Marco Maria Crivelli

From: martedì, 14 settembre.

After six visits to Piemonte, I finally managed to get myself to a winery in Monferrato.  I’ve certainly driven through the region tons of times on my way between Milano Malpensa and the Langhe, but never stopped.  So finally I made an appointment to visit Marco Maria Crivelli, whom I met earlier this year at Vinitaly.  You can read about that here if you want:

Crivelli’s home, winery, and vineyards are located just north the village of Castagnole Monferrato.  I found the winery out of pure luck, I guess, which is more reliable than a lot of maps and directions in this area.

I had a spectacular visit.  Piedmont didn’t get a lot of clear days this September but on this day, we were blessed with one.  So Marco Maria took me on a little sojourn to see his vineyards.  He doesn’t speak English so tried to teach me as much as he could about his vineyards, in Italiano.  In the 1970’s Marco Maria expanded his family’s vineyard area, originally established in the 1860’s by his great grandparents, to cover a total of eight hectares.  Now together with his son, Jonathan, he grows Grignolino, Barbera, Ruché, and Syrah.  (He also shows a Chardonnay on his website but I’ve never seen this wine before.)

His Ruché vineyard is one of the coolest I’ve ever seen.  It starts at the top of a hill (“bricco”), and the rows go in concentric circles down the steep slopes.  He said harvest work with the tractor is a little challenging but that it is worth the trouble.

After the vineyard tour I visited with him and Jonathan on their terrace, drank lots of water, and practiced my Italian speaking skills.  It was fun trying to get through a two and half hour visit speaking only in Italian.  Luckily I got to try a few wines, which helped things along.

Grignolino d’Asti 2009.  Grignolino d’Asti DOC.  I learned that Grignolino has three seeds in each berry, instead of two which most varieties have.  It also grows in very tight clusters.  These qualities make this variety difficult to maintain and process.  Also the additional seed adds to the tannin level of the finished wine.  Therefore not many winemakers bother with it, but those who do, are dedicated to it.  I’m glad they are because I think this grape makes a great little wine, and I believe in preserving diversity in the world of wine, at whatever cost.  Grignolino is always light in color, just as this one is.  This Grignolino smells of nuts, violets, cherries, and herbs.  Even fragrant in the mid-palate, this wine maintained a sweet strawberry fruit throughout and ended smooth with a pleasing acidity. ★ ★

Until the end of the 1700’s, Grignolino was used for medicinal purposes because of its high tannin content, which acts as an antiseptic.  Crivelli decided on this artwork for the Grignolino label (right) by Carlo Carosso, which is abstractly suggestive of the universal symbol of medicine (the sword wrapped by snakes).

Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato 2008.  Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC.  Darker than the Grignolino but fairly light in color as well.  Extremely floral and odoriferous, mostly of berry compote, pie, and vanilla.  In the mouth, acidity and brightness.  A pleasant and elegant finish of kirsch, fragrance, and spice.  More feminine compared to other Ruché I’ve tried. ★ ★

Collina La Mora 2008. Barbera d’Asti DOCG.  This Barbera was not exactly my favorite style.  It tasted too oaky but it is fermented in “legno grande,” (large barrels), which don’t typically give any oak characters to the wine, and it’s not aged long, only a few months.  Sometimes Barbera has a funky smell to it (“puzza”) and since Barbera also typically has a high acidity, I tend to be pretty picky about the ones I go for.

Crivelli maintains a spotless winery and also bottles according to the phases of the moon.  He treats his vineyards naturally and with the utmost care.

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