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Located in North-Western Italy, Piemonte offers a wonderful array of wines.

The primary area of Piemonte for wine (and food) is centered on the city of Alba and environs.

The region is known as the Langhe and these hills are responsible for the potentially noble wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as satisfying Barbera, Dolcetto, Arneis and Moscato wines, amongst others. 

The landscapes are varied and the hilltops crowned with castles.  Once relatively "poor" farmers now find themselves wealthy and world-famous as a result of increasing connoisseurship of their wines.   Much as with vignerons in Burgundy, small, family-run wineries turn out some of the very finest of the region.

The overall quality of winemaking has escalated dramatically over the past couple of decades and this has been most enjoyable to watch (and taste).

Major Piemontese Grapes and Wines

ALTA LANGA This is a new designation for bottle-fermented sparkling wines from Langhe vineyard sites of at least 250 meters in elevation and made predominantly (90%) of Chardonnay or Pinot Nero.  Though typically a "white" wine, these can be pink or even red sparkling wines.  There were less than 10 producers of such bubblies as of March 2009 and as of 2019 we counted 26 wineries making "Alta Langa" sparklers.
ARNEIS Typically a dry white wine, best when young and fresh.
Grown in the Roero region, primarily.
BARBERA Grown in many areas of Piemonte, its most famous wines are "Barbera d'Alba," "Barbera d'Asti" and "Barbera del Monferrato."  Some are young, fresh and without wood aging, while others exhibit a forest-full of wood.  It is usually a high acid, low tannin red wine.
BRACHETTO Usually made as a fizzy and somewhat sweet red wine.   "Brachetto d'Acqui" is well known.
CORTESE A modest white variety making wine such as "Gavi."
DOLCETTO A berryish, fruity red, often likened to Beaujolais.  As it's usually a wine meant for drinking in its youth, we favor those with modest tannins...some producers make mean and fiercely tannic wine from what should be a gentle, easy-going red.   There are various locations, such as Alba, Asti, Diano d'Alba, Dogliani and Ovada.
ERBALUCE A white wine made near Torino and Vercelli.  Sometimes made dry, sometimes bubbly and some make a sweet, Passito-styled wine.  As a dry wine, it can be quite an interesting bottle and it seems to do well with a bit of age. 
FAVORITA Grown in Roero and the Langhe...makes a simple, light dry white wine.  It may be related to Liguria's Pigato and Vermentino varieties.
FREISA Typically made as a light and fizzy red wine.  Best in its youth.  Sometimes, as the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle, the wine can develop some "dirty" aromas.  There are a few wineries making Freisa in a "serious" (non-fizzy) style, as the grape is closely related to Nebbiolo.  It can be tannic and so many winemakers would leave it with some sweetness.  Cascina Gilli and the GD Vajra wineries make "serious" red wine from this grape.
GRIGNOLINO Rather pale and light in color, this is usually a sharp, acidic light-colored, spicy red wine.  
MALVASIA Often made as a light, fizzy red which has a bit of sweetness.  
MOSCATO A flowery white wine, best in its youth.  Typically low in alcohol and bottled "fizzy."  Most have the name "Moscato d'Asti."  The same grape makes the more bubbly, but less "fine" sparkling wine known as "Asti Spumante."

Growers are working to have a special designation "Canelli" on the labels.  These will, undoubtedly, be more costly.
NAS-CETTA or ANASCETTA A white grape which used to be more widely planted, today it's found in the Barolo-area town of Novello.   It's an appley and dry white and new plantings have been made, so you'll start seeing a number of new producers of this interesting dry white.


wpe11.jpg (17574 bytes)
The Three "Clones" of Nebbiolo
Notice the different leaf structure, as well as the difference in bunch shapes.
Friends used to make a Barolo from the Rose variety and this was always incredibly aromatic, but light in color and body.  There's not much Barolo or Barbaresco made today which incorporates Rose.  
The Lampia and Michet have become the
preferred clones.

The red grape of Piemonte, making the famous wines of Barbaresco and Barolo.  There are (at least) 3 clones, Lampia, Michet & Rose.   The grape takes its name from the fog or nebbia.  Like Pinot Noir, this grape is color-poor, yet it can be more fiercely tannic than a Cabernet.    "Nebbiolo d'Alba" wines come from vineyards in the Langhe which are not Barolo or Barbaresco.  The name for declassified Barolo and Barbaresco wines is "Nebbiolo delle Langhe."  Don't let some fool you by the claim that Nebbiolo d'Alba is "declassified" Barolo or Barbaresco!  Other names of Nebbiolo wines in Piemonte include Carema, Gattinara (with as much as 10% of a variety called Bonarda), Ghemme (60-85% Nebbiolo, 10-30% Vespolina and up to 15% Bonarda), Lessona (up to 25% of other varieties), while Fara, Boca and Sizzano wines are made up in part with Nebbiolo.  The grape also is known as "Spanna"  in the Novara-Vercelli hills.


Nizza became a DOCG wine in 2014 and it's Barbera.  These had previously been labeled as Barbera d'Asti Superiore Nizza.  This comes from 18 communes in the Asti provincia.  Wines with the specific vineyard name on the label are required to be no less than 13.5% alcohol, while non-vineyard designated wines need to be 13.0% alcohol.  By the way, wines labeled as Barbera d'Asti can come from any of 160 communes, so Nizza is more limited in production and might be of higher quality.  Might be...


This is a curious little red grape that's found in the Barolo-area town of Verduno.  The wine is dry, light to medium-bodied and has a distinctively spicy quality.  I've tasted some Friulian Schioppettino which have similar characteristics.  It's, apparently, cultivated near Torino where it goes by the name "Cari."  Who knew?


The origins of this grape, typically cultivated in the area of Castagnole Monferrato have been obscured.  Some will tell you it's indigenous to this area (near Asti), while other stories proclaim it was brought from France and nobody knows, precisely, what it is.  The red wine made from Ruché tends to have an interesting floral fragrance, though.


This is an unusual variety cultivated in south-eastern Piemonte near Tortona.  The grape is unusual in that as white grapes go, this has fairly thick skins...good for warding off rot.  It's not widely-planted, though in the past few years, there's been a slight spike in interest.


ALBAROSSA A vine guy named Giovanni Dalmasso crossed Nebbiolo and Barbera back in 1938 to produce a variety which has the dark color of Barbera and supposedly some character of Nebbiolo.  In the second decade of the 21st century, a few producers are making interesting wines from this grape...nothing, yet, as grand as top Barbera or killer Nebbiolo.  But who knows?
MALVASIA di SCHIERANO Cultivated, for the most part, in the Asti hills of Castelnuovo Don Bosco, this grape makes a fantastically delicious, fizzy, low alcohol sweet wine along the lines of Moscato d'Asti.  Cascina Gilli is the reference point.
There are numerous varieties around Italy which are known in the local regions as "Carica L'Asino," which translates to "load up the donkey."  It's a white variety, sometimes known as Barbera Bianca, but we are not sure if this is really related to the Barbera grape.  There's not much of this produced and just two wineries making it that we know of.
AVANA A very obscure grape grown in the hills of the Valle di Susa, not far from Torino, as well as in the Val Chisone.  Few people as "far away" as Barolo would have heard of this red grape.
DOUX D'HENRY Cultivated southwest of Torino in the Pinerolese's said France's King Henry rode through the area in the 1600s and enjoyed the sweet wine made of this variety, hence its curious name.  Today there is a small production of dry red wine from the grape known as Doux d'Henry.
BONARDA Small plantings are still found in northern Piemonte, for the most part.  There's another grape called Croatina which sometimes goes by the name Bonarda, but it's actually not the same variety.  That's Italy for you: always confusing.
CROATINA A variety sometimes used in making the Nebbiolo-based wines of Gattinara and Ghemme, but in the Roero and San Damiano d'Asti, this variety is called Bonarda.  Confused?  Yes.


