Next to the small town of Barbaresco I hesitantly drove around the hilltop town of Neive seeking out the cantina of Bruno Giacosa (producer of wines and sparkling wines).
But the steep slopes are better for growing nebbiolo than extending this hill town so I eventually found his advertised office address, and that turned out to be the warehouse and packing building (again a very old one).
So Bruno’s production facility was soon located elsewhere in Neive, and I was greeted by a smiling, quietly spoken assistant winemaker, Roberto Garbarino. He had done past vintages at Nautilus and Rapaura Vintners in New Zealand, so he knew the sorts of New World questions to expect on this visit.
Giacosa makes 110,000 bottles, mainly for the US market, and now it comes from 40 small growers. This varietal has been made here for 35 years.
Bruno, now 81, was previously a wine broker before he commenced to invest in vineyards. So he knew his way around the vineyards, both good ones and bad ones.
Total production is 400,000 bottles; Barolo is 30,000, Barbaresco is also 30,000 bottles.
His wines now come under two banners: Falletto di Bruno Giacosa which are his own vineyards (24 hectares) and the more simpler label Bruno Giacosa which is grape grower supplied.
“The numerous growers have only hand shake contracts, and continue to supply white grapes spot on specification for our style. It’s the easiest part of the vintage, one month before harvest we start sampling, and all the grapes come in at expected ripeness,” adds Roberto.
Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis 2009, (90) 13%, USD 22, is delightful white wine, pale emerald green which glints in the glass, has a fresh nose of international standard, fermentation perfume from cultured yeast, then a clean, juicy palate, mild flavoured and tight, also dry.
The wine is bottled in the fifth month after vintage (February) and sold thereafter.
The other big grape grower supplied wine is in fact a sparkling; traditional method vintage dated pinot noir, aged three years on less, supplied from the cooler sites in Lombardia’s Oltrepo Pavese.
Bruno Giacosa Spumante Extra Brut 2006, (87), 13%, USD 30, has been made for 40 years, so no doubt this modest style has a firm following of the plainer types of pinot fizz. Production is 30,000 bottles, not made by whole bunch pressing, left very dry at 4 g/L residual sugar.
Bruno Giacosa Spumante Rose 2007, (90), 13%, USD 35, is lovely wine, it has personality from its smart base wine making, ample yeast aging, and now a building complexity, sugar 5 g/L. 5000 bottles were made, and it looks like the winemaking was a little more venturesome here.
Bruno Giacosa Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore 2008, (88),14%, USD 25, is not wine from the south but a compilation of growers from Monteu Roero, Montaldo Roero and Vezza d’Alba; a northern end blend; it’s very good, some vines are over 50 years old, fruity, soft, plump but ripe.
Falletto di Bruno Giacosa Asili Barbaresco 2007 (91), 14.5%, USD 90, was from a vineyard supplying grapes for a long time, and 20 years ago Bruno bought it. There are five owners of the Asili vineyard. Has cherry colour, a little dumb on nose, herbs but a very ripe, very big mouthful of tannin, though they remain powdery. This is a high sand content vineyard (20 per cent).
Roberto calls this a wine with fruitiness and balance; it finds agreement with drinkers from northern Europe, particularly with those drinking the wine at 5-7 years of age (2012-2014). Such buyers describe the wine as “classical”.
Producers experiencing the very ripe 2007 vintage have seen many of their Piemontese nebbiolos quite a deal chewy and hyped on richness; and a few have strayed up to the 15% alcohol mark. They are big wines, not entirely characteristic of milder-mannered nebbiolo.
Falletto di Bruno Giacosa Le Rocce White Label Barolo 2007, (96), 14.5%, USD125, cherry but brown edges; has nose intensity and is sweet smelling, it’s nose power and cleverly anticipated ripeness, the taste is tending to bitterness, that’s how concentrated the wine is, and the tannins are powdery – suggests softness but 2-3 years until the powder receives and the palate silk appears.
Falletto di Bruno Giacosa Le Rocce White Label Barolo 2005, (92), 14.5%, USD 125, has mature colour, spice yet a little closed, and it tastes like a fast maturing vintage, it is soft now, so the acidity comes up to greet the finish, a sure sign, and it has the right balance.
Falletto di Bruno Giacosa Le Rocce Red Label Barolo 2005, (96), 14.5%, USD 150, is cherry-purple with browns, has a lot of character (three days breathing), barley sugar, sweet, honey ripeness, then a long silky palate, all in line, not unlike the balance that great pinot noir can accomplish. This is a pinot reminder.
White Label is the standard bottling, Red Label is regarded as Riserva standard, the last releases of Red being in 2004. There will be some in 2007 too.
So driving up the hill of Neive (where Bruno Giacosa’s cellars are not found) I had cause to dwell more on these great wines. And muse that this is probably the reason that the tasting panel at Gambero Rosso gave this great man “Winery of the Year” for 2010. The wine which GR really liked was Asili Vineyard 2005.
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