TN Piedmont 2019 - Trip Report

We are currently staying in La Morra for a few days before heading down to Tuscany. This is the third year in a row we have stayed in the Langhe at this time of year, and the first two times I have failed to write anything up despite saying I would. Let’s see if I can do better this year...

We arrived on Tuesday evening and had a quick dinner at Per Bacco, delicious Pizza washed down with a lovely bottle of Marcarini Barbera 2017. A nice little wine, plenty of dark cherry fruit and quite mellow with enough acidity for freshness, this disappeared rather quickly. Weighing in at 13.5% in a hot vintage, this was an exercise in restraint (but not for me...).
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Apartment view

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Per Bacco

Giacomo Fenocchio

Wednesday morning we headed over to the heart of the Bussia vineyard to visit Claudio and Nicoletta at Giacomo Fenocchio. Nicoletta led us through the range on their newly glazed terrace (some of the best views of the Bussia and Cannubi sites). Claudio was busy working in the vineyard replanting a SE slope in Bussia from Barbera to Nebbiolo, where they are hoping to achieve authorisation for growing grapes for Barolo.

All their barolo undergo 40 days maceration (except for the riserva which is 90 days). All use natural yeasts and spontaneous fermentation. The 2015s were bottled in January 2019

As for the vintage profile, they see 15 as somewhere between 11 and 12 in terms of weather (i.e. a little cooler than 11).

Arneis 2018- 1 day maceration, 10-12 day fermentation. 6 months in inox. Big mineral and stone fruit driven nose. Palate is fresh and balanced, intense crushed rock and some stone fruit. I am not normally that fussed by Arneis but this was a good example. 13.5% abv.


Barbera Superior 2017- 10-12 days maceration. Savoury and red fruit nose. Classic. Balance is great (med high acidity and some tannin), mellow black cherry fruit. Good, classic Barbera. 14.5%


Langhe Nebbiolo 2017- 6 months inox, 6 months botti. Natural yeasts. Wonderful pure ruby colour. Potpurri and roses on the nose. Palate is chewy red fruit, liquorice on the end. Nice tannin. A bit brooding and quite savoury. 14.5%.

Castellero 2015. Very open nose, strongly rose scented with a touch of spice. Bright red fruit on the palate, open, with a savoury twist towards the end. Fine tannin. Good to very good. 14.5%.

Villero 2015. Lovely red fruit and crushed candy scented nose (I hate to use the word candy, but it seems to fit better than boiled sweet which seems too confected. It is a particular aroma that I associate with some Barolo, notably G Mascarello’s Perno), with some savoury characteristics. Palate is pure and clean with lovely bright red fruit. Very fine tannin which does clamp down end. Very good. 14.5%

Bussia 15. Fantastic classic Barolo nose. Roses, red fruit, some spices. Structured palate of cooler red fruit and iron. This is pure, clean and complete. Excellent. 14.5%.

Canubbi 2015 sold out at the winery already so was not on show, hoping to snag a six pack in the UK as the barrel sample on last years visit was excellent.

Bussia Riserva 2000. Great nose of roses, forest floor and some fading fruit, tobacco and perhaps a touch of mint. Touch of sandalwood and furniture polish. Complete palate, resolved red fruit, still fine tannin and good acidity. A very fine barolo at the start of a good drinking plateau. 14%.

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Marcarini

I had not originally planned to visit Marcarini but, upon hearing of the changes they have made for 2015 to introduce a new blend (Commune del La Morra) and stricter selection on the two Crus, I thought I should pop by their tasting room in La Morra. I was warmly welcomed by Elena who was happy to talk me through the changes and their rationale.

Production is now down to 8-9k bottles per cru, with 22k bottles of the commune blend. The idea is to better represent the cru characteristics whilst also giving a new wine that can be enjoyed younger.

Commune del La Morra 2015- Quite light nose. Palate is open, light but crunchy red fruit. A little simple. High acidity and tannins quite fine - this is approachable now and can certainly be drank and enjoyed earlier than the more serious cru wines. 60% la serra, 40% brunate. Filtered as they believe this gives earlier accessibility. A good wine, which will drink early.

La Serra 2015- sweet floral nose. Lots of red fruit on balanced palate. Great acidity. Quite light and elegant but not without firm tannins. Good to very good.

