If I were Tennessee Williams writing a play where everything symbolizes something else, I would write my German friend Marco as an usher at the last Led Zeppelin concert† who, at the entrance, hands me free front-row tickets and backstage passes to hang out with Jimmy Page simply because … I was in the right place at the right time, and it was my lucky day.
He was the one who answered the phone at Enzo Boglietti when I called that one fall morning in 2005. I’m often referring back to that experience in this blog because it was my first winery visit in Barolo and it simply amazed me. https://enotecamarcella.wordpress.com/2010/01/15/enzo-boglietti/. That Enzo visit would never have been possible if it hadn’t been for him and his willing cohorts. Along with Enzo Boglietti, Marco introduced me to one of the finest restaurants in the area, Osteria Veglio, personally introduced me to Mauro Veglio, and told me about the best agriturismo ever, Le Viole: www.leviole.it. He also supplied me with a short list of producers to visit. My scribbled note remains in my 2005 journal and lists Giacomo Bologna’s Braida (in Asti), Conterno Fantino, Mauro Veglio, and Giovanni Corino. The first three have become among my very favorite producers where I have made friends and visit every year. The last? Well, there was one day that fall in which I drove around Annunziata for an hour looking for it. If you’ve ever been to Annunziata, you’re thinking, “It’s too small! That’s not possible!” And you’re right, it’s not. (Sometimes I surprise myself.) I was looking for something that looked obviously like a winery because I hadn’t learned yet, that often in Piemonte, they don’t. There was no sign and no grand alluring entrance. Despite my anger and frustration, I realized it just wasn’t the right time and place for me to meet these people, but I still kept a grudge and wrote this producer off for many years.
A couple years later I spotted the Renato Corino sign next to Mauro Veglio and Elio Altare and thought, if I ever get over my grudge, I’ll check them out. (I had forgotten the first name and took the two “Corino” to be the same.)
So by this fall, five years later, I decided to be over it and situated an appointment to visit Renato Corino right before my visit to Mauro Veglio. My email, written in both Italian and English, was promptly and energetically answered by Liliana (in English) who also hosted my tasting. Lili is amazing and very fun to talk to. She answered all my questions and explained to me how the two brothers, Giovanni and Renato, split about six years ago.
Giovanni remains at the original location in the middle of Annunziata which I will add, now has a sign. Renato moved one kilometer up the hill and built a new winery and home above the Arborina vineyard next to Mauro Veglio and Elio Altare. With the division of the family land he got the Pozzo vineyard, an amazing Barbera vineyard planted in 1952. He also retained part of Arborina and he holds on to parts of Roncaglie, Rocche, and Conca. We tasted through all the current releases, and immediately I acquiesced to the crafts of a talented wine maker. Renato Corino made it to my Barolo favorites list.
From: giovedì, 23 settembre.
