, thousands of silver flashers repel birds; harvest is just starting, the chardonnay is off, having malo-lactic fermentation (in a warmed room) and the nerello mascalese is about to arrive to be crushed as 2016 red.

Our Sicily wine tours take guests through the villages of Etna, offering introduction-only visits to wineries, only some open to the public.  If you’d like to find out more about this exclusive guided experience for lovers of wine and food, you can call me direct on +61 427 705 391 or email denisew@uncorkedandcultivated.com.au.

We are at Passopisciaro to be greeted by their affable marketer, Letizia Patane whose forebears made wine on the mountain for the past century. And as she expresses, “Etna as a production region is an island within an island, though a high, cool climate one.”

So we get the immediate impression the place is seen by local makers to be entirely different from production regions elsewhere on the island without black, rocky, knarled and moon-like landscapes.

We hear the only white wine of Passo is chardonnay (an exceptional world example), and that there are red vineyard plantings at varying elevations (500-1000m).

The higher you grow nerello the finer the wine (read that as more linear texture, less fullness), the later and harder to ripen and be fully ripe. At about 800m proper growth of red grapes is halted. Nerello in dialect means light black and wine colour is similar.

We taste the contrada Rampante (700 m) and contrada Chiappemacine (500m) among the five; Porciara, Sciaranouva and Guardiola.

PASSOPISCIARO DRINKS IGP

Passobianco 2015 is the famed chardonnay, such a good drink, fermented and aged in big barrels (700-2000 litre), so little oak shows, lovely green, spearmint fruit, never fat, overt or stonefruit like, taut, trimmed to the bone of acidity, totally linear and mineralising in the mouth. A triumph. Harvested during 20 passes on sunny days when the diurnal swing can be 25 degrees.

Passopisciaro age chardonnay in large oak

Passopisciaro age chardonnay in large oak

Chardonnays made this way are unusual in Australia though the technique is very sound. It minimises the influence of oak in today’s sommelier-led revolution where anything ‘apparently artifical’ does not go down. Released next February.

Passorosso 2014 is the estate blend of wines not reserved for the single vineyard contrade bottlings (specific elevations too). This is good; lovely fresh aromatics of the mountain herbs; laurel, bay and a swish of black fruits, lithe, light bodied, long flavoured. The 100% nerello mascalese Passo is known for, seen as a first level wine, not an introductory wine.

Passopisciaro's Passorosso nerello mascalese level 1

Passopisciaro’s Passorosso nerello mascalese level 1

Passopisciaro R 2014 is a single contrada vineyard selection from Ramparte; the high elevation gives more linearity than body, and bright acidity keeps the taste humming along. Nice wine, understated, long liver, 7-15 years’ potential even at 15% alcohol.

Passopisciaro -Contrada Rampante single vineyard nerello

Passopisciaro Contrada Ramparte –single vineyard nerello mascalese

Passopisciaro C 2014 is the next tasted single vineyard wine from lower elevation, the Chiappemacine vineyard; more the mouthful of nerello showing more body, a direct result of richness derived from warmer ripening conditions in the same year. Great on black fruits.

Passopisciaro - Contrada Ramparte-single vineyard nerello mascalese

Passopisciaro  Chiappemacine — single vineyard nerello mascalese

This is outstanding wine country but like any region where the benefits are great (outstanding wines), the growing process and more important, the ripening phase is very exacting to extract great nerello.

Passopisciaro climb that ripening peak each harvest without extravagant winemaking.

 

Crushing grapes on the Produttori high street

Via Torino in Barbaresco village is just a short 300-metre street. Yet it houses two powerhouse wineries in Produttori del Barbaresco at one end, and Gaja in the middle.

The Produttori de Barbaresco fascinates me with its successes. It controls 15% of the DOCG, and more single crus, nine, than any other owner in the three villages; Treiso, Nieve or Barbaresco, which constitute the wine denomination Barbaresco.

Prices of this Italian wine category keep firming so let’s discover why.

The Produttori del Barbaresco, a co-operative, consists of 54 member farmers, is successful and as Uncorked’s visit was on the first day of the 2016 harvest, we met a few of them as they lined their tractors in the street to deliver grapes.