Brunate 2015- bigger, deeper, denser, brooding nose. Palate is very big; cola, explosive red fruit and some blue fruit. Big tannins but in balance, medium grained rather than fine. Relatively cool fruited really, considering the vintage. Very good.

Brunate 2014- this was shown for comparison. More open nose, more candied. Fruit is cooler and certainly less concentrated. Good and potentially the best for drinking over the next few years.
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Off to Guido Rivella, La Vedetta and Burlotto today. More notes and a bit of food porn to follow...
 
Location
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Oliver - fantastic! BTW your notes are very instructive and in particular I find noting down the alcohol levels very helpful. To what extent would you say the alcohol is present in the taste and smell?
 
Dinner on Wednesday was the ever-reliable Il Falstaff in Verduno. We were well looked after by Mauritzio in the restaurant and Franco in the kitchen.

The amuse was the best tempura battered courgette flower I have ever had, followed by three antipasti the star of which was quail in a morel sauce which was stunning. Very good tiajarin with veal ragu as a primi, after which we skipped to dessert. It seems to be just Franco cooking in the kitchen and he knocks out such delightful food making it seem effortless. Alas, no decent photos of the food.

Tempting as the very fairly priced Barolo was, having to drive back to La Morra after dinner we went by the glass. We were given a lovely spumate from Detletto as an aperitif, followed by Claudio Alario Barbera “Valetta” 2015 and Ca’rossa Roero Riserva “Mompissano” 2013. No detailed notes taken but all very enjoyable and went well with the food. The Barbera probably had a bit too much oak for me, the Roero was in a very good place.
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Fantastic meal and the bill only came to 90 Euro for two.

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A busy day tasting today with Guido Rivella & La Vedetta in Barbaresco in the morning and Burlotto in Verduno in the afternoon.

Guido Rivella

I first came across these wines at the Ultravino portfolio tasting last Summer and was seriously impressed with the 2015 Barbarescos and 2016 Langhe Nebbiolo (posts elsewhere on the forum). Gabriele from Ultravino was kind enough to contact Enrico Rivella and arrange an appointment for us.

Enrico gave us a warm welcome at the family agriturismo at the edge of the Montestefano vineyard, under which the cellar is located. Until a few years ago, different Rivella cousins owned the various buildings and a few rows each of vines. Guido started buying out the vineyard areas and some buildings from family members as he approached his retirement from Gaja, where he worked for 47 years, to ensure he did not get bored after finishing employment.

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Looking down on the vines in Montestefano from the terrace.

Modern methods definitely in evidence here, as you would expect. Fermentation in inox, shorter and fatter than usual to maximise contact with the cap and reduce need for punch downs and pump overs (which they feel gives greener tannins from the pips). 20-25 day fermentation and maceration followed by gentle pressing. 20-30% press wine goes into the final blend, with the rest being sent away to be made into grappa (and from 2017, their own grappa, all 180 bottles of it). Ageing in used french oak - mix of Barrique and Tonneaux, purchased a 4 years old and used for a further 4 (6 for tonneaux).

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Anyway, onto the wines;

“Parej” NV - a blend of 2016 & 2015, barbera and nebbiolo. Very little barbera (6-7%) in this edition. Nose of simple red cherry fruit. Fresh and bright. A simple, enjoyable table wine. Enjoy slightly chilled.

Barbera 2016 - deep colour. Smoky, slightly funky nose. Tight. Palate is fresh and bright with lovely characteristic high acidity. More red cherry than black, rich, with some cinnamon on the end. A lovely barbera and we took a bottle away to drink with our pizza at the apartment in the evening. 14.5%.

Barbaresco 2016 - deep crimson. Lovely floral nose. Palate is very bright and energetic with red cherry, raspberry and cranberry followed by some spices. Mouthwatering acidity, long finish with very fine grained and persistent tannins. Lots of concentration but without viscosity. Top drawer Barbaresco and I shall be buying some when it lands in the UK.

Montestefano 2016. Nose quite tight but floral and fruited. Fruit a touch darker on the palate. A real baby. Such concentration and grip on the palate, totally balanced but quite brooding at this stage. Tannins very fine but totally mouth coating. So much more to come. Really fantastic but needs time to come together. Tip-top wine from a tip-top vineyard.
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Will follow up tomorrow with La Vedetta and Burlotto.
 
