Produttori del Barbaresco ‘Barbaresco’ 2012 and ‘Pora’ 2008

The Produttori del Barbaresco is one of the greatest (no longer un)discovered gems of Piedmont, producing a phenomenally priced Barbaresco and 9 single vineyard riservas in select years. The Produttori used to be notable for it’s century+ of history and the fact that unlike most cooperative wineries, its quality was exceptional. These days it is still known for its great pricing and quality, but also for its standard setting portfolio of single cru Barbaresco that are a match for all but the best in the AOC. A full history of the Produttori and its crus can be found here.

 

Like many traditionally made Nebbiolos these wines do take time unwind, at least 5 years for the Barbaresco (called Le Torre informally) and over a decade for the riservas, as my tasting of a nine year old bottle of ‘Pora’ showed.

 

Produttori del Barbaresco ‘Barbaresco’ 2014

(Tasted 11/17) Decanted for 2hrs. This is especially youthful compared to the 2012. Robust aromas of candied red fruit, red licorice, fennel, and floral pastille. Full, sappy texture with broad acidity and predictably gripping tannin. This is another standout ‘Le Torre’ from Produttori. While it has some youthful appeal with its forceful structure and already impressive complexity, it will be phenomenal in ten years. Drink after 2020.

Produttori del Barbaresco ‘Barbaresco’ 2012

(Tasted 01/17) Despite the several hours I left it open on the counter, it really took another hour in the glass to unwind. Color was a deep, but clear ruby. Quite simple sweet cherry at first but after the time in the glass really opened into violets, candied cherries, and thyme. Later on, fresh mint/sage, under-ripe red fruits, and wet rocks. Medium bodied and structured.
Tannin too took time, with your typical Barbaresco sneak-attack of robust but fine grained finish. This wine will be stellar in a couple of years at least, and will drink well for over a decade more.

 

Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva ‘Pora’ 2008

Dark maroon core with garnet edge.
Right out of the bottle the nose is of truffle, pure sweet dried fruits, blue and black, cocoa dust, foresty notes of fresh evergreen and sage, continues to evolve with some earth, orange zest, and smoke.

Immense freshness on the palate, long finish, and with air the buried tannin made itself known. A long life ahead, just starting to hint at some non-primary notes, though after an hour or two it simplified, so maybe it will shut down in a bit? Hard to guess. The fresh spring forest notes are what really make this an experience.

It is a delightful Barbaresco, unique for the expression the Nebbiolo takes with this terroir rather than any heavy handed winemaking. Will evolve for a long while.

 

What struck me most about this tasting is the rather reductive notion of Barbaresco being lighter and more feminine than Barolo. While its true that the terroir and proximity to the river make this a warmer, more temperate climate, the diversity of vineyard sites means that this generalization is pretty useless. No doubt writers and retailers love the rhetoric of the ‘King’ and ‘Queen’ but when tasting the wines its mostly trash. A great Montestefano or Rabaja (or Pora) are just as powerfully deep as any Barolo of Cannubi, not to mention it continues the conceit that darker, more ‘masculine’ wines are by definition better.

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2013 Felsina Fontalloro

Felsina’s Fontalloro is a prestigious and semi-historical Sangiovese that is typically long lived and elegant and this 2012 is no exception. As a 100% Sangiovese from a special selection of high altitude vine in the Chianti Valley, Fontalloro could by all rights be labeled a Chianti. But Felsina bottles a single-vineyard Chianti Classico Riserva called ‘Rancia’ that is a similar price and highly regarded as well. Instead Fontalloro maintains its ‘Super-Tuscan’ roots, from a time when a Chianti could not be 100% Sangiovese, and so continues to use the IGT designation and the fantasy name of Fontalloro.

Very difficult to evaluate but loads of raw material lurking under the surface. 375ml, double decanted and left for a few hours, but still little change. Faint aromas of sweet cherry, vanilla, grilled herbs, and cigar smoke, distinct but faint. Palate is well textured with broad, sneaky tannin and distinctively sour finish. It gives the impression of a very well made wine but not giving anything up at the moment. Quite polished, like a Bordeaux not a Sangiovese, but that is the style of the Fontalloro.

Certainly enjoyable now with some fatty, grilled, herb-encrusted meat (or bitter chocolate), but worth laying down for ten years. In contrast to the Rancia, the Fontalloro reads as more polished, with a sweeter nose. The Rancia also sees time in new French oak barrels, but manages a more rustic and wild personality.

