Coming from a family of carpenters, Luciano Sandrone honed his winemaking skills working for other wineries. In 1973, he had the opportunity to purchase less than 2.5 acres in the iconic Cannubi hill in Barolo.
The entire production of Sandrone's first vintage, 1978 (released in 1981), was purchased by exporter Marc de Grazia. Sandrone became one of di Grazia's Barolo Boys, whose innovative and forward-thinking practices in the vineyards and cellars helped reshape the region's wines.
The Sandrone estate now consists of 67 acres, spread throughout the Barolo zone. Yet, its Cannubi Boschis remains the icon, the only cru-designated Barolo (Le Vigne is a blend of different sites) from the historic Cannubi menzione geografica aggiuntiva.
With the release of the 2013 vintage and the upcoming 40th anniversary of the debut vintage in 2018, Sandrone is dedicating the Cannubi Boschis to his grandchildren and renaming it Barolo Aleste.
Aleste is a contraction of Alessia, 18 years old, and Stefano, 16. Sandrone conceived the idea in 2001, when Stefano was born, yet he kept the idea to himself for 10 years before presenting it to his brother, Luca, who tends the vineyards, and daughter, Barbara.
After giving it some thought, they accepted Luciano's idea, but knew that changing the name from Cannubi Boschis to Aleste meant a great deal of communication to explain the new wine. The name Cannubi is golden; imagine removing the Napa Valley appellation from a top-quality California Cabernet Sauvignon and replacing it with a fantasy name.
But Sandrone has the excellent 2013 vintage to launch Aleste. And nothing has changed in the bottle: The source of Nebbiolo, the vinification and aging remain the same.
Barbara Sandrone stopped by Wine Spectator's New York office recently with the two 2013 Barolos, Aleste and Le Vigne. The Luciano Sandrone Barolo Aleste 2013 is expressive and perfumed, featuring floral, cherry, berry, leather and spice flavors matched to an elegant profile. Complex and classy, its finish plays out with tobacco and mineral notes. "As soon as we brought the grapes in we knew the vintage was great," Barbara told me.
The '13 growing season started out cold and wet, turning warm and dry from July, right through October. The vintage is characterized by this long ripening period into October, with warm days and cold nights intensifying the aromatic precursors in the Nebbiolo grapes.
The Barolo Le Vigne 2013 also bears effusive aromas of violet, lavender, wild herbs and licorice. Richer and rounder than its sibling Aleste, it has density, yet remains juicy, balanced and long.
A blend of four different vineyards—Baudana in Serralunga d'Alba, Villero in Castiglione Falletto, Vignane in Barolo and Merli from Novello—recent vintages of Le Vigne have benefited from the addition of Baudana, which Sandrone bought in 2010, and Villero, purchased in 2011.
However, it's Aleste that represents the continuity of Luciano Sandrone's first wine. The gift he received when he bought the first parcel in Cannubi is now a gift to his grandkids.