Planted in the region of Gattinara, it is currently thought to be related to Nebbiolo.  You might find it in wines of the Fara, Boca, Bramaterra and Coste della Sesia appellations.






Some Current Offerings:


I've adopted this family as my "Piemontese famiglia" (or they've adopted me as their California relative).  

The Vietti name has long been prominent in Piemontese winemaking.  

A young enology school graduate named Alfredo Currado (who married Luciana Vietti) had been courted by a few Alba-area wineries, but he went to work for his wife's father's winemaking enterprise.  
Alfredo had been a good student of the vine and was a very capable enologist during a time when many of the local wines were homemade and tasted like it.  

He was a dear friend of ours and came to San Francisco to stay with us a few months under the guise of learning English back in maybe late 1988 and early 1989.  And he did gain a bit of a command of the language, but understood it better than he spoke it.


In those days it appeared as though Alfredo and Luciana's brilliant daughter Elisabetta would take the reins of the winery and captain Team Vietti.  She ended up leaving Castiglione Falletto for apparently greener pastures and her little brother Luca became team captain.  It's under his guidance that Vietti has continued to be a hugely famous name for Piemontese wines and Luca and his wife Elena worked tirelessly, along with brother-in-law Mario Cordero (he's married to the eldest Currado kid, veterinarian Dr. Manuela Currado-Cordero). 

It was in 2016 early one morning we dialed up the internet news and confess to having fallen off the chair when we read a story reporting the sale of the Vietti winery from the family to an American family which owns the Kum & Go convenience stores which we understand are based in the state of Iowa.
We checked the calendar to see if perhaps this was some sort of April Fool's joke.  

 Mario retired after the sale and Luca and Elena had run the show until March of 2023 when they politely resigned.

It seems Luca Currado had been interested in possibly purchasing the Serafino winery from the Gruppo Campari company when it was up for sale in 2015, or so.  That winery is situated in the Roero region where Vietti (and others) get Arneis grapes.  It might have been a convenient location for Vietti to vinify Arneis.  
Serafino also had holdings in Barolo, so it was an attractive option, but Vietti was aced out by the Krause family on buying that cellar.

Fast forward to 2016 and the Krauses come to the Vietti winery to taste wines.  Shortly after, they made an offer for the winery and before you know it, the winery was soon under American ownership.  This was quite an emotional roller-coaster for Luca and Elena and the sale was engineered by their partner and brother-in-law we've been told.

We know Luca Currado and his wife Elena were taken by surprise on this whole episode, but presently, things were running along smoothly and we know he was happy with being able to extend the vineyard holdings for Vietti.   
The sale was a major shock for many in the region, as one can imagine.

And now that the non-compete clause has run its course, Luca and Elena posted notices of resignation, so the future is unpredictable.

The sale does validate, though, what we have long known: Piemonte is a special place for wine (and more) and as we see in Bordeaux, Burgundy and some places in California, international investment changes the economics of the wine business.  It may promote economic growth for some, but it does adversely impact the ability of small, family wineries to grow.  

We asked a Vietti staffer what changes had been noted with the new ownership.  We were told the business is on a more solid economic foundation and "we don't have to watch the pennies as much as we did previously."

Luca and Elena continued to travel around the world to promote Vietti and unless you've read the news stories from 2016 (or this posting), you'd not sense that the winery was anything but a traditional family-operated enterprise.

In the last couple of years the holdings of prime vineyard property has allowed Luca to vinify Nebbiolo from some of the best cru sites in the Langa.  There are some remarkably famous vineyards in the Vietti stable presently and we look forward to tasting new vintages of both Barolo and Barbaresco.

So...some additional Vietti info:

The late Alfredo Currado...a major pioneer in Piemontese wine.
Alfredo liked sharing bottles of old vintages and he said I should come visit more frequently as he still had a lot of venerable bottles and he needed someone to drink them with.

Alfredo is said to be the first to make a single-vineyard designated wine, a 1961 vintage "Rocche" Barolo.  It's been noted that the late Beppe Colla also bottled a '61 as a single vineyard wine.  Bruno Giacosa followed suit shortly thereafter.
Today nearly every Barolo producer makes a single vineyard bottling.  Or several single-vineyard bottlings.

Alfredo is also credited as being "The Father of Arneis."  Luciana tells the story of Alfredo standing up in church one Sunday morning and telling his friends and neighbors that he'd been doing a bit of research on the grape which was often interspersed in Barolo vineyards for a couple of reasons, possibly.  One was to blend it into the harsh and astringent Nebbiolo to temper Barolo's ferocity.  Another possible reason is that it ripens before Nebbiolo and its fruit might attract birds to it, distracting them from the more "important" Nebbiolo.  

Alfredo told the congregation that by that particular day during the 1967 vintage, the grapes should be sufficiently ripe and he wanted to be the first to vinify a 'pure' Arneis.  He urged people to bring pick the grapes after church and bring them to the Vietti winery where he'd pay them for the grapes and see what could be done with this curious white grape.  Some even called it "Nebbiolo Bianco."  The name Arneis may come from Renesio di Canale or Arneiso di Canale, a place name.  But in Piemontese, the word "Arneis" describes someone who's a bit of a rascal or scallywag and who gets on people's nerves.  
Well, that afternoon the small road up the hill to the tower of Castiglione and the Vietti cellars was jammed with carts and wagons as people wanted to cash in on the folly of Alfredo Currado.

Today Vietti remains a bit of a benchmark for the Arneis wine and we've been fans for many years, especially since Luca took over the winemaking.  He's been able to refine this and has a good touch in keeping the wine fresh, mildly minerally and bone dry.  Today, however, there are at least 150 wineries making Arneis!
Thank you, Alfredo!


We had tasted Vietti wines in the very early 1980s...they were imported locally by a little start-up company who also handled the equally unusual wines of a renegade vintner named Angelo Gaja.  The Vietti wines were priced normally for that period, but the Gaja wines were a bit more costly...Would customers pay $6 or $8 for a Piemontese red wine???

Those were the days!


We first visited the winery in 1982 and arranged an appointment through the local consorzio office in Alba.  Alfredo had immediately called back to the office asking if we could come the following day as he didn't speak English, but his wife did.  She was away that afternoon with their son Luca taking in an opera performance.  

"Tell him while we don't speak much Italian, but we do speak 'wine'."  And the consorzio fellow did just that and so we went to visit.  The cellars were old, clean and traditional.  Alfredo graciously poured every wine he had for sale.  And, having run out of things to show us, asked if we would like to taste an older wine.  I didn't go there to say "no."

We went upstairs and he brought out a rare bottle of 1961 Vietti Barolo.  His mother-in-law, Nonna Pierina, joined us and later, so did his daughter, Elisabetta.   Nonna ended up taking some blossoms from a tree and frying them to serve with the wine...and daughter 'Betta was 'fried," too, since 1961 was "her" vintage and there were less than a dozen bottles remaining.  You can imagine how her blood pressure really rose when Alfredo sent us packing with another bottle of her precious 1961!



This special bottle of 1961 was served to an appreciative audience a few years later.  Alfredo was staying with me for a few months, here in California learning English.  We hosted dinner one night, Alfredo preparing a pasta sauce and me preparing some sort of goat stew.  I knew he was apprehensive about opening this ancient bottle, since it might not still be alive, so I'd asked Luciana to call at the time when I thought we might be ready to serve this (with a cheese course).  She did and as Alfredo chatted with Italy, I opened and decanted this venerable bottle for our guests (one gentleman was a Gourmet magazine affiliate -Gerald Asher- and our late friend Shirley Sarvis wrote for various publications, including magazines and local newspapers).  The 1961 was splendid, in fact.  The empty bottle is prominently displayed, still, in my dining room.