Elena Fucci ‘Titolo’ Aglianico del Vulture 2005

Aglianico and its most well known representation, Taurasi, has been called one of the great wines of Italy, as well as the catchy moniker ‘Barolo of the South,’ but despite the generally lavish praise it remains a relatively under-appreciated grape and wine. Hailing from Southern Italy, it is most commonly found in Campania and Basilicata. Campania’s ‘Taurasi’ is the most well known DOCG for Aglianico but Basilicata’s Vulture region is gaining traction, and for good reason.

Like Taurasi, Vulture is home to an incredibly diverse array of volcanic soil types, with vineyards at high elevations. Vulture however, because of its proximity to the sea (and exposure) tends to have even higher diurnal temperature variation than Taurasi, balancing out the effects of the unrelenting Southern Italian heat. That is why I believe in the best examples, Aglianico del Vulture beats out Taurasi for quality and ageability.

One of my favorites is Elena Fucci’s ‘Titolo.’ Elena Fucci makes only a single wine, 100% Aglianico, from old vine plantings in Vulture. In the late 90’s she convinced her family to let her making their own wine from the vineyards, which up to that point had been sold wholesale.

I’ve purchased more than a few bottles of Titolo over the past few years, but they were optimistic purchases as I had never tried a mature example. This particular bottle is soaring at 12 years old with another decade of reliable enjoyment ahead!

The color was a memorizing dark maroon with an opaque core. Aromas of dark berry fruits, grilled herbs, tar, and smoke gave a good indication of the terroir while a refreshing streak of saline reminded you of the maritime winds that cool this vineyard at night.

The palate is smooth, with a lush array of dark black and red fruits with ripe, persistent tannin emerging with air and a very nice savory finish. This wine is in a great place, though with air it picks up considerable tannin and a rich, dark dried fruit quality. After a few hours it was far more tannic and robust, with the aromatics continuing to shift.

I saved a glass for day two. It started to take on the qualities of a middle-aged Bordeaux, with aromas of tobacco and cedar. This wine will age evenly and for a good many years.

2012 Gattinara Franco Patriarca

It’s not news that Barolo and Barbaresco don’t have the monopoly on top quality Nebbiolo that they were once perceived to have, yet it still is tough to find new quality wineries from competition, like Ghemme, Carema, and of course Gattinara.

It’s not news that Barolo and Barbaresco don’t have the monopoly on top quality Nebbiolo that they were once perceived to have, yet it still is tough to find new quality wineries from the competition, like Ghemme, Carema, and of course Gattinara. This Alto-Piemonte poster child is only just north of the Abla and Asti communes, yet with a substantial difference of terroir, that is its volcanic soil. Despite the Alto-Piemonte climate, Gattinara’s volcanic grown Nebbiolo creates deep, aromatic, and mineral wines thanks to the distinctive soil. The region had an unfortunate 15 minutes of limelight back in the 60’s when someone tried to make it fashionable, but being pre-DOC regulations, a flood of cheap knockoffs and downright fraudulent wines flooded the market and ruined its image.

With DOCG regulations as strict as Barolo/Barbaresco and an equally important, though quite different soil composition, Gattinara can produce some pretty stunning Nebbiolo that can last decades. Yet few quality producers remain after the mid-century exodus from the farmlands. It is still only a shadow of the wine-making region it once was, and while Travaligni and Antoniolo still hold the torch, new wineries just aren’t popping up that often. So imagine my surprise at Kermit Lynch in Berkeley, when I find a reasonably Gattinara from Franco Patriarca sitting on the shelf.

With only 250 cases made, this is truly a locally oriented gem. Fermented in steel and age in only large barrels, this is a clean, transparent Nebbiolo.

 

The color is a deep crystalline rose with a pale garnet reflection. The aromas of rosewater and bay dominate the nose, as well as a somewhat unappealing watermelon candy quality. As time goes on, a more tarry, mineral tinged quality lifts from the glass that puts it a very good place. The clean unpretentious quality of this wine is honest and intriguing at the same time. RECOMMENDED

A New Classic Brunello – Albatreti

About a year ago, several wine retailers/preachers/bloggers (K&L, Garagiste) all simultaneously started raving about a new producer in Montalcino, making Brunello and Rosso on a tiny plot just South-west of the town, at one of the higher elevations in the appellation. The vintner Gaetano Salvioni, was a hobbyist until the 2009 vintage, and with his 2010 vintage began to make waves. The prices were rock bottom, the style classic and pure, the only problem was availability as Mr Salvioni only makes about 5,000 or 6,000 bottles.