Our Italy wine tours take guests through the hills of Piedmont offering introduction-only visits to wineries, only some open to the public.  If you’d like to find out more about this exclusive guided experience for lovers of wine and food, you can call me direct on +61 427 705 391 or email denisew@uncorkedandcultivated.com.au.

Produttori growers on the charge to deliver nebbiolo – Day 1 harvest 2016 on Uncorked and Cultivated’s visit to Barbaresco village.

But Barbaresco (the wine) and Produttori are all about a great drink, made from the thick skinned, leathery actually, nebbiolo grape. It’s the street hero.

Harvested nebbiolo-10 kg crates here

Harvested nebbiolo-10 kg crates here

Drinkers in the know come from all over the world to see this wine town perched on the Barbaresco hill alongside its tower, built there since the Middle Ages to spy on visitors, and past insurgents. Note the tower on their label.

Uncorked’s tours take you where the real taste action is, and on this day, we meet the Produttori board chief, and head winemaker, an affable, historically-knowledgeable Aldo Vacca.

Aldo Vacca CEO & Author

Produttori’s Aldo Vacca CEO-Author

PRODUTTORI NEBBIOLO TASTE

The reason for nebbiolo addiction is simple for this Master of Wine to digest. The flavours of this grape persist in your mouth, they are subtle and never simple or capable of drowning your food. Nebbiolo is light bodied, brisk in tannin and ever present in acidity.

The palate can be extended, not dulled as overt wine fruit jam does from warmer climes, then lead you on to the enjoyment of savoury notes.

Your dinner is not sweet but savoury after all? This is wine pairing. Juicy meats or charred beef or north African spice for example. Food savouriness + flavours which tread lightly. Yum.

DRINK PRODUTTORI

PDB Langhe Nebbiolo 2014 Always the budget option to get into nebbiolo for your first time, an easy drink made from younger vines in grower vineyards. Sold earlier as a non-aging style.

PDB Barbaresco 2013 The new vintage just out for sale now. The real deal wine of the Produttori, a blend of all growers’ grapes not including single vineyard crus (the nine).

Barbaresco 2013

Produttori Barbaresco 2013

PDB Barbaresco 2012 The vintage just gone, very lithe and flavoursome, capable of 5-7 years easy aging to plateau its drinking.

Barbaresco 2012

Produttori Barbaresco 2012

PDB Barbaresco 2011 A vintage showing some aged character so well advanced now. A good example for the visitors to “get” how nebbiolo projects as it ages.

PDB Rabaja Riserva 2009 These are regarded as the reserves of Produttori, and they overlap as families’ single vineyard crus, basically the best expression of the grape in a range of terroirs that occur, and are captured from the three village expanse which is DOCG Barbaresco.

Rabaja cru 2009

Produttori’s Rabaja cru 2009

Grower families Antona, Arossa, Casetta, Lembo, Lignana, Manzone, Rocca, Vacca, Vezza are in this blend this year.

The Produttori takes only nebbiolo grapes – no barbera, dolcetto or pelaverga, or no white variety. Just the top of the pinnacle red variety which keeps the quality and wine purity. Commendable.

DOCG – is the physical and hence geographical boundary of Barbaresco wine producers; production must lie inside or one cannot use the name; Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita.

Certification of a Co-Operative

Certification of a Co-Operative

 

Rocca di Frassinello: read about Maremma’s finest wine

Renzo Piano has no trouble putting a spell on my thoughts. A moment of reflection brings two words; Tuscan orange and green, colours of the winery at Rocca di Frassinello, Genoa-born Renzo’s architectural invention.

Approaching Rocca di Frassinello winery on Uncorked and Cultivated’s Tuscany Wine Tour 2016

Our Italy wine tours take guests through the depths of Tuscany, offering introduction-only visits to wineries, some open to the public.  If you’d like to find out more about this exclusive guided experience for lovers of wine and food, you can call me direct on +61 427 705 391 or email denisew@uncorkedandcultivated.com.au.

