Tenuta Cucco: Rebuilding a Lost Barolo Cru

Piero Rossi Cairo is quite candid that, with the acquisition of Tenuta Cucco and rebuilding of an historic Barolo cru, he and his family are doing something ‘modern’. The transparency with which he speaks about the project is commendable. There is no attempt to ‘spin’ a portrayal of fanciful dynastic wine family narrative. No camouflage to obscure that his chosen profession of attorney precedes his entry into the wine life – he readily admits that he, “…was not a farmer, but became a farmer.”

According to Piero, he will not rely upon labeling maneuvers or $30 flash sale promotions to attract your consumer attention.

Instead, where it comes to the wines, Piero smartly chooses a time-honored approach, the only one that matters, really, to earn your patronage: he’ll rely on what’s in the bottle.

Family wine holdings include the bio-dynamically farmed La Raia, with 45 hectares under vine to Cortese and Barbera; and the aforementioned Tenuta Cucco, set to be certified organic in May 2018, with 12 hectares (9 nebbiolo, 3 leased hectares to barbera), the star of which includes the historic cru of Cucco, situated at the best exposed/highest point of Cerrati. A second cru, Bricco Volterra, will not be marketed until 2022.

Gavi

La Raia researched some 230 indigenous yeasts between grapes and cellar. After testing, the estate finally settled on one that worked especially well. As the beauty of Cortese is to be found in the delicate flavor and detail of its wines, La Raia smartly chose a production path favoring stainless steel and time on lees, avoiding the risk of overpowering, aggressive oak.

La Raia’s Gavi DOCG 2015 is impeccably clean and aromatic, scents of fruit and white flowers, overtones of almond and ginger, and an attractively warm finish.

The estate’s Gavi Riserva DOCG 2015, produced from a single vineyard of 60-70 year old vines, drinks with more body, depth, complexity and detail. There is a viscosity, too, that adds to palate richness, and a markedly long, savory finish.

Barolo

Tenuta Cucco is located in Serralunga d’Alba, a Barolo commune known for austere, tannic wines of outstanding structure. (One mustn’t forget that austerity and tannins…and patience…are part of the Barolo experience.)

#barolo #piemonte #serralungadalba #vignacucco #tenutacucco #italianwine

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Tenuta Cucco’s Barolo DOCG del Comune di Serralunga d’Alba 2012 is no exception, announcing itself with a calling card of formidable tannic structure. Intense and high-spirited, the wine is well-proportioned, showing classic varietal aromas, scent of underbrush. Needs more time, but has a long life ahead.

The estate’s Barolo DOCG del Comune di Serralunga d’Alba 2013 is easier to appreciate at the moment, showing ripe fruit, wonderful balance, notes of dried flowers, earth, and subtle spice.

Cucco’s Barolo DOCG Cerrati 2012 is a single vineyard production of 8k-12k bottles. Diplomatically styled, the wine straddles middle ground between traditional and modern, with 1 year French / 1 year Slavonian oak. An especially well-balanced wine bringing aromas and flavors of cherries, small berries, savory herb, forest floor. Quite enjoyable now, this will be a remarkable wine a few years down the road.

Tenuta Cucco Barolo DOCG Cerrati “Vigna Cucco” Riserva 2011 is made in a modern style, aged in medium toast French barrique. A flagship wine of Tenuta Cucco, it is elegant and complex, with panoramic aromatics including scents of rose, dried fruit and flowers, warm spice. A sonorous, mosaic-like finish rewards your attention with its persistence. Massively cellar-able.

Coda

Opting again to let “what’s in the bottle” do the talking, Piero stands aside as a Barolo Serralunga d’Alba 2007 taken from the cellar of Cucco’s previous owner gives compelling evidence of the excellence that can be achieved from Cucco. Further testimony is heard from a Barolo Serralunga d’Alba 1995 of similar provenance, lest any doubt should remain among tasters present. That wine’s umami notes, tasted with a mouthful of La Pizza Fresca’s mushroom pizza are reverberating joy, any remembrance of Serralunga austerity transformed by time to Zen-like calm, serene tannins and ethereal repose.

