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Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Aglianico, Nerello Mascalese. And Pinot Noir?

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Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Aglianico, Nerello Mascalese. And Pinot Noir?

by Filippo Bartolotta

After my first trip to Rioja I would have loved to metabolize all those amazing wines a little more slowly, maybe taking a break with my kids or with Vanessa. Instead I had to fly to Langhe for some Nebbiolo tasting. I then have been blessed with Vanessa’s kindness to bring herself and the children up to Langhe to Ivana.

So before going to Barolo I have time for some family sessions:) in my home town and… a bit of Sangiovese.

Milo has started his first week of school and Daphne is still eating like a ten years old!

Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Aglianico and Nerello Mascalese have something in common:

CHERRY, LICORICE, VIOLETS, LEATHERY EARTHINESS AND JUICY DRINKABILITY WITH AN ELEGANT TOUCH.

Pinot Noir could go with them, but I didn’t have time to go to Burgundy. Not this time. So I did it with Sangiovese. A quick stop at Isole e Olena with Paolo de Marchi and USA Ice-Skating Champions Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre. Cepparello is a 100% Sangiovese from the Chianti Classico area. Paolo selects only the best grapes which every year come from different vines as Sangiovese never gives the best crop from the same vines, says Paolo.  Just to make the wine maker’s life easier. Cepparello 2006 is a pulpy, velvety, luscious and dense cherry driven wine. Cepparello 2007 is a more vertical wine with a little more structure and intensity though easier to please palates now.  Paolo’s wines are fermented in big oak conic cask and he makes a point about personally supervising every fermentation. Then they go into french oak barrels in a fantastically humid and naturally cold cellar, allowing a very slow fining process.

Then it’s time to try another amazing Sangiovese. This time from a different valley, near Radda in Chianti. It’s Montevertine. Here lies another amazing site for Sangiovese. Here Martino Manetti makes a very mineral, red berry crush Montevertine. This year his 2007 is phenomenal. The more structure, austere and long lasting Pergole Torte 2007 instead is a 100% Sangiovese: classic wine as well. Both wines go for a long maturation process in small and big barrels.

Time to eat some fish at my home most favorite fish Trattoria: la Trattoria del Pesce in Bargino. Here GIanni has got a really large selection of great Champagne and Italian Fine Whites. People that would look after you any time. Great the Raw Fish plateaux, the house fish soup and the Spaghetti with clams and Bottarga served in a steaming frying pan!

After all this I get to Langhe where my dear friends Walter Fissore and Nadia Cogno are waiting for me to taste the great 2004 Barolo Elvio Cogno Riserva Vigna Elena a wine not to be missed, together with the Barolo Ravera 2006. Smashing wines with a lot of polish licorice and sour cherry leathery crispiness and a structure lengthy finish.

I have time to stop for lunch at l’Antico Borgo where my two guests open a Voerzio Cerequio 2006 and Giuseppe Rinaldi Cannubi San Lorenzo e Ravera 2006.

I know that with this one I would have a lot of people arguing how the heck can one like The “citric Beppe” and the “smoothy Voerzio”! Well you’ll be surprised to hear that I actually I can like them both. It only depends by the vintages and the care they had in the making. Most people think Rinaldi is the super traditionalist and Voerzio the super modernist. But the truth is a little more complicated. What I can tell you is that Rinaldi’s wines tend to be fresher, with a great energy and minerality and Voerzio instead goes for more density, fruit and pulp. If you were lucky enough to go for Roberto Voerzio 1990 La Serra or Barolo Riserva, Vecchie Viti dei Capalot e delle Brunate 1998 then you will see how some of his wines retain that wonderful Nebbiolo lush, crunchy elegance that would make them go on forever.

I will try to go back on the discussion above. I had a very lovley chat about this and more philosophical wine issues with Nino Felicin in Monforte. He is one of the greatest and simplest wine Langhe man one can come across. The cuisine is just what anyone can dream of. I look forward to go back there again! Thank you Nino, Lana and Jim for the great wines.

This was a 1989 Barolo little context that I have set up for Lana and Jim.

Poderi Aldo Contenro Bricco Bussia Vigna Colonello 1989. This was in extraordinary conditions with a super classic red berry fruit and velvet earthy touch. Just delicious.

Elio Altare Vigna Arborina 1989. The oak was a little bit covering the underneath elegance of the wine stopping the tasting pleasure a bit.

Roberto Voerzio La Serra 1989. I preferred the 1990 as it was fresher and more solid. Mind you though that the ’90 was coming straight from Roberto’s cellar.

Still in Nebbiolo I am going to say hello to Marina Marcarini owner of Punset. Her Barbaresco Punset Campo Quadro 2007 came out as one of the best of the year and it is an organic (a seriously organic one) wine. I like Marina a lot, she is a very straight forward wine maker and her wines are getting better and better by the year.

