Posts tagged ‘luca currado’

The Soul of Vietti

Luciana Currado, Vietti (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

I had the pleasure of dining with Luciana Currado of the great Piemontese estate Vietti in Chicago yesterday. Currado was in town to taste out a number of wines, most importantly the brand new release of Barolo Villero Riserva 2004.

I’ve known Luciana and her son Luca, who serves as winemaker, for more than a decade. Both of them are hard working, down to earth people, who are very gracious and always willing to listen to what you have to say. Luciana has been at the forefront of promoting Vietti wines; this responsibility has become a larger part of her life since her beloved husband Alfredo passed away last year after a long illness. While Luciana misses her husband, she clearly brings a lot of energy and passion to her job, as she talks of the history of her estate.

We started off the tasting with two bottlings of Barbera: one, the 2007 La Crena, is from Asti, while the other, the 2009 Scarrone Vigna Vecchia, is a Barbera d’Alba (this vineyard is at the Vietti estate in Castiglione Falletto). While both are modern interpretations of Barbera- that is to say, very ripe with slightly lower acidity and more small oak aging – these are beautifully balanced wines (unlike too many examples of Barbera today that are overly ripe, “serious” wines). The La Crena has beautiful black fruit along with a hint of mocha and excellent persistence; forward and quite tasty, this will be at its best in 5-7 years.

The Scarrone is from a vineyard at the Vietti estate in the commune of Castiglione Falletto. There are two bottlings: a regular and this, the Vigna Vecchia (old vines), from vines that are now more than 90 years old. Although not as deep in color as the La Crena (deep ruby red/purple on the Scarrone versus deep, bright purple on the La Crena), this is a richer, riper, more sumptuous wine in every way. With boysenberry and plum fruit and outstanding persistence, this is a great success. 2009 was a warm vintage, which aided ripeness and helped keep the natural acidity down; Luca Currado plays this up, but the wine is in perfect balance with every component in harmony. This is a delicious, hedonistic, decadent style of Barbera that is a long way from traditional Barbera and a wine that has to be tasted to be believed!

Next were the 2007 Castiglione Barolo and the 2006 Masseria Barbaresco. The Castiglione Barolo is a blend of Nebbiolo grapes from several communes and is a nice introduction to Vietti Barolo, with its varietal purity and distinctive spice. As for Barbaresco, here is a wine few talk about when referring to Vietti; that is a shame, as this is a lovely wine, very underrated. With beautiful aromas of persimmon (I find this to be a trademark aroma for Nebbiolo in the Barbaresco area) and dried cherry and expressive spice notes in the finish (cumin, oregano and thyme) along with excellent persistence and acidity, this is a notable wine. 2006 was a classic Piemontese vintage, that is to say, one in which the finest wines offer beautiful structure, impressive concentration and outstanding complexity- these are wines that are not as forward as in some years, but with patience – 12-15 years for this wine, in my opinion – they will display their finest traits.

Then came the showcase wines – three vintages of Villero Riserva Barolo. Villero is a single vineyard in Castiglione Falletto and in most years, Luca Currado uses the grapes from this site as part of the cuvée of his Castiglione Barolo. But in truly exceptional years – he will bottle this wine separately. We tasted three vintages, the newly released 2004 along with the 2001 and 1996; in tasting these wines the character of this vineyard, its outstanding fruit and the precision winemaking of Currado were all clearly on display.

The 2004 displayed the beautiful perfumes and ideal acidity of that vintage; red cherry and currant fruit are featured in the aromas and the wine has excellent persistence and complexity along with a beautiful sense of place. Look for this deeply concentrated wine to be at is best in 20-25 years- perhaps longer. (The playful label reminds one that 2004 was the year of the rabbit.)

The 2001, from an amazing Barolo vintage, is a huge wine of great power and intensity. Here the aromas are of cherry and black plum and there is outstanding depth of fruit and complexity. This is a wine of great persistence and structure; my best guess is that this wine will peak in 25-40 years! This is a great bottle of Barolo!

The 1996, from a truly great Barolo vintage, offers a bit more subtlety now, which is no surprise as the wine is a few years older. The aromas are of red currant and strawberry preserves (heavenly!) and there is a bit more spice on display in the finish (cumin, oregano and cinnamon). The tannins are big, but beautifully balanced, the acidity is perfect and the persistence is quite impressive; look for this wine to peak in 25-30 years, although it will probably drink well for a few years after that.

These three vintages all offer a beautiful sense of the terroir of Villero and are packed with layers of fruit. The complexity on all three wines is impressive; each is an outstanding wine, a testament to the life’s work of the Currado family. Not only was it a rare treat to try three vintages of the Villero Barolo at one sitting, but how wonderful to enjoy these wines along with Luciana Currado!

