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.


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.


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.


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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Wine, Style, Fashion Collide Celebrating 20 Vintages of Falesco Montiano at Kiton NYC

As 2016 was sliding to a close, the elements of style, grace, elegance and good taste seemed nowhere to be found on the US national stage. Which is, in part, why raising a toast to honor the 20th vintage of Falesco’s flagship wine Montiano stood out in the moment.

The Cotarella family of Falesco winery and the Paone family of Kiton Bespoke Clothing, a master of the Italian art of fashion, joined forces to provide a vertical tasting of the famed wine at Kiton NYC, alongside Kiton’s immaculate designs. Yes, the wines gave good testimony to the fame and acclaim they have earned. But, we’ll get to that soon enough.

Indulge me, first, to note that the evening’s gracious hospitality and stylish presentations were not only perfect backdrops for the elegant expression of the Montiano wines. They also just happened to give a gentle reminder that civilized living, in some regard, is, well… a matter of good taste.

Interestingly, “civilized living” is one descriptor I might use to convey an impression of Falesco’s Montiano. Simply said, the wine is so elegantly done that one cannot help but reflect on civilized living when tasting it. Produced from 100% Merlot, Montiano was first released in 1993, a result of work done by Riccardo Cotarella, aka “Mr. Merlot”(Gambero Rosso), during the ‘80s. In their production zone in Italy’s Lazio, Montiano grapes reach a high level of ripeness which contributes to the wine’s fine balance. Grown on volcanic soil rich in rock, the grapes are sourced from an old, naturally low-yielding vineyard and undergo rigorous selection before undergoing stainless steel fermentation followed by aging in French barrique.

The evening’s wines – vintages 2001, 20015, 2010, 2013 – all showed great depth with gorgeous layers of ripe red fruit, notes of spice and cocoa. Sensual and refined, the wines were a pleasure to hold in the mouth.

I include several photos here because most folks can still use a dose of elegance, grace, style … and good taste … at the moment. I hope you enjoy them.

Hats off to Teuwen Communications NYC for a wonderful evening of wine, style, brilliant concept and great execution.