Elvio Cogno, Andrea Oberto, Domenico Clerico

From venerdì, 24 settembre, 2010.

…and then there are those days where everyone says yes.  They are sandwiched between two other really big days of visits, tastings, and dinners – and you were hoping for some sort of break – but there is no time.  You can’t miss any opportunities.

Elvio Cogno

I met Valter Fissore, son in law of Elvio Cogno, two years ago at the San Francisco Gambero Rosso tasting.  That is when I discovered their Ravera Barolo 2004 – a standout of my day.  That put the Elvio Cogno on my radar for my next trek to Barolo.

The 24th of September was foggy and dank but I easily found Cogno because I had spotted the estate during my Barolo – Novello hike the day before.  It is an unquestionably beautiful spot – both inside and out.

The responsible architect, Ivana Boglietti (yes, related to Enzo: a cousin), did an amazing job redesigning the 18th century cascinaCascina Nuova, as it is named, has the appearance of a modern structure but continues to retain the simple, graceful, and classic Piemontese architectural style.  (I have to add here that despite its elegance and grandeur, this estate is no different than most others, replete with loud and aggressive “guard” dogs, and a confusing entrance.  Which door would you choose?  But as I’ve said before, this just adds to the adventure.)

Valter Fissore found me first while I was standing in the courtyard, staring blankly at all the doors, trying to figure out upon which to knock.  He introduced me to Nadja, his wife, the daughter of Elvio Cogno.  She hosted my visit and was gracious enough to show me around the winery and pour for me many wines from their portfolio.  You can find the tech sheets on all of their wines in both Italian and English on their website.  www.elviocogno.com

Anas-cëtta’ 2009.  Langhe Bianco DOC.  Nascetta 100%.  The Nascetta is partially sourced from a long strip of vineyard land right near Ravera.  The rest comes from the other side of Novello.  Despite being fairly difficult to grow, the Elvio Cogno winery has remained tenacious and continues to produce this historical variety.  Documentation of the growth of Nascetta in the Novello area dates as far back as the mid 19th century.  On the nose: nuts, caramel, apple, and honey with a very full and warm middle, reminiscent of a California Chardonnay in many ways.  The finish is herbal and spicy with a strong rosemary character.  ★

Vigna del Madorlo Dolcetto 2009.  Dolcetto d’Alba DOC.  Mandorla means “almond” in Italian, which is a common character in Dolcetto.  These are estate grapes.  Vigna Mandorlo balances lots of fruit, sottobosco (red forest berries) with a fragrance redolent of potpourri.  ★

Montegrilli’ 2008.  Langhe Rosso DOC.  Nebbiolo 50%, Barbera 50%.  Gamey aromas with a bit of rose, violet, and vanilla – full mouthfeel, concluding very dry, but with a lot of raspberry and some leather.

Cascina Nuova 2005.  Barolo DOCG.  The grapes for this one come from their youngest vineyard.  The Cascina Nuova ages for two years in large oak barrels (tonneaux).  I appreciated the richness of fruit offered here and scents of pronounced chocolate, coffee, and smoke.  Evidently it is popular for a by-the-glass Barolo.

Bordini Barbaresco 2007.  Barbaresco DOCG.  Bordini is a lovely spot, situated between Starderi and Albesani.  You can find photos in my Barbaresco hike from October 20 here.  https://enotecamarcella.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/got-to-keep-on-moving/ The aging of the Barbaresco takes place in large Slavonian oak barrels (25-30 hl) for about 16 months.  Perfume of roses, other flowers, spices, and chocolate – quite some cinnamon there with pleasing floral aromas near the end – concluding elegantly.  ★

Ravera 2006.  Barolo DOCG.  The vines used to make the Ravera are on average the oldest vines used in the Cogno Barolo portfolio, about 40-50 years old.  Ravera spends 24 months in large Slavonian oak barrels (25-30 hl).  Essences of herbs and spices with rose and dark stone fruit.  This is a steady and strong Barolo with many layers.  It needs time to fully develop and optimize its structural balance.  ★★

