So where better to clear some fog and celebrate the legend than face to face with a few of these garnet gems. Of course, this is not something that happens every week. Commercial reality sees to that. As we all know only too well, Barolo labels, especially those from the top sites, cost. But by keeping an ear to the ground, good fortune and opportunity will often knock. And it did the other evening, when we found ourselves sitting in on a top notch tasting of Cavallotto Barolo. Yes, another pioneering, orienteering, frontiering, oenological fantasy for us mere mortals !
Geographically we’re speaking about the townland of Castiglione Falletto in Piemonte. Ampelographically we’re looking at the native red Nebbiolo and Oenologically… well we’re talking red wines made from 100% Nebbiolo.
Yikes… Geography, Ampleography and Oenology. Too high brow already!! And you’re right. You see there’s always that temptation to big up BAROLO before you’ve even touched a drop. Respect is healthy. HOWEVER, let’s calmly bring it back down to earth. Interestingly, that’s exactly what Alfio Cavallotto did for us, replacing our pre-tasting ‘rose tinted glasses’ with some of his very own ‘rose scented ones’.
Coming from a distinguished and celebrated wine-making family, as much as the wines, it was Alfio’s humbling vineyard / cellar-talk that captured our attention. This was a relaxed, quite chilled-out event where not only did we begin to really understand more about the complexity of Barolo, but Alfio also brought us to recognise and appreciate Barolo’s approachable ‘drinkability’. So friends, there is nothing to fear this Red giant :) By the way, Alfio is a Barolo with fish kinda guy who wins our Total Respect.
The Cavallotto family have been tending their land just north of Castiglione Falletto since the late 1920’s. 5 generations and they know every contour of their 25 hectares. At 300-350 metres above sea level, and with south to southwest facing vineyards, Cavallotto have the ideal aspect for Nebbiolo to yield its best results. Indeed facing southward is critical to Nebbiolo. It really needs sunlight. Otherwise this late ripening grape doesn’t deliver its best. As vines grow, Alfio confirmed Nebbiolo’s vigorous nature, preferring as it does to produce greenery and wood rather than fruit. That’s why vineyard, and in particular canopy management, plays such an intrinsic role.
One interesting comment Alfio made about the 2016 season is that so far there has been little snowfall where they are located. In a zone where snow usually provides an important source of water for spring and early summer growth, he told us it remains to be seen if this might present a difficulty for 2016. One to keep an eye on for sure.
The entirety of Barolo DOCG is now well mapped out showing the individual cru. Its got quite a similar look to Burgundy in France. Indeed throughout the tasting many similarities were drawn between Barolo & Burgundy and between Nebbiolo & Pinot Noir. Interesting stuff, more about that another day.
Here’s how we found them:
Produced using fruit from 3 seperate Cavallatto vineyard parcels, the 2011 is a luminous pale garnet. On the nose it’s intensely floral. Roses and we mean bunches of them. On the palate we’re talking about a fresh and well balanced structure, smooth smooth tannins, cherry, red berried fruits and a tasty mineral note. As it begins to open, you may also get a nice juicy kick of blood oranges too. Great approachability already with doubtless layers of complexity to come in the coming years. Nothing to fear, something to love!
A single cru Barolo coming from their Vignolo vineyard, this 2009 is deeper garnet compared to the 2011. Intense and complex on the nose with fruit preserves, balsamic, menthol, darker fruit and autumnal woodland notes. On the palate we found beautifully integrating tannins and acidity. This wine is pure persistence personified. Still feels young. Great stuff.
Vigna San Giuseppe is the single most important cru for Cavallotto. This Riserva spent 5 years ageing, 4 of which were in wooden casks. Garnet brick in colour, its ‘oh so elegant nose’ lilts with violet, cherry, spice and pot pourri. On the palate this 2008 is full bodied YET it’s so delicate with it. Like amazingly so. Heart warming, silky tannins, dark fruit preserves and spice with a light aroma of roast coffee beans. This is a persistent and harmonious beauty.
Great colour concentration, this was the deepest garnet of the tasting. And luminous with it too. Dynamite nose including floral, plummy dark fruit conserves, black cherry, hints of a boozy fruit liqueur, spice and so much more. Wow. Each drop on the palate was intense, fresh as a daisy, fine smooth integrated tannins, so perfumed with added truffle, humus and a flick of liquorice topped off with exceptional minerality. Awesome interminable complexity. At this point, we’re lost for words. 17 years on and this rockin’ 1999 San Giuseppe isn’t leavin’ the stage any time soon. Love it. Love it. Love it.
It’s neither the beginning nor the end. It appears Barolo has moved on from the 1980’s ‘traditionalist’ versus ‘modernist’ argument. Which is good because Alfio believes any Barolo today offers a much truer expression of its origin than it did 30 years back when the ‘Barolo Wars’ raged. And the wines are all the more approachable and understandable for it. Indeed these days, Alfio confirmed that Cavallotto utilises everything from stainless steel and cement vats to large wooden casks. And were talking appropriate, educated, cultured use.
Work in Barolo is Slow and Steady. From harvesting the Nebbiolo, we’re talking miniumum 38 months, of which 18 months must be in wooden barrels. Barolo is a wine in constant evolution, one that in time will show what it wants to show. We’re not looking to big up its complexity. We honestly don’t need to. Rather, we’d simply like you to know that it’s damn nice to drink too!
And hey, if like us you can’t always afford the hefty price tag, why not just get a couple of heads together and have everyone chip in. Afterall, when it comes to Barolo, something this good is made to be discovered and shared, together.
In the company Of Monsters & Men, Barolo is best appreciated Slow and Steady!