Tag Archives: Arneis

Piemonte 2-3 Toscana: A weekend in Italy part 2

After the Capezzana tasting, the riches of Decanter’s Italian day at the Landmark Hotel.  This has to be the best one-day introduction to the Italian quality wine scene in the UK and maybe beyond.  It’s big – with 86 listed producers – and pretty representative, 13 out of 20 regions present, with Sardinia a surprising absence.  A third of producers are from Tuscany with 16 from Chianti alone, but then we all know about that English love affair.

Faced with these riches, you have to choose.  Janet and I concentrated on filling in a few gaps from our recent Piemonte trip and of course some Tuscan friends.  Here are  some of the highlights.

Damilano, Barolo

This winery, between the communes of Barolo and La Morra, has a great range of wines and of  single vineyard cru.  It is particularly pleased to La Morrabe expanding its holding in the important Cannubi vineyard from two to ten hectares, leasing the additional land from Marchesi di Barolo, which will give them 60% of the cru.  The investment is eye-watering, with one hectare of Cannubi in the €2m range.  And so is the responsibility of moving from 9,000 to 50,000 bottles of this wine per year.

Of the wines we particularly enjoyed Barolo Cannubi 2005, squeezed between two great vintages, now showing better than most expected, with a very rich, complex nose and dense fruit.  But a good word has also to be put in for the Barbera d’Alba 2007 in a modern oaked style (40% new barriques), but a good depth of fruit and quite luxurious.

Michele Chiarlo, Calamandrana, Monferrato

Michele Chiarlo, while being based in the Monferrato region, has important wines from many key areas of Piemonte – whites from the Roero and Gavi, Moscato, an interesting sparkling wine which we drank when we were in Alba, quality Barbera and of course Barolo and Barbaresco.  The highlights included the premium Barbera, La Court, Barbera d’Asti Superiore ‘Nizza’ 2006.  This wine, which from the 2008 vintage has acquired DOCG status, is treated like the top wine that it is – low yields of only 1 kg of grapes per plant, harvested late in the middle of October, half fermented and aged in larger 650 litre barrels, half aged for 12 months in barriques and then for a year in bottles. It shows brilliant dense fruit, complexity and typical great acidity, a powerful but balanced food wine.  The wine received the Gambero Rosso’s top grade of ‘three glasses’ in this excellent vintage, as well as in 2000, 2001 and 2003. It’s great value too at €26 – just over half what you would expect to pay for a Nebbiolo based wine of similar quality.  All the wines we tasted here were very good or excellent: Arneis Le Madri 2009 and Gavi di Gavi Rovereto 2009 were very good, Barbaresco 2006, Barolo Tortoniano 2005 and Barolo Cerequio 2005 were excellent.

So, so far on this football day, an early 2-0 lead to Piemonte.

Marchesi di Frescobaldi

In the Tuscany room, I noticed that Frescobaldi had bought a fine range of wines including top Brunello and Chianti.  But there was also the chance to taste two Super Tuscans, which draw on the cultural and religious symbolism of the Mediterranean, Lucente and Luce.  From these bottles beams the sun rays in embossed golden splendour – can the wines live up to this?  Lucente 2007 – the affordable option – has very good medium weight fruit, good counterbalancing acidity, a decent second level Super Tuscan.  Luce 2006, a 50/50 Sangiovese/Merlot divide, spends two years in barriques and emerges with deep, dense, colour and aroma (prunes and cherries, balsam), great fruit (the Merlot of course to the fore) and lively acidity (Sangiovese makes its mark). Perhaps a wine for tasting rather than drinking, but an excellent achievement nonetheless.


Having tasted this company’s top Vernaccia di San Gimignano at Vinitaly, I was keen to catch up with at least the other whites in the range from this producer.  Maria Elisabetta Fagiuoli introduced the wines herself and fully justified the company’s slogan Sono Montenidoli – ‘I am Montenidoli’, or rather less likely, ‘They (the wines) are Montenidoli’.   This part of Tuscany is the product a great prehistoric salt-water sea, a land of fossil filled limestone which can produce whites of real character.

The Vernaccia tradizionale 2007 is the product of long maceration on the skins and has very good complexity on the nose though it is rather flatter on the palate. I love this style but if you prefer something cleaner, more fruit led, then there is Vernaccia Fiore 2007, with freshness and even delicacy, some fruit, pleasurable drinking.  Il Templare 2007 is a real marmite wine (Gambero Rosso agrees: these wines don’t leave you indifferent …): 70% Vernaccia, 20% Trebbiano gentile, 10% Malvasia bianca, a distinctly cheesy opening, then herbaceous notes, nice texture, good lemon and melon fruit. We also enjoyed Canaiuolo 2007, the unusual rosé made from Canaiolo,  a Tuscan grape usually relegated to being a blender with Sangiovese. Here it produces a nicely balanced, quite floral wine for summer drinking.