Bricco Pernice 2005.  Barolo DOCG.  Pernice means “partridge;” Bricco Pernice refers to the rock upon which courting partridges build their nests.  The Nebbiolo grapes for this Barolo come from some of the oldest and best vines in the Ravera cru (60 and 20 years old).  This wine represents the newest addition to the Cogno portfolio with a label designed by Elena Cogno, Nadja and Valter’s daughter.  It is aged for 30 months in large Slavonian oak barrels (25-30 hl).  Scents of earthy oak took over, leading to lots of fruit in the mid-palate.  (I knew going into it, that it had been opened at least one day prior, so I’d rather try it again before making an opinion.)

I didn’t get to try the Vigna Elena Barolo but it’s worth noting that the artwork can be attributed also to Elena, but at age 3.

Andrea Oberto

Next on the list was a visit to Andrea Oberto, which is located on the northwest side of La Morra (in the direction of Verduno).  Fabio, son of Andrea, now does much of the winemaking alongside his father.  He took the time, during the busy harvest, to show me around the winery and explain their wines.  Some Barbera had arrived that day and they were pressing so things were lively.  As with Cogno, their website has the tech sheets on all of their wines in Italian and English.  http://www.andreaoberto.com

Vigneto Vantrino Albarella 2008.  Dolcetto d’Alba DOC.  (La Morra)  This Dolcetto is made with a selection of the best grapes (slightly overripe) from the oldest vines in Albarella.  It was bottled in January 2009.  20% of the wine is aged in new barrique for 4-6 months.  (While aging Dolcetto in oak is the norm in California, this is rare in Piemonte.)  The remainder stays in stainless.  Quite fruity and spicy, very light and fresh with good tannins.

Vigneto San Giuseppe 2008.  Barbera d’Alba DOC.  (La Morra)  Opaque magenta with a translucent rim.  Red berries and plums, fresh green figs, with that starchy scent I can only describe as “grappa” or “melba toast.”  Very full in the mouth with raspberry pie and a good acidity.  When I tried this wine again a month or so later (Fabio sent me away with a bottle as a gift because I gave him a bottle of Scott Harvey Mountain Selection Barbera (red label)), while still good, seemed less balanced because of a juxtaposition of overly intense stewed plums and a very high acidity.  I think it just needs a couple years.

Better yet, just drink the Giada!

Giada 2006.  Barbera d’Alba 2006.  (La Morra)  Opaque magenta.  Very prized vineyard in the Oberto family – 60 years old!  First release of Giada was the 1988 vintage.  Scents of violets, pine, anise, cherry, vanilla, and apricot.  Full of spice; intense.  A strong acidity softened and balanced out by tannins from barrel aging.  Giada spends 18 months in all new barrique, 6 more months in stainless, and 2 months in bottle before release.  ★★☆

Langhe Nebbiolo 2008.  Langhe Nebbiolo DOC.  (Barolo)  Sourced from young, 8 year old vines.  Aged 10% in barrique and 90% in stainless steel.  Strawberries and sweet vanilla scents, cherry and nutty flavors, finishing with violets – very dry.  Would benefit from time.  ★

Albarella 2006.  Barolo DOCG.  (Barolo)  Bouquet of flowers, green stems and cherries but full and dark in the mid-palate.  Very spicy finish.  Given its location in the Barolo sub-zone of the Barolo appellation, the soil here, composed of 50% clay and 50% limestone, usually gives this particular Barolo more structure than the next two, coming from La Morra, where there is more sand.  In my tasting of this 2006 vintage, however, the Albarella was the most feminine.  Fabio attributed it to the vintage and agreed with me, obviously, as he started me with this one.  ★★

Brunate 2006.  Barolo DOCG.  (La Morra)  I typically really love Bruante Barolos and this was no exception.  Scents of cinnamon, plums, blackberry, opening up to give coffee and pine forest.  Very plum-heavy with intense autumn spice, oregano, and certainly finishing with more roasted coffee.  ★★