Dolcetto d’Alba 2009. Dolcetto d’Alba DOC. Made completely in stainless. A dusty, floral, spicy Dolcetto – full of fruit with delicate tannins and a refreshing acidità (acidity). ★
Barbera d’Alba 2009. Barbera d’Alba DOC. Twenty, 25, and 30 year old vines. Maceration in stainless with maturation in second and third passage barrique for 3-4 months. Very purple in color. Floral, leather, spice with sweet blueberry. A very full wine with appropriate Barbera acidity. (Recently tried the 07 which I found locally and it was marvelous. Even though this is a simpler Barbera, it’s better to give it a couple years in order to realize its potential. Renato has a talent for making age-worthy Barbera.) ★
Vigna Pozzo Barbera 2007. Barbera d’Alba DOC. This prized vineyard was planted in the Annunziata area in 1952. Maceration in stainless for 7 days with maturation for 18 months in 50% new barrique. Cellared in the bottle for another year prior to release. Magenta-purple color. It smells “purple,” if you can imagine that. Sweet aromas of cologne, pine, and violets. Intense with ripe fruit and lots of complexities. A “fun” wine – not in a simple drink-it-by-itself way, but in an interesting, alluring, and entertaining way. ★★★
Nebbiolo d’Alba 2008. Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC. I learned two new things about Nebbiolo d’Alba and Langhe Nebbiolo this fall. One is that many producers never let their renditions of these wines see oak at all. Germano Ettore is one example. Renato does however age his in second and third passage barrels for about one year. The other important thing I discovered is that many Barolo and Barbaresco producers source Nebbiolo for their Nebbiolo d’Alba from Roero. There is a lot of focus in Roero right now on improving the quality of Nebbiolo grown there and developing a distinctive style for the area. Renato sources his Nebbiolo from a 40 year old vineyard in Vezza d’Alba. In general these vineyards are steeper than in Barolo and Barbaresco and the soil is geologically younger with more sand and marine particles giving the Nebbiolo sweeter, softer, more delicate, perhaps floral (violets) characters which integrate harmoniously with its velvety tannins. For this one I observed aromas of sweet strawberries, milk chocolate, and melba toast (this is a strange word but basically it’s my word for a mellow starchy smell – it’s a good thing) followed by a velvety texture and clean, fresh finish. ★★
Barolo 2006. Barolo DOCG. Oh sweet Arborina, how lovely of you to make yourself known here! In 2006 Renato did not make an Arborina Barolo and neither did Mauro Veglio nor Elio Altare. It was a mutual decision based on not perfect conditions. Renato put much of his Arborina grapes into his “base” Barolo. My taste buds could certainly tell, and Arborina tasted fine to me! Renato’s Barolo (“base”) is aged for 24 months in barrique, along with another year in the bottle prior to release. Light ruby-brick in color. Canonical “Arborina” floral aromas with sweet cinnamon, cherry, and milk chocolate aromas. Full of red fruits in the mid-palate and finishing elegantly with lush chalky tannins. A perfect example of the feminine Barolo I love. ★★★
Vigneto Rocche 2006. Barolo DOCG. These vines are approximately 50 years old. This part of Rocche has a SW exposure. Vigneto Rocche is aged for 24 months in 50% new and 50% second passage barrique, along with another year in the bottle prior to release. More of a magenta-brick color as compared to the “base” Barolo. Sweet ruby port, dark spice, dark roast coffee bouquet with a rich, dusty, cedar-spice flavor profile, finishing (does it have to end!?) with dusty tannins and cherry jam. ★★★
Renato also continues to make a Vecchie Vigne Barolo but the current release wasn’t available for tasting. (More on this one later…) He was busy with another group but I was able to meet him briefly. Thankfully Lili, a talented translator, helped explain who I was and why I was there. (Renato doesn’t speak English.) The beautiful sunny day lured Lili and I out onto Renato’s wonderful terrace where we spoke for a while until I was certainly late for my Mauro Veglio appointment. Luckily it didn’t matter.
Daniela and I started out with a great conversation totally unrelated to wine and then she showed me their part of Arborina, which is just below the Veglio house and winery. I also was able to see the part of Arborina that is planted to Barbera. The grapes from these important 50 year old Barbera vines make up their Cascina Nuova Barbera. Unfortunately 2009 was not a great year for Cascina Nuova so I didn’t get to try it this time. Harvest hadn’t happened yet and all the vines were well-endowed with ripening grapes – a place in time I was grateful to have seized.
Dolcetto d’Alba 2009. Dolcetto d’Alba DOC. Intense and complicated bouquet of fresh raspberries, fruit cake, cut with spices. An interesting nutty character leads to a dry and crisp finish.
Barbera d’Alba 2009. Barbera d’Alba DOC. Very sweet bouquet but given this wine had just been bottled, was difficult for me to taste effectively – very high acid. I’m sure after a few more months it would be fabulous.
