Posts tagged ‘serralunga d’alba’
Danilo Drocco, Winemaker, Fontanafredda, Serralunga d’Alba
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
I recently interviewed Danilo Drocco, winemaker at the historic Fontanafredda estate in Serralunga d’Alba in the heart of the Barolo zone. Below is the initial text from the interview for wine-searcher.com
Where were you born?
I was born in the area, in a little village near Alba – Rodello is the name. It is a little south of Alba.
Did your family make wine?
My grandfather owned a little winery in Novello, but he died during the Second World War. So my grandmother had to sell the winery to my cousins because she could not manage it by herself. My father decided to move to Alba. I was born in 1965.
To continue reading, please see the article (here) at wine-searcher.com
I’ve recently tasted a dozen examples of Barolo from the 2008 vintage and while only 12 wines is hardly overwhelming evidence, it’s enough for me to offer my first thoughts on wines from this year. I’d say right now, this should shape up as an excellent Barolo vintage – not powerful, but beautifully balanced, with lovely aromas and fine structure.
2008 was not as warm as 2007 or 2009 in the Barolo zone, so this gives the wines a more subdued character when compared to those vintages. 2007 was certainly somewhat of an “international” vintage, with its forward fruit and approachability upon release. There were plenty of cool nights during 2007 to offset the warm days, so the wines are nicely balanced and if not a classic vintage, certainly a very successful one. 2009 may shape up in much the similar way, but this is only a guess, as these wines won’t be released for another 15-18 months.
As 2008 was cooler than 2007 or 2009, the wines are more classically oriented, meaning this is more of a Piemontese vintage. That means the wines are a bit shy upon release, but offer excellent structure as well as a greater notion of sense of place or terroir. Now 2006 was also more of a Piemontese vintage, but the Barolos from that year are bigger wines, ones that need more time to come around and show their best qualities. The best 2006 Barolos are destined for optimum drinking some 25 years or more down the road. I’d say that the time frame for the 2008s is a bit less – perhaps 15-20 for most. Again, I’ve only tasted a dozen and though that hasn’t included some of the most renowned bottlings, I’ve certainly tasted some impressive offerings.
So the 2008s are middle weight Barolos with beautiful balance, very good acidity and impressive complexity. To me, they’re somewhat reminiscent of 2005, which are among the most beautifully balanced of the decade. Those wines, like the 2008s may not win the award for the longest-lived Barolos, but they certainly are beautifully styled.
Here are a few notes on my favorite 2008 Barolos to date:
Luigi Einaudi Costa Grimaldi- Costa Grimaldi is a selezione of the finest grapes from the Terlo cru in the Barolo commune. Beautiful aromas of dried cherry, thyme and cedar. Elegant entry; generous mid-palate. Lovely finesse and balance- best in 15-20 years.
Mauro Sebaste Prapo (Serralunga d’Alba) – Lovely aromas of dried cherry, currant, cedar and a touch of balsamic. Wonderful complexity and balance, this is a subtle, beautifully made Barolo with a nice sense of finesse. A traditionally made Barolo with classic overtones. Best in 15-20 years.
Marcarini La Serra - This great traditional producer makes two cru Barolos from La Morra. Floral aromas of red roses, carnation, dried cherry, coriander and nutmeg. Very good concentration and acidity with silky tannins and precise acidity. Best in 12-15 years.
Marcarini Brunate - Aromas of red cherry, cumin and cedar. Medium-full; very good acidity and persistence; subtle wood notes and polished tannins. A bit richer on the palate than the La Serra; best in 15-20 years.
Conterno Fantino Sori Ginestra (Monforte d’Alba) – Classic aromas of red cherry, orange peel, currant and cedar. Excellent concentration; rich mid-palate with layers of fruit. Beautifully structured wine; very good acidity, excellent persistence with wood notes that are nicely integrated. A touch of modernity; beautiful complexity and varietal character. Best in 20 years plus.
Ca’ Rome Cerretta (Serralunga d’Alba) – Aromas of cedar, dried cherry, orange peel and sandalwood. Rich mid-palate, lovely balance, excellent persistence, very good acidity and refined tannins. Nice expression of Serralunga terroir. Best in 15-20 years.
Luigi Einaudi Cannubi (Barolo) – Red cherry, red rose and cedar aromas; medium-full with very good concentration. Tightly wound, this is rich with young balanced tannins, good acidity and persistence. Best in 15-20 years.