The tasting/lunch was held at the Balsan Restaurant at the Elysian Hotel in Chicago, a property that has only been open a little more than two years. The space is quite handsome and cozy and the food was excellent. For the Barolos, we were offered the option of a rib-eye steak or rainbow trout; as I don’t eat red meat, I opted for the latter. While I have enjoyed fish a few times with Barolo (only a few), I would have never thought of trout as an accompaniment, but it was perfect here, served with goat cheese and arugula. It had enough texture and flavor to stand up to the Barolo and captured the earthiness of the wines quite well. Bravo to the chef!

September 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm 4 comments

Barolo- che preferisci?

Giovanni Manzone and his son Mauro, Monforte d’Alba (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

I recently wrote a post about 2007 Barolo; I sampled over 100 bottlings during my stay in Alba for the Nebbiolo Prima event in early May. That post focused on the qualities and characteristics of the 2007 vintage and how it compared to other years. I commented that while I believe 2007 is an excellent vintage, as the wines display lovely balance and impressive depth of fruit, I prefer the Barolos from 2006, which should prove to be a much longer-lived vintage. Several winemakers I spoke with agreed with me, telling me that 2006 is a “more classic Piemontese vintage” while 2007 is more of “an international vintage.”

This got me thinking the other day about a number of things. It’s one thing for myself to prefer a specific vintage, but what about everyone else? I’ve always said that wine is a sensory experience, which means that all of us will react to a particular wine in our own particular way. A wine I love might have levels of acidity that are too high for someone else, while a ripe wine someone else likes may be too one-dimensional for me.

This is hardly original material here, but what I’m after is that with wine, style matters. Not just the style of the vintage, but the style of the wine itself. Don’t just consider the vintage – learn about the approach taken by individual estates. Regarding Barolo, does the firm make a traditional wine, aged in large casks or do they produce a modern, more-forward wine, often aged in small oak barrels? Learning about the style of producers is more important in my mind than memorizing details about each vintage. What do you prefer? Discover that and you’ve gone a long way towards learning about Barolo (or many other famous wines).

Bottles of Aldo Conterno Barolo (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Take as an example, the brilliant Barolos from Poderi Aldo Conterno in Monforte d’Alba. This is one of the finest of all Barolo estates, as the wines have outstanding depth of fruit, marvelous complexity and the potential to age for as long as 35-40 years from the finest years. The winery produces anywhere from two to five bottlings of Barolo per year; this depends on growing conditions (hailstorms sometimes cause problems in their vineyards, as with other estates). There is a regular Barolo, three cru bottlings (Romirasco, Colonnello and Cicala) and in exceptional years, a wine called Gran Bussia, a blend of these three vineyards. The wines are all aged in large casks of Slavonian oak known as grandi botti, which is the traditional aging vessel. To me, aging Barolo in large casks means that wood notes are not dominant and that the beauty of the Nebbiolo fruit emerges. When we speak of the terroir of Barolo, I find this emerges more often in traditionally aged wines.

Yet what about the wines of another excellent Monforte estate, that of Domenico Clerico? This is another famous Barolo producer, but their approach is quite different, as barriques are used here for the aging. The wines are of course different – very different – than those from Aldo Conterno or two other superb traditional estates in Monforte, Elio Grasso and Giovanni Manzone, whose wines I greatly admire. I prefer the wines of Grasso, Giovanni Manzone and Aldo Conterno to those of Clerico on a regular basis, yet I have enjoyed several excellent Barolos from Clerico over the years. Who makes the best wines? Part of the answer for each individual depends on what they think constitues the “best.” I generally tend to prefer traditionally aged Barolos, as that is what I have discovered I like (they also seem to me to be wines that better display a true sense of place), but I don’t rule out modern Barolos, simply because of the aging process.

Then there is the example of Luca Currado at Vietti, who ages each Barolo according to the approach he believes is proper. For example, he ages his Barolo from the Brunate cru in La Morra in small barrels, as he reasons that the soft tannins and delicate aromatics of this wine need a touch of new oak to give the wine more complexity. Yet for his Rocche Barolo from the famous cru in Castiglione Falletto, Currado ages this wine in large casks, as he wants to downplay the firm tannins that naturally emerge from this site. Thus Vietti makes Barolos that are traditional as well as modern. Here it’s not about an overall philosophy, but instead doing what’s proper for each wine. Currado told me once for an article I was writing that he compared this craftsmanship similar to a tailor making a suit of clothes for a man. Each customer is different, so the tailor has to alter each suite to make it fit just right; the same for Vietti and making Barolo.

Gianni Voerzio, La Morra (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Try various bottlings of Barolo from the La Serra cru in La Morra. Renowned producers such as Gianni Voerzio and his brother Roberto each produce this wine as does the Marcarini estate. The Voerzio bottlings are undoubtedly modern in their approach, while the Marcarini bottling is as traditional a Barolo as you can find. Each of these producers captures the elegance and deep fruitiness of this cru, but each does it in his own way. What do you prefer?