Rocche 2006.  Barolo DOCG.  (La Morra (Annunziata))  Coffee, cherry pie, and soft leather in the nose with more flavors of coffee, ripe cherries, and chalky and earthy tannins.  In my notebook I also wrote, “Needs like 20 years.”  I don’t always love Rocche like many do.  It’s usually too intense for me.  I think I am producer-specific with the ones I like or I just like it after it has aged.  ★

Domenico Clerico

Clerico was at the top of my list of must-see producers, especially since my experience with the 1998 Percristina in early 2010.  https://enotecamarcella.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/next-stop-domenico-clerico/

I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to secure an appointment but knew that if I did, I certainly wouldn’t miss it.  So, as it turns out, the only time I could get was a late afternoon appointment that Friday, unfortunately after the other two.  But I knew I had to go.  I didn’t get to meet anyone from the family but the tasting room hosts, Luciano and Roberta, were gracious and friendly.  The room was full of international visitors, which made for a jovial and melodious song of languages throughout the room.  I tuned in to the Italian, making every effort to avoid speaking in English.  But it always helps when the hosts can translate some things for me – Luciano and Roberta spoke great English.

Visadì 2009.  Langhe Dolcetto DOC.  Visadì means “a vision” in Piemontese dialetto (dialect).  The vineyards for the Dolcetto, 4.5 acres of vines in Monforte ranging from 20 to 60 years old, are south, southwest facing at 350 meters asl and are composed of tufaceous marl and clay.  1979 was the first vintage produced.  Fermentation and maceration last 4-5 days.  The tech sheet says the Dolcetto is aged 5-6 months in barrel but my hosts told me it spends one year in stainless steel only.  (If it does spend time in barrel, that is a very uncommon style here, as I mentioned above with the Oberto Dolcetto.)  Anyway, upon visual inspection, this wine is fairly clear and magenta compared to most Dolcetto, which are usually pretty intensely concentrated in color.  The aromas of this wine are cologne-dominated with a hint of dried cranberries.  On the palate I get a continuation of floral qualities along with bright fruit like cranberries and limes.  It finishes very dry with lots of unripe citrus.  Needs time.

Tre Vigne 2008.  Barbera d’Alba DOC.  Tre Vigne means “three vineyards.”  The average age of the vines is 25 years; they are northwest facing and sit at 350 meters asl.  The soil composition is tufaceous marl and clay.  1979 was the first vintage produced.  Fermentation and maceration last 10-14 days.  Aging is for 12-16 months in 50% new and 50% used oak barrels (barrique).  The color is a dark ruby-magenta.  Fragrances of licorice, oak, and milk chocolate are followed by lots of juicy and spicy cherries concluding with more juicy cherries and lots of spice.  ★

Capismée 2009.  Langhe Nebbiolo DOC.  Capismée means “understand me” in Piemontese dialetto.  This Nebbiolo was aged in stainless steel only.  From what I recall, this wine hasn’t been in production as long as the others but I don’t have a tech sheet so I’m not certain of all the details.  Again, as with all the wines, the fragrances are deep in perfume and cologne – lots of pine and flowers, with dark chocolate and strong fruit flavors, ending with chalky tannins.  Very fresh and juicy.  ★

Arte 2007.  Langhe Rosso DOC.  Nebbiolo 90%, Barbera 10%.  The Nebbiolo is sourced from younger vines of the following Monforte d’Alba cru vineyards: Ginestra, Pajana, Bussia, Mosconi, and Manzoni vineyards.  They average 20 years old and the Barbera vines are approximately 40 years old.  All are south, southwest facing at approximately 350 meters asl and are composed of tufaceous marl and clay.  1983 was the first vintage produced.  Fermentation and maceration last 10-12 days for the Nebbiolo and 10-14 for the Barbera.  Arte is aged 12-18 months in new oak barrels (barrique).  More intensely colored than Capismée.  Pine and smoke fragrances with an intensity of every red fruit you can think of in the midpalate: cranberry, raspberry, pomegranate, cherry, strawberry.  The finish on this one has a pleasant touch of earth continuing with the fruit-driven theme and a harmonious acidity.  ★★

