Another entry from my Top 100 Italian wine producers list:
When you think of the great producers of red wines from the Langhe, Ceretto certainly demands a spot at or near the top. Famous for their sublime bottlings of Barolo and Barbaresco, this family-owned estate also crafts excellent bottlings of other reds, such as Barbera d’Alba and Nebbiolo d’Alba as well as charming whites such as Arneis and Moscato d’Asti.
Ceretto wines were first made in the 1930s by Riccardo Ceretto, but it was the efforts by his sons Bruno and Marcello that made this family’s wines famous. Winemaking improved under their watch, but it was their acquisition of several properties in Barbaresco and Barolo that enabled Ceretto to produce world-class wines.
Today, Marcello’s son Alessandro is the winemaker and has further evolved the winemaking discipline at Ceretto. One of his best traits is decision-making process with wood, as some wines are aged in large casks (botti grandi), while other wines spend some time in barrique. Recently, he has decided to age some of the Barolos in mid-size French barrels known as tonneaux, as he believes that barriques often dominate the fruit in these wines.
There are several Ceretto estates, the two most famous being in Barbaresco at the Bricco Asili cru while the other showcase estate is at the Bricco Rocche estate in Castiglione Falletto in the heart of the Barolo zone. This estate is ultramodern and is perhaps best known for its iconic Cube, a structure designed by Luca and Marina de Abate of Torino. The setting for the Cube is a dramatic one, atop this beautiful vineyard, offering a panoramic view of virtually the entire Barolo zone.
Every Ceretto wine is quite special; the finest include the Bricco Asili Barbaresco, the Prapò Barolo and the Bricco Roche Barolo. The Asili Barbaresco is a textbook example of this famous wine type, with haunting aromas of persimmon and balsamic; there is great concentration, as the vines are now 40 years old.
As for the Barolos, the Prapò is a classic represenation of Serralunga Barolo, with its rugged tannins and tightly packed fruit. As big a wine as this is, it is still more approchable upon release than the Bricco Rocche. The Rocche is deeply concentrated with firm tannins and ripe red cherry fruit and orange peel aromas; the acidity is always quite good (especially in 2004 and 2005) and the wine should be at peak in 15-20 years for a lighter vintage (such as 2005) or 25-40 years, as in a classic vintage such as 2004.
While these wines are aging, lovers of Ceretto Barbaresco and Barolo can enjoy other bottlings of these wines. The “Asij” Barbaresco is medium-bodied with beautiful cedar and caraway flavors and plenty of red cherry fruit, while the “Zonchera” Barolo is a beautiful blend of Nebbiolo fruit from the communes of Barolo and Serralunga; offering delightful cherry fruit and notable cedary qualities, this is a lighter Barolo that will drink at its best 5-10 years after the vintage.
Barolo and Barbaresco as a rule age as well as just about any red wine; certainly the robust tannins of the Nebbiolo grape has much to do with that. It’s been my experience that the finest Ceretto offerings from Asili, Prapò and Bricco Rocche are among the longest-lived wines of their type. In this age of buying wines and drinking them as soon as possible, it’s nice to know that a great Ceretto bottling will stand the test of time.
One final note – if you visit the Barolo zone, make sure you reserve some time to see the new visitor’s center at the Ceretto estate known as Monsordo, located on the outskirts of the town of Alba. Organized by Bruno’s daughter Roberta, it was opened to the public last May and is one of the few places in Barolo where wine lovers can get a glimpse of a major winery’s history – past and present. Overlooking some of the family’s pristine hillside vineyards, this is a lovely spot to enjoy a glass of Barolo.