Then you have producers that combine a bit of each approach. At Fontanafredda in Serralunga d’Alba, winemaker Danilo Drocco uses a similar approach for two cru Barolo: La Villa from Barolo and La Rosa from the winery’s estate. He begins the aging in barriques, but then completes it in large casks. His reasoning is that small barrels can help deepen the color, but he needs to change to large casks in order to prevent the wine from becoming dominated by oak flavors. This is the decision that Drocco, a veteran of more than 25 Barolo vintages, has realized for his wines. Who would say he is wrong?

Renato Ratti Winery, La Morra (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

One of the great Barolo estates – and clearly one of my favorites –  is that of Renato Ratti in La Morra. Renato Ratti was one of the key figures in mapping out the crus of Barolo and today, his son Pietro manages the winery, producing three excellent Barolos per year. Like Fontanafredda, these Barolos are aged in both barrique and grandi botti, so they are an in-between style. They are certainly not “international” wines, overburdened with spice and vanilla from small barrels, but neither are they old-fashioned wines with strong herbal notes. Rather, they are superb reflections of the specific sites where the grapes are grown. The Marcenasco, Conca and Rocche Barolos from Ratti each offer different characteristics and have different life spans; the Rocche, especially, is one of the most consistent, ageworthy Barolos I’ve enjoyed over the past decade- to me this is a classic Barolo in every sense. Some winemaking has changed as Ratti moved into a new, state-of-the-art cellar a few years ago. I won’t go into all the technical details, but Ratti believes the wines now have a richer mid-palate that makes the wines more complete. Perhaps the notion of modern versus traditional shouldn’t even be a consideration when we’re speaking of the sublime Barolos of Renato Ratti.

So there you have it – given all the approaches by various producers in Barolo, you have the option of many wines. Find a style you like, but also try other wines to appreciate everything that is available. Barolo is a magnificent wine for many reasons, not the least of which are the complexities inherent in these wines. These characteristics can emerge from a specific site or from the winemaking approach of an individual producer or it might come from a vintage.

Put all this together and you realize that this is another argument against points. Barolo is too singular a wine to be branded – awarding a 95 versus a 92 on another wine really means nothing; if it shows anything, it’s the preference of the individual or group that handed out the score. What can a number tell you about one of the world’s greatest wines?

Finally, in the case of rating vintages, it is important to note the style of wines emerging from a vintage. Yes, for me, 2006 is a superior vintage as compared to 2007, but that doesn’t mean that will be the case for someone else (and I do think 2007 is an excellent vintage). Let’s face it – when Pietro Ratti comments that for the 2007 Barolos, “the balance is fantastic,” doesn’t that say it all?

P.S. This is my last post for at least a few weeks. Between my upcoming trip to Soave, Valpolicella and Collio along with a few projects I’m working on, I’ll be busy (that’s the sound of me knocking on wood that you are hearing). So I have no idea when my next post will be up, but I’m guessing within 3-4 weeks.

The number of hits has been on the increase, so thank you to everyone that is checking in on my blog. Now I hope to read some nice comments from time to time. I don’t write controversial stuff, but I do hope it’s interesting and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

May 26, 2011 at 12:43 pm 4 comments

The Decade’s Best Producers – Part One

Falanghina Vineyard of Mastroberardino (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

 

For my final post of 2009, I want to salute some of the finest Italian producers of this decade. Each year in the Spring issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, I list the year’s best wines and producers. I’ll be working on that shortly, but for now, let’s focus on the most important producers of the decade. There is no way I can do this with a single post, so this is part one. I’m juding not only on the quality of the wines, but also the influence these producers had in the marketplace and media and among their peers.

PIEMONTE

Vietti

If Luca Currado at Vietti only made Barolo, this winery would have made the list, but there are also gorgeous bottlings of Barbera, as well as a sleek, delicious offering of Arneis. The wines are beautifully made and sell through in good order.

Cavallotto

This family-owned winery makes the list for maintaining its traditional winemaking methods, as the great Barolos are aged in botti grandi – no barriques here. Is there a more graceful and ageworthy Barolo than the Bricco Boschis San Giuseppe Riserva?

Roberto Voerzio

Very modern Barolos here, aged in barrique, but amazing concentration and style. You may or may not like this style of winemaking, but you cannot help but admire the class of the offerings here.

Produttori del Barbaresco

Ultratraditional wines that show what the local terroir of Barbaresco is all about. An excellent Barbaresco normale and outstanding (often stunning) cru bottlings from the town’s best sites, including Asili, Rabaja and Montestefano. General manager Aldo Vacca is as classy as his wines!