Importer: Vinifera Imports, Ronkonkoma, NY

Benvenuto Brunello: Vintage 2013, Cool and Classic

Yesterday, Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, along with scores of wine lovers and industry professionals, celebrated the 2013 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino. Benvenuto Brunello was held at NYC’s Gotham Hall and provided a uniquely panoramic walk-around tasting experience of over thirty Brunello producers representing Montalcino’s 2013 vintage premier. A limited-space guided tasting further addressed vintage specifics.

The official tagline for Montalcino’s 2013 vintage is “cool and classic”. The wines I tasted certainly attest to that theme, for the most part, showing energy, high acidity, crisp and crunchy fruit, and lifted aromatics.

Mentions of 2013 as being a “feminine” vintage are understandable. Although, I suspect that conclusion is arrived at with a dose of comparative hindsight. That is to say, after experiencing vintages like 2012 with its sheer power, and the muscularity of 2006, the classic character of 2013 feels in the afterglow comparatively feminine.

#montalcino #tuscany #italy #brunello #italianwine #sangiovese

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Traditionally styled wines are showing especially well in 2013’s vintage. In most cases, the winemaking approach seems better suited to lithe frames, nervy acidity and lifted aromatics. Conversely, in this kind of vintage, the heavy hand with oak sticks out, at times smothering aromatics and presenting awkward tannins. Producers who stuck to a more restrained wood regime achieved wines of greater balance.

Best of all, 2013’s Brunello di Montalcino wines are, in general, broadly approachable now and are not at all aggressive. Of course, as (almost) always with Brunello, cellaring will reward you for effort and patience.

Adagio in White: A Nebbiolo Microstory

I don’t know if you’ve ever had occasion to stand along Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue when winter’s white fractures against the interruption of bare tree branches. But, I can tell you that there are fewer places where crow black hair and dark up-slanted eyes can look more stunning.

Cold, it turns out, is neither good nor desirable for violins, Chinese take-out or the university music student trying to carry them. When all three hit the ground, I offer an assist. Back at her apartment, with cups of black tea and passages of J.S. Bach’s Adagio in G Minor, she repays the kindness.

I am four years and six rows from center stage. Sitting in the best seat I can afford. Seeing her take the stage, I realize I was wrong: she looks stunning here, too.

Silence. Then, the beautiful, organized chaos of the orchestra tuning. Suddenly, the clean sound of “A” at 440 cycles per second fills the space.

They say an instrument’s strings, when in tune, vibrate in sympathetic reaction.

I shiver.

I can think of far better endings than sitting here alone, TV on mute, Barolo unwinding in the glass, Amy Winehouse in the background reminding me that Love Is A Losing Game.

Nebbiolo is so fucking astounding.

Why Aren’t We Drinking More Cesanese?

Here we are at the weekend, and memory of the gorgeous IGT Rosso del Frusinate from Maria Ernesta Berucci enjoyed earlier in the week remains.

During technical tasting the wine impressed with its remarkable balance and great lift.

Afterward, tasted alongside charcuterie, young cheeses, and even fish baked with San Marzano tomatoes, capers, white wine and a generous dusting of za’atar, the wine showed great versatility, elevating every bite.

The delicate, heavenly balance Berucci achieved with this wine could be brutalized by any less talented producer applying a too heavy hand to the wood regime.

And so, Berucci sets an interesting benchmark with this wine.

I’m looking forward to tasting more from this producer.

Meanwhile, considering the excellent value for money represented here, I have to wonder: why aren’t we drinking more Cesanese?

Tasting Note:
Captivating, delicate perfume of fresh red cherries, flowers, and ever-so-subtle notes of spice. Flavorsome and nectar-like on the palate, the wine is lightly tannic, one reason it worked well with the fish.

Tavoleto: A Tuscan Chardonnay Speaks

It is true that my center of Italian wine gravity revolves around Italy’s native wine grapes. That is to say, I am typically not a great fan of Italian wines made with international grape varieties.

But, there are exceptions.

