Notes from Wine Tasting Day 3 – Piemonte 2011

Fabio Oberto was all smiles when we arrived.  1300 of 2000 produced bottles of his Barolo Brunate 07s had just been bought by Alko, the national alcoholic beverage retailing monopoly in Finland. Some will perhaps question the long-term business sense of this, but we’ll just say Salute to the Fins – you are in for a treat!  The son of Andrea, Fabio is continuing along the lines of his father.  With his father not being a very silent partner, still tirelessly working the vineyards.

Andrea Oberto lineup, Giada, Barolo

Fabio, in all his generosity, offered the full line of his bottlings to taste. Being 10 in the morning, we opted for a sample.

First up was the Barbera d’Alba San Giuseppe. From 4 different vineyards in La Morra, in 3 year old bariques. Dark berry aromas, and a touch of oak. Round, fresh, and warm.

Barbera d’Alba Giada was the first great Barbera I ever had (and it was my wife’s favorite wine for a long time), and we were offered the 2007. Has spent 18 months in new barique. 

Next, the Langhe Nebbiolo 09. Since 2004, this wine spends first 6 months in small barique, and then 20 months in big barrels. From young, south-east facing vines near the winery, the nebbiolo is all violet and warm fruit. A solid, and easy-drinking nebbiolo.

Similar to a number of their La Morra peers, the Obertos make a blend.  Since 1996, they’ve bottled the Langhe Rosso Fabio with 60% nebbiolo and 40% barbera.  Licorice and flower aromas, silky tannins.  Drink now.

Rounding off our visit, was two Barolo Rocches, the 06 and the 07.  The 06 had tobacco and flowery notes, fresh red berries, a tad minty, with velvety tannins.  The 07 was less aromatic than the 06, but still enough red berries, and minerals, to make it interesting on the nose. A tad to much oaky notes to top the 06, though, in my wine world.  But, round tannins, and good concentration, makes it a very enjoyable Barolo.

Outside Elio Altare estate

We had originally planned  our regular visit to Altare following Oberto, but as Elio was away in Cinqueterre (more about that in a later blog post, as we had one of the most fascinating days in our wine lives with him there), and Silvia was busy getting ready for a wedding, we just stopped by for a quick chat. 

Vigneto Arborina, La Morra

We got updated on all the gossip in the Langhe, over a bottle of 2007 Barolo. A wine that WineAdvocate’s Antonio Galloni gave 94 points and raved about. An hour or so later, we could again conclude that all is well with the Altare family, their vineyards, and their latest bottlings.  Their 07 Barolo was wonderful, with licorice, dark berries and plum aromas. Absolute silky and warm tannins, made us go from tasting the wine to drinking more or less the whole bottle.

74 Barolo, Elio Altare

Not content with only two winery visits on the day, we decided to check out a “newcomer” on the La Morra wine scene.  At the Cantina Communale, we bought the available wines from Marco Curto. his wife Adele, and daughter Nadia.  Although the family has been cultivating their 2 hectares for 60 years, it is not really before Adele’s sister and Nadia’s uncle, Elio Altare, started consulting them that the wines are hitting stratospheric levels.  Elio currently spends parts of 3 days a week helping out his extended family with their four bottlings:  Barolo Arborina La Foia, Langhe Nebbiolo, Barbera d’Alba and a Dolcetto d’Alba.

Elio Altare harvest

First off, their 09 Dolcetto d’Alba, at 6 EUR was a find.  Sweet berry aromas, and a hint of manure on the nose, or a horses stable if you like. Dry, a tad of wood on the medium to long finish.

The 08 Barbera was earthy, with wet mould, nuts, and distinct blackcurrant aromas.  Sweet, and all in all and easy drinking wine.

The Cantina Comunale did not have their Langhe Nebbiolo, so our final wine from Marco Curto was their 06 Barolo Arborina La Foia.  And, yes, as the name suggests, this is from a parcel in the Arborina vineyard made famous by Elio Altare.  A sizeable parcel too, as the make 15 000 bottles a year.   Again, blackcurrant on the nose, but this time with much more. Minerals, flowers, blackberries, wet forest floor, and then, more berries.  Sweet at the outset, hard tannins and thus somewhat astringent. But, this wine really developed in the glass, and it became a joy to taste after a while.  I would like to say that it went on for hours, but I guess that is too much, but it is safe to say that at 22 EUR I have not tasted a nebbiolo this long.

We went back to the Cantina for more, and made the Curto bottlings our summer trip “house” wines.  Before we go all overboard, no, there’s still a way to go before matching the wines of say, Altare, but at these prices, and being a “newcomer”, this was a very positive surprise.  I expect it to be hard to find (e.g. there’s no importer in Norway) around the world, but if you can get it, buy it, try it, and let me (or know what you think.

We’ve mentioned this here on this blog before, as well as told everyone willing to listen, that a restaurant to try out when in Piemonte is the Fior de Sale in Dogliani.  This was our restaurant of the evening.  The food was again absolutely wonderful (in the vicinity of El Bulli meets traditional Piemontese grub).

The wine chosen was the 06 CaViola Langhe Nebbiolo.  Again, a wine that is hard to come by outside of the Langhe, but an absolute top-notch Langhe Nebbiolo (in fact, in our not so serious “competition” it took second place behind Cappellano’s 07) that I recommend trying.  That said, we did not decant it, and my two cents is that you should, or hide it away in the cellar for a couple of years.

Note: Day 3 of our Piemonte visit in 2011, was July 2. Sincere apologies for late posting.

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