Alfredo had a small connection, ages ago, to Sonoma's Simi winery.
He and Luciana were good friends with Bob and Zelma Long, two California wine industry personalities back in the day.
Bob ran Long Vineyards (now closed) in the Napa Valley and Zelma Long was running Simi over in Sonoma.
Alfredo's daughter Elisabetta had come to California in 1984 and was working at both Long Vineyards and Simi.
So...we had Simi wine on the table one night.


Alfredo used to describe his winemaking as "traditional" and I recall he was allergic to having his picture taken in the company of French oak barriques. Perhaps he did not want to be viewed as making wines smelling and tasting of oak or he didn't want his old winemaker friends to think he had abandoned tradition.  

His son Luca came to California for an internship and also spent time in Bordeaux.  With these experiences, surely, he's learned some of the intricacies of using new wood, but the winery still has substantial large, neutral cooperage for maturing its wines.  Alfredo used to say he didn't know how to properly employ small oak aging for his wines, but that Luca, with his experiences in places where small French oak was common, was more capable with barriques.  

Over the years Luca has refined his use of won't find the Vietti wines to display much in the way of wood.  In fact, he pulled back on the use of oak with their Barbera wines to the point that the wines didn't taste like Vietti Barbera.  It seems they reacted to the various critics who professed, at least for that moment, that they preferred wines showing more fruit and less oak.  Of course, these are the same critics who praised barrel-aged wines when the use of French oak was introduced to Piemonte.  
We explained that those Barbera wines, without oak, were a disappointment to those who had been buying Vietti wine over the previous decade.  
"How much wine does those wine writers purchase?" we asked.

In 2019 we found Luca seemed to have found a happy medium.  We included a couple of Vietti Barbera wines in a blind-tasting.  We wanted to see for ourselves how the wines were received by a group of tasters (wine aficionados, but not wine industry folks).  And we wanted to taste for our self how we perceived the wines.  
A Vietti Barbera from their Scarrone vineyard was the run-away first-place winner and the group has the entry-level "Tre Vigne" Barbera d'Asti as the second place wine in a field of eight (with bottlings from Bruno Giacosa, Luciano Sandrone in the flight of wines).

They used to own but a few acres of vineyards back in the 1980s, but Alfredo and Luciana saw the escalating prices for fruit and began investing in vineyards quite a few years ago.  Today they own about 48 hectares of vineyards and rent an additional 15 according to Luca Currado.  With the new ownership has come monetary resources which have helped augment the supply of grapes.

Luca, meanwhile, is working to satisfy his enological curiosity about other grape varieties.  He gives advice on winemaking to the folks at the Tenimenti Luigi D'Alessandro in Cortona and he's been giving some tips at Querciabella in Tuscany's Chianti region.  

Alfredo Currado in 2007 is holding a bottle of an old vintage (1973) of Arneis.  
He and Luciana tell the story of asking friends at church one Sunday in 1967 to bring Arneis grapes to the winery if anybody still farmed this.  They were surprised when numerous neighbors showed up with boxes full of Arneis.  Alfredo is credited with resuscitating Arneis as a commercial wine, though some reports claim Bruno Giacosa also vinified some Arneis around the same time.  Giacosa, though, admits Alfredo beat them to the punch by a nose...

The winery produces the major wines of the Langhe, often having top Dolcetto, Barbera, Barolo and Barbaresco wines.   Vietti is one of a modest number of wineries able to make both Barolo and Barbaresco in the same winery (the law requires the winery have a 'history' of making both...otherwise, you need a winery within the confines of each area to produce the respective wines).

Barbera wines have really been great from Vietti.  Winemaker Luca Currado has a great hand with these.  Their "Tre Vigne" bottling is the 'entry level' offering and we periodically have that in the shop. We were surprised to taste the Tre Vigne and found the wine quite different from previous vintages.
We inquired as to why they changed and Luca said he's been told by journalists that they prefer to find more fruit in the wine and no wood.  
We explained that these journalists don't buy Vietti wine, typically and they are always looking for some new angle.  The people who buy the wine will be disappointed to not find the same style they've been buying for the past decade.
Luca found our observation to be accurate and he's now using a touch of wood again in the Barbera wines.

The Scarrone vineyard is close to the winery and produces marvelous Barbera!  The 2018 is an exceptional bottle of wine, having lovely berry fruit and a hint of sweet, cedary oak.  The flavors are long and velvety, more "noble" than the simple, fruity, "everyday" sort of Barbera wine.   

The Scarrone Vigna Vecchia (Old Vines--about 80+ years of age) is massive and remarkable.  It is quite limited as they make but a few bottles of this wine.  Sadly, the price has escalated but the quality is remarkable. 

La Crena is their single vineyard wine from the Asti's usually been very bright in fruit and nicely oaked.  You might find it a bit more polished and supple compared to the Scarrone.  

Barbaresco from the Masseria "cru" has been exceptional,  the wine showing a touch of wood underneath the intense Nebbiolo 'fruit' (a bit of earth and truffle-like notes on our last taste of this).  This wine has substantial tannins, so holding it for 5-10 more years is not out of the question.  It is fantastically complex and will continue to develop in bottle for another decade, easily.  The wine has come from a vineyard site owned by someone named Masseria and Vietti first used that name for the 1964 vintage. 
These days the name remains but the vineyard sources, we understand, are from Neive and Treiso.
It's been mostly from a site within the cru known as Currà (and a little patch of Faset Pora) but with the 2018 the Vietti Barbaresco will hail from Roncaglie.  Stay tuned on that.

Barolo wines come from a variety of 'crus'.  These have been quite good for many years, though only recently getting the attention from The Critics that some of their neighbors receive.    I wish they weren't so costly, but the wines are good and Luca works diligently to improve these.  In discussing these with him, one can easily see Luca is as passionate about the wines as his father Alfredo had been.  I suspect that Luca's studies in school give him the edge on his dad in terms of being able to "tweak" the wines each vintage.  He seems very sensitive to the quality and character of the vintage as the grapes are harvested and he does what's necessary to coax the maximum character out of each wine.

We usually have several Barolo wines in the shop, depending on availability...the single vineyard wines have become collector's items and so as a trophy wine, they can be difficult to come by.  The basic bottling is pretty damned good and much easier to find.  

"Castiglione" is the least costly Barolo and it's a very good wine, not precisely "entry level" which means it's somehow a lesser wine.
Winemaker Luca Currado says it's because the fruit comes from good vineyard sites and it's a blend of really good wines.  They're conscious of offering at least one Barolo with a reasonable price tag and the Castiglione bottling should be on your list of "entry-level Barolo" worth buying and at $59.99, it's a great introduction to young Barolo.   While it's drinkable when it's released, we'd suggest buying a few bottles to stash away for 5 years, or'll really be pleased with what this does with bottle aging.

"Brunate" is a special site in La Morra and it is often a seriously grand bottle from Vietti.  The cru is large and you can find numerous bottlings from other wineries of Brunate.  Some people don't give it as much credit as it deserves because it can develop a bit more rapidly than some of the other hard-edged wines.  Wine critics seem to more highly prize wines which are expected to have a long life span, so if a wine is more drinkable immediately, it gets a lower numerical score.
We opened a 14 year old bottle of a Vietti Brunate and the wine could not have been any better!
It was one of those precious wines that really has impact with such grand complexity that even an uninitiated taster would take notice and realize there is something special about some wines, that bottle in particular.


The Lazzarito vineyard is across the valley and east and south of the winery in the Serralunga.  Alfredo first made wine from this cru in 1989.  Luca's version is a shade more modern, let's say, seeing time in small French oak and then finishing its maturation in Slavonian oak.  The fragrances show some of the dried rose character and a nice woodsy component.  The tannins are reasonably well-balanced, so drinking a bottle at 10 to 20 years of age would be about right.