Cascina Bongiovanni Pernanno (Castiglione Falletto) – Currant, dried orange peel, dried cherry and cedar aromas – very classy! Medium-full, very good acidity and persistence with balanced tannins and nicely integrated oak. Best in 12-15 years.
Two more harvest updates from Italy:
Filippo Antonelli – proprietor, Antonelli, Montefalco, Umbria
“2011 was a very strange season in Italy: a rather dry spring, a very fresh July and a very warm end of August and September; the results are: in general lower production, a very good vintage for Sangiovese (perfect ripeness), the Sagrantino, compared to Sangiovese, suffered the dryness a little bit more. The paradox is that we are harvesting better grapes of Sagrantino from the worst vineyards (rich soil) compared to the best ones (poor soil). Young vineyards also suffered more than old vineyards.
We are still harvesting, so it’s a little bit early to judge the wines/vintage.”
Evan Byrne – Internal Relationships, Az. Agr. Giovanni Rosso, Serralunga d’Alba
“In terms of this year, the vintage looks very good. Quantity is small but the quality is high and the wines when finished will probably be similar to 2007. It is an early harvest, with some of the east-facing slopes such as La Serra and Cerretta doing better. We have already picked at La Serra and Vigna Rionda and have just Cerretta to come in, with all the grapes from each vineyard looking very healthy.”
(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).
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.
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.
I’ve just returned from Piemonte, tasting new releases of Barbaresco (2007) and Barolo (2006). I briefly wrote about these wines on my other blog (read here and here). Now I would like to go into a bit more depth on Piemontese reds in general.
The Langhe area of southern Piemonte where the Barolo and Barbaresco zones are located, has been on a bit of a roll as of late. After the rainy 2002 vintage and the torridly hot 2003 growing season, which resulted in wines that were powerful, yet poorly balanced, the weather has cooperated. 2004 was a glorious year, producing wines of superb aromatics along with impressive weight. While 2005 was a lighter vintage, the wines are beautifully balanced with precise acidity and are drinking well. 2006 was a big year – this is a vintage where the wines need plenty of time – and 2007 was a relatively warm year that resulted in ripe, forward wines that are very enjoyable in their youth. The 2007 reds – at least what I have tasted so far (dozens of Barbaresco along with a handful of Barolo from cask) are notable wines, though probably not meant for the long haul, especially when compared to 2006.
Then there are the vintages of 2008 and 2009. You will be reading a great deal about the quality of 2009 in Piemonte (as well as the rest of Italy). It was a warm year, producing rich wines with impressive concentration; based on what I’ve tried so far with the whites as well as some reds from tank and cask, it definitely has the potential to be an outstanding vintage. That means that 2008 will likely be lost in the shuffle, as this was a cooler year that yielded less weighty wines.
However, 2008 is an excellent vintage – don’t let the hype fool you. While the wines may be less robust than those from 2009, they do offer beautiful varietal character and, most importantly, excellent acidity, which means the wines will age gracefully.
In fact, when it comes to Barolo and Barbaresco – both made exclusively from Nebbiolo – 2008 may be the better year. Danilo Drocco, winemaker at Fontanafredda in Serralunga d’Alba in the heart of the Barolo zone, told me that he believes 2008 will be the better of the two years for Nebbiolo-based wines. “I prefer 2008 for Nebbiolo,” Drocco related. “2008 was a long, cool growing season while 2009 was a shorter, hotter year. 2009 will be better for Barbera and Dolcetto, but it was not great for Nebbiolo.” Dante Scaglione, former winemaker at Bruno Giacosa and now consulting enologist for several projects including Cascina Roccalini in Barbaresco, told me that he agrees with Drocco about Nebbiolo for 2008.
Vintage assessments are always fascinating, but it’s also important to think about the style of the red wines made in Piemonte. From what I tasted during my recent trip, it was clearly noticeable that oak is becoming more of supporting player in the wine, as it should have been all along. Barolo went through its stage of high percentage, new barrique aging during the 1990s and early 2000s, but now the tide is turning back to larger barrels and thus, less wood influence. Another promising trend is that here are more and more cellars fermenting and/or aging their wines for a short time in cement tanks. Franco Massolino in Serralunga prefers fermenting his Barolo in cement, as “this helps preserve the aromas.” How nice that producers such as Massolino, Giovanni Rosso, Elio Grasso, Marcarini, Bartolo Mascarello and others are producing wine with the goal of emphasizing the flavors of the Nebbiolo variety as well as focusing on terroir to produce a wine with a sense of place.
