Memorial to Baldo Cappellano (1944-2009) in Serralunga d’Alba

A memorial service was held yesterday in Piazza Maria Cappellano in the historic center of Serralunga d’Alba (Piedmont) to remember and honor the life of beloved winemaker, activist, and Barolo producer Teobaldo “Baldo” Cappellano. Among those who spoke were Serralunga d’Alba mayor Luis Cabases, president of the Enoteca Regionale del Barolo Renata Salvano, Marinella Minetti, Giovanna Morganti, Marta Rinaldi (daughter of Beppe Rinaldi), and Maria Teresa Mascarello (daughter of Bartolo Mascarello). VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani — Cappellano’s friend and co-panelist in the 2008 Brunello debate — was also in attendance.

Many remembrances and tributes to Baldo Cappellano have been published since news of his passing arrived, including this excellent profile by Kevin McKenna.

In his post Wednesday, Franco remembered fondly how Cappellano once issued a press release to all the major Italian wine publications asking them not to publish scores of his wines and not to list his winery in their guides. The following is an excerpt from an interview in which Franco asked Baldo about the said press release (translation by VinoWire):

    In 1983, I asked journalist Sheldon Wasserman to not publish scores of my wines… I asked him not to make me part of a classification in which comparisons are made through divisive numerical scores that share nothing with human toil. I have not changed my mind. [My wines] are intended for a small group of friends and clients. I have a small winery that produces roughly 20,000 bottles a year. That’s not to say that I don’t believe in the freedom of information, even when it includes a negative opinion. But I think of my hills as an anarchic beach, free of inquisitors or opposing factions, and internally rich because it is stimulated by severe, watchful critics. I fight for a collective capable of expressing rural solidarity with those who have not been compensated by Mother Nature.

Vale, carissime Balde. Fare thee well. None of us can imagine a world without you.

—Franco Ziliani and Jeremy Parzen

Barolo producer Teobaldo Cappellano has died

Today, the world mourns the loss of one of Italy’s greatest winemakers, Teobaldo Cappallano, producer of Barolo, co-founder of the Vini Veri (Real Wine) movement, steadfast defender of traditional winemaking practices, and an untiring activist devoted to the cause of vino secondo natura, “wine by means of nature.” In October 2008, Cappellano and VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani were panelists in the heated Brunello Debate, held at the University of Siena. In a live webcast