Ravera is a rather new addition to the Vietti line-up.   This comes from a vineyard south and west of the winery in the area of Novello.  This is a lovely outpost, rather due west of Monforte d'Alba.   I've mentioned several clones of Nebbiolo previously and this vineyard has two of them, including the aromatic and very light-in-color "rosé" variety.  Luca explains the vineyard is approximately 30% rosé and maybe 70% Michet.  
(Alfredo used to make a wonderful Barolo from a vineyard planted predominantly with rosé...I always found the fragrance to be especially deep and wonderful, but most people "taste with their eyes" and the pale color caused many to be prejudiced!).
The Ravera shows lovely fruit, a hint of a floral tone and a touch of anise or licorice.  The wine is elegant and deeply flavored.  I suspect this can be cellared for 5-15 more years.

Rocche is, for me, the "classic" Barolo of the house.  It's perhaps the most "traditionally-made" Barolo, as the wine is matured exclusively in Slavonian casks, not seeing time in small French oak.   The vineyard is actually pretty close to the winery in Castiglione.  It often has some of the high-toned, almost ethereal fragrances of earth and truffles.  These should typically be cellared for 5-10+ years at a minimum after release, though if you choose to open one in the not-too-distant-future, do decant it a few hours before service.  It's always a wonderful bottle of wine.  

Villero is a special vineyard site not far from the Vietti cellar.  Alfredo always spoke highly of this vineyard and I think he was often torn between it and the Rocche cru in picking his favorite Barolo each vintage.  It's planted. if not exclusively, then predominantly, with the Michet clone of Nebbiolo.

Over the years, though, Vietti has offered the Villero Barolo with a special designation, Riserva, and with a specially commission artist label.  The 1982 was the first vintage and since then, Villero Riserva has been made just 8 times.  In years when they don't keep it aside, this is blended into their entry-level, Barolo "Castiglione" bottling.   
The 2013 is the most recent release.  It is a fantastic bottle of Barolo and is just starting to blossom a bit.  There are notes of red fruits and a whiff of a leathery, woodsy tone.  The wine cascades across the palate and offers layers of's going to be a great bottle if you can wait until, say, 2015 to 2020 (and beyond).




Some special bottles of Barolo from Vietti and the 2006 "Villero" Riserva with a mock-up of
an artist label which will never see the light of day, thankfully.

 Moscato is made by a colleague of the Currados.   
We even had an elderly bottle at a friend's house and the wine, at 5 years of age was still alive and kicking!
 2021 is the current vintage.  It's now in a screw-capped bottle which may preserve the wine for a longer shelf life.
Delicious...sweet but with zesty acidity...
Very fine.

Though not too many wine "geeks" pay attention to Dolcetto, Vietti has long been a good source.  While many producers seem to have a very high threshold for tannin, the Vietti "Dolcetto d'Alba" is usually quite good.  We need to taste the current vintage...stay tuned. 

Vietti recently acquired some vineyard acreage near Tortona in Piemonte, some 50 miles northeast of the winery.
Impressed by the wines made by Walter Massa, Luca Currado vinified his first Timorasso in the 2018 vintage.
We currently have the 2020 in the shop...charming and dry, with some pear-like fruit notes.
Timorasso wines can cellar quite handsomely, so we will be interested to monitor this wine over the next few years.

Currently available:
2021 Arneis (Roero)  $25.99
2015 Dolcetto d'Alba  Sold Out 
2017 Barbera d'Alba "Scarrone Old Vines" SALE $89.99
2019 Barbera d'Alba "Scarrone"  $49.99
2010 Barbera d'Asti La Crena Sold Out
2020 Barbera d'Asti "Tre Vigne"  SALE $18.99
2021 Moscato d'Asti  $17.99

2010 Barbaresco Sold Out

2019 Barolo "Castiglione" SALE $59.99
2020 Timorasso "Colli Tortonesi"  Sold Out

We opened a 1962 "Mario Vietti" Barolo in 2005...still in decent condition and though it's not a hall-of-fame-vintage, this was quite a good bottle.


As the current Vietti importer once had the idea that the wines such as this high-priced Barolo Riserva should be tasted using stemless "wine glasses" made out of plastic, we edited the artist label to be more appropriate for this company.

Luca Currado's Line-Up of Special Bottles for a Dinner in 2012.



In April of 2018 we opened a number of well-cellared Vietti bottles.
The 1996 Brunate was remarkably tight and extremely young (still)...21+ years of age and the wine remains tight and tannic.

The 1989 Brunate was fantastic and a perfect bottle of Barolo.  You could not ask for a better example of Nebbiolo!

A 1983 Rocche was showing its age and was a good example of older Barolo.

The 1964 Vietti was still hanging in there, but had seen better days...

Elena & Luca Currado's Daughter Giulia is making a name for herself...
Not many people outside the village of Castiglione Falletto know this...
She's a speedy little downhill skier and you can see some of her racing by

Giulia came to visit in August of 2022 and we had a blast!

She is now a big fan of the San Francisco Giants.
Giulia's brother Michele is also pretty speedy on the slopes and we've read reports of his winning some downhill races, too!








wpe6.jpg (11614 bytes)Angelo Gaja is a dynamo, a mover & shaker who has brought great fame, attention and more than a little good fortune to the world of Italian wines in general and Piemonte in particular.  

The family winery, founded in the 1850s, made the usual assortment of wines.  Gaja divested the winery of its vineyard contracts in Barolo in order to concentrate on the Barbaresco wines in his "backyard."  But also to be able to make wine solely from vineyards owned by the family.  

He studied the top wines of France, importing and distributing top French wines into Italy.  He's done the same with California, bringing back not only wine, but new winemaking ideas.  

To capture attention for Barbaresco, he planted Cabernet and Chardonnay in Barbaresco.  His father thought this was a shame and the Cabernet vineyard takes the name "Darmagi" from the Piemontese dialect word for "pity," as he felt it was a pity to devote vineyard land in Barbaresco to French varieties.   

Angelo, nonetheless, made very good Cabernet and continues to make that, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc of world-class quality.

Having seen the use of small oak barrels in French cellars in Burgundy and Bordeaux, as well as in California cellars, Gaja decided to bring that sort of cooperage to his own cellar, incorporating "modern" winemaking to the traditional world of Piemonte.  At that point, most winemakers in Barolo and Barbaresco were maturing their wines for a number of years in large wooden vats.  

Of course, typically those Nebbiolo wines had been fermented until dryness (of course), but macerated on the grape skins for 30 to 60 days (or more).  The wines were exceptionally astringent and required lengthy aging to be drinkable.  Contrast that sort of vinification protocol with Bordeaux or Napa where Cabernets may have been "on the skins" for a week or two and you have a rather different wine from the start.

Gaja is a competitor and wanted his wine to be viewed as being in the same class as those from the top domaines of Burgundy, the best chateaux in Bordeaux and, certainly with those upstarts in California.

He  changed the fortunes of his own winery, to be sure, but he also deserves credit for prodding or pushing winemakers in his own backyard to step up their game and produce wines which would be viewed as premium, deluxe bottlings, not merely rustic "spaghetti red."

One of the wines which caught our attention back in the late 1970s and early 1980s was that bottle in the snapshot below that's on the left, the 1961 Gaja Barbaresco.  Gaja's 1961 Barbaresco was a phenomenal bottle of wine and it marked the start of the "new era" at the Gaja winery as his first official year was 1961. 
Parenthetically, another old Piemontese bottle which made an impact on us was a 1967 Barbaresco from old-timer Bruno Giacosa.  

Back in those days, most Italian wine was fairly simple red "plonk."  And white wine from Italy was not even on the radar as temperature-controlled fermentation vessels were unheard of back in those days.  Being charitable, one might best describe most Italian wine as "rustic."  