There it is; sliced, carved and integrated into a 60 hectare Maremma vineyard landscape 50 km north on the Gavorrano coast of the Tuscan town of Grosetto. Planting from 1996 to 2004 has included the staple local grape sangiovese transported from owner’s Paolo Panerai Chianti Classico Castellina property of foundation plants. Added is cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah, and recently vermentino, now the goto white drink of all Tuscany.

However Rocca were not the first growing grapes here on the old tin mining, grazing and once malaria-ridden country. The Etruscians were pre-Roman, as recent small necropolis excavations have revealed. But maybe not growing sangiovese then? One day we will know.

Etruscian Urn-Necropolis of San Germano

Etruscian Urn-Necropolis of San Germano

Rocca through its winemakers, and grape whisperers have trodden lightly with the mix. This is about respect for local sangiovese, a tough variety, hard to get excellent responses, is given a high priority to grow best, show its naturally grippy tannin to ripen to the top of that expected. Work hard, ripen. So as in all Tuscany it is a late finisher, cranky but fulfilling to get there, causing some lost bunches along the way. That’s cool if a few end up on the ground.

Colleague & Rocca Winemaker Massimo Cassegrande

Colleague & Rocca Winemaker Massimo Cassegrande

What would you drink from Rocca?

Well sangiovese and international variety blends with increasing levels of oak time, fruit strips and time investment. This is in common with a Bordeaux Chateau approach of scaling price and perceived quality – Rocca is a half share venture with Domaines Rothschild in Pauillac. That’s the labelling. All wines are DOC Maremma Toscana.

Entry stage is the unwooded (cement tank aged, an increasing trend) Poggio alla Guardia 2014; 50% cabernet sauvignon, 30% sangiovese, 20% merlot, nice and rounded, fruity, soft, easy, drink early and don’t concentrate too hard; that’s the intention. Smash it down.

The Ornello 2013 is drinking and softening very well; created from 2006 to take advantage of what the syrah grown here can provide for your drink. Try 40% sangiovese, 20% cabernet, 20% merlot, 20% syrah to make a successful rounded wine; look for the chocolate such is the great ripeness.

Le Sughere di Frassinello 2013 is the deputy wine to the top property wine. Think 50% sangiovese, 25% cabernet, 25% merlot; a terrific wine to handle some aging time though long is not needed; cedary, red-fruited, silky tannins and long on taste. Shaped by some master sangiovese blenders here.

Le Sughere di Frassinello 2013

Le Sughere di Frassinello 2013

Rocca di Frassinello 2013 is on song now, very deep colour alongside its brothers, so expect little change unless age kicks in 3-5 years time. It is well composed; layered, cherry fruit, from 65% sangiovese, 25% cabernet, 10% merlot, some leafiness, refreshing is the brightness of the fruit, just outstanding, nicely wound tannin from 18 months in barrel; just a super Maremma wine. Needs you to drink one.

Rocca di Frassinello 2013

Rocca di Frassinello 2013

Tuscany is a battleground for grand wines called Super Tuscans since the 90s. By old definition all the past wines just reviewed are Super Tuscan as sangiovese-international variety blends. So Super Super Tuscan is a greater category now.

One perverse result is Baffonero 2013; a creation since 2007 made totally of merlot, grown extremely and heavily emphasised in detailed winemaking which could be repeated from Bordeaux’s hyper-expensive Pomerol merlots. The leader in Tuscany is Ornellaia’s Massetto, so here is Rocca’s contender.

Baffonero 2013

Baffonero 2013

Baffonero is very dense, deliberately concentrated by its viticulture, extreme, layers of fruits, coffee and cacao, new oak sweetness, powdery tannins, many but soft and round. That’s a deep play on merlot.

No doubt the Etruscians did not make merlot, just early versions of sangiovese which lasted a few days.

Barolo by Ceretto

We are driving on the flat out of Alba besides hazelnut plantations, the small Piedmontese town wedged between a series of two wine hills: Barolo and Barbaresco, viewing the Roero hills to the north as we speed west for just ten minutes.

