Finding satin-textured, über-young Nebbiolo that calls to mind Foillard's Morgon Cuvée Corcelette more so than a customarily tannic Barbaresco is something I never considered possible. Stay with me here. Hunting down this silk-fruited trait simply was not on my Nebbiolo radar, as usually it's only conveyed by the ultra-modern Piedmont examples, which, stylistically, are not for me. But, when an iconic Burgundy producer tipped me off to this Barbaresco name I made sure to taste immediately.
Today, I'm happy to offer Paolo Veglio's Cascina Roccalini Barbaresco Roccalini. Including the supremely approachable 2015, 2014, and the rare 2013 Riserva.
Barbarescos from Roccalini flip preconceived notions of the region and its capabilities upside down. There's an up-front, plush immediacy of the fruit profile that's just so easy to drink, yet with complexity and a mid-palate grip that's true to Nebbiolo and this heralded zone of Piedmont. As far as the delicious-factor is concerned, this is a total knockout - Among Piedmont discoveries I've made since opening in 2015, this is atop my list.
Paolo Veglio's story meanders through the cellars of Bruno Giacosa where Paolo's father, an architect, took him as a young boy. Years later in 1991, Paolo returned to Giacosa and asked if he might be interested in purchasing grapes that he was now tending on his home property. A skeptical Giacosa asked, "And, which vineyard is this?" Paolo told him it was Roccalini. And Giacosa replied, "I'll see you in the morning."
The surprisingly fresh, approachable and remarkably seamless Barbaresco from Roccalini is undoubtedly derived from Paolo's natural approach. Living above the cellar and vines, Paolo knew early on that organic farming was not only necessary for producing the best possible wine, but also for a healthy family life on this estate.
Paolo's insistence on taking the road less traveled in Piedmont leads him to question conventional thinking. He says, "Every time I see something that's too easy, something's not right, something we don't know yet." And, his philosophy at every stage is to take the longer path, one that requires more time, effort, and patience. And, I promise you, what you will find in this bottle will be a revelation unlike any you've had from Piedmont.
Roccalini is a special vineyard, just as Bruno Giacosa knew. It was 10 years of trials before Paolo finally chose to bottle his own family label. Any trepidation about drinking current release Barbaresco can be tossed aside right now. This wine is ready to go and will open your eyes to a very unique spirit in Barbaresco. As holiday season is in full gear, I highly recommend you pair Roccalini with your favorite winter recipes and prepare to be floored.
The drive from Mt. Etna to Vittoria was a great reminder as to just how varied the landscape and terroir of Sicliy is. Temperatures rise and the climate turns dry and arid. It's hard to believe this place I'm headed is beloved for the freshness and clarity of its wines. There's no better introduction to the wines of Vittoria then through the 1980-founded dream project brewed up three young friends.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2018 COS Frappato for $26 per bottle, along with the COS Nero d'Avola and Cerasuolo.
Originally, Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti, and Cirino Strano (COS) chose as young men to produce 1,470 bottles of wine in October 1980. Cilia's father had a winery, and 3 hectares of nearby bush-trained vines were sourced. It was simply intended as a fun project. After showing the wine to a renowned sommelier in Palermo the trio received a much surprised enthusiastic response, and were told they needed to follow down this path.
The magic of Vittoria, one that took some time to make itself evident to the naked eye, is the soil and wind. There's a constant breeze coming from the Hyblaean mountains sweeping through these vines resting on red clay/sand over a deep bedrock of limestone. The wind helps moderate these inland temperatures preserving acidity, the red sand cools immediately after the sun sets, and the limestone is responsible for low pH levels in the wine - giving high acidity and nervy minerality. Organic and biodynamic viticulture here are implemented on all parcels.
Putting all this together it's clear why the red wines coming from COS resemble traditional Burgundy and Northern Rhone in their brightness, energy, and spice. Frappato and Nero d'Avola are the two main red varieties. An over-generalization can be made to the former resembling Pinot Noir, with the latter resembling Syrah. Blended together the most recognized of the wines of Vittoria is produced, called Cerasuolo.