There are so many wonderful reds that will be released over the next 3-4 years from Piemonte and while things look good in the short term of this span, it’s especially nice that tradition will play a more important role in this area for years to come.
Here is another entry in my Top 100 Italian wine producers.
Fontanafredda Estate, Serralunga d’Alba (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Fontanafredda is a remakable story of a very good producer that has become a great one in just over a decade. Owning choice vineyards may help, but it’s the people behind the scene that have elevated Fontanafredda to such heights.
Located in Serralunga d’Alba, one of the most typical of all communes in the Barolo zone, Fontanafredda is one of the area’s most beautiful wine estates, as the La Rosa vineyard (planted to Nebbiolo) is set in a beautiful ampitheater that is a focal point for lovely grounds that were once home to Emmanuele Vittorio ll, the King of Italy.
Fontanafredda owns the largest number of acreage of Nebbiolo reserved for production of Barolo, but quantity of course, does not always insure quality. For decades, the Barolos (and other wines) of Fontanafredda were always good and sometimes very good, but rarely special.
Then a few individuals saw to it that this estate would change. Giovanni Minetti, a former journalist, took over as general manager during the late 1990s and with the help of the Bank of Siena (Monte del Paschi) that owned the company, decided to upgrade equipment in the cellars as well as planting regimes in the vineyards. He then hired Danilo Drocco as winemaker in 1998, after a long stint at Prunotto, where he produced lovely examples of Barolo and Barbera for years. Drocco finished the 1998 Barolos, which received praise from wine writers throoughout Italy, with the 1998 La Rosa Barolo, receiving the coveted Tre Bicchieri award from Gambero Rosso, a first for the winery.
Today, Drocco produces several cru Barolos as well as a Serralunga bottling, from vineyards owned by the winery as well as from fruit purchased from local growers. The two cru bottlings from Serralunga offer great insight into Drocco’s winemaking skills. For both the La Rosa and the Lazzarito, Drocco ages the wine in barriques for approximately one year and then swtiches the wine to large oak casks (grandi botti) after that. This blending of modern and traditional winemaking methods has its purpose, as Drocco believes the color of Barolo is preserved in the small barrels, while the large caks insure that the wines do not have too high a level of tannins or wood influence from the small barrels. “A little oak is fine for Barolo, but not too much,” Drocco explains.
Both wines are first-rate and are fine examples of local Serralunga terroir. The La Rosa is a more approachable bottling upon release and offers more floral aromatics, while the Lazzarito (La Delizia) bottling is more tannic and is released almost one year later than the La Rosa. Danilo explains this; “As Lazzarito is located at a higher elevation than La Rosa (1300 feet versus 820), the temperatures at night are cooler, which means Lazzarito needs another 7-10 days for proper grape maturity as compared with La Rosa. This extra hangtime also builds up a greater degree of tannins.” While both wines have been exceptional since Drocco took over with the 1998 vintage, the Lazzarito has definitely been the more deeply concentrated wine and the one offers the promise of longer aging potential. The 1998 is drinking beautifully now, while the 1999, 2001 and 2004 are wines that should peak in another 15-25 years.
In 2008, Oscar Farinetti, head of the cutting edge retail store Eataly, located in Torino, became majority share holder of Fontanafredda (the Bank of Siena has maintained a significant percentage of ownership), leading to a new era for the winery. New value-oriented wines, such as Briccotondo (Barbera Piemonte) and Terremora, a Langhe Dolcetto have been introduced. Improvements continue in many aspects of the company and today, the full potential of this estate is being fulfilled.
Drocco, always looking to improve his wines, has become one of Barolo’s most dedicated winemakers and stresses that his wines need to emerge in the bottle instead of being too obvious and forward upon release. “They should be like the great Burgundies that give to you sensations little by little.”
The best wines of Fontanafredda include:
- Roero Arneis “Pradalupo”
- Moscato d’Asti “Montecucco”
- Asti “Galarej”
- Contesa Rosa Brut
- Barolo “La Villa”
- Barolo “La Rosa”
- Barolo “Lazzarito La Delizia”
- Barbaresco “Coste Rubin”
- Nebbiolo d’Alba “Marne Brune”
- Diano d’Alba “La Lepre”
- Barbera d’Alba “Papagena”