Orsolani

I am saluting Gian Luigi Orsolani for his outstanding work with the Erbaluce grape, an indigenous white variety from northern PIemonte. Orsolani is the finest producer of this grape type in my opinion, crafting first-rate examples of dry white, sparkling and passito versions.

Braida – Giacomo Bologna

Splendid bottlings of Barbera d’Asti, from the humble to the sublime, especially the Bricco dell’Uccellone and the Bricco della Bigotta. Still one of the finest and most influential producers of Barbara d’Asti. Also a superb Moscato d’Asti (Vigna Senza Nome) and arguably the finest bottling of Brachetto d’Acqui. Raffaella Bologna is continuing her late father’s work in fine fashion.

Raffaella Bologna, Braida (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Fontanafredda

This gorgeous estate in the heart of the Barolo zone has been improving dramatically for the past decade, thanks to the efforts of general manager Giovanni Minetti and winemaker Danilo Drocco. A few years ago, Oscar Farinetti, the owner of the gourmet food store, Eataly, became the prinicpal owner of the winery and has already shown his influence by introducing value-priced Barbera and Dolcetto. There are so many excellent wines produced at Fontanafredda; this is an estate that has numerous wines for a wide consumer base and any producer that wants to grow their business in the coming decade should be looking at this model.

TOSCANA

Tenuta San Guido/Tenuta dell’Ornellaia

I am putting these two estates in Bolgheri together, as they both produce outstanding examples of local reds that not only are beautiful wines on their own, but are also known around the world. These estates, along with Grattamacco and Le Macchiole continue to be the identity for Bolgheri, Tuscany’s new light.

Bottles of Ornellaia and Masseto, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia

(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Il Poggione

Brunello di Montalcino has been in the news as of late, and not for all the right reasons. So let’s salute Il Poggione for making Brunello the right way – the traditional way. Winemaker Fabrizio Bindocci has a gentle winemaking hand, as he prefers to let the local terroir shine through in his wines. I’ve tasted examples of Il Poggione Brunello from the 1970s that are still in fine shape. As for the recent controversy about the possible inclusion of grapes other than Sangiovese in Brunello, well, there was never any doubt about that at Il Poggione; so the respect for the land and the wine as seen here (as well as at dozens of other local estates such as Biondi-Santi, Col d’Orcia, Talenti and Sesta di Sopra to name only a few) needs to be saluted.

Poliziano

Federico Carletti has done as much as any producer in Montepulciano to revive the fortunes of its most famous wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The regular bottling is always very good, but it is the Vigna Asinone bottling is the star here. Deeply concentrated with new oak and sleek tannins, this is a modern, but very precise wine that is one of Tuscany’s finest.

CAMPANIA

Mastroberardino

Campania’s most historically important winemaking estate, this winery continued to improve after a family split in the 1980s (some of the family members established a new winery in the Avellino province) and the change in leadership from Antonio Mastroberardino to his son Piero. Clonal research became an important factor here, and today, the family is producing the best examples of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina they have ever made. Of course, Taurasi is still the most important wine here, and if today’s bottlings are not as staunchly tradtional as those from the 1960s and early 1970s, they are still first-rate and just as importantly, are not covered up by the vanilla and spice of new oak that other Taurasi producers seem to prefer these days. How nice that this defender of the local winemaking heritage is doing so well these days!

Feudi di San Gregorio

This estate made a splash with its entrance on the scene in the mid 1980s and they are still one of Campania’s most important producers. Rich, deeply concentrated bottlings of Taurasi, but even more impressive white wines, especially Cutizzi Greco di Tufo and Pietracalda Fiano di Avellino. Now there are even beautifully made single variety sparkling wines in the classic method produced from Greco, Falanghina and Aglianico. Congratulations to owner Antonio Capaldo on his innovative efforts at this great estate!

Luigi Maffini

Luigi Maffini is making some of the most brilliant white wines in all of Italy as his small estate in the province of Salerno, south of Napoli. While his reds made from Aglianico are nicely done, the whites made from Fiano are routinely outstanding. There is the non-oak aged Kratos and the French oak-aged Pietraincatenata, an age-worthy Fiano. There is also a sumptuous Fiano Passito, which in my opinion, is one of the greatest dessert wines in all of Italy (the 2004 is particularly exceptional).

Cantine Marisa Cuomo

This small estate, located in the town of Furore on the Amalfi Coast, is set in an exceptionally beautiful seting, as the pergola vineyards cling to steep slopes a few hundred feet above the sea. Marisa and her husband, winemaker Andrea Ferraioli, are best known for the exceptional white, Fiorduva, a blend of indigenous varieties (Ripole, Fenile and Ginestra), but I think the Furore Rosso Riserva is also an important wine. This is extreme viticulture at its finest!

Pergola Vineyards in Furore, Cantine Marisa Cuomo

(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

December 30, 2009 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment


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