Oliver - fantastic! BTW your notes are very instructive and in particular I find noting down the alcohol levels very helpful. To what extent would you say the alcohol is present in the taste and smell?
Thanks Tom. I missed a few alcohol levels today but I do often find them a good indicator. Nothing I have tried has seemed particularly “hot” from alcohol on nose or the palate, although Burlotto’s 15.5% 2017 barbera was definitely warming, they had just managed to keep it balanced with enough acidity so it doesn’t seem stewed in any way, although they did find it challenging.

To be fair, most wines have been served by producers (correctly in my view) closer to cellar temperatures than room temperature, which I think helps (and is also how I would drink them).
 
Sounds like you're having a jolly time, Oliver.

Thank you for helpful notes.

Pouring here, wish I was in the Langhe.
Jolly indeed!

It did rain a lot yesterday but has been a lovely 20-22C and sunny today.

I do find with tasting a lot of young wines I feel I repeat myself quite a bit, sometimes I feel it is quite hard to articulate the differences in a meaningful way.
 
And the more one tastes the harder it is to sbe pacific.

You're not alone in this though.

I find a few things particularly helpful in notes e.g. ABV, midweight vs muscular, perceived acidity vs lack of focus, sense of place/character vs sense of madeness/spoofulation, and if the writer actually plans to buy it. I know everyone has different words for these things but those are the ones that come to my mind late on a Thursday evening.

Keep up the good work!
 
I agree with all the above Jeremy, nicely put. The point about buying is a good one for us amateurs/consumers as its the ultimate
clarifier!
 
Already running late from our time at Guido Rivella, we headed up the road to see Marco at La Vedetta. Marco is a young and passionate man who returned to the Langhe recently to set up the winery, with his very first wine being 2015 Langhe Nebbiolo. He is assisted by his uncle and a consultant oenologist. He works under his aunt and uncle’s Agriturismo Tre Stelle. He is using family vineyards that were previously rented out, although the main family business remains their 17 hectares of hazlenuts.

The cellar set up is quite standard. Inox is used for fermentation. For ageing; a mix of stainless steel, a new botti currently being used for Barbera which will then be used for Barbaresco, barrique and tonneaux. Marco does not want oak to mark the Nebbiolo and so barrels used first for Barbera and there are also a couple of secondhand barrels.

Currently there are two wines in the range; Barbera d’asti and Langhe Nebbiolo. A Barbaresco 2017 is currently slumbering in barrel and due for release next year. From 2017 the Langhe Nebbiolo will transition to being more Langhe Nebbiolo-like rather than mini-Barbaresco so there is clear differentiation in the range. There is potential for a Barbaresco Riserva in the future.

Barbera d’Asti 2018 - 1 month bottled. Not yet released and it does need to settle and integrate. Fresh bright nose. Rich mouthfeel, good red and black cherry, lovely and round with some savoury edges (thyme?). Will be looking to get some of this as we both really enjoyed it. 13.5%- 14%

Barbera d’Asti 2017. Similar nose, touch fruitier. Round in the mouth and actually not hot. StIll fresh finish. Fair acidity and finish. Touch of vanilla on the end, which I find quite acceptable in Barbera. Good, would be an excellent restaurant wine (and, indeed, I believe a few London restaurants are selling this). 60% barrique, 40% stainless steel. 15%

Langhe Nebbiolo 2018 - bright fresh, red fruit nose. Just stainless steel ageing so the emphasis here really is on purity of fruit. Palate starts with fresh fruit (red focussed, cranberries), middle palate unexpectedly takes it up a notch and ends quite long. Quite savoury too. Pure, focused. Needs time to settle. A style of Langhe Nebbiolo I really enjoy and hope to pick some up in the UK.

Langhe Nebbiolo 2015 - rose and some tar on the nose. A true baby barbaresco. This was aged 14 months tonneaux. Pure, clean red fruit and violet candy, fine tannins. Real balance. Only 21 bottles left at the winery (well, 20 now as I snaffled a bottle to drink whilst we are here). 14.5%
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Definitely one to watch in my opinion!