And now ready? Steady? Gooooooooo! Train to the Amalfi Coast where I have spent threen days and three nights tasting Aglianico Taurasi away. My home base has been Hotel La Marmorata where not only you can enjoy this kind of view, but people here would solve any problem possible: they are just extremely friendly and professional.

Lemon Gardens on the Amalfi Coast.

Here one of my first and most important reasons of the trip was to go and taste some Mastroberardino’s Taurasi. Their 1968 has been one of the best wines I have ever had. I firstly drank that wine together with Aj and Gianfranco Soldera for lunch together with Soldera Case Basse 1981: what a sweet day that one was.

This time instead I was going to try some serious mozzarella at Vannulo near Paestum when I got a call from Chiara, Mastroberardino’s PR. She says that the Cavalier Mastroberardino would be delighted to taste some of the old wines with me. And…what do I reply?

In less then two hours I was sent a car an in one hour I am in Atriplada right in front of Mastroberardino Taurasi 1968, 1980, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005 and…the man himself. Cavaliere Antonio Mastroberardino is a small man with lovely smiley face. His hand is shaking a little bit but nonetheless is moves and speaks very rapidly  and he is moving swiftly throughout the tasting. Also he doesn’t make it to pompous, but rather goes straight to the point. I love when people are together with you instead of talking about themselves.  We taste the six wines and the ’68 shows the usual youthful character, just silky deliciousness. The ’80 is completely silent but the palate is even rounder then the ’68! I look forward to this wine in twenty more years, what a great surprise. This was the wine of the Earthquake and here the Cavaliere shows a touchy side. The ’97 is the earthier, meatier and more animal. I loved the ’99 better with more polished elements, bright fruit and velvet black peppers tannins. Great crisp 2005 and a super structured earthy grip. These wines are just like the man who made them: light, sweet, elegant with a romantic side immediately contrasted by a very pragmatic whiff! I take the ’68, ’80 and ’99 with me to see what happens in the evening. The wines got better and I was right: the 1980 opened up so much. It might get better then the mythical 1968! I mention the Cavaliere, that I had his wine with Soldera and he seems sincerely touched by this and so we call Gianfranco. The two of them talk flat for 15 min. They haven’t spoken in quite a while. I feel proud about this reunion:)

I gotta go and he says Ciao. I say Arrivederci. He says you must say Ciao to me please let’s drop the formality. He hugs me and I say Ciao Antonio. I can’t believe that I clicked so much with one of the greatest Italian wine makers!

Feudi di SanGregorio.

I got to Feudi after lunch. Emanuela smiles as we get in. She takes me and my wine club for a walk around the garden. It’s a glorious day I woke up and I went for a swim in the sea. The sky is blue and crisp. We started chatting and I told her I was on a old fine wine tasting quest started in Rioja with its Tempranillo, gone by the Sangiovese in Chianti Classico, the Nebbiolo in Barolo and Barbaresco and finishing with Nerello Mascalesse in Etna. Half an hour later I am kidnapped my the President of Feudi Antonio Capaldo.

Very much to the point also in this case. Most people think about souther Italy as a land of “dolce far niente” -sweet doing nothing-, but you gotta change your mind when you meet these kind of men. So let’s get to business.

Taurasi Feudi di SanGregorio 1993, 1997, 1999, 2005.

We star with the first vintage of Feudi. I must confess that I didn’t have many high expectations. Antonio opens the magnum and pours a glass. I am a happy man. The wine show a great Aglianico character, a sweet red fruit, licorice, rhubarb and balsamic touch. Tannins like velvet. The 1997 is a bit more austere, musk and mushroon type with some oak. The 1999 shows some more extractives and power frame, but I like the balance and the clean fruit. The 2005 a little more on the modern confection side. Feudi is changing path. The Fiano 2009 is a clear sigh of this with a more natural energetic zest. For the Taurasi one has to wait for the 2007! Thank you Antonio.

Quick now is time to catch a boat in Amalfi to go to Positano and then sinner at Capo d’Orso, one of the best Retaurant in Costiera with the ever caring Ferrara brothers.

How to spend a holiday in Costiera Amalfitana? This is a bit of the Costiera Amalfitana by car. It is great to see the little towns and the narrow street and the great light on the sea, but if you ever are going to make it here you must get on a boat along the coast or it is like you have never been here!

Capo d’Orso.

A taste of Aglianico del Vulture La Firma of Cantine del Notaio 2007.

Although the Aglianico form Taurasi is cultivated on a soil reach in volcanic ashes, the Vulture ones are actually on a Vulcano and they tend to emerge as bigger, denser, sweeter and more muscular types. This great 200 vintage is an example of that.