As long as we are reminiscing, we could add to the short list of compelling Italian wines a 1961 "Chambave Rouge" from Aosta winemaker Ezio Voyat, some old bottles of Mastroberardino Taurasi (often compared to Piemontese reds made of Nebbiolo) and possibly some Chianti wines.  The Brunello di Montalcino of Biondi-Santi was well-regarded back then, possibly given more respect for being more expensive more than particularly drinkable.  
The Tuscan red called Sassicaia was starting to make its mark and we fondly recall the 1973 and 1975 vintages (if memory serves).  There was also a curious wine from the Lazio region called Fiorano which had some potential.

Back in those days, though, Piemontese vintners making Barolo and Barbaresco also featured Dolcetto, Barbera and Grignolino wines.    

In fact, a Barolo friend shared a bottle of a 1975 Nebbiolo saying his parents could not easily sell "Barolo," so the wine was labeled simply as Nebbiolo.  More popular in those days were the Dolcetto and Barbera wines, so his folks would give customers who were buying those wines a few bottles of Nebbiolo just to make the wines disappear!

Gaja began to minimize those reds, focusing on the more "noble" Nebbiolo.  

The family did have vineyards from which they produced Barolo.  But Gaja was slightly provincial and perhaps he was aware that the Barolesi viewed those from Barbaresco as of lower social stature.  Maybe his competitive spirit kicked in to where as a brash youngster, he chose to stop producing Barolo in order to focus on making Barbaresco of a quality level which would overshadow those Barolo winemakers???

Some winemakers in Barolo were pleased, we sensed, that Gaja kept to his own little playground, Barbaresco. 

In fact, at one point the vintners voted to put into play a rule that to make Barolo or to produce Barbaresco, the wine must be vinified within the delimited area of those appellations.  The only exceptions to this were wineries which had a history of producing both wines.  Thus, Bruno Giacosa was able to produce both, as is the Vietti winery and a number of others.  
It turns out Gaja, despite relinquishing vineyard sources in Barolo, never gave up the documentation which allows him to produce both noble appellations.

Some years ago he acquired a couple of prestigious sites within the Barolo area and, he told us, these are vinified at his Barbaresco winery.

During a visit in the 1990s Angelo poured some wonderful wines for us.

In 1997 I paid Angelo a visit and we tasted a bunch of wines.  He said nothing about the 1994...the longer it sat in the glass, the more spectacular it became.  He said, "Well, you know this is a difficult vintage," downplaying the wine. 
"Angelo, give me a break!!" I said, "This is an excellent wine and you know it!"  He smiled saying the wine had been given the highest accolades in a major Italian wine guide and that he'd soon be raising the price!  It seems they blended in their single vineyard wines, adding considerable complexity to this wine.  This is what separates the men from the boys. 

He also announced his acquisition of a property in the Bolgheri region out on the Tuscan coast.  It seemed he was interested in competing with the "royal" Tuscan vintners named Antinori.  
It was there that the prestigious "Sassicaia" wine was being made from grapes on the Tenuta San Guido estate.  
We immediately asked if he had come up with a name for his wine and Angelo said he had not.  Yet.
So we offered a possible name for his wine (and a few weeks later, upon returning home, we sent him this label depicted below):


Instead of "Tenuta San Guido," we called the estate "Tenuta San Guido Rivella," as Gaja's Barbaresco-based winemaker was a fellow named Rivella.  Guido Rivella.

Not merely content to produce the Bordeaux-styled wine that was making a name for the Bolgheri region, Gaja purchased a property in Tuscany's Montalcino area.  It was next door to the Soldera "Case Basse" estate.  Today he makes some very elegant Brunello wines.

Gaja, though, shrewdly admitted that perhaps Piemontese winemaking might not translate well in Tuscany.  So he sought Tuscan-based enologists to help make wines at his new properties.  

For all his magnificent achievements in winemaking (and marketing), Gaja realizes the more you know about wine, the more there is to learn.  

In 2017 Gaja, not one to stand still, sought a new challenge.  He partnered with Alberto Graci and the two families will embark on making wines in Sicily's Etna region.

Angelo Gaja in 2019

The cellar in Barbaresco

Old Botti in Barbaresco


Old bottles.

Visiting in 2019, we enjoyed hearing Gaja speak about the challenges facing winemakers with climate change and recent warm vintages.    He gave us an impressive "power point" lecture  which detailed these issues, along with touching on a few other environmental issues.  While some may view this presentation as a "commercial" for Gaja wines, the speech was well done and explained some things the Gaja crew is doing and things they are exploring.

Gaja, ever a visionary, showed us some vineyards they're planted at higher-than-normal elevations as a test to deal with climate change and warmer growing seasons.

"Will these vineyards produce great wines?  We don't know yet."

Like so many Italians, Gaja speaks eloquently with exceptional command of gesticulations and English.


A few years ago, by the way, the members of the Barolo and Barbaresco consortium voted to not allow the addition of a small percentage of "other" varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon is an "other variety") in wines of DOCG-status.  Some viewed this vote as an "anti-Gaja" referendum.  So, Angelo stopped labeling the vaunted, much sought-after single-vineyard wines as "Barbaresco."  They would be "merely" Gaja!  So you had simple, declassified wines sold as "Langhe Rosso" as well as the top quality wines of the region being sold under this "small" denominazione. 
And the wines are typically 95% Nebbiolo with 5% Barbera adding a bit of heft to the wine as we understood things, though we've read some reports that Angelo was using as much as 15% Barbera in those spendy single-vineyard wines.

The new generation at Gaja, though, decided to return to making those single-vineyard bottlings purely of Nebbiolo and returning the name "Barbaresco" to the labels.  That announcement came in 2016.

The Gaja vineyard holdings amount to something like 100 hectares in Piemonte.  They have vineyards in Barbaresco and the commune of Treiso nearby.  We understand they used to buy grapes in Barolo ages ago, but when Angelo came on board he had the idea they could make better wine if they farmed their own vineyards.  Buying grapes was a challenge if you're looking for the best quality fruit, as typical farmers want to grow the maximum quantity permitted and convincing them to do differently was difficult.

In 1988 Gaja purchased a 70 acre property in Barolo's Serralunga region where well-structured wine can be made.   They farm about 30 acres of Nebbiolo there and it's the source of their "Sperrs" bottling of Nebbiolo Langhe.  They now label this as Barolo, omitting the Barbera that had been part of the wine. From 1988 until 1995 it was Barolo.  As of the 2013 vintage, it is once again labeled as Barolo.

In 1995 a property in the Cerequio cru in La Morra was available and Gaja snapped that up and that's the source of their "Conteisa" Nebbiolo.  Conteisa as the site had been hotly Cerequio in La Morra or is it in Barolo?  Again, today the wine carries the Barolo appellation as of the 2013 vintage.
(We recall an old bottle of a Cerequio Barolo which was a ringer for a good Pinot Noir from France's Burgundy region...)

Their "Dagromis" Barolo is a blend of Nebbiolo wines from Serralunga and La Morra.  It spends less time in small oak and more time in large wood than the two fancy bottlings from Barolo.  The wine is typically made from lots which didn't make the cut into the Conteisa or Sperrs bottlings, as well as being produced from younger vineyards.



Angelo Gaja has prepared a "climate change" presentation.
We heard this in 2019 when we visited.


They've been working to reduce their carbon footprint in the vineyards and cellar.


In 1995 they stopped using chemical fertilizers...compost or humus is now used.  
"We can make our soils more rich of life in this way." Gaja explains.

He looked to import red worms from California to further the composting and soil enhancements.  Angelo told us some of the team members, we think in one of their Tuscan vineyards, were opposed to importing worms from California.
"I then buy red worms in Russia and now we produce a huge volume of compost."

