Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Piedmont: A feast of friends and family

Posted by Justerini & Brooks
Last Thursday the Justerini & Brooks sales team set out for Piedmont. The aim of the trip was to visit several of our key estates and to get a feel for the different villages, vineyards and approaches to winemaking. We spent three busy days consuming Piedmont and have come away with so much more…

To understand the wines of Piedmont one must engage with the families, both actual and extended, and with the myths, the histories and the conflicts. The story of Piedmont is one of contrasts: tradition and innovation; respect for the family and revolution. We found three generations all under one roof at Azelia, with Grannie still ruling the vineyard; a gloriously eccentric Domenico Clerico in his glossy modern winery and, at Altare, a story of such sadness that it bought several of us and Elio’s daughter Sylvia to tears. What was most striking about the story of Piedmont is how the stark financial imperatives of the 60s and 70s created and nurtured a culture of such innovation and artistry. We met many young winemakers who are striving for beauty and meaning in their wines and their communities, inspired by the revolution of their parents. There is a new tradition in Piedmont which the previous generation fought for, it is one of freedom and it is firmly focussed on quality. It is not a battle of the modern against the traditional. This battle has been fought and the future for Piedmont is open with producers embracing the best techniques for their wines, whether they be new or old. There is a sense of maturity about the approach here and we think Piedmontese wines have never been better.

Our itinerary was as follows. Please do contact your account manager if you have any specific questions or would like to hear any of the stories in more detail. There are many and they are fascinating!


Tasting: Voerzio

We tasted a kaleidoscope of Voerzio’s wines with Davide generously treating us to a range of vintages including many of their top wines. This was one of life’s great wine experiences for so many reasons but one thing that particularly stuck with us was the meticulousness of the Voerzios, even the way Davide poured the wines was measured. This diligence shines through in the purity and precision of the wines.

Tasting: Scavino

Scavino is one of the greats. So often erroneously classified as simply modern, in reality the Scavinos embrace the best of the old and the new to make true terroir wines. This terroir is more accessible in youth these days as they have scaled back the oak but the wines are as serious as ever. 2009 is a special vintage for Scavino with large scaled, powerful, ageworthy wines which will also be seductive in youth.

Lunch: Scavino

The Scavinos very generously treated us to an incredible lunch with wines to match. Our two abiding memories are the 2006 Barolos and deep fried porcini in breadcrumbs. Wow!

Tasting: Azelia

It was wonderful to visit another branch of the Scavino clan at Azelia. This is very much an understated, hands on domaine which is drenched in family history, memories and traditions. Lovely, lovely people and delicious wines which offer serious value. Margheria 2005, from the same vineyard as Gaja’s Sperss, is a real ace in the hole here. Buy it!

Tasting: Correggia + a light supper

A relaxing jaunt through some wonderfully elegant Roero wines, which are real staff favourites. Freshness, minerality and elegance. Correggia offer distinctly un-showy yet supremely satisfying Nebbiolos and some terrific whites including an oak age Sauvignon. The style at Correggia is very relaxed and it was a lovely way to end the first day.


Tasting: Altare

This was quite an experience. This estate is steeped in history with Elio’s father refusing to speak to him for seven years whilst living in the same house! Narrow avoidance of financial ruin and all sorts… The wines are nothing short of spectacular, Sylvia Altare served us a 1990 Barbera Larigi blind which confounded us all with its freshness and seriousness. Stunningly good Barbera, so serious that most of us thought it Nebbiolo.

Tasting: Vietti

Like the wines, the Vietti estate comes across as elegant, sophisticated and impressive. There is very much a sense of having arrived. Vietti is one of the originals and still one of the very best.

Lunch: More e Macine in La Morra

A terrifically indulgent, chaotic and lengthy scramble through some wonderful food. We kept trying to leave but they just wouldn’t let us. Very memorable, especially the panacotta which was so full of flavour we had to ask how they made it, the answer… some milk and something to make the milk set. Brilliant!

Tasting: Clerico

Luciano and Domenico took us on a tour of this astonishing new winery and through these remarkable wines. Clerico continue to ease off on and adapt their use of new oak making these wines a little more accessible. However, as ever it is with age that they shine, Percristina 1998 and a delicious Ciabot Mentin Ginestra 2003 were the highlights here.

Tasting: Marengo + a light supper (a five course, highly sophisticated light supper!)

We love Marco Marengo, so gentle, relaxed and honest and with so much Brunate! This is without doubt one of the best value domaines out there. Seamless wines with such authenticity and elegance yet with power and real ability to age. These are exactly the kind of wines we like to drink and we did! Marco and Jenny treated us to a stunning supper in their house. Proper Piedmontese cuisine and lots of Brunate. What a night! Again the 2006 Brunate sticks in the memory.

So, what did we learn?

Piedmont is in so many ways like Burgundy, in fact many of the producers we visited had as much Burgundy in the cellar as they did Nebbiolo. We found the sense of terroir, delicacy, etherealness and elegance that is so striking in Burgundy here in Piedmont and these guys have white truffles too! Like Burgundy, volumes are small and it feels like Piedmont is starting to take off in the same way that Burgundy has done over the last 10 years.

Buy more 2006 and 2008 Barolo: two different sides of the classical coin. Buy 2007s and 2005s to drink in the meantime. 2005s are delivering way above expectations!

Regardless of points, reviews and investment potential, in some parts of the world wine is still all about families.

In Piedmont, the hazelnuts are almost as good as the wines, especially at Altare. Oh, and Elio’s Coppa Ham is pretty special too!

Martin Buchanan, Private Clients Sales Account Manager