Giovanno Rosso – Video Update on New Cantina Construction

Aside

About six weeks ago, I was in Serralunga d’Alba and visited with Davide Rosso, winemaker for Barolo producer Giovanni Rosso.  In my blog post, I mentioned the new facility that the Rosso Family is building that will significantly expand the production capacity of their winery.  They just posted a video to update progress on the new cantina.

Since my visit, they have completed a significant portion of the excavation that was needed to level the area where the remaining portion of the cantina will be built. Davide said he anticipated the cantina would be ready for production by harvest 2014. There is still plenty of work ahead.

Banfi Enrichment Trip Day 8 The Maremma Toscana and Rome

Maremma Map

On day 8, we departed the Collupino Farmhouse with a hint of sadness and fresh laundry.   It was nice to be in one place long enough to sleep in the same bed more than once.  But, there was more of Italy waiting for us to discover.  We headed southeast from Tuscany to the Maremma Toscana where we would rendezvous once again with Andrea Cecchi.

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Photo from Val delle Rose Website

The Maremma is considered an “up and coming” area with regards to viticulture.  With several DOCs being established in the 1990s, and the only DOCG, Morrelino di Scansano being established with the 2007 vintage, the Maremma is in its infancy when compared to other Italian wine regions.  Morrelino, is purported to be the name for the region’s favored clone of Sangiovese.  But as we learned in Montalcino, there are numerous clones of Sangiovese that exist. So, rather than naming a specific clone, Morellino is a name that identifies the unique expression of Sangiovese that is born of Maremma terroir.

The DOCG Morrelino di Sacansano requires its wines to be 85% of Sangiovese grapes and allows the indigenous Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, Malvasia, Colorino, and Alicante along with “International” varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah to complete the blend.  With the Maremma being a newly rediscovered region in Italy, the winemaking is not as constrained by history and tradition as other areas. This allows plenty of liberty for experimentation and facilitates the creation of modern wines.

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Photo by Barry Himel

Over the past two decades, there has been a tremendous influx of cash into the Maremma.  In 1996, the Cecchi Family seized an opportunity to gain a foothold in the region and purchased the Val delle Rose Winery.  We toured the expansive estate, which currently has 100 hectares under vine.  The vineyards covered numerous elevations and provided sweeping vistas of the rolling terrain.  Despite being 500 meters above sea level, it was HOT.


Of late, Cecchi has made a HUGE investment in the production facility at Val delle Rose.BWcIaDA8SeU0RazOVh5GQkxFvB6Y6jnExcccqcKlL4A[1]  The new winery, in just its second vintage, is a state of the art showplace with massive production potential.  During our visit to the barrel room, we tasted the 2011 and 2012 vintages of the Val delle Rose Morrelino di Scansano Riserva .  A far cry from some of the punishing barrel samples we had experienced in Barolo and Montalcino, these young wines were already showing soft tannins and round, chewy fruit, the hallmark of the Maremma wines.

We gathered for a casual lunch in a building that could have been located on an eco-lodge in Costa Rica.  We began our meal with a handmade ravioli that was accompanied by the Littorale Vermintino.  We later enjoyed the 2009 and 2010 vintage of the Val delle Rose Morrelino di Scansano Riserva  to accompany a wild boar dish that was prepared on-site by one of our hostesses.  These vintages might seem young for a riserva, but the DOCG allows a riserva wine to be released January 1st two years after the harvest.  Despite their youth, the wines were soft with ripe fruit notes that expressed the warmth of the Maremma terroir.  Good acidity from the Sangiovese provided a crisp and refreshing balance to the ripe fruit that kept the wines from going flabby.  The 2009 was drinking especially well, though both wines paired nicely with the boar.

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The Maremma is certainly an area to keep your eyes on.  As with any region, there are hits and misses.  The good news is that most of these wines don’t require a huge outlay.  (The Val delle Rose Riserva retails for about $20.) The payoff in some of the gems that you will find is well worth the investment.