I managed to get my hands a few of his 2009 and 2010 Brunello, and the 2009 Rosso. As 2010 resulted in famously structured and long-lived Brunelli, I decided to open up his 2009s. My notes are below, but the take home is should you see these bottles, grab them with both hands. The prices are astounding for Brunello, and the quality is sky-high in a very unpretentious, character filled manner. You will find all the hallmarks of Brunello in these wines, wrapped in a pure classic style that does not appear to making a statement or trying too hard.

 

Albatreti 2009 Rosso di Montalcino

2009 Albatreti Rosso di Montalcino

This one needed a ton of air to unwind. Surprising concentration given its Rosso designation and the color. Some browning around the edges, aroma is muddy at first, but menthol and garden herbs emerge along with an overall sauvage quality. Exceptional Tuscan personality, and a sense of terroir that immediately brings vibrant images of the landscape to your mind. Underbrush and red earth, with warm, soft red fruits.
Palate also took a few hours but found balance eventually. A mid-weight, textured, red with fine tannin that cling to your tongue. Fruit is typical, and quite subdued. My only question about the wine going for longer is the rather buried or faded fruit. Given the mix of developed tertiary aromas and still vibrant structure, this wine is at its peak. The structure and balance are quite fine for a Rosso designation.

 

2009 Albatreti Brunello di Montalcino

2009 Albatreti Brunello di  Montalcino

Garnet color, medium concentration. Nose is a shifting aroma of burnt orange peel, bright red cherry, and a nice herbal component (mint/laurel). Palate is high toned, good acid and very fine tannin. There is nothing over ripe or lush, it has good tension.
This definitely has a long-ish life ahead of it, at least another 5 years. The wine has definitely found a nice balance and is drinking well but unlike the Rosso, has not revealed any signs of tertiary development yet. Overall this is a rustic style, not the big glamorous over-oaked Brunellos chasing parker-points, beloved by the inspirations for the casts of Wall Street or American Psycho. Good wine for food and company.

Donnafugata ‘Ben Rye’ Passito di Pantelleria

On the dry, wind swept isle of Pantelleria, closer to the coast of Tunisia than Sicily, Donnafugata crafts one of the best sweet wines of its class, from the Zibbibo grape: “Passito di Pantelleria.

On the dry, wind swept isle of Pantelleria, closer to the coast of Tunisia than Sicily, Donnafugata crafts one of the best sweet wines of its class, from the Zibbibo grape: “Passito di Pantelleria.” Named Ben Rye, Arabic for Son of the Wind, it clocks in at about 14% abv from year to year, with a golden hue and absolutely intoxicating nose of apricot and almond. If you are a fan of Sauternes you owe it to yourself to find a bottle.

– 2012 Ben Rye 375ml  –

592900

Rich, vibrant golden color with a shimmering intensity. The nose is all apricot marmalade, with a background nuttiness that keeps you guessing. The palate is similar, with a rich glycerol texture and that coats the palate all the way back and lingers for a minute or more. Notes of orange peel, and butterscotch emerge with some time. The acid is just enough to keep it lively but make no mistake, this is a dessert. Likely this will evolve and hopefully show some other elements, but right now the fruit is so dominant, and hedonistic that you can scarcely imagine how.

– 2008 Ben Rye Limited Edition 750ml  –

Bottled as part of an anniversary for the winery, 2008 was a stellar year for the Passito. They made a careful selection of lots to remain in barrel longer, with additional bottle aging at the winery. The result is a far deeper color than younger regular releases I have tried, almost mahogany. Slightly oxidative notes of caramel, but awash in its intoxicating aromas of dried peaches and apricots, sweet baking spices and even a pleasant medicinal aspect. Great emphasis on butterscotch and orange peel than younger bottles too, reminding me slightly of lighter styles of Vin Santo. Acidity and sweetness were in balance, which was a relief as that was my chief worry with trying a older bottle.
Nectar of the gods for sure.