Thursday morning dawned sunny and mild. It was a pleasant drive to Neive, in the Barbaresco region, one of the four villages that are entitled to the DOCG designation. After an unanticipated tour of the historic center, I found Bruno Giacosa's tasting room in the main part of the village below.
There are two Giacosa labels, one for the estate wines under Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa and the Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa moniker for wines made with purchased grapes. The estate consists of 54 acres, with vineyards in Serralung d'Alba (Falletto), La Morra (Vigna Croera) and Barbaresco (Asili). There are also two wineries, one for the reds, the other for white and sparking wines.
Giacosa, 81, is slowing down, yet still spends each day in the winery, making decisions and passing his knowledge along to enologist Giorgio Lavagna. His charming daughter Bruna handles the sales and marketing.
The Nebbiolo ages in large oak casks ranging in size from 22 hectoliters to 110 hl. Only the Barbera sees barrels, but they are 700 liters, rather than the more common 225- or 450-liter barriques. Each vineyard is aged separately for anywhere from one year to 36 months in cask.
The Roero Arneis 2010 was in tank, clarifying. It will be bottled in early February 2011 and shipped after an additional two months in the bottle. (For notes on the current bottling, I highlighted the Roero Arneis 2009 in a recent installment of What We're Drinking Now.)
Giacosa also makes very good sparkling wine. The grapes are 100 percent Pinot Noir from the Oltrepò Pavese region in Lombardy. Made in the classic method, the Extra Brut Spumante 2005 was aged 30 to 36 months on the lees and disgorged in May 2010. The fine mousse supported flavors of red fruits and citrus in a medium-bodied, creamy profile.
"What we want from our sparkling wine is something easy, something you can enjoy," explained Bruna, a self-confessed lover of sparkling wines.
There was a Rosé 2008 also, made by leaving the juice in contact with the skins up to 24 hours. It boasted strawberry and cherry notes, all light and lively, with a touch of graphite on the finish. It spends a year on the lees.
The Dolcetto d'Alba 2009 (from Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa) delivered rich blackberry and black cherry flavors from its purple hue, with good structure offsetting the sweet, round profile. Bruna described the 2009 vintage as a warm year, less warm than 2007, however, with rain at the right moments during the growing season.
By contrast, in 2010 there was a lot of rain in the spring and summer. August was colder than usual. "We didn't think we would have a very good vintage," explained Bruna, "But after mid-August the weather improved." In the end, it turned out very well for Nebbiolo.
Grapes for the Casa Vinicola Nebbiolo d'Alba 2008 were sourced from the Valmaggiore vineyard in the Roero commune of Vezza d'Alba. This rich red evoked notes of red fruits and a touch of licorice, with the soft tannins typical of Nebbiolo grown in Roero.
We followed with the Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa Barbera d'Alba Superiore 2008, a deep, rich, blackberry-scented wine that offered iron and earth accents to its cherry and spice flavors. Its pronounced acidity was nicely buffered by the richness of fruit and texture. This is the only wine in the cellar aged in barrel; it spends 12 months in 700-liter tonneau. It comes from the Falletto vineyard in Serralunga d'Alba.
Large oak casks like these in Bruno Giacosa's cellar are used for aging Nebbiolo that will become Barbaresco and Barolo.
Next we tasted four Barbarescos. The Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa Asili 2008 was bottled in July. It revealed strawberry and floral aromas and flavors matched to a taut, elegant frame. The Casa Vinicola Barbaresco Santo Stefano 2008 displayed cherry and licorice notes. Overall it was more fruity and dense, with substantial power. The Asili has more sand in its soils, the Santo Stefano more marl.
From 2007 came the Barbaresco Asili Riserva (red label) and Barbaresco Asili (white label), both from Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa. The former comes from the oldest vines, which average 30 years; the latter comes from vines 10 to 20 years old. The riserva exhibited beautiful fragrances of rose, violet and cherry, fine richness and silky texture, with terrific harmony and complexity. The white label was less floral, featuring cherry and raspberry aromas and flavors, richness and finesse. It was also elegant, but just didn't have the breed and length of the riserva.
We finished with three Barolos, all from Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa. First, Lavagna poured the Falletto 2007. Its deep nose of black cherry, plum and spice gave way to licorice and eucalyptus flavors on the palate. An intense red, it showed power and persistence, evident by its long finish.
The Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva 2007, from 30-year-old vines at the top of the Falletto vineyard, boasted more graphite and iron aromas and was immediately firmer and tighter, with mineral core and greater finesse than its brother. For comparison, we tasted the Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva 2004. Wow, what perfume! It was amazing to see how this has developed with an additional three years. It oozed truffle, floral, strawberry and raspberry aromas. Still tight and unyielding on the palate, it was nonetheless packed with sweet fruit and very long.
"Between 2004 and 2007, I don't know which is the best," mused Bruna. "We are so happy with both."
Indeed. Both vintages are going to make Nebbiolo lovers very happy too.