La Vedetta are imported into the UK by forum sponsors Ultravino (with whom I have no connection apart from as a satisfied customer).
 
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Hi Oliver. I too was wondering how you are managing to do so much with a baby in-tow. They are generally adaptable though. Ours just got used to what daddy does on holiday (as they got older we had to cut back a bit on the tastings and long meals though).

Great set of notes. I’m reminded how bad I have become at posting myself. I think you know I also loved the Rivella wines and I’m envious you got a visit. Have fun in Tuscany (though it doesn’t match Piemonte for beauty, food and wine...(ducks) ;).
 
Running a little behind on posting as we have now left the Langhe and arrived in Tuscany. Anyway, two more producers to write-up

Burlotto
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Visiting Burlotto is always a highlight of a visit to Piedmont. Cristina is always warm, engaging, frank and generous with her time (and, of course, the wines).

We arrived on Thursday afternoon to find there is currently a rather large tower crane sitting at the front of the property as they finalise some cellar renovations that were started last June. For those of you that have visited, this work is to connect the two historic cellars to ease the logistical flow, previously the wine had to be pumped to ground level, along the corridor and back down the stairs to move between cellars. They had put this work off a few tomes but finally bit the bullet.

The latest news from Burlotto is that they purchased a new parcel of land in 2018 in the Castelletto vineyard (in the Monforte commune), which will make an appearance as a new Cru wine from the 2019 vintage (if all goes well), to give three crus from three different communes.

We did not taste the Dolcetto, but others may be interested to note it is now 50% whole cluster.

Onto the wines;

Langhe Sauvignon “Virdes” 2018 - Two sauvignons are produced, with this lighter version released in time for the summer. They grow sauvignon on high mineral,chalky vineyards in Verduno that are outwith the Barolo denomination. Nose is fresh bright and grassy. Palate similar, chalky, grassy, touch of lime. A refreshing summer glass 13.5%

Pelaverga 2017 - The ‘18 was very recently bottled (within the last few days)and so not available to taste. The ‘17 is sold out but still on tasting. Lovely bright light ruby colour. Nose is rich and spicy with white pepper. Very savoury with thyme to the fore, white pepper, crunchy slightly sweet red fruit. Harvest began on 31st august to maintain freshness. Very good and fresher than expected. I did not buy any from TWS last year on the basis that I thought it might be a bit hot in ‘17, that was a mistake but I do still have half a case of ‘16s to be getting on with. 14.5%

Barbera “Aves” 2017 - big bold nose of cherry and damsons, quite perfumed and floral. Palate is rich concentrated ripe cherry and plum, really good balancing acidity. In all honesty I did not really notice the high abv, apart from it being a little warmer on the finish than a normal vintage. Apparently they had to work quite hard with this to keep it balanced but the result is certainly a good wine, but perhaps one that is difficult to find a time and a place for. 15.5%

Acclivi 2015 - lovely bright ruby colour. Big but elegant nose of sweet red fruit (strawberries) and orange peel, with a touch of baking spices. Palate has a soft entry - energetic red fruit with a savoury herbaciouness (not really herbs but more green than red fruit, hard to pinpoint), then very firm fine tannins coat the mouth and bring it all to a close, lively acidity for balance. Somewhat atypically, this seems more structured and closed than the Monvigliero is at this stage. Happy to see the return of this wine and glad to have several bottles. 14.5%

Monvigliero 2015 - slightly lighter in colour. Nose is so perfumed, alpine strawberries, mediterranean herbs, black olives, currently so open and complete. The nose is so distinctively Monvigliero (easy as that is to say when not tasting blind!).I could sit and just swirl and sniff this all day. Palate is soft red fruit, orange rind, black olive, herbs and something a little amaro like. Fine tannins and acidity both there for a good structure, if less strict than the Acclivi at this time. Very long. Truly a fantastic wine with such potential, a stonking Monvigliero. With time in the glass some asian spice type notes come out on the nose.

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Tomorrow I’ll try and get the last tasting, Burzi, added to the thread.
 
The final tasting was on Friday morning at Burzi, before a leisurely lunch at Bovio.

