First of all, a huge apology to anyone who bothers to check in from time to time. My long silence was caused by a family matter which has distracted me somewhat. Anyway, enough of that. What have I been up to wine-wise?
Easter saw my annual trip to the Rhone and Piedmont, now firmly part of the routine. The Rhone was all about the 2012 vintage which is an extremely attractive and quite user-friendly year with wines offering attractive fruit that is a joy to let pass one's lips. More about this here.
Italy provided a much needed break but it was still very busy and, at times, hard work. We arrived on the Saturday evening at our accommodation and had clearly been forgotten. After going out for a simple dinner, we managed to get into the apartment we had arranged, overlooking the valley towards Alba and hilltop villages including Barbaresco in the distance. The following day had us back in the car again to meet with the Ghio family who have spent the last decade or so planting and producing Gavi and other wines from their small (but stunningly situated) estate - Binè - in Novi Ligure. A charming family - lots of jokes and surprisingly little need of translation on either side.
The following day was busy: a late start with Maura and her brother at Cascina Saria was followed by a spectacular seven course lunch with the family. The new vintages are appropriately excellent with the Riddolina needing a little time, understandably, but the San Lorenzo providing a delicious Barbera to enjoy while you wait. The star of the show was undoubtedly the 2010 Barbaresco. These wines are now in stock so I am looking forward to enjoying them again.
Slightly later than planned: next stop, Grasso Fratelli in Treiso. We kept to the reds here and, inevitably enjoyed their maturing Barbarescos, especially the 2006 Valgrande, but we were taken by a new wine called Trej. This is a play on words: short for Treiso and also three grapes (Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto). As well as being a very good wine, I thought it an excellent introduction to Nebbiolo for the uninitiated given the variety's eccentricities. The Barbera and Dolcetto, in small proportions, do not detract from the Nebbiolo character but take the edge off its tannic inevitability and add a touch of depth and sweeter fruit. Perhaps, then, not one for purists but lots of fun anyway.
Moving onwards and upwards, literally, because Nada Giuseppe is just up the hill in the Valle Grande in a location called Marcarino. In 2011, Enrico has produced two cuvees of Barbaresco Normale, one quite gutsy one (certainly more so than usual) from Casot which will need a couple of years in the bottle to flesh out and integrate the tannins, the other more immediate and juicy from the area around the house, Marcarino. The finale of the tasting was, of course, the 2009 Riserva I had high hopes, given my fondness for the 2009 Normale. I was not disappointed. the Riserva is everything the Normale is but with more backbone, deeper fruit, more promise.
The final tasting of the day was with Fabrizio Battaglino in Vezza d'Alba, Roero. Either we were early or he was late which gave us an opportunity to practice speaking Italian with his parents. I was impressed with how much I could put together from a few hours of Michel Thomas tapes! 2012 produced a superb Barbera 'Munbel' for Fabrizio whilst the 2011 Sergentin is, without doubt, the best wine he has made and would challenge any good Barolo or Barbaresco at twice the price. the Colla is rather good too!
That's enough for now but I will type up my notes from the rest of the trip later.