‘New stories, old themes’ in Piemonte vineyards
Behind the Scenes
Editor’s note: This is the third part of a four-part series. Visit http://www.vaildaily.com to read the first two installments.
We’ll visit one more Barbaresco winery for our 2013 “in their own words” Nebbiolo harvest report before heading north across the Tanaro River for Roero.
Ironically, Barbaresco producer, Marchesi di Gresy, is where Piemonte’s doors first opened for me on my third trip there in late 2000. It’s where on a cold, foggy November morning I met cellar master Jeffrey Chilcott. The tall, affable Kiwi in Wellingtons and shorts, standing in the tank room door reached out with his Nebbiolo-stained hand to shake mine. The air was cold and damp, but the person standing before me was warm and welcoming. From that moment, Chilcott became my guide on a vinous journey which still continues.
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Marchesi di Gresy
As we descend through the vineyards into the Rio Sordo valley along the narrow, serpentine road from Cascina delle Rose, Marchesi di Gresy appears across the valley, nestled in the south-facing vineyards of the Martinenga “amphitheater.” This 59-acre site — one of the winery’s four estates — includes nearly 30 acres of Nebbiolo vines for the winery’s award-winning Barbaresco DOCG triumvirate: Martinenga, Camp Gros and Gaiun.
After months of nail biting, the harvest finally began in September. According to Chilcott, the whites were three weeks “late” this year (late is relative, since for nearly a decade the harvest commenced unusually early in August). The Nebbiolo grapes were also late, but this is one varietal that profits from a longer time on the vines, provided the weather is kind.
“Most people know about the challenges with the weather this year,” Chilcott noted. “In a way, all grapes saw more hang time, especially the Nebbiolo. This year’s aromas and colors are positive, so we let the wines take their own course. No rush.”
In describing 2013 as “new stories, old themes,” he recalled the 1996 vintage that ended on Oct. 22nd that year. The vintage produced “a much different style of wine, having promising colors and malic acid. Some juices and fermenting wines had a whole spectrum of aromas and flavors with a sort of ‘Champagne-ish’ acidity to them.” In 2016, we’ll discover if 1996 was a good indicator of the quality from this difficult vintage.
This year, “the volumes are positive” and Chilcott is “looking forward to the evolutions in the tank and bottle.” He believes this year’s harvest “gives both knowledgeable and first time visitors some nice stories to share,” as though visitors to this temple to oenological joy are at a loss for great experiences when they visit. Knowing the consistent quality of each of Marchesi di Gresy’s 16 different wines, even in calamitous vintages such as 2002, 2013 on their labels no doubt will be a lucky number.
We’ll climb back up to the main Barbaresco — Neive road along the ridge — part of which has already fallen into a vineyard — and head northeast to Canale in the Roero.
On Canale’s outskirts is Azienda Agricola Deltetto, where we’ll meet proprietor and winemaker Antonio Deltetto. We’ve only driven 10 miles, but the geological formations are those of another geological era. Although the wines don’t have the celebrity status of they cousins to the south in the Langhe, it’s changing rapidly. Make no mistake, Roero is an oenological region not to be ignored. To do so is to deprive yourself of the Bacchanalian pleasures this region so graciously offers.
Most everyone I know in Piemonte, I met through Jeffrey Chilcott. Deltetto is no exception. What a lucky girl I was living in Zurich, so close to Piemonte! In 2003, we had a lovely autumn lunch at the Adler Hurden on the Seedamm in Zurich. A text message to Chilcott was all it took for me to get an appointment the following weekend with the producer of a wonderful wine we drank — Deltetto Arneis St. Michele. You see, Chilcott knows everyone. What a wonderful oenological — and gastronomic — guide to have!
Although the white, rascally varietal, Arneis, is the wine that drew us to Roero, today we’re focusing on Deltetto’s Nebbiolo harvest. But we certainly won’t pass up the taste of Arneis he’s sure to offer us while we chat!
Deltetto’s award-winning Roero Nebbiolo Braja is a prime example of the high quality grapes vines reaching deep into the sandy and calcareous Roero soil produce.
“We finished Oct. 18th with a great satisfaction about the quality and type of tannins in big quantity and velvety (feel),” he said. “This was possible with the late ripening that works very well with the Nebbiolo, producing better tannins and lots of aromatic flavor when it ripens very slowly in a cool climate. Also, the rain was not too much so we are very proud of this vintage. So far, so good.”
Although Deltetto produces many vinous treats including Arneis Passito and three different Spumante methode classique (it’s truly a delicious Champagne, but please don’t tell the French I called it that), we’ll save a trip through his portfolio for another time. It’s time for the short drive east from Canale for our final winery stop.
This past summer, I introduced my readers to Ornella Correggia, the serene widow of the oenological genius and visionary, Matteo Correggia. She’s truly a steel magnolia: the synergy of strength, courage and soft femininity. Those qualities — and her two children Giovanni and Brigitta — have sustained Correggia during the 13 harvests since her husband’s tragic death in June 2001. Correggia succeeded in realizing her late husband’s dream of producing world class Nebbiolo from the Roero soil.
All indications are this vintage will be a memorable one for all the right reasons.
“The 2013 has been one of the most difficult in the past 20 years — from the weather, to the timing of the harvest, both factors made the work in the vineyards challenging. Luckily, the wine quality matches the effort and stress we put into making a successful harvest. So we are very happy!”
“The Nebbiolo harvest ended on Oct. 22. It was important to work very well in the vineyards, especially in the summer during the green harvest thinning to ventilate the clusters and ensure good health in a very wet and foggy vintage.”
“Now, our Nebbiolo single vineyards are still in maceration, but we are confident about their potential in becoming great Roero wines. The ripeness has been perfect and complete because the vegetative cycle was very long, in the way the Nebbiolo variety loves; richer in good smells, freshness, sweet tannins, very ripe.”
Correggia’s most cherished memory she will have from this harvest is that it was the first one Brigitta experienced working with winemaker Luca Rostagno and her brother Giovanni. Now comes the task of helping them vinify the “nice bunches” nature gave them.
We’ve completed our harvest tour. It’s a good time to stop for lunch. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait another week. As I began to write about Jeffrey Chilcott, I felt you needed to know more about him. He’s truly Piemontese icon. Just ask any Anglophone Barbaresco-phile who’s been to Piemonte if they’ve met Chilcott. Trust me, there’s a 90 percent chance they have. So, lunch at Villa Tiboldi next week? I promise you, it will be scrumptious and well worth the wait.
Suzanne Hoffman is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel. Her blogs are http://www.suziknowsbest.com and http://www.winefamilies.com. Email comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.