Burzi
Burzi are a relatively new winery in Santa Maria di La Morra having been set up in 2012. The family have a long history in the region but Alberto is the first to make wine from the family’s 7 hectares that were previously rented out (the Capalot notably to Roberto Voerzio). Alberto is a trained Oenologist and consults throughout the region. Barolo are raised in botti, the Langhe Nebbiolo sees tonneaux and the Barbera only steel.

Gabriele of Ultravino also kindly arranged this appointment for me as they are the UK importer.

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View down from the winery over some of the vineyards

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Very densely planted Barbera

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Fruit set in the Barbera

The wines;

Barbera 2017 “Plaustra” - Plaustra is a historic fantasy name used by the family for the area behind the winery in Santa Maria di La Morra. The barbera is planted at a very high density (8000 vines/hectare). Deep purple colour. 100% steel tank. Nose is very floral and rich. Palate is balanced with high acidity, a little heat on the end. Wild plum fruit. Good. 15%

Langhe Nebbiolo 2017 - from Rocchettevino vineyard under bovio restaurant. nose has strawberry and red candy fruit. Palate is quite big but really red fruit driven and has freshness to the fore. Some tannin but very fine. Finish quite long. Fresh style. 14.5%

Barolo 2015 - classic roses, tar and red fruit nose. Very la morra. Soft, gentle entry with strawberry and raspberry. Tannins build in the mouth along with mint and liquorice and finish relatively drying. Very open and would consider this will drink well early. Good acid structure and long finish. Very good. 14%

Capalot 15 - deeper colour. Denser, deeper, more complex nose. Palate is dense and rich, some darker fruit, deep savoury notes. Big tannic structure, very robust. Very good material but pretty closed and needs a fair bit of time to really see what is here. 14.5%

Barolo 2014 - only one Barolo was produced in this challenging vintage, a blend including the Capalot. Dark fruited nose, some VA and a sandlewood note. Palate is cool fruited, red and blue with a mid palate raspberry. Finish surprisingly structured and drying. A really good effort. 14%

Barolo Chinato-a-like - barolo steeped in a yellow flower called Tanaceto (similar a yellow camomile), to which is added sugar and alcohol. An old family recipe, they have recently agreed with a distillery to make a proper production. Very floral and bitter nose. Quite light, but tannins and structure there from barolo. Very interesting, lighter and less bitter than a regular Chinato.

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Thanks for the kind comments. Having benefitted from so many others trip threads, including a few of yours Ray, I felt it was time to pull my finger out!

Overall Impressions

A couple of things to wrap up my report as I digest my Bistecca Fiorentina here in the Tuscan hills.

Overall I think it is a very exciting time in Piedmont with lots of energetic small producers keeping the old guard on their toes. Perhaps it was ever thus and I had just not noticed. I have bought/will be buying a fair bit (by my standards). Now to try and remain solvent....

Vintage wise, I feel 2015 is indeed a good vintage which is characterised by strong aromatics but is not short of structure (which seems more acid focussed than tannin focused if that makes sense). Most seemed open and appealing, although I can’t really predict if these will close down hard or not - I didn’t feel 2014s where structured to shut down but several did although others remain accessible. For me it feels it the mould of 2011, in that it was a warm vintage and appears it will be accessible in the near term. Perhaps there is overall a bit more complexity and potential longevity to be found than in some ‘11s. Tannins seem quite fine and the recurring theme in the wines is good acidity.

2016 looks set to be a more classic vintage and is already being talked up.

I get the feeling the 2017s may well be a struggle for many (perhaps most similar to the ‘09s), we will have to wait and see! Good producers do always seem to turn out a good wine these days.

As always, you tend to pick up a few interesting tidbits when in the region. Apparently the current hot
gossip is that the Rinaldi sisters are finalising a rental agreement in the heart of Bussia, close to Fenocchio’s holdings.
 
Hi @Oliver Coleman-Green, thanks indeed for your excellent report. i was interested to see how the Fennochio wines were doing having bought the Villero in 2010 and having tried the 2015s at Nebbiolo Day. I do think that some fantastic wines are made there and I enjoyed the 15 Bussia too. I also picked up a case of the 2015 Guido Rivella Barbaresco having also enjoyed this at last year's tasting and also at a blind tasting dinner in February, so great to hear how the 2016s are getting along.
 
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