In 2009 they began working with consultants to make some adaptations for climate change.
He was a bit hesitant to hire typical vineyard management consultants, thinking they would suggest protocols they suggest to all their clients. Maybe these are not the right people?
So they brought in environmentally-conscious experts who work with other agricultural crops in order to have a fresh perspective. 

"You know, now it can be hot into October where this was not the case years ago.  The warmer climate causes higher sugar levels in the grapes.  And many critics advocate for greater concentration in the wines saying this equates to higher quality."

To adapt to the different climate conditions they're working to prevent soil erosion...we "feed the soils," Gaja explains.  "We want to encourage biodiversity in the vineyards.  After harvest we're planting barley, for example, finding this absorbs a measure of heat from the soil.  We use straw as this can create a blanket and protects the humidity of the soils.  Broad beans help with nitrogen production, while rye provides lots of cellulose which is good for the micro-organisms in the soil.  Mustard...the flowers attract insects while Vetch  does the same and prevents erosion.   Phacelia attracts bees.  By increasing the biodiversity of the land, we think this is healthier for our vines."

Gaja brought in some bee hives, though a local beekeeper was a bit skeptical of this notion.  But it turns out this is working nicely in their quest for biodiversity and the apiculturist now admits this was a good idea, after all.  They currently have 80 active beehives.
The vineyard crew, Gaja explains, works earlier in the morning to avoid issues with the bees.

"We planted 280 cypress trees in Tuscany.  Now we have lots of small birds and the trees provide sanctuary for these from larger predatory birds.  We don't yet know all the results of having these little birds, but we hope it works to improve the vineyards and, ultimately, the quality of the grapes.  We need to reach a point of resilience.  We hope the vines become more self-resilient, but we don't yet know where we are yet."

Now Gaja is happy to have his three children working in the family business.  "But I'm not interested in retiring," he told us.  He's a spry 79 years old (in 2019)

Recounting today's landscape in the local wine industry, Gaja claimed there are about 800 wineries in the Lange region.
"There are many artisanal cellars.  Yes, we are larger, but we have to be artisans, too."

His Nonna Clotilde was a big role model for Gaja.  She encouraged him to be an artisan when he was eight or nine years of age.
"Artisans think differently," she told him.  "They don't follow market trends.  Yes, sometimes they fail, but sometimes they succeed."

This translates to:






So Gaja tells us "Yes, maybe we are different, but we don't view ourselves as better or superior."

But they are well aware they cast a long shadow...


They make some single vineyard Barbaresco bottlings. We've seen various bits of misinformation about these sites.  For example, the excellent VINO ITALIANO book by Joe Bastianich and our friend David Lynch claims all three of Gaja's cru Barbaresco bottlings come from one particular locale, the Secondine cru.  So we asked Gaja.

Sorì San Lorenzo has been made since the 1967 vintage. A sorì is a south-facing vineyard and San Lorenzo is the patron saint of Alba.  The Gaja family purchased the site from the local church back in 1964.  
It's a vineyard just south of Barbaresco and it is located within the confines of the Secondine cru.
(The Vino Italiano book incorrectly says all three cru wines are from the Secondine site.)
The vineyard is about 3.38 hectares in size and is about 250 meters above sea level.  This wine requires patience (and money).  It tends to produce the most structured wine of Gaja's cru bottlings.  The vines, as of 2019, average about 55 years of age.

Sorì Tildìn and Costa Russi are from the Roncagliette cru.

Sorì Tildìn is slightly larger than Sorì San Lorenzo.  "Tildìn" was the nickname of Clotilde, Angelo Gaja's grandmother.  They bought it in 1967 and produced a single vineyard bottling with the 1970 vintage.
The vineyard sits at approximately 260 meters above sea level and in 2019 the vines average age is 50 years.  Gaja considers this the most perfumed of the three crus.

Costa Russi...costa is a sun-facing site and Russi is the name of the old sharecropper who worked this vineyard for many years.  The Gaja family purchased the property in 1967 but did not produce a single vineyard bottling until the 1978 vintage.  It's a 4.35 hectare vineyard and is 230 meters in elevation just below the Sorì Tildìn vineyard site with more magnesium in the soils than the other vineyard sites.  It's typically the earliest cru bottling to develop in most vintages.

They do not produce the single vineyard wines every year.     
In 2012, for example, fruit from the various cru sites was incorporated into the regular bottling of Barbaresco.

The cru wines typically have a skin contact maceration period of 2 to 4 weeks depending upon the vintage conditions.  These routinely are matured for a year in barrique and a year in botte.  They typically employ maybe one-third new oak for the barrique aging of the wines.

Cooperage comes from several preferred barrel builders.  French oak comes from the Italian cooperage of Gamba.
Slavonian oak is coopered by Garbellotto.  
Austrian cooperage is made by the currently famous and fashionable Stockinger. (Stockinger's web site might not be currently posted.)

The 1997 Barbaresco has been an amazing wine.  In a blind-tasting of 1997s we found this to be extraordinary (like a Gaja wine wouldn't be!).  The wine has the intensity of a really concentrated Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  The fruit character is incredibly intense, the wine having a fair bit of wood to go with all that "black fruit".  The tannin level is also much in the same neighborhood as Cabernet, so if you want to drink one of these in the near future, plan on having something such as a Prime Rib Roast or Rack of Lamb.  The cellaring time on this wine might be as long as as another decade, or so.

The 2017 Barbaresco is the current release.  It typically is sourced from 14 vineyard sites in Barbaresco and Treiso.  It is more showy in its youth than the single vineyard wines which are intended for cellaring.



Gaja makes wines without compromise.  They are always looking to produce superior wine and they don't make concessions based upon saving a few dollars in production costs.  




For the past 30 years it was not possible for consumers or tourists to visit the Gaja winery and to taste their wines.
Now you can pay for the opportunity to visit and taste, but you are obliged to make a donation to one of their selected charities.
CLICK HERE to see how that works.

Currently available:
1997 Barbaresco SALE $299.99
2016 Barbaresco SALE $279.99
2017 Barbaresco 1/2 bottle $149.99

2018 Barolo "Dagromis"  Sale $99.99

The Gaja family...Rosanna, Giovanni, Gaia, Lucia and Angelo




Our late, long-time friend, Domenico Clerico

We'd known this colorful and charismatic, yet shy, character for many years. He was a tremendous winemaker, carefully cultivating fruit for his estate-bottled wines. Located in Monforte, his wines are limited in availability and sought-after by European wine drinkers.  Clerico was passionate about quality.

He was always a youngster, no matter how old he was.  Clerico had youthful energy when we first met him and he retained that vivacious quality in his later years.

We visited one time, years ago,  and he asked us to taste and evaluate the wines.  Speaking in Piemontese dialect he said something akin to our "Don't bull-shit me...tell me how you find the wines."  I recall, too, that we were tasting a so-called 'small' vintage and the wines were magnificent.  I might point out that it is in lesser vintages that the men are separated from the boys.  Clerico stands tall.

Domenico hailed from Monforte in the southern part of the Barolo appellation.  He'd been a waiter at the great Monforte d'Alba restaurant, Felicin.  He'd tried his hand at selling olive oil.  And then when his father's health was problematic, he returned home and  took care of the modest family farm.  In the process, he purchased a small parcel of Nebbiolo vineyards  and made a bit of Barolo.  What began with a few rows of vines has now escalated to about 21 hectares.

The first vintage was something like 1979.  By the mid-1990s, the Clerico name was prominent in the world of Italian wines.  His winery was viewed in the same league as Luciano Sandrone and Elio Altare, two other notable "upstarts."   In fact, all three wineries were in the export portfolio of the famous Marco De Grazia, who was a major ambassador for these "new kids on the block."  De Grazia helped bring these "modernista" Barolo wines to the Franco-centric wine world. 

