Tag Archives: Piedmont

Anna Maria Abbono

17 Sep

Our visit to Anna Maria Abbono was one of the many highlights of our research trip to Northern Italy. We’d met Anna a couple of years ago in the Boston area and brought several of her wines in to Pairings…her Barbera is our favorite in the store and her Dolcetto’s have been impressive as well.

Anna’s winery is located near Dogliani, in the Langhe area of Piedmont, on a dead end road up Imagehigh where the view is spectacular. It’s wonderfully quiet and the life is a balanced multi-culture. They grow hazelnuts and have geese and various vegetables. Anna is in the fourth generation of a small family winery and where they continue to develop new wines. Their small Imageproduction of 70,000 bottles includes 10 types of wines (see picture of Lori behind the wine bar) because they like to experiment. They’ve bought some property in the Barolo area, so in the future we can also drink Barolo from Anna.

The wines are grown sustainably, exceeding requirements for organic. For instance, their wines are very low in sulfates (a preservative in all wines), 40ppm where the organic requirement is being under 80ppm. This low level eliminates the headaches that Anna gets from many other wines. It was interesting to hear her talk about sulfites and how whites tend to need more than reds since the tannins, acidity and alcohol in reds are natural preservatives.

We started with a new line of white wines, which make sense because of the high altitude, large daily temperature changes and wind. One is Nechetta (yes, that’s the grape), which we never heard of before this trip and a Riesling, very unusual for the area…both fresh and nice….and they’re still experimenting with these wines.

Next was an unusual rose of Nebbiolo, lovely and fresh with big acidity and notes of strawberry rhubarb. The grapes are pressed and the skins immediately removed because of the tannins in Nebbiolo.  This rose was complex on the palate and long, and changed in the glass as we sipped.

San Bernardo is a special single vineyard Docetto that Anna makes only in the best years….awesome! The line-up of wines is excellent, but this was Ray’s favorite. Before leaving, Anna Maria gave us two bottles of this, one perhaps to drink during the trip…we’ll see. I hope you will have the chance to try this wine (at Pairings or elsewhere).

The 2007 and 2009 Dolcettos, the Barberas, the  Cado (this means gift) Langhe Rosso (Barbera and Nebbiolo),  and her Nebbiolos are impressive as well. Perhaps we should have a (blind?) tasting of her reds?


After going through the wines Anna brought out three cheeses and salamis for lunch and we continued the wonderful friendly visit with Anna and sipped some wine. We especially liked trying cheeses from very nearby. Bra, a hard cheese from the town of Bra a few kilometers away, a Morazano, like the Robiola due Latte we have in the store but firmer, and a Castelmano which was crumbly and assertive at the same time.  The graciousness and hospitality is definitely something we try to emulate in the store – great reasons to travel to learn about wine, foods, and how to live life.


What Barolo War?

20 Feb

The Line-up

We had a fun Barolo tasting with a range of different styles. In the end, the two favorites were on opposite sides of the so-called “War” of styles, it was unanimous that all the Barolos were excellent. 

The controversy between “traditional” and “modern” styles of Barolo raged on during the 1970’s and 80’s. Traditional Barolos underwent long maceration times (15-30 days) and were aged in large neutral oak barrels, resulting in very tannic wines that needed many years of aging prior to drinking. The modern style shortened the maceration time (7-10 days) and used small new French oak barrels, making the wine more suitable to drink sooner. The battle raged on, with the traditionalists saying that the oak masks the fruit, taking away some of the unique characteristics of Barolo. The modernists claimed that the public (especially the US) wanted wines to drink right away, and that this was the way to do it.

At the same time, “Other factors” were helping to improve the Barolo. Temperature control overcame issues with the late ripening of the nebbiolo grape and the corresponding cold weather that could interfere with fermentation. Strict hygiene controls virtually eliminated bad Barolos from dirty tanks and other less than hygienic practices. Canopy management to improve the quality of the yield became common, and even global warming is helping (in the coldest years in the past, some of the grapes never quite fully ripened). Based on the (admittedly small) sample in this Barolo tasting, these “Other Factors” may be key to the overall high quality of Barolos in the market today.