COS has put these two obscure varieties on the worldwide map. Over the years the small region of Vittoria has garnered more attention, and rightfully so. The three friends are the ultimate ambassadors and are constantly pushing the envelope in maximizing the potential for their wines, never resting on their laurels.
I met with Giusto Occhipinti just as they were starting to bottle the new vintage. The Cerasuolo is fermented in cement and aged in large Slavonian oak casks, similar to what is used for traditional Barolo and Brunello. This is certainly one of the most important choices made to ensure the wines are accentuated by crisp, refreshing notes that make the wines a joy to drink, and just as importantly pair well at the dinner table with a wide range.
Naples is regarded as Italy's "ungovernable wild child", and exploring the city by foot last summer was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. Situated on the Mediterranean coast, it's ominously just west of Mt. Vesuvius. The city is synonymous with its famous Neapolitan style pizza, but truth be told, the real magic of Naples is its seafood. And, when I must choose from the delectably crisp and dynamic whites from the greater Campania region, without hesitation I turn to Ciro Picariello.
Today, I'm happy to offer Ciro's 2018 "BruEmm" Falanghina Beneventana at $25 per bottle.
Ciro Picariello is the rockstar of Campania. Everything he touches simply turns to gold. Even on a value-driven scale Ciro's whites have a richness and an extra 6th gear depth that's on a completely different level from his contemporaries.
The debut of Falanghina Beneventana from Ciro is immediately the benchmark for the grape. Tasting much over the years I'm accustomed to the variety's rich, textural personality with green apple notes and a faint honeyed inflection. Ciro's example works off these traits, but endows them with an pulsating stream of mineral verve and a textural gloss that surprisingly remains taut despite the extra horsepower. There's an added layer of white peaches and mountain herbs that showcase Falanghina's most compelling side.
Without a doubt, this debut was one of the most thrilling young Italian whites I've ever tasted. At $25 per bottle, the value here is shocking until you look at the entire Picariello portfolio. It's the model for affordable, great Italian whites that transcend their categories. I've also featured the range from Ciro below, including his Greco and Fiano.
Ciro's small production comes equally from 7 hectares where high altitude plantings are the focus. Only stainless steel is used at the winery, wines are kept undisturbed on fine lees for aging, and only small amounts of sulphur are added. As Ciro has proven, when executed with precision this brings the flavors one step closer to the raw materials on vine and a distinct sense of place. This is the best stable of young white wines coming from southern Italy today.
Often I'll beat the drum for the small, family producer. Campania's wines are overwhelmingly dominated by large brands with insipid products from an industrial approach. Ciro represents the other side of the spectrum, the absolute height of what can be achieved when conscientious and fastidious work is the foundation. To close out August, there's no white wines more salivating and delicious than those from this Campania benchmark!
The magic of the wines coming from Elisabetta Foradori's estate in Trentino's Dolomite Mountains has been well documented here before. Today, I'm happy to turn to some new arrivals covering a huge diversity of colors and styles.
In a world where skin-macerated whites seem to be vying for the title of orangest, haziest, apricottyest, the elegance and grace in Nosiola is a reminder of the possibilities. Aged on the skins in amphora, the result is a bright, orchard and citrus mountain stream with an amazing texture that never once makes you think orange wine. As compared to Elizabetta's Pinot Grigio and Manzoni Bianco, Nosiola is leaner and less obviously skin contact. Its subtlety is what impresses the most.
Nosiola is an ancient variety that's native to the Trentino. Plantings have reduced drastically over the last centuries, and today is primarily in these hills in the Valle dei Laghi above Trento and Pessano. Nosiola really strives in porous soils, planted here on just two hectares of a limestone/clay mix. The delicacy and more reserved nature of this white is largely attributed growth on these depleted soils. And, long maceration on skins in clay amphora (tinaja from Villarrobledo, Spain) slowly coax out Nosiola's personality. Decanting and serving above 60 degrees is highly recommended.