Dutch investment, French know-how and biodynamic agriculture is the package at this very contemporary venture, near Riparbella close IMG_0159 to the Tuscan coast.  Dominique Génot remembered us from our visit on a tempestuously  rainy day in May 2007 and judging by the wines, since then things have gone from strength to strength.  A fine sweet wine and a dry white have been added to the entry level if excellent Pergolaia (90% Sangiovese) and the top wine, Caiarossa.  The grape mix for the latter sets new standards for a multi-grape wine in Tuscany – you could be in the southern Rhône: around 20% each of Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, plus 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, with small amounts of Alicante, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Mourvèdre.  Or to put it another way, that’s 40% Bordeaux, 30% Rhône and 30% Tuscany.   The show offered three vintages:

Caiarossa 2004: is now beautifully knit together, with a fabulous nose of ripe fruit and savoury wood, rich in texture, complex, satisfying.

Caiarossa 2005: squeezed between two great vintages, this shows more herbaceous notes but still very creditable.

Caiarossa 2006: do not drink this wine yet!  Not that there is anything wrong with it but it is going to be outstanding with its great depths of fruit, zippy acidity, so much potential  – currently very young.

Oro di Caiarossa 2006 and 2007: late harvested Petit Manseng, slow strong pressing of whole bunches, two days of cool maceration, then barrel fermented for  eight months.  A delicious sweet white with apple and nut flavours.  The 2006 shows some oxidation (there are risks in that long slow fermentation), the 2007 is exactly what the maker intended: a sweet wine with freshness, notes of acacia honey, good fruit, very good.

We left the tasting early – me for football reasons, Janet heroically filled in the time shopping.  The cup final, which looked like it could be a mismatch between  the top and bottom teams of the Premier League, exceeded expectation with a match full of incident and interest: competitive, lots of goal mouth incident, bad tackles, two missed penalties.  Chelsea ran out 1-0 winners but somebody ought to explain to them that the ball is supposed to go between the posts, you don’t get any points for hitting post or bar.  To complete the perfect Italian weekend in England, the winning cup final manager was of course an Italian.


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Monchiero Carbone – when two families are better than one

IMG_4764 Just down the road from Malvirà in Canale itself is Monchiero Carbone which is the product of the two named families joining forces in the present husband and wife team.  Again,  the winery is hidden from view, here underground, below the courtyard of a traditional dwelling.  Parts of the cellar are very old, going back a couple of hundred years, and you can still see the steep steps down which the large barrels used to be rolled.  The treatment these days is rather more gentle and controlled.  

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They produce a good Arneis called Recit 2009 (‘little king’ in dialect), which is complex and long, with a slightly vegetal edge and an Arneis cru, Cecu d’la Biunda 2009 (the family name for one of the grandfathers).  This grows in very sandy soil – like a beach – and has a strongly mineral character.  It is said to age for five to ten years which I am sure it would. 

IMG_4777 We also tasted three reds with one bonus wine to follow …. Mon Birone, the hill on which the vines grow, is the winery’s  Barbera d’Alba 2007.  It is made from low yields and three weeks of maceration ensure a deep colour and plenty of fruit, followed by a year and a half in barriques from Burgundy.  This hot year has produced a slightly caramelly effect over the deep red fruit, plus a hint of treacle.  As in the Langhe, the most sought after wines are from the Nebbiolo grape and there are again two levels, starting with the Roero DOCG Srü 2007.  Again slightly pruney fruit, but properly fragrant, with elegant tannins.  The sandy soils produce wines which are much more quickly approachable than those of the Langhe. 

The top wine is Printi 2006, Roero riserva DOCG, which is aged for three years, two of which are in oak.  The result of growing on soils a bit closer to those of the Langhe and traditional wine making is a wine of greater substance, more tannins and greater longevity.  Deeper red fruit, some leather and balsamic notes, rich, still highly tannic and good acidity.  And all this for €18. 

IMG_4782 The longevity of these wines was shown by a taste of a bottle of a 1990 which had been opened the day before for some Japanese journalists.  This was then a Roero superiore but is the predecessor of today’s Srü. Though slightly oxidised, it had kept its freshness and had developed mushroomy notes, with lovely soft tannins.  It had certainly kept its colour well as the photos shows (1990 on the left). 

IMG_4781Many thanks to Lucrezia and her winemaking husband Francesco for this visit.  There are many good things going on in the Roero. 

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Spring sunshine at Malvirà

There are some days when everything is just perfect – the spring sunshine, the countryside emerging fromIMG_4713 a long hard winter, the place, the people.  Our visit to Malvirà was one of those days.  As with quite a few wineries in Piemonte, the building could be just a rather larger house from the outside.  But it does have a fabulous view and, below, most of  a new winery in construction beneath the apparent domesticity. 

To reach the town of Canale you leave Alba and with it the world famous  red wines of the Langhe.  The soil changes to a lighter, sandier, composition and it is immediately noticeable that the agriculture is more mixed. There are vines but there is also fruit (especially peaches), animals, ordinary fields, light industry.  This is the Roero, home of the important Piemontese white, Arneis, more Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolchetto and  some other interesting local varieties.  And after the almost uniformly ‘red’ diet of the Langhe, it is refreshing to have excellent whites to taste. 

But before we get to the wines, we have to celebrate the weather and the arrival of spring. 