Another is the “compromise” that ensued in recent decades, where features of both approaches are combined. For instance, the Renato Ratti (one of the original modernists) was aged in both large Slavonian and small French oak barrels (instead of just French oak). Similarly, Mascarello (a traditionalist) was also aged in both large Slavonian and small French oak barrels (instead of just Slavonian oak). The Ceretto used only French oak, and the oak was clearly evident. The Aldo Conterno was made in the traditional style. It was in the barolo most in need of decanting, but still approachable (wonderful, in fact).

This was a tasting of a Premium Wine Club, where we shared these wines (along with a Gavi to start Imageand a dessert wine to finish). The wines were tasted alone and then with food (see list of food below), and this served as our dinner as well. The members ranged from beginners (to Barolos) to those who had visited Piemonte, including some of the wineries of the wines tasted.

The line-up provided examples of the different styles of Barolo, with some of the particular wines based on availability. Somewhat to our surprise, all of the Barolos were excellent, while each one was distinctly different from the others. One person commented that he/she would be happy with any Imageone of these wines with dinner. In the end though, the two that were the overwhelming favorites were the Renato Ratti and the Aldo Conterno, one modern and the other traditional. On that night, there wasn’t any war. Our Barolo enjoyment did not correlate with the style in which it was made. This is such a small sample, though, that I’m thinking we ought to have several more tastings, with many other Barolo winemakers and vintages.


Renato Ratti’ Marcenasco Barolo 2005 (7 days, Slav & Fr. Oak)

Ceretto Bricco Roche Barolo 2003 (8-10 days Fr. Oak)

Mascarello Santo Stefano di Perno Barolo 2001 (15-20 days, Slav Oak)

Poderi Luigi Einaudi Barolo Costa Grimaldi 2001 (8-10 days Slav & Fr. Oak)

Aldo Conterno Montforte Bussia Barolo 2001 (20-30 days, Slav oak)


Platter of Truffle cheeses, charcuterie, etc.

Osso BucoImage

Porcini Risotto

Simple salad, Bread

We also had apple cake with Felsina Vin Santo….yum!

                                         FYI, Commentary on the Barolos is included below from various internet sites.

Renato Ratti “Marcenasco” Barolo 2005

96 points and #7 on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2009: “This fabulous Nebbiolo displays aromas of very ripe strawberry and cappuccino. Full-bodied, with supervelvety tannins and incredible concentration. All the tannins are coated with gorgeous fruit. Best after 2013.” (08/09) 93 points Wine Enthusiast: “Marcenasco really comes through this vintage in terms of power, elegance and harmony. There are spice and herbal notes mixed in with almond, vanilla and allspice. You’ll love the sensation of wholeness and harmony here. Drink this opulent wine with filet mignon with wild mushroom cream sauce.” (04/09) 91 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “The 2005 Barolo Marcenasco opens with perfumed aromatics that lead to a plump, juicy core of red fruit. The wine possesses notable inner perfume and terrific overall balance in a fresh, accessible style. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2022. The 2005s are especially beautiful for their soft, textured fruit and well-integrated French oak, something that hasn’t always been the case in recent vintages.” (10/09).

Ceretto Bricco Rocche Brunate 2003

This is a silky-smooth Barolo, delicately scented with roses and violets, and showing great aromatic complexity. It can be enjoyed only a few months after bottling, but will continue to improve and develop in elegance for 15-20 years.

Wine Spectator (96)

This is very raisiny, almost meaty, with an ultrarich nose. Full-bodied, showing sultana and dried flowers on the palate, with chewy tannins. Very long and powerful on the finish. Almost Port-like. Hints of vanilla and sultana. Best after 2012.

