Posts tagged ‘ettore germano’

Little-Known Italian Wine Surprises

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Numerous people have asked me how I selected the specific wines for my book Beyond Barolo and Brunello: Italy’s Most Distinctive Wines. I think some of them want to know if these wines received a particular high rating or award in a certain wine publication; the easy answer is that the book is my guide to the amazing variety of Italian wines. Some of these bottles may have found favor with other reviewers, but this is my selection and mine alone, as I write in the introduction.

The bottom line as to why I included a wine can be found in the title of the book – this is a look at Italy’s most distinctive wines. That means wines that have something to say, wines that reveal lovely varietal character, charm and harmony, ones that ultimately display a sense of place. That’s what I’m looking for with Italian wines, be it an expensive Amarone, Barolo or Brunello or a lesser-known, more humble (but no less excellent) wine such as Soave, Dolcetto, Verdicchio, Fiano di Avellino or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, just to name a few.

Here then are a few words on some of the more unique and distinctive wines I selected for my book:

DACAPO Ruchè di Castagnole di Monferrato “Majoli” - Piemonte is known for its full-bodied red wines with the Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco being the most renowned. Yet there are many other lighter reds that deliver a great deal of character; this Ruchè from DaCapo, named for the hill where the vineyards are planted, is a great example. Aged only in stainless steel tanks, this has intriguing aromas of rhubarb, strawberry and nutmeg; medium-bodied, this is quite elegant, although the tannins sneak up on you in the finish. This is meant for consumption within two to five years of the vintage and would be lovely with a local pasta such as agnolotti al plin. (Imported in the US by A.I. Selections)

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FONTANAFREDDA Dolcetto Diano d’Alba “La Lepre” – I love Dolcetto, one of the big three red varieties of the Langhe (Nebbiolo and Barbera being the other two), so I’ve included several examples in the book. But while Dolcetto di Dogliani (referred to simply as Dogliani for the DOCG versions) is more highly praised and Dolcetto d’Alba is more widely available, Dolcetto from the small village of Diano d’Alba, not far from Serralunga d’Alba, is not well known. This version from Fontanafredda, named for the wild hare that runs through the vineyards, is a real delight. Made from old vines that give this wine a bit more body and character, this has an appealing dark purple color and intense aromas of black raspberry and black cherry preserves along with notes of licorice. Medium-full, it’s approachable at an early age (one to two years), but there are some medium weight tannins that give this wine some ageability. But for  me, the best thing about this wine is that you don’t have to think about it too much – just pour yourself a glass and enjoy as it’s absolutely delicious! (Imported in the US by Palm Bay)

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LO TRIOLET Pinot Gris - There are hundreds of ordinary examples of Pinot Grigio (sometimes labeled as Pinot Gris) produced throughout Italy. Then there are a few dozen examples from cool climate regions in the north such as Alto Adige and Friuli that have vitality and complexity. Then there is this wine, from a small estate in Valle d’Aosta, in the far northwestern reaches of Italy, that may be the finest version of this variety in the entire country. As with any distinctive wine, the grape source is often the key; here proprietor Marco Martin is dealing with 15-25 year old vines situated some 2900 feet above sea level! (this may be the highest PInot Gris vineyard in the world). At this elevation, temperatures are quite cool, ensuring a long hang time for the grapes so they can accumulate proper ripeness as well as dazzling aromatics. This is a vibrant white of outstanding complexity, a Pinot Gris that is completely dry, one with excellent depth of fruit and a distinct minerality. While it’s not meant for long term cellaring, it is ideal at three to four years of age and it’s rich enough to accompany river fish or lighter poultry. (Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines)

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ETTORE GERMANO Riesling “Hérzu”- Think Piemonte and you think red wine. So what a pleasant surprise to discover such a lovely dry Riesling from this region, as this Hérzu from Ettore Germano. Proprietor/winemaker Sergio Germano produces a very rich version from his vineyards not far from Dogliani; the oldest plantings date back to 1995. This has beautiful aromas of apricots and peaches as you would expect, so your world won’t be turned upside down by enjoying this sleek, beautifully balanced Riesling. I love this wine when it is between five and seven years of age, although the examples from the finest vintages drink for as long as a decade. (Various US importers including Oliver McCrum Wines and Beivuma Distributors).

Here is the link for ordering my book.

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April 12, 2013 at 9:18 am 2 comments

Vigna Rionda – a great cru in Serralunga

Bottle of Massolino Vigna Rionda Barolo (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

During my most recent visit to Piemonte, there was a lot of excitement about one particular Barolo cru, that of Vigna Rionda in Serralunga d’Alba. One of the owners recently passed away and the section he possessed is being divided up among three wineries, all of whom will produce a Vigna Rionda Barolo for the first time.

This is newsworthy because of the historical importance of the Vigna Rionda cru. Literally meaning “round vineyard”,  Vigna Rionda is sited on a slope at elevations ranging from 820 to 1180 feet above sea level; the beneficial siting of this hill insures a great deal of sun throughout the day. The soils are a combination of marl, calcaire and a touch of sand; the vineyard is sheltered from excessive winds by the nearby Castelleto hill. In his beautifully detailed map of the vineyards and cellars of Serralunga, Alessandro Masnaghetti writes these words of acclaim for the quality of this vineyard:

“Vigna Rionda, in the collective imagination of many wine lovers, has become synonymous with the Barolo of Serralunga d’Alba… the Barolo which is produced here can be termed – even more than a Barolo of Serralunga – a Barolo of Vigna Rionda, such is the imprint of the cru on this wine.”