Pajana 2006.  Barolo DOCG.  Brick-ruby color with orange rim.  Scents of the notorious pine and cologne plus sage and dried red berries.  A very strong and intense wine with pronounced acidity and tannins, but showing a hint of rose on the finish.  ★

Pajana 2005.  Barolo DOCG.  Brick-ruby as the 2006 but with more purple, strangely, given it is one year older.  Also the same scents of the 2006, but sweeter.  Quite a bit more floral – with hidden fruit.  Opens up in the glass and culminates with chalky tannins.  More elegant than the 2006; probably could age longer.  ★★

Ciabot Mentin Ginestra 2005.  Barolo DOCG.  Same color as Pajana 2005.  The fragrances of this Barolo are much richer and more “black” (black cherry, blackberry) with a smoky perfume, as compared to the Pajana.  Black cherry, more smoke, and beautifully intense chalky tannins in the end.  ★★☆

Percristina 2003.  Barolo DOCG.  Dark copper red with orange rim.  The bouquet here is the most powerful of all with not just pine and a hint of smoke – but lots of both.  Also sweet tomatoes, fresh cherries, a Sierra forest, spicy cherry extract and kirsch, all while retaining the brightness of a preserved acidity.  ★★★

All of the Clerico Barolos are aged for 22-24 months in 80% new oak and 20% second passage oak barrels (barrique), then rest in stainless steel tanks for 1 year, and in bottle for an additional year before release.  However, the Percristina is released later than the other Barolos.  The winery has a new goal of releasing it ten years after the harvest year, which will hopefully be attained with the release of the 2005 in 2015.

Composed of tufaceous marl, clay, and sand, the Pajana cru vineyard sits at the lowest elevation of the Domenico Clerico Barolo vineyards, at 300 meters asl.  It faces south.  Ginestra is up the hill (basically adjacent) at 400 meters asl with tufaceous marl and clay soils and faces south, southwest.  Ciabot Mentin Ginestra Barolo is from the Ginestra cru vineyard.  Both were planted with Nebbiolo between 1965 and 1970.  These are spectacular vineyards.  They are easy to see in person if you follow my Monforte d’Alba – Serralunga hike from September 21.  https://enotecamarcella.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/got-to-keep-on-moving/

Percristina Barolo is from Mosconi, which is on the other side of Ginestra as compared to Pajana.  It is farther to the south, also sits at 400 meters asl, but faces south, southeast.  Percristina comes from vines that were planted in 1955.

While most put Domenico Clerico in the ultra-modernist category, he did start out in the 1980’s as a traditional wine maker.  However now, as with many of the “modernist” producers, he defines his own style by using a combination of traditional and modern techniques.  He doesn’t use any large Slavonian oak (botti), nor does he use any tonneaux (medium size at 700L), but only barrique.  For a while he was using only new oak for his Barolos, starting this with the debut of the 1990 Pajana.  But now he uses a combination of new and used, as I explained above.  He uses rotary fermentors but keeps yields low naturally by not over fertilizing and uses only indigenous yeast.  Maceration times are about 14 days (+/-) for the Nebbiolo wines, which isn’t extremely short, giving him a more traditional character here.  (Some sources put him at longer maceration times.  If I ever get to meet him, I’ll ask him the real story.)  Regardless of all the details, Clerico is certainly of the school that the wine is made in the vineyard and in my opinion, preserves gorgeously the single-vineyard expressions capable here, all the while, putting his unmistakable style on the entire battalion.

PS- This is a tough tasting.  Bring water and put snacks in your car.  When you’re done, your tongue will feel like you’ve been chewing on fireplace ashes all day.  But it will be fun!

2 thoughts on “Elvio Cogno, Andrea Oberto, Domenico Clerico

    1. Andy,
      Thanks for your interest. It’s best to call or email the winery directly. If one method doesn’t work, try the other. If you don’t speak any Italian, just call and ask to speak to someone who does, or email them (in English) and hope someone gets back to you. 🙂 I’ll email you some more info. -Marcella

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