With some fluctuations in grape prices, Clerico (as did other sharp winemakers), realized he needed to actually own vineyards.  Otherwise he'd be paying whatever the market was demanding and, likely, be dealing with fruit from various vineyards instead of making wine from the same parcels, vintage after vintage.  In the process of scouting for vineyards, Clerico picked up vineyards in what he calls "Ciabot Mentin."  He added to that some years later and the built a fairly large winemaking facility on the road from Monforte d'Alba to the town of Barolo.

During our last visit to the winery we learned of Domenico leasing a vineyard from an old-timer with the provision that Clerico take care of the faming.  Of course, as do most quality-oriented growers, reducing the crop level to obtain (hopefully) greater concentration and intensity.  Apparently the land owner, who always farmed for the maximum yield in the vineyard, became incensed when he saw Clerico's vineyard crew performing a "green harvest" (snipping off bunches of fruit well before the normal harvest season) in the name of quality winemaking.  The old feller ran and got his shotgun in order to protect his precious Nebbiolo vines! 
The vineyard crew ran for cover and, eventually, cooler heads prevailed.

Clerico's  first vintages were aged in old German beer casks made of Slavonian oak.  Over the years his wood-aging program has changed, going from all new French oak to less than half new barrels.  Today we're told the typical percentage of new cooperage is around 20%.

We have seen that many young Barolo wines aged in new wood tend to show the barrel's influence when the wines are first brought to market.  Some of the various critics find the wines to be very appealing with all the oak prominently on display and many of these wines garnered high scores.  All well and good for the producers such as Clerico when they're selling these young offerings. 
But we have found that if the wines have enough "stuffing," as they age in the bottle, the wood becomes less pronounced and the wines tend to resemble the more traditionally-styled Barolo wines from so-called "old school" producers.

Clerico's wines have never really had the highest level of oak we've encountered in the Langhe region.  The wood influence tends to be present in the wines for about a decade, typically, and then the wines evolve into elegant, nicely polished Barolo which have a tannin profile that's less aggressive, let's say, than  many.

In our experience, mature bottles of Clerico Barolo tend to have some complex red fruit elements and a mildly floral aspect to them.   We've also found the wines to shed a measure of astringency with cellaring.  Not all Barolo wines develop what we might call a silky or smooth quality after a decade, or so, in the bottle.  Some can be fairly fierce, in fact.  Clerico seems to have a nice touch with creating wines of elegance.

Though his wines are regarded by many as "collectibles," Clerico
He explained in his own inimitable way that the best wines are those which have been consumed.  "That means they've been bought and paid for and enjoyed with a good meal," he told us.  "Il migliore vino é un vino pisciatta." he said.

We currently have the 2013 Barolo called Ciabot Mentin.  The wine is first aged in small French oak before being

Currently available:
2013 Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra $99.99
2016 Barolo   $54.99 (Sale)

Domenico Clerico and some Americano...


To work here it's not necessary to be crazy...but it helps a lot.


The Italian roads wind around the Langhe hills in a pattern as orderly as strands of spaghetti on a plate and Aldo Conterno's winery sits on a particularly curvy spot north of  the village of Monforte d'Alba. 

The winery used to be a rather small cellar and as the years have gone by, Conterno and family have added to the winery, piece by piece.  This branch of the Conterno family has relatives in San Mateo and Aldo, in fact, had come to the U.S. in the 1950s and found himself in the American military, having been drafted!  This explains his rather good command of American English.

Three sons are now involved in the operation and they've convinced Mom and Dad to make Chardonnay (which they've done amazingly well in some vintages!), along with French oak-matured Barbera and Nebbiolo wines.  

Aldo and his late brother Giovanni split their father's winery, the brand name of Giacomo Conterno being in Giovanni's son's (Roberto) possession.  
wpe5.jpg (19450 bytes)
Aldo Conterno's wines are uniformly good, always being amongst 
the best of Piemonte.

The photo was taken of Conterno's 1997 vintage "Nebbiolo" (they cannot call it "Barolo" until the wine is a certain age) being "pumped-over" during its fermentation


We currently have their 2013 vintage of Barbera d'Alba...It's called Conca Tre Pile and is from a site fairly close to the winery in the Bussia area.  Some of the vines are 40-something years old...

The wine spends maybe 8 to 10 days on the skins during the fermentation...then into stainless steel to help clarify the wine and then they rack it into entirely new barrels.
The wine, despite the hefty percentage of new oak, actually displays the dark berry and plum notes of ripe Barbera with the wood seeming to come up's snappy and crisp, but fairly robust and ready to drink. 

This Barbera is exceptional with grilled meats.


Conterno makes several Barolo wines.  The "basic" wine is Bussia.  The winery, by the way, is in the small area called "Bussia."

Cicala is a single vineyard amounting to just less than three acres.  The name cicala means "cricket."  It's in Bussia Soprana and the vines are approximately 45-50 years old.

Romirasco is another name to be found on Conterno's labels.  This is also in Bussia Soprana and the vineyards are about 50-55 years old.

Colonnello is a 45 to 50 year old Nebbiolo vineyard.
The vineyard is predominantly Michet, but there are some scattered Lampia vines, as well.
It's a seriously good bottle of young Barolo.  
There are old school elements (30 days of skin contact, quite a traditional vinification) and there are new school traits (they mature this in 500 liter Slavonian oak puncheons) as the wine shows a fair bit of a woodsy, cedary character.
It's an impressive bottle now, in its youth, but it has the acidity, tannin and fruit to be cellared for 10 to 25+ years.


In the very top vintages they'll bottle a few cases of "Gran Bussia" Barolo, a wine scarcer than a ten mile stretch of straight roadway in Italy.   When you have a bottle of wine such as this, you can better appreciate why some people rave about Barolo.

The vineyard is predominantly Michet, but there are some scattered Lampia vines, as well.
It's a seriously good bottle of young Barolo.  
There are old school elements (30 days of skin contact, quite a traditional vinification) and there are new school traits (they mature this in 500 liter Slavonian oak puncheons) as the wine shows a fair bit of a woodsy, cedary character.
It's an impressive bottle now, in its youth, but it has the acidity, tannin and fruit to be cellared for 10 to 25+ years.






Though they have a cellar full of French oak barriques, they still have traditional tanks for maturing Barolo.

Here's a photo from "the old days":

1958 and 1955 Barolo was still available in the 1960s.


Currently available: 

2016  BARBERA D'ALBA  "Conca Tre Pile"  $42.99
2016 BAROLO "BUSSIA"  $94.99





Giovanni Conterno and his brother Aldo parted company a number of years ago, a dispute occurring as to the best methods of making their wines.  Aldo moved a kilometer or so north and Giovanni remained just off the central part of Monforte d'Alba (near the splendid restaurant "da Felicin").  A modern building was constructed for his wines, an unusually spacious cellar.

We'd known Giovanni and his son Roberto for many years.  On our first visit in either 1982 or 1984 (the memory isn't quite as precise as it used to be!) we were privileged to taste out of "barrel" (a large wooden vat, actually) Conterno's 1970 vintage Barolo called "Monfortino."  We laughed about being "old enough" to taste some 1970 wine prior to bottling! 

But back in those days they would bottle the wine as they went along, not having one bottling date for a vintage of a particular wine.  They had already bottled and sold much of that 1970 vintage, but one tank remained in the cellar, years after the vintage.


The late Giovanni Conterno.

Conterno is much like Bartolo Mascarello in preserving the "traditional" style of Barolo.  However, his winery is more modern and he's had a telephone for years!  (Mascarello resisted getting a phone installed in the house...his daughter Terri insisted!)  

Conterno, though, is not totally stuck in the past.  His son Roberto was interested in Chardonnay.  They made a vintage or two.  "Most expensive wine we've ever made." Giovanni explained.  "You see, we have only made red wines and we'd never owned a filter.  We had to buy an expensive filter to clarify and stabilize the Chardonnay.  So, it's the most costly wine we've put in bottle!"
I think this little experiment ran its course and Roberto is over the Chardonnay "bug."