Currently, Valle delle Rose produces three wines – The “Litorale” Vermentino, Morrelino di Scansano, and a Riserva.  While we did not sample the Morellino di Scansano “Normale”, the Riservas  and the Vermentino were both delicious, unpretentious, and provide solid value.

We said our goodbyes, to what was becoming our new-found family in Italy, and with much anticipation we headed to Rome!!

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Photo by Barry Himel

I’m not going to write much about Rome here.  It is an amazing and vibrant city that is alive with people and tourists everywhere on the streets.  There is much to see and the awesome feeling of walking on sacred ground at every turn is inescapable.  We did a “Griswold” tour, as Lars called it, stopping briefly at the major sights – the Trevi Fountain, Coliseum, The Vatican, etc.  I enjoyed my first Negroni on the piazza with an amazing view of the Pantheon.  If you’ve never had a Negroni, this is certainly the BEST way to ingrain a memory.  I will remember this experience with every Negroni I consume for the rest of my life.

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Photo by Barry Himel

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Photo by Barry Himel

We walked the Spanish Steps after dinner, which was full of people just hanging out and enjoying the night.  Ben and I stumbled on to a cool bar where two very talented 20ish guitar players were absolutely slaying an improvisational jazz set.  Ben played bartender/sommelier and ordered some boozy drinks for us.  In Ben’s capable hands, I didn’t have to think.  Being the conscientious sommelier that he is, Ben was careful to balance the whisky with good acidity.  It was a refreshing departure from the onslaught of wine.  We finished with a whiskey smash, that I believe Ben actually made himself.  Ben knows wine, but based on this experience, I can say he knows whiskey too. (and Grappa)

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Photos above by Barry Himel

After a few nightcaps, I should have been more drunk than I was.  But maybe at this point, intoxication was just a matter of degrees, as we had been functioning on some level of inebriation for most of our waking moments during the trip.  With map in hand, we found our way back to the hotel.  I hit my pillow with much anticipation of a reunion with Mauro Merz in Frascati.

Banfi Enrichment Trip Day 7 – A Day at the Castello

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On Day 7, Monday, we continued our intensive Brunello study with a visit the several of the Banfi vineyards where Sangiovese is cultivated for their Brunello.  Extensive sampling has revealed 28 different soil types on the estate.  It was amazing to find sea shells in a vineyard at over 400 meters elevation.  This serves as a poignant reminder that the Earth has indeed gone through dramatic changes over time.  The other plus is that the vine seems to produce very good wine on ancient sea beds.  We also experienced significant temperature changes at different elevations.  As you would expect, temperatures were cooler in the vineyards at higher elevations.  With the variation in soils, temperature and aspect at the Castello, it is clear that Banfi has a wealth of terroirs at its disposal.  Our tasting in the barrel room later that day would give us insight into the effect that these terroirs have on the wine.  After a couple of hours in the vineyards, the heat of the day began to set in.  It was time leave the vineyards and move indoors to the Banfi winery.

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We were greeted and led on a tour by the ever-passionate winemaker Rudy Buratti.  If you’ve ever met Rudy and heard him speak about wine, you would swear he is channeling Pavarotti.  He oozes passion and enthusiasm.  With the way he emotes when speaking, you almost don’t need to understand Italian to understand what he is saying.

Banfi Hybrid Tanks

At this point of our journey, we had toured a fair number of wineries where most everything looked about the same.  If I remember correctly, all of the fermentation tanks that we had seen were constructed of stainless steel.  Here at Banfi, however, the fermentation tanks had a steel top and base with a giant wooden barrel in the middle.  Lars told the story of how the concept of the hybrid fermentation tank, like most great ideas, began with a drawing on a napkin.

For many years, wood was the preferred vessel for fermentation.  It is widely agreed that wood imparts desirable character to wine during fermentation.  Wooden barrels, however, are difficult to clean, which could lead to hygiene problems in the winery.  Use of stainless tanks increased in popularity because they are easily cleaned.  It is also easier to control fermentation temperatures in a stainless tank.  With Banfi’s patented hybrid tanks, you get the best of both worlds.  These tanks have been in use at Castello Banfi since September 2007.