I was touched, if not a bit fascinated, by the wine known as Tavoleto (Toscana IGT), a small production 100% Chardonnay made by Campotondo, a producer working in the area of Tuscany’s Campiglia d’Orcia.

I appreciate this wine as much for what it isn’t, as for what it is. Tavoleto manages to avoid the usual clichés associated with Italian wines made from international grape varieties.

Enjoyably fat on the palate, Tavoleto’s fruit is in good measure in both aroma and flavor, backed by notes of ginger powder and white flowers. Light tannic friction against the wine’s creaminess gives massive sensation-appeal.

Indeed Tavoleto has a voice of its own and speaks with identity of the area, not an easy thing for a white wine, let alone one made with an international grape variety, to accomplish where surrounded by a bastion of traditional Tuscan red wine production.

The possibility that Tavoleto may point a new way forward, a new direction for the category, has indeed crossed my mind.

Roberto Di Filippo: Nature as Philosophy

I can’t help but to admire many of the wine producers I meet. They are often multi-talented renaissance men and women, gifted farmers, winemakers, naturalists and entrepreneurs. Their passion, dedication and love for what they do is staggering.

Winemaker Roberto Di Filippo is no exception.

Having made the choice to work organically/biodynamically, Di Filippo’s tradition of cultivation respects the balance between man and nature.

At a recent meetup with DiFilippo at Il Buco in NYC, I tasted a wonderful flight of his wines including those from his winery in Romania, la Sapata (who knew!). Standouts included the DiFilippo label Sagrantino and Trebbiano Spoletino wines, both of which I adored for their rich perfumes and flavors. From the producer’s la Sapata label, a tasting of Babeasca Neagra – a first for me – captured my attention with its harmonic, velvety palate.

Podere Albiano and Enrico Paolucci

The gorgeous bottle labels adorning Podere Albiano’s wines were created by Pienza painter-sculptor Enrico Paolucci. Albiano’s Ciriè and Trìbolo labels are based on Paolucci’s original artwork series of Val d’ Orcia and communicate the emotion of the Val d’ Orcia’s territory and wines. Albiano’s equally emotional Trìbolo, one of my Albiano favs, is made of 100% Sangiovese fermented in Slavonian oak vats. You can read about my visit to Orcia DOC here. Forgive the unfortunate mis-typing of “Albiano” in the article’s tasting note. To learn more about Enrico Paolucci click here.

Who created the gorgeous labels for Podere Albiano wines? Link in profile. #OrciaDOC

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The Pumpkin Assault Is On

The pumpkin assault is on.

Pumpkin flavored coffee. Pumpkin pancakes. Pumpkin risotto. Pumpkin hummus, for God’s sake.

In other words, the autumn / winter holiday season is in full swing.

Time-honored wine wisdom gives guidance for breaking out the big reds during cold weather months.
But, that’s not the only way to roll, friends.

Sparkling wines, particularly Prosecco, bring elegance and food-pairing versatility to a wide variety of holiday meals.

And guess what? Prosecco’s profile of apple, pear, and citrus pairs wonderfully with the season’s ubiquitous pumpkin flavors.

So gather your tarts, pies, cookies and crisps, friends. Let the pumpkin flavor flow. The season’s pumpkin-y delectables deserve to be enjoyed with some good Prosecco.

Prosecco Brut is dry, light, refreshing, the more modern, international of the Prosecco styles. The fruit-forward quality of this style will balance out the richness of most pumpkin-based desserts. It is also exceptional with most savory holiday dishes.

Extra Brut (Extra Dry) is a good complement to the natural sweetness of pecan and apple which often accompany pumpkin. Not as dry as Brut, Extra Brut Prosecco can balance out the sweeter desserts (generally speaking, your wine should match the sweetness profile of the dessert). It also pairs well with cheeses, pasta, seafood and meat, especially poultry.

The Dry style of Prosecco is sweetest of all and your best ticket for hot and spicy holiday dishes.

It’s no wonder Prosecco has become an increasingly popular pairing partner year-round, not just for holidays or special celebrations.

Note: Pictured wines received as samples.