Day 2 in Piedmont: More Interpretations from Barolo

Giuseppe Rinaldi’s unique expression of place in the commune of Barolo
Nov 16, 2010

On the second full day of my stay in Piedmont, I started off at Massolino. I'm visiting 20 or so Piedmont producers while I'm here, casting the net a little wider than the Barolo and Barbaresco DOCGs, to Gavi, Roero, Dogliani and Asti; this afternoon it was off to taste with Giuseppe Rinaldi.

Giuseppe Rinaldi

It doesn't get more traditional than the Barolos of Giuseppe Rinaldi. Tasting in the cellars of this 16-acre estate, I felt like time had stood still. Rinaldi even continues the practice of blending different vineyards for his Barolos, combining two vineyard sites rather than bottling each cru separately.

Nearly 7.5 acres are in Barolo, planted to Nebbiolo; the remaining area, just more than 8.5 acres, is devoted to Dolcetto, Barbera, Freisa and Ruché.

The plant material comes from a mass selection and the vineyards are cultivated with as few chemicals as possible.

The Nebbiolo is destemmed and fermented in open-top wooden vats for up to three-and-a-half weeks with indigenous yeast. The fermenting must is pumped over twice a day, then punched down each day once the cap floats to the top. Each cru is fermented separately.

After settling in tank, the young wines go into large oak casks (25 to 30 years old) for three-and-a-half years. They are racked three times in the first year, two in the second, then again before bottling, which is done without fining or filtration.

Rinaldi's daughter Marta led me expertly through a tasting of the Rinaldi range. Originally created as Rinaldi-Barale, it was Marta's great grandfather Giuseppe who split with his cousins to go on his own in 1913.

Initially, the Brunate was bottled separately as a riserva, the other three crus making up the Barolo classico. Her father, Giuseppe, the founder's grandson, began blending two sites together, looking for balance between different terroirs. The masculine, structured Brunate, from clay soils, is paired with the more elegant Le Coste, whose soils contain more sand. The two crus are matured separately in cask and assembled before bottling. The final blend is 80 percent Brunate, 20 percent Le Coste.

By contrast, the Cannubi San Lorenzo (30 percent) and Ravera (70 percent) are blended after the fermentation, maturing together in cask. Thus, it was difficult to get a sense of the individual characteristics of each cru, however, Cannubi, in general, is very elegant, having a large proportion of sand, with underground springs that can keep it fresh even in warm, dry vintages.

Needless to say, this is the more open, floral and forward of the two Barolos in the cellar, very fresh, with an expression of raspberry and strawberry fruit.

The wines from the 2009 vintage showed beautiful fruit, with the sweetness and flesh of the year. Le Coste offered pure cherry and strawberry notes; Brunate was square and dense, exhibiting ample tannins, along with floral and spice flavors; though shy on the nose, the Cannubi San Lorenzo-Ravera revealed finesse and elegance, its gorgeous raspberry and strawberry complemented by tobacco.

Marta called 2008 "a great harvest, classic," comparing it to 2006 and 2007, both hot years. The Cannubi San Lorenzo-Ravera displayed its cherry and raspberry flavors, but also menthol, the elegant profile giving way to a firm austerity on the finish. Le Coste 2008 was backward, with a note of pure cherry. Brunate came out with guns blazing, a blast of rich cherry, all very balanced, firm and long.

On the other hand, the Brunate 2007 featured exotic fruit, rich with bilberry and wild berry flavors, very round, yet not the freshness and precision of '08. I found the Cannubi San Lorenzo-Ravera '07 more vibrant than the Brunate, with its characteristic floral, raspberry and strawberry fruit. The Le Coste was ripe, rich and fleshy, showing a bright raspberry note.

"We make a Barolo that you have to wait for, this is the spirit of Barolo," explained Marta, summing up the philosophy of the estate. These are old-school Barolos of tremendous richness and purity.

Italy Piedmont

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