The SOMM Journal

June / July 2015

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{ }  55 Cerretta and Baudana from the recently acquired Luigi Baudana vineyards combine robustness and elegance, while the single vine- yard Bricco delle Viole is, for me, the Lafite of Barolo. Lunch, at the highl y-regarded Giardino da Felicin in Monforte d'Alba, was a delightful preparation for the afternoon's tasting at Podere Aldo Conterno, one of the historic names of Italian wine, with Giacomo Conterno. Founded in 1908, the family owns 25 hectares of now 60-year-old vines around Monforte, including two "monopole" crus, Cicala and Romirasco, the great Colonello and the even greater GranBussia whose 2005 (2018–40, 96/100) was one of the outstanding wines of the week, as were both the 2006 and 2000. Over the last decade the production has been brought down from 200,000 to just 80,000 bottles, in the search for utmost quality and such wines are justifiably very expensive. Dinner was at Bovio, the famous La Morra restaurant with one of the best wine lists I have ever seen, where we were joined by Elio Altare's daughter Silvia, the quality of their Barbera d'Alba 2013 and Barolo 2009 and 2000 proving that you can be both modern and classic. Wednesday, April 22 Certainly the most anticipated visit of the week was to meet Angelo Gaja at his Sorì San Lorenzo vineyard on the outskirts of Barbaresco and proceed to the Castello di Barbaresco (bought 15 years ago, planned to be a hotel, now a superb showplace for the Gaja wines) for a tasting. Angelo had selected two white wines: Alteni di Brassica 2013 Langhe DOC Sauvignon Blanc which reminded me of Ch. Margaux's Pavillon Blanc, and Gaja & Rey 1993 Langhe DOC Chardonnay, rich and still fresh in a Bâtard- Montrachet style. Then two Langhe Nebbiolo DOC reds, the addi - tion of 5% Barbera losing them the "G" of Barbaresco: a fragrant and chiselled Costa Russi 2013 and a beautifully textured Sori' San Lorenzo 2011, and finally two DOCG Barbarescos: a simply perfect 1998 with at least ten years to go and a warm, mature 1988. The Gaja reputation stands out, and while this was a hard act to follow, Alberto Marchese di Gresy rose to it admirably on his superb Barbaresco estate at Martinenga. Over a "traditional Piedmontese menu" served brunch-style on the terrace of his historic winery we tasted a range of wines from Langhe Sauvignon Blanc, two barrel- fermented Langhe Chardonnays to concentrate on Barbarescos from his "monopole" Martinenga cru: a vigourous 2011, a classic and pure 2000, then the special site Camp Gros 2008 still oaky but impressive and their flagship Gaiun, produced only in the best vintages, a robust 2009 and a beautifully structured 1997. (Imported by Chambers & Chambers in the U.S.). That evening we were the guests of Franco Martinetti, late President of L'Académie Internationale du Vin and the perfect example of the "gentleman winemaker." Martinetti owns no vineyards but four different win - eries where he vinfies in an elegantly personal manner the best grapes that he obtains under long-term contract. Dinner was at the Michelin-starred restaurant Guido located in the historic villa on the Fontanafredda estate, once owned by Vittorio Emanuele II, the menu being chosen to match nine Martinetti wines. The group agreed that this was the finest meal of the trip from every point of view, the wines showing stunning vineyard personality and purity. They were: (white) sparkling "Quarantatre" 2000, Gavi "Minaia" 2013, Colli Tortonesi "Martin" 2012 from neighbouring Lombardy's rare Timorasso grape, Moscato d'Asti 2014; (red) Barbera d'Asti "Bric dei Banditi" 2012, Barbera d'Asti "Montruc" 2011, Monferrato Rosse "Sul Bric" 2011, Colli Tortonesi Freisa "Lauren" 2008, Barolo "Marasco" 2009. Anyone fortunate enough to come across Franco Martinetti's wines will become a client for life. Thursday, April 23 The evening at Guido had sent us to bed exhilarated and surpris- ingly refreshed, so we were on good form for our morning visit to Pio Cesare, Alba's most respected grower and merchant, whose cellars deep below the centre of Alba incorporate a Roman wall and where cobwebs and candles harmonise with the most mod - ern equipment. Like Michele Chiarlo, the range is too large to taste, so w e began with Chardonnay "Piodilei" 2013, a splendid Barbera d'Alba "Fides" 2012 and the "house" Barbaresco and Barolo 2011, before moving to their single cru Il Bricco Barbaresco and Ornato Barolo, both from the superb 2010 vintage, very great wines for the future. Our next visit was at Prunotto, also a grower/merchant, founded in 1904 and since 1989 part of the Antinori group. Over a delicious lunch prepared by Trattoria del Bivio in Cerretto Langhe, we began with a fresh Arneis 2014 white to move to their crus Barbaresco Bric Turot 2011 and Barolo Bussia 2009 to end on a superb Barolo 1990. The Prunotto reds are leaner than those at Pio Cesare, but blossom with age. Our final evening was hosted by the dashing Pietro Ratti in his recently excavated cellars above La Morra's Marcenasco vineyard, the first Barolo cru ratified by his father Renato in the late 1960s. Pietro is President of the Barolo Consortium, a role played by his father for many years. Ratti cur - rently owns 40 hectares that contribute 80% of his production, 20% being from bought in grapes. The style is modern in the best possible sense, capturing the florality and fragrance of Nebbiolo while retaining weight and grip. A lovely Arneis and a delicious Dolcetto led to the Volnay-like Marcanesca 2011, to be followed by Barolo Rocce and Barolo Conca 2007, both superb, the latter taking the edge for me, then an almost Pauillac Rocce 2004 with a decade in front of it and a magnificently elegant Rocce 2001. Friday, April 24 Our final morning was with the Sottimano estate in Cotta, part of Barbaresco's Nieve region. I am a huge fan of the young Andrea Sottimano's wines, whose 16 hectares of vineyards are organically farmed and there is a "hands off " approach in the cellar with natu - ral yeasts, minimal rackings and bottling without filtering or fining. The r ichness and natural strength of fruit that comes from his five different crus is extraordinary, my preference going for the Pajoré 2012, Currá 2011, Cottá 2010, topping out on a lush yet firm Pajoré 2008 and a quite superb Riserva 2010 that had matured for two years on its lees with no sulphites and no rackings. Not only are these wines strikingly good, they are reasonably priced for the quality.

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