The converted farmhouse is in sight at San Cassiano; the family Ceretto’s main property, Monsordo Bernardina cantina since 1989, originally built in the 1880s. The Cerettos own 160 hectares of vines.

We are here to understand what the Ceretto success is all about for there is a murmur about a dominant white wine and an international red Monsordo turning the minds of drinkers. Nothing better from this organic maker.

And indeed, an Australian assists in the making of wines here. Formerly McLaren Vale based David Fletcher is assistant winemaker to chief Alessandro Ceretto, keeping an eye on production at wineries in Castiglione Falletto (Barolo), here at Monsordo Bernardina (Langhe) and smaller needs at Bricco Asili in Barbaresco. This is estate production taken to completion! The fourth, the bubbly winery is further east in Santo Stefano Belbo.

Host Alessandro Ceretto

Host Alessandro Ceretto

I am totally amazed looking west towards Grinzane Cavour, the towering castles overlooking vines, and learn of non traditional Piedmontese grapes planted here. In the craze to plant French grapes through the 80’s, Ceretto found their newly minted wine to be vividly popular.

Tried was Monsordo 2013 Langhe DOC, packed in a thoroughly hip bottle, an admixture of cabernet (50%), merlot and syrah, quite bizarre to encounter, very much cedary from careful oak application and fruits of spice, spearmint and licorice. Bravo, a winner in USA.

But we were present to taste the local hero grape, nebbiolo. And that was a hoot as the Cerettos served the young then a mature vintage from the same place; a sort of fast track tasting to see the wines develop glass by glass. Fab.

The Ceretto family are traditionalists so the New World style wine Monsordo ages in 300 litre French forest-origin containers called hogsheads while the nebbiolo is found in some 300/500 litre oak but mainly larger vessels, 2500 litres upwards made of the more neutral white oak from Croatian trees. Of interest though is the renewed interest to move to Austrian-sourced oak for coming maturings.

Nebbiolo must not smell of its oak habitat at making to be right on style. Unlike Napa Valley cabernet, too much oak detected in high end nebbiolo is deemed a fault. Dave Fletcher adds that the sweet spot is only 10-15% new wood so it is easily covered by blending later. But 3 years is a long time in barrel. So no faults here.

First wine is single vineyard 2008 Barbaresco Bricco Asili (1.2 ha, 39 year-old-vines) , fresh in its nebbiolo purity, licorice, sweet, it feels good in the mouth, classic tannin which remains as a long sensation; just starting to age, 10-15 years will hold it.

Ceretto Barbaresco Bricco Asili 2008-from Treiso

Ceretto Barbaresco Bricco Asili 2008-from Barbaresco

Then single vineyard (1.2 ha in Castiglione Falletto) 2006 Barolo Bricco Roche (one of four, also Brunate-La Morra, Cannubi San Lorenzo-Barolo and Prapo-Serrulunga), has begun aging also, shows mushroom, bitumen, strength, then great sweetness impressions alongside its firming tannins. Great.

Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche 2006 from Castiglione Falletto

Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche 2006 from Castiglione Falletto

Finally the last, aged Barolo, 1993 Bricco Roche, all tertiary so the fruits have been consumed by the aging aromas, truffle, fungi, tar, sweet aldehyde, tasting very dry as a 12 year-old, right in the middle of its aging end-point, and now a mature wine with little more to give than what it has. All was revealed: very dry red wine, silky, mushroomy and cheese loving. Mature.

Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche 1993

Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche 1993

Alessandro Ceretto noted that 50 years ago the annual rainfall was 1200-1300 mm with often soaking rain, now it has reduced to 800 mm with a deal of it delivered by storms. Heavy rain downpours cause vineyard erosion on the steep slopes causing a move to grass more vineyards. Climate swing.

And about Ceretto’s famous white wine, first made in 1985. It is varietal arneis, wildly popular now in Italy, all organic, fashionable in taste and easy to drink, all 600,000 bottles of it from 80 hectares of vines.

Aussie David Fletcher-custodian of Arneis

Aussie David Fletcher-custodian of Arneis

 

Uncorked and Cultivated Wine and Food Tours visit Ceretto at Monsordo Bernardina in San Cassiano, Alba.

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