Angelo 2008. Langhe Nebbiolo DOC (La Morra and Monforte d’Alba). Beautifully dry and lifted with chalky tannins and fresh spicy berries. A distinct and vigorous Nebbiolo. The 12 months of aging occurs in older barrels and Daniela recommends it is best to drink starting one year after release. ★★★
Barolo 2006. Barolo DOCG (La Morra and Monforte d’Alba). Perfume, jam, rose, grass, peach – a sweet fruity mid-palate with spicy blackberry, finishing with a more masculine cologne and chalky tannins. (I didn’t ask but perhaps this ‘06 Normale has a lot of Arborina in it and that’s why I liked it so much. Certainly that was the case with Renato Corino’s ‘06 base Barolo.) ★★★
Gattera Barolo 2006. Barolo DOCG (La Morra (Annunziata)). Differentiated by an intense peach aroma, also fresh cut grass, herbs, and blueberry muffins. In the mouth: lime, pomegranate, delicious tannins, and perfume aromas still coming. The finish still supplies distinct stone fruits, along with a nuttiness, pomegranate, and green figs and harmonious tannins. ★★☆
Castelleto Barolo 2006. Barolo DOCG (Monforte d’Alba). I wasn’t expecting to like this one (has never been a favorite of my past) but I loved it! Lots of perfume, jasmine, and dried cranberry lead to an intense wine dominated by dark flavors of plums, roasted nuts, and perfectly balanced tannins. ★★☆
Rocche dell’ Annunziata 2006. Barolo DOCG. Lots of plums, berries, and dark fruit – richness and ripeness with smoke and wet tobacco. All harmoniously integrated with the big tannin structure characteristic of this vineyard. ★★☆
Insieme 2007. Nebbiolo 40%, Barbera 30%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30%. This was the best Insieme I’ve ever had. I don’t usually go for this style but something about this one was different. Sweet vanilla and pepper characters in the nose – I could discern the Nebbiolo and Cabernet but not really the Barbera. It was probably filling in the gaps and rounding out the wine. A very good rich and modern style Piemontese wine. ★★
And so there I was, cruising around Barolo, visiting my favorite producers, hiking through the vineyards, eating at great restaurants… actually happy my little internship fell through. And since I was travelling solo, and had a lack of people with whom to share my elation, I thought to myself, “Who in the world can appreciate this as much as I?” Even though it had been five years since I’d talked to him, I decided to drop my friend, Marco, an email explaining how great two restaurants I’d just discovered were, and if he hadn’t tried them already, next time he and the “Barolo Boys” were in the area, they should really check them out. (These two are Trattoria nelle Vigne in Diano d’Alba and Vineria del Barolo below Santa Maria.) A few days later, I received an unexpected response. “Are you there now?,” he wrote. And another few days later, there they were, making their annual pilgrimage to Barolo. My German “Barolo Boys”‡ arrived at Le Viole.
It took only one day before I realized, there might be someone else in the world who is more impassioned by Barolo than I. At least, if you measure this by how many spreadsheets one makes to organize appointments, buying plans, and one’s collection.
I’ve never met anyone who made more spreadsheets than I – until Marco. Of course James and Frank are passionate about it but they don’t need spreadsheets. (They’ve got Marco for that.)
I wasted no time before interrogating them about which producers they planned on visiting during their week (which, surprise! surprise! was organized in spreadsheet form). They invited me to come along with them to any appointments I wanted. I said sure, I’d be honored to come along as long as it wasn’t someone I had just visited. Marco explained that their first visit of the week would be the next day on Sunday (rare to have an appointment on Sunday in Piemonte), at Renato Corino. It was Lili’s birthday.
Corino? “Oh! I’ve been there. But I’ll go back!”
† I was only four years old when they played their last concert but if I had been old enough when it happened, I certainly wouldn’t have missed it!
‡ In 2005 Marco told me he and his cohorts were called the “Barolo Boys” and I believed him. Later I learned the term “Barolo Boys” refers to the group of producers who, 20 – 30 years ago, first began using modern wine making techniques in Barolo and were responsible for making Barolo internationally popular. Well, I still think of my Germans as the “Barolo Boys” anyhow, taking a sense of ownership only as an offering of the utmost respect. Without them my Barolo knowledge would be far less vast and my experience less authentic.