Manzoni Bianco is a cross between Riesling and Pinot Bianco, developed by Dr. Manzoni in the 20th century. It comes from the clay and limestone Fontanasanta hills above Trento. It's macerated for one week on its skins in cement tank and then pressed off into Acacia barrels for 12 months aging.Foradori's Teroldegos are the kinds of wines I'd like to see on the list at every restaurant I frequent, as their versatility is remarkable. The wines from this esoteric variety open with notes of dark plums and licorice, then soften allowing more floral and herbaceous qualities to come to the forefront, finishing with fine pronounced minerality. From first sip to the last, these wines of Elisabetta are always changing, and fascinating to no end. Foradori Teroldego comes from gravelly soils, aged in a combination of neutral barrels and stainless steel.
Foradori Sgarzon Teroldego is darker and more concentrated, with greater black fruit emphasis, black licorice, and wild savory spices.
From sandy soils. 8 months macerating in amphore, with further aging in large neutral barrel.
Foradori Granato Teroldego comes from fine silt, limestone, and gravel soils. Vines for this cuvée were planted as far back as 1938, and as young as 1956. Aged in older foudre, Granato is the most refined and understated. Textured and creamy, black cherry, dark plums, and mint. Granato was the first "riserva-level" Teroldego that Foradori ever bottled in 1986.Elisabetta's journey to being one of the most respected natural wine producers in the world came with challenges. Her family purchased this Trentino estate in 1934, her father bottling his first vintage in 1960. His untimely passing in 1976 meant that her mother had to manage the winery until Elisabetta finished her enology degree, then being thrust into the 1984 harvest and taking control of production thereafter. The philosophical trek for Elisabetta was a winding one that began with the immediate removal of high yielding pergola-trained vines. She wisely chose massale cuttings from the estates oldest vines and trained them much lower in the guyot method. Her approach brought a new concentration to the wines that garnered awards in the 90's, but she felt their was an energy and vitality missing.Upon familiarizing herself with Rudolf Steiner's teachings she slowly adopted biodynamic principles and eliminated laboratory yeasts. Sulphur additions were lowered, riper stems began to be included in ferments, and a more gentle extraction protocol was used. She also began visiting Giusto Occhipinti at COS, learning about the use of clay amphora for aging.
There's been a steady rise in awareness for Foradori's wines in the US and each release I find these have an added layer of refinement and precision. If you're curious about the best whites & reds being produced in Italy's extreme alpine setting, Foradori is the spot I recommend you turn to first.
Mt. Etna's history with the indigenous Carricante variety is a long and storied one. Many have sought to express this distinct terroir from the eastern slope of the volcano, but one family is most synonymous with the greatest heights it has achieved. Etna doesn't have a classification system to rank estates or vineyards like Bordeaux and Burgundy, but if there was one Grand Cru white from these volcanic slopes perched over the Mediterranean it would surely be Benanti's Pietra Marina from Milo. Sourced from 80-year-old vines it showcases Carricante at its most structured and age-worthy.
The late 1800's was the inception of Benanti's viticulture on Mt. Etna. But, it was truly in 1988 that the estate began to garner the worthy fame that slowly spread throughout Sicily and abroad. It was Giuseppe Benanti who re-examined and questioned every aspect of viticulture and winemaking. He re-thought conventional wisdom on clones and their compatibility within each distinct parcel. And he knew that in order for his wines to transform slowly in bottle winemaking and aging would have to be held to much more rigorous standards than were acceptable to his contemporaries.
Pietra Marina is Carricante's most profound bottling on Etna. While salinity is a hallmark of the grape from these sea breeze parcels grown on sandy volcanic soil, the defining element here is a tightly wrapped core of citrus, orange peel, and almond. There's a frame and touch of austerity to Pietra Marina that shows a discipline worlds apart from the more oxidative and plush style of wine commonly found in Milo. In the end, it's the vein of minerality and and grip that appropriately put this benchmark bottling on the table with top Chablis and Burgundy.
Stainless steel aging and modest alcohol of 12.5% are crucial elements in keeping this southerly white so fresh and crisp. But, make no mistake: it's these same qualities that give Pietra Marina its backbone to age in your cellar for many years to come. 2015 is a great success for the whites on Etna, as the growing season here was considerably cooler than what much of Europe experienced. There's no bottling deserving of more attention today than this brand new release from Benanti.