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A brief word about new vintages in Piedmont and the Rhone

Recently returned from our annual trip hopping across the Alps (we managed the journey over the top of the Colle Madelene/Col d'Arche which affords stunning views and around 22 hairpin bends on the Italian side - not good if you get stuck behind a camper van) having visited lots of wineries both in Piedmont and the Rhone.

As every enthusiast knows, 2015 was an exceptional year throughout Europe (certainly all the major wine-growing regions of France and northern Italy where we work) with wines that often need a bit of cellaring but have the capacity to age magnificently. In the main, these are the wines we offered 'en primeur' this time last year. Now it is the turn of the 2016s.

In Piedmont, I was struck by the explosion of fruit in the Langhe Nebbiolo wines I tasted from 2016. Actually, it was probably more the acidity levels in these wines which kept the fruit very much alive on the palate. Fantastic food wines. Of course, it is only the basic Nebbs that are currently available, along with Barbera and Dolcetto (both also good with, perhaps, Dolcetto especially so in this vintage for me). Barbaresco and Barolo wines are not yet available.

At Nada Giuseppe, I did get an early taste of the 2015 Barbaresco 'Casot' which is all too drinkable even at such a young age, as it Enrico Nada's way. There is no doubt that it has the capacity to make reasonably old bones (at least 20 years) but I somehow doubt there will be much of this kicking about for more than a decade at most. The 2013 Riserva is, as always, rather good and, for me, the best since 2010. Enrico has made one of his ad hoc grape swaps with a friend in Serralunga so he is able to offer a 2013 Barolo which is rather lovely, made very much in his forward, approachable style but with a little more Barolo depth and warmth.

Across the Tanaro river in Roero, Fabrizio Battaglino's 2017 Arneis and 2016 Barbera and Nebbiolo are all quite approachable- for me, the Barbera perhaps needs six months or so to get to a place where I would want it to be - but the 2015s were showing their strength with the Roero Sergentin clearly a star in the making. The Colla was slightly shy on the day though. I will have to try it again soon! After that, we tasted the 2014 Roero Riserva which follows on well from the 2013, perhaps a little more friendly at this stage. Finally, a new 'vintage' of the technically non-vintage Bric Bastia, Fabrizio's passito Arneis, a delicious late-harvested dessert wine and one of my own favourites.

On the other side of the Alps, there was clear excitement about 2016 with the line-ups at Domaine Brusset (Gigondas and Cairanne), Raymond Usseglio (Chateauneuf-du-Pape), Xavier Vignon (various appellations) and Ste-Anne (St-Gervais) all showing wonderful purity and expression. All the 2016s seemed quite drinkable, the more so when compared with some of the 2015s which, not closed, had more explicit tannins than their younger siblings. The biggest disappointment for me was the lack of a cuvee 'Rouvieres' at Ste-Anne because there wasn't enough Mourvedre in 2016 to warrant a bottling of this wine. Still, 'Rouvieres' loss is 'Notre Dame des Cellettes' gain!

More soon, including the offer just as soon as I have all the tariffs!

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