Grapes for Conterno's wines come from the nearby Serralunga Valley.  They used to buy fruit from growers.  In 1974 they purchased the "Cascina Francia" property, a 37 acre parcel planted with Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera and Freisa.  The "normal" bottling of Barolo is "Cascina Francia."  In some vintages Conterno will designate a portion of the Barolo as "Monfortino" and it receives additional wood aging.  He doesn't leave the wines in wood quite as long as that 1970 vintage, though.  

The current vintage of Monfortino is 2010.  It costs a ridiculous sum and the importer no longer offers this rare bottling.  |
Just as well, since the wine costs something like $1500 to $2000 a bottle.

They made a 2002 vintage, too, despite the year being dismissed by just about every wine writer on the planet.
Roberto waited until 2012 to release this, hoping by then, they'll have forgotten the vintage was so difficult.
Yet, as they picked the fruit and were making the wine, Roberto saw they had good quality and his father said it reminded him of previous grand years...and so a 2002 Monfortino will be bottled and offered to the market.  I tasted it in tank several times and felt it was a "good" wine, but not as grand a vintage as they've made in other recently declared years.

Roberto recently purchased another vineyard site in Serralunga, this parcel being in the cru called Cerretta.  The first harvest will not be sold as Barolo and Conterno has changed the viticultural practices at this site to make wine he considers worthy of the family name.

I asked him about this and got him to discuss the use of "fertilizer" in the vineyard.  He became quite serious and concerned, wanting us to understand he did not cultivate using chemicals. 
So I asked if they'd buy manure for the vineyard.
And then I wanted to know if they'd buy local manure or, perhaps, from a company in Tuscany.
Roberto and his administrative assistant Erica were perplexed, not seeing the fastball I was about to toss in their direction.
"Well, I understand there's a lot of good bullshit in Tuscany," I said, "so I was curious if you'd buy local shit or import some from somewhere else."

Everyone cracked up and finally Conterno realized he'd been set up in the interest of a comedic prank.

We did have some 2004 "Cascina Francia," a decidedly "old school" Barolo.  No compromises towards French oak aging.  No "fortifying" the Barolo with a dose of Barbera.  It's certainly not a wine for the average consumer.  The 2004 vintage is highly regarded in the Langhe region as the wine has good structure and will live for decades!    If you choose a bottle of this, please open it a few hours before service and allow it to aerate in a wide-mouthed decanter.  Serving it with some substantial food isn't a bad idea, either.


As the wines have become so expensive, they are more like a collector's item instead of a meal-time beverage.  
We are no longer offered their wines as they are trophies selling for remarkably high prices.

We used to enjoy sharing them with customers who were wine drinkers.
Now the importer no longer offers them.  

Conterno purchased a winery in the Alto Piemonte. The Nervi winery made Gattinara wines.  The winery was purchased by some Norwegian people who claimed to be passionate wine lovers.  They sold the winery after 6 or 7 years and it was purchased by Roberto Conterno.  Perhaps Conterno will be able to make wines along the lines of those his dear old dad made, as Gattinara is rarely as high octane as the wines being produced these days in Barolo.



The next winemaker at Conterno...

Currently in stock:  2004 Cascina Francia Barolo  SALE Sold Out
1996 Cascina Francia Barolo Sale $449.99

In late 2008 we opened a bottle of 1971 Barolo given to us by Giovanni in the late 1990s, I think.
What a spectacular Barolo!  
This wine was in perfect condition and was the wine of the night in a line-up of wonderful bottles.
The fragrance was remarkable...truly haunting and the balance on the palate was sensational.


If your wines tasted as good as Roberto Conterno's,
you'd be smiling, too.

Erica, formerly Roberto's administrative assistant, is a bit shy about being photographed.







The name Grasso is somewhat common in Piemonte and you'll find it on a few brands of Langhe wines.

Probably the most famous is the wine of Elio Grasso in Monforte, but there's another good producer named Grasso, this one in La Morra.  Silvio Grasso is the name of the winery and it's actually in the Annunziata area of town, if you want to call it that.  The home estate is called Bricco Luciani and it's close to the Alba-Barolo road and low on the hill from that road up to the actual town of La Morra.

This Grasso only began bottling and selling wine in the mid-1980s.  Alessio Federico took over from his Pop, Silvio, and now is joined by his 20-something sons Paolo and Silvio.  Along with their Mom, Marilena, the quartet are turning out some good wines.

They have 5 hectares of their own vineyards and rent another 6, or so. 

We've long admired the wines from this producer but it's really only fairly recently that we've had the wines in the shop.  They make 6 different Barolo wines, a pair of Barbera bottlings and Dolcetto, Nebbiolo Langhe and a blended red with Nebbiolo, Barbera, Cabernet and Merlot.

Grasso became part of the portfolio of Marco de Grazia, a fellow who helped change the style of Barolo by encouraging winemakers to make softer, more easily accessible wines by shortening the maceration time on the grape skins during fermentation.  He also advocated the use of French oak barrels for many of his wineries and Grasso embraced that suggestion, as well.

But while most of the Silvio Grasso wines see French oak, they've been making one called Turnè which gets the old-time 40 days on the skins and then is matured in larger Slavonian oak cooperage instead of small French oak barrels. 

One interesting stylistic feature at this winery is the various Barolo wines have different oak treatments.  Ciabot Manzoni and Bricco Luciani are matured in brand new French oak and these show a lot of wood when they first reach the market.  If you cellar these, though, the wines evolve nicely and eventually turn into good, fairly classic Barolo.

We enjoyed a bottle of a 10+ year old Ciabot Manzoni Barolo from the 2004 vintage and the wine had a marvelous nose...there was a suggestion of wood, but it was far different from the just-released 2011 bottling which displays more wood than you can shake a stick at. 

Vigna Plicotti is a Barolo from La Morra that is matured in second-use barrels, while Giachini sees second and third use barriques.  "Pi Vigne" is done in older French oak. 

 The importer had a stash, some years ago, of the 2003 Barolo "classico" and we purchased a bottle to see how this wine had developed.  In fact, it was a great example of nicely matured, old-school Barolo!  The Piemontese describe some Barolo wines as being "tarry."  The Piemontese word is "goudron."  And the 2003 certainly showed that element.  You'll either love its funky, quirky character or hate it.  Despite it being more than a decade old, the wine still has a fair bit of tannin. 
We've paired it with red meats and enjoyed it immensely.   After one customer said they'd hated the wine, we put it on the dinner table with a wild mushroom risotto and served it to some wine industry friends who all swooned and loved it.

We currently have the 2015 Barolo "classico" in the shop.
It comes from a one and half hectare parcel in La Morra that was planted in 1984.  The fermentation takes maybe 10 days and then is then racked in small oak barrels.  The cooperage is older so it doesn't impart much in the way of wood to the wine.  There is a fine red fruit character to the wine with hints of raspberry and cherry.  Add to that a slight underbrush sort of character.  The tannin level is modest, making it drinkable now if you can decant it an hour or two ahead of service.  The wine will likely be able to cellar well into the early 2030s.

It's well-priced, too.

We have some of their 2008 vintage Giachini in stock.  It's from a half-hectare vineyard in La Morra and was matured in seasoned French oak.  The tannin level is moderate and this, ideally, should have another 5-10 years of cellaring.

Currently in stock:  2015 SILVIO GRASSO BAROLO SALE $31.99
2008 SILVIO GRASSO BAROLO "Giachini"  Sale: $54.99




Paired with Veal on a bed of Polenta, the 2004 Barolo Ciabot Manzoni was exceptional.  At 10+ years of age, this was a very handsome bottle of wine.  I was a bit surprised to find the wine to be as open and developed as it was...very fine.  

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