My window view from La Marmorata Hotel in Amalfi.

Vannulo

Approaching Positano

Positano

This is a remaining column of a little chapel near Tenuta di SanFrancesco. Not too far away from here the pre-philloxera over two hundred years vineyard of Tintore grape are still yielding some great fruit. As a result one of the label of Tenuta di SanFrancesco is for me the most striking result of this small estate: “è iss” Tintore Pre-phillossera Vigna Paradiso 2007. Very earthy, savory wine with well extracted tannins, great drinkability and very classic mediterranean herbs elegance. The other Red -a classic Tramonti Doc with Aglianico, Tintore and Piedirosso- is a riper, fruitier and easier to drink wine with a lovely red fruit finish.

Gaetano Bove with the pre-phillossera vines.

The Whites -made of Falanghina, Biancolella and Pepella grapes- are very light, zesty with a crispy citrus fruit character.

Eva, Raffaella and Angela the three wonderful cooks. 

After a great lunch in the cellar we move to Pompei.

Zebra Crossing in Pompei

The Vesuvio seen from Pompei. Should you ever visit Pompei -I think anyone should- you’d better do it with a fun and knowledgeable guide. I am afraid to say that the maintenance of one of the world greatest archeological site isn’t the best one. Quite the opposite. Most remaining frescos are barely covered with bit of metal, straigh dogs browse around -I haven’t seen a straigh dog in Italy in twenty years!!!- and there is practically no guards around.  Still though if you go with someone who can tell you what happen here, it can become a reason to travel here.

And before catching the boat to Catania I must have a slice of Pizza “Da Michele”. Here is where Julia Roberts had her slice during “Eat, pray, love?”. I have had Pizza here throughout the years. It is very good, but be prepared for a not very welcoming service. People do not seem very happy to have you there. Every once in a while there are some funny jokes going among them, but in general terms there’s a little bit of that cuttle treatment feeling where guests are pushed and not listened to. I am sure if you go there with Julia Roberts they’ll be pretty good to anyone though. I must confess that the Pizza as well isn’t really the best in town s most say. Il Pizzaiuolo del Presidente for instance makes Pizza with a little more tender care and irresistible moisture.  Anyway it’s a pity about the bad attitude da Michele as Napolitan Pizza is one of mankind greatest and happiest inventions. Off we go on a boat to Catania with our tummies filled.

Overnight we cross the channel of Messina and we are in Catania. Our main destination would have being Nerello Mascalese in the Mount Etna, but I had to stop at my uncle’s favorite Pasticceria for a -Coffee Ice Crush- Granita al caffè and brioche breakfast. It is like something in between a smoothy and an ice coffee. The soft/bouncy/warm brioche collapses with the ice cold mouse, the coffee gives you a kick and the cream rounds the edges off: pure pleasure.

Ciro Biondi cellar is in a great location near Sant’Alfio on the Mount Etna. One could see the Volcano and the see at the same time. That is if the weather is good; not today it is more like being in Langhe tasting Nebbiolos:)

We start with the grape must of two different vineyards of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. Already a great deal of difference with the M.I. vineyard showing way more earthy power then the Outis.

We then move to Ciro’s Palmento – the ancient Sicilian wine cellar. The ancient Palmenti were cellar working by gravity. Fruit arrived, people stomped them dancing, the free run juice was going down and the skins then removed. Here we have a very frugal lunch to match Biond’s wines while Ciro’s wife, Staphanie is helping with the presentation. The White -a blend of bush trained Carricante, Minnella, Malvasia, Catarrati, Moscatello- is a rustic leafy and almost tannic wine with a lot of character. Then we go for a Etna Rosso Outis 2007 with a lot of tannic structure a mushrooms and carrub fruit.  I loved the Etna Rosso M.I. 2008 better. The fruit is more focused, the nose is more Burgundian with a peppery/barnyard hint and the palate packed with energy and sapid twist to allow the wine baskets full of drinkability.

I was about to rap this long post up till I tasted the Cos Pythos Frappato 2009. It’s barnyard, savory, forrest fruit minerality outs the wine close to our Temprannillo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Aglianico, Nerello Mascalese similarities. When these varieties are made without fiddling  too heavy an oenological hand they release some outstanding common factors: great acidity, minerality, savoriness, red berry crush fruit, some earthiness and licorice and a floral&black pepper touch. The palate is crunchy with structured but also not obstructive tannins and aging potential. Of course this result can be achieved with completely different wine making techniques, but always with very impressive result. Cos in Acata South East Sicily has being using Spanish Amphorae -rich in silex- to ferment and macerate their wines for over 6 months. The Amphorae well used are a very interesting method which allow natural stabilization of the wine and great enzymatic complexity.

The Cathedral in Ragusa

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