Clonal selection is central to Banfi’s Brunello program.  Banfi has conducted over 30 years of research on the numerous (hundreds) clones of Sangiovese to identify which clones possess the greater part of the grape’s inherent qualities.  Initially, 15 clones with desirable traits were identified.  Since that time, Banfi has narrowed this selection to just 3 clones.  Vineyards on the estate are now planted to a field blend of the desired percentage of each clone.  As a testament to the importance of Banfi’s research, 6 of the 45 approved clones for the production of Brunello are from Banfi.

Even with clonal selection, the many terroirs at Castello Banfi give rise to many different expressions of Brunello.  Banfi has embraced the potential of this diversity.  In addition to their single-vineyard effort Poggio all’Oro, they have identified 13 individual parcels on the estate that are vinified separately.  Each lot receives the same treatment, so the difference in the wines is solely the expression of terroir.

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Photo by Barry Himel

Rudy Buratti led us through a barrel tasting of wine from two vintages from each of the thirteen parcels.  The wines showed great diversity.  They ran the gamut from tannic to round, earthy to floral, fat to lean – you get the picture.  Clearly, some of the lots could stand alone while others would need to be blended to fill in the gaps.  The fate of the lots is ultimately decided by a Banfi tasting panel.  I would love to be a fly on the wall at that meeting.  We concluded our tasting with a mini vertical of bottled vintages including the single vineyard Poggio all’Oro.  It was a great start to our day!

The tour and tasting gave us an impressive insight into the care with which Banfi approaches the production of Brunello.  While Banfi does many things on a large scale, their Brunello program is quite different.  It would be easy for Banfi to throw all their Sangiovese lots together and mass produce an average wine.  But instead, they have created a boutique winery within Castello Banfi that allows for a greater attention to detail.  They exact great care and expense to assure that each bottling of Banfi Brunello is the best that it can be.

IMAG1949Our day continued with an aperitivo in the Enoteca at Castello Banfi, followed by lunch at La Taverna.  Afterwards, we toured the luxurious hotel and grounds of the Castello, the glass museum, and the Balsameria, where Balsamic vinegar is made.  Castello Banfi is definitely a destination if you are in the Montalcino area.

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Photo by Barry Himel

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Photo by Barry Himel

That evening, we dined al fresco at the Michelin Star restaurant located at Castello Banfi.  We all figured it would be good, but had no idea the finale that Lars had planned for our group.  We had a beautiful meal.  Each course presented was a work of art.  Certainly, two standouts were a salt cod dish and a very clever take on proscuitto e melon in soup form.

As the meal unfolded, Lars took us on a retrospective of Banfi Brunello, starting with the 2001 Normale.  We followed with the 1998 Poggio alle Mura, which inspired great conversation.  We all began to reminisce about what we were doing in ’98.  It’s very cool that a bottle of wine can bring a flood of memories about things we hadn’t thought of in years.  It truly illustrated the idea that we were “drinking history”.  The next wine we sampled was wrapped in foil and we were left to guess the vintage.  Turns out, it was a 1990 Poggio all’Oro.  ThisPoggio alle Mura 1990 cropped wine was the star of the night.  At 23 years, it was perfectly mature and absolutely magnificent.  With this bottle, we began to realize the great journey through time that Lars had planned for us.  Another conversation about the past ensued.  We ended our final dinner in Tuscany with a 1978 from Banfi’s first Brunello vintage, a treat from the cellars of the Castello.

All the wines we tasted that night were pre-Rudy.  From what I have seen and tasted of Rudy’s efforts, he will only take the Banfi Brunello program to new heights.  I left this day and our time in Montalcino with a better understanding of Brunello and great appreciation of the Banfi Brunello program.  If you are a Brunello Lover, as I am, you should certainly seek the occasion to try these fine wines.

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Thanks Lars…