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Malvirà shares a hillside with the beautiful hotel, Villa Tibaldi, very smart indeed and with a great restaurant. 

Tasting on the terrace in the spring sunshine in congenial company is either exactly the thing to do (after all wine is supposed to be pleasurable!) or very unprofessional.  There is much more to be written about this subject in another post.  But I like to think that you can continue to have some level of objectivity if you concentrate hard to evaluate the wines even in a setting like this.  But then I would think that – it’s in my interest.

Malvirà exploits the sandy soils of the Roero for the four good whites which we tasted.  Favorita 2009 –Favorita being the same grape as the much more widely known IMG_4749 Vermentino – is delicately floral, with quite exotic fruit including a hint of citrus, medium in weight and with good acidity. A good aperitivo.  The standard Arneis 2009, 13˚, has lovely aromas of white fleshed fruit and is slightly nutty with a bitter element, so typical of Italian whites.  The grape has been documented in the area since 1400.   This example initially tasted quite low in acidity but that was probably more due to the fullness of the wine with its thirteen degrees of alcohol.  Yet more structured is the Arneis from the single vineyard Trinità (2008).  10% of this has done time in French oak with additional richness from stirring the lees.   In the mouth the wine is fuller, with more tropical fruit, rounded, very good indeed.  Finally in the whites we tasted Treuve 2005, 14˚, the three grapes being rather more international in character, Sauvignon Blanc (40%), Chardonnay (40%), Arneis (20%).  This has aged well, with a powerful nose of exotic fruit and butter, very rounded, very stylish, impossible to place because of the three grapes used together.


At Malvirà we were very ably hosted by Mollie (marketing) and Evan (right), who came to work with grapes but was currently painting parts of the new winery – such is life.  Evan is English – you can just about see the Majestic logo on his shirt – and talked us through the wine making process.  We also got the chance to meet owner Roberto over part of lunch.  They genuinely seem a very happy crew. 

Over lunch we tasted the reds in quick succession.  San Michele 2006, Barbera d’Alba, spends 20 months in barriques, one third of which are new.  It has a good  perfumed fruit, a mid weight Barbera with the characteristic good acidity. Langhe Nebbiolo 2006 is aged for a total of three years and has the characteristic cherry perfume.  We noted IMG_4759the paleness of the wine – apparently Nebbiolo is even paler than usual in good years such as this.  There is nothing pale however about Renesio, Roero riserva DOC 2005.   This Nebbiolo spends two years in wood and another two in bottles before being released.  Despite its riserva status, it’s very drinkable, with that characteristic  combination of cherry and oak-related aromas. 

We finished with a local speciality, a version of the lightly alcoholic sweet IMG_4761wine, typically made from Moscato grapes but here from the red grape, Brachetto.  It is sold as Birbet, characteristic of the Acqui area, and very attractive it is too with its gorgeous colour, bright red fruit, sweetness, very slightly almondy and under 6˚ of alcohol. 

Many thanks to Mollie and Evan for their hospitality and time.  The standard Arneis is available from Waitrose – which of course is where I came across it first.  Malvirà is one to follow, even when the sun doesn’t shine. 


It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it!  Lunch at Villa Tibaldi.

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Landing in Piemonte

Arriving in a famous wine area for the first time is wonderfully exciting.  As you drive from the airport (in this case Turin), you pass through the neighbouring countryside which is flat as a pancake, if lying between the snow-covered Alps and the ‘ridges’ which give the Langhe its name.  As you approach your destination you begin to see famous wine names on the road signs – Barolo, La Morra and many more, which of course are first and foremost the names of villages.  Despite having now done it many times, it’s amazing to see the names of one’s favourite drink on the map or on road signs!

On the outskirts of the smallish town of Alba, you drive past the factory which produces its most famous product – Ferrero Rocher. So this is hazelnut and chocolate heaven as well as a town perfectly situated between Piemonte’s red wine appellations – Barolo and Barbaresco.  A simple lunch at the Vincaffe is an introduction to the fact that Piemonte is one of Italy’s gastronomic centres – fantastic mixed antipasti of raw beef, veal with a slightly tangy sauce and and a chicken and nut (of course) salad, followed by soup of peasant proportion or gnocchi – time to lie down and surrender.

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Wine by the glass offers immediate interest.  If you ignore the famous names for the moment you can try the local grape varieties – Arneis for white (quite famous), but als0 white La Favorita  and in the reds, Freisa.  The last named, by Pellisero, has very ripe fruit, low acid and tannin and dense, herbaceous, fruit, nearer to prune than plum.  Delicious and could only really come from here.  In the evening we drank one of the staple reds of the region, Barbera.  Its has a good light ruby colour, medium in weight, beautifully balanced in terms of acidity and tannin, far too drinkable.  A bottle disappears in no time.  It’s great value too – this example which hasn’t been a oak barrel, so the lovely fruit is what you get, is €14 in a restaurant.  (Giovanni Sordo, Barbera d’Alba, 2008).  No doubt there will be plenty of time for the mushrooms, pasta and in another season, truffles for which the place is renowned, but that’s a great start. 

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