Thursday, 11 August 2011

Fabrizio Battaglino visit

Satellite Navigation will be the making of Fabrizio Battaglino. His family estate is tucked away from the rest of the world so you would need an incredibly detailed map to find him - he did offer to come to meet me and bring me back to the estate but I was determined to try on my own.

Obviously we made it there and, once installed, spent some time getting to know Fabrizio and his mother who was exceptionally hospitable (when the children eventually got bored of our conversation, they went to play outside; next thing we heard them playing in the house above our heads which was quite warming to hear on the grounds that our children have only a handful of words in Italian and Signora Battaglino seems not to know any English at all).

The tasting began with the white, Fabrizio's Roero Bianco 2010. Roero is a fairly young region next to the Barbaresco zone and its reds are based on Nebbiolo too but for the whites, the local Arneis variety is used. The fruit is not dissimilar to a southern Rhone white but with more pronounced acidity giving the wine greater ageing potential. Fabrizio agreed although he admitted not many bottles get the opportunity to see this through.

The reds began with his (young) 2010 Barbera which has a really wild animal nose. Fabrizio thought it would evolve well for drinking in another couple of months. I like its savageness now though but can see it would probably have wider appeal later in the year. The acidity is good and, when tasted with a slice of salami, it is easy to appreciate the need for many Italian wines to have food to show them at their best.

There are three reds: first a relatively straightforward Nebbiolo which spends most of its life (prior to bottling) in stainless steel tanks with just a short spell in barrel to soften it slightly. Fabrizio doesn't like to use too much new oak so he uses them for three or four years which gives the wines all the benefits of barrel ageing (aeration) without the flavour (another advantage of this approach is cost: new barrels cost over 500€).

There is only one red labelled as Roero for marketing reasons (long-standing customers know the top wine, Colla, as a Nebbiolo d'Alba even though it is entitled to Roero status). The Roero "Sergentin" 2009 has more weight - and more tannin - than the simple Nebbiolo and it is apparent that given some more bottle age, this will be rather good. The "Colla" was presented last and is stylistically quite different to the "Sergentin" although both betray a house style of pensive sophistication. Again, it needs to age to show at its best.

All these last three wines show another side of the Nebbiolo grape: more subtle than any of the wines tasted over the previous couple of days. Is it the winemaker (intelligent, sensitive and throughtful compared with Enrico's exuberant confidence, for example) or the terroir,  I wonder? Well, I have to go back to France now so I will have to return another time to explore the region in greater depth to discover the answer to this.

Post script. We didn't taste the wine at the estate but Fabrizio gave me a bottle of his Bric Bastia, a late harvest Arneis, to taste later. Following an attempt to make a proper Italian ragu for Sunday lunch, I opened it with a simple dessert (Amaretti di Mombaruzzo - delicious). When I tasted it before, I thought it reminiscent of tinned peaches but, actually, there is far more here including grapefruit. Actually, it reminds me of Domaine Rotier's Gaillac Doux "Renaissance" which is one of my very favourite sweet wines so I am going to be doing everything I can to extol the virtues of Fabrizio's range if only for this wine!

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