Mascarello Barolo Santo Stefano De Perno 2001
“The estate of Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio has a long and illustrious history in Piemonte, and is unequivocally one of the greatest Barolo producers. This traditionally-styled winery is now run by Mauro Mascarello. Mauro Mascarello is often described as “an enlightened traditionalist” when it comes to his winemaking approach. Throughout the tenure of Maurizio and Mauro Mascarello, the fame of the Monprivato vineyard continued to climb, and today it is universally recognized as one of the greatest vineyards in all of Barolo (it would be a grand cru on par with a Chambertin or a Richebourg if this were Burgundy). The domaine of Giuseppe Mascarello is simply one of the greatest wine producers in the world.”

“What a pleasure it is to taste the 2001 Barolo Santo Stefano di Perno, easily the best in recent years. It displays a highly aromatic nose, with notes of roses, raspberries, minerals and menthol, with a feminine, yet structured personality and less of the green note this wine can show, which in the past I have found to be distracting. This bottling can be a bit hard when first opened, but a little air will help to smooth the edges. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2021.”
Wine Advocate: 93

Einaudi Barolo “Costa Grimaldi”  2001

92 points Wine Spectator: “Seriously good intensity of plum and floral aromas and flavors follow through to a full-bodied palate, with an outstanding intensity of fruit and a long, silky finish. Very fine indeed. Best after 2008. 450 cases made.” (10/05) 91 points Stephen Tanzer: “(half of this wine was aged in barriques, the other half in 25-hectoliter Slavonian oak casks) Lively aromas of red fruits, dried rose, menthol and minerals. Sweeter and more pliant than the normale, with ripe, almost Burgundian red fruit and mineral flavors. Finishes with finer tannins than the regular bottling and lovely persistence. This estate uses vertical fermentation tanks (not rotofermenters) in which the top of the tank can be drained to break up the cap, or the juice can be sprinkled over the cap to keep it wet. Total maceration time is typically 12 to 13 days, including a 2-day pre-fermentation cold soak.” (Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, Nov/Dev 04) 90 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “The 2001 Barolo Costa Grimaldi opens with a nose of flowers, spices, minerals and menthol. It is a wine of terrific length and purity, offering notes of cherries in liqueur, ripe red fruit and menthol, finishing with excellent freshness. It is aged 12 months in casks followed by 6 months in used barriques. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2016.” (10/06)

Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia 2001

From Bussia Soprana in Monforte d’Alba, this wine blends across three vineyards. Three years in Slavonian oak are followed by twelve months in bottle before release. Ruby with garnet undertones, Bussia Soprana shows classic floral aromas that intertwine with tobacco, earth, and licorice, leading into a full-bodied palate of red berries, dried flowers, and sweet spice. Velvety tannins, palate-piquing acidity and a pleasurable mouth-feel all work to make this Barolo one that could only come from Aldo Conterno.

  • Country: Italy
  • Region: Piemonte
  • Subregion/Appellation: Barolo

Aldo Conterno is known as the “King of Barolo” in Italy. His Poderi Aldo Conterno is situated in Monforte d’Alba on the prized Bussia Soprano vineyard in the heart of the Barolo region, where the Conterno family has been producing and aging the great Piemontese wines for more than five generations. Aldo left his legendary brother at his father’s cellar (the Giacomo Conterno estate) in 1969 to pursue his own winemaking interests and reputation to create the wines of Poderi Aldo Conterno in the “Favot” cellar. While Giovanni produces the more traditional style of the two Conterno brothers, Aldo’s wines are not considered modern. Aldo Conterno’s policy of producing only the highest quality wines while mixing tradition with innovation helps him make sterling Barolos that connoisseurs and critics alike love unabashedly.

From Bussia Soprana in Monforte d’Alba, this wine blends across three vineyards. Three years in Slavonian oak are followed by twelve months in bottle before release. Ruby with garnet undertones, Bussia Soprana shows classic floral aromas that intertwine with tobacco, earth, and licorice, leading into a full-bodied palate of red berries, dried flowers, and sweet spice. Velvety tannins, palate-piquing acidity and a pleasurable mouth-feel all work to make this Barolo one that could only come from Aldo Conterno.  Winemaker’s notes:  Scents of peach, apricot, ripe pineapple (tropical fruit). The palate demonstrates considerable weight, velvety smoothness, and elegant fruit nicely married to the oak. The finish is satisfyingly lengthy.