When you consider the number of remarkable Barolo crus in Serralunga, such as Ornato, Falletto, Lazzarito, Prapo and La Rosa, this is high praise for the distinctive style that emerges from Vigna Rionda. Thus the excitement over the new wines down the road.

Regarding the change in ownership of a small (2.2 hectare) section of Vigna Rionda, the details have to do with the passing away of Tommaso Canale, whose ancestors had purchased this plot back in the mid-1930s. Tommaso died in December, so now his section of Vigna Rionda will be turned over to three producers, who are relatives: Guido Porro, Ettore Germano and Giovanni Rosso. In the case of the Rosso estate, this is wonderful and appropriate news, as current proprietor and winemaker Davide Rosso (his father Giovanni passed away only recently) is the son of Ester Canale Rosso, who once owned this section along with her mother Cristina (due to financial difficulties back then, they were forced to sell to a family member).

Davide Rosso (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

What all this means is that some producers who worked with this fruit will no longer produce a Vigna Rionda Barolo – Roagna is perhaps the best known firm in this instance. But Porro, Rosso and Germano will be producing a Vigna Rionda Barolo down the road. Sergio Germano told me in an email that he will probably produce his first Barolo from this site from the 2017 vintage, while for Rosso, his first bottling will be from this vintage, the 2011, though in small quantities. (I do not have the information on when the initial Porro bottling will be produced.) Much of this section contains vines that are 60-years old and while some of these vines are in wonderful condition, others need to be replanted.

Mariacristina Oddero (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

One thing that needs to be noted is that the transfer of this section of Vigna Rionda is limited to a small section of this cru. There are indeed other owners of Vigna Rionda, who will continue to produce a Barolo from this vineyard. Among the most notable is the Oddero estate of Santa Maria (La Morra); Mariacristina Oddero notes that their family purchased one hectare in 1982. To be exact, they own parcels 335, 340, 338 and 337 of plot number 8 (the Rosso section is parcel 251P of plot number 8). The have been producing Vigna Rionda Barolo for many years and will continue to do so.

Also, the largest single owner of Vigna Rionda is the Massolino family of Serralunga, who owns 2.3 hectares (parcels 79-80-81-82-84-85-86 of plot number 8, to be exact.). Massolino produces a Riserva Barolo from Vigna Rionda fruit, which is one of the most complex, complete and most powerful Barolos of Serrallunga. It also has great cellaring potential – often as long as 40 years – and is one of the most authentic representations of this great vineyard.

Thanks very much to Sergio Germano, Davide Rosso, Franco Massolino, Mariacristina Oddero and Alessandro Masnaghetti for their assistance reagrding this topic.

May 24, 2011 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Best Italian Wines and Producers -2010

Cutizzi Vineyard of Feudi di San Gregorio (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

The 2009 Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo “Cutizzi”was among the best Italian wines of 2010

 

You might be wondering why in the first week of April I’m writing about the best wines and producers of 2010. The reason is timing – I’ve just published the Spring issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, which is my annual issue of the previous year’s best Italian wines and producers.

Subscribers received this issue last week and I am offering this issue to readers of this blog for $10 (see below for details). There are dozens of wines from various regions of Italy that I listed as among the finest of 2010, including the 2009 Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo “Cutizzi” mentioned above. Here are a few others that made the list:

  • Bellavista Gran Cuvée “Pas Opere” 2004
  • Elena Walch Gewurztraminer “Kastelaz” 2009
  • Livon “Braide Alte” 2008
  • Planeta “Cometa” 2009
  • Pieropan Soave Classico “La Rocca” 2008
  • Produttori del Barbaresco “Rio Sordo” 2005
  • Renato Ratti Barolo “Rocche” 2006
  • Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino 2005
  • Abraxas Passito di Pantelleria 2008

In total, there are 90 wines that made the list. Of these, there are:

  • 12 whites from Friuli
  • 16 wines (white and red) from Campania
  • 4 bottlings of 2005 Brunello di Montalcino (and three bottlings of 2004 Brunello Riserva)
  • 3 Bolgheri Superiore from 2007
  • 10 Barolo from 2006
  • 6 Barbaresco from 2007
  • 2 examples of Aglianico del Vulture

 

Sergio Germano, Az. Agr. Ettore Germano, Serralunga d’Alba (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

 

In this issue, I have also listed my choices as the Top 12 Italian Producers of 2010. One of the few rules I have is that I do not list a producer in consecutive years; however they can be producers that were selected in the past.

Ettore Germano is among the best Italian producers of 2010 as is Ca’Rugate from the Veneto. There are 10 other producers that made the list. To learn the names of the other producers as well as the wines that were selected as the best of 2010, this issue is available (via email in pdf format) for $10. If you’d like, you can also start a yearly subscription for $30. Email me (info here) for information on how to subscribe.

April 4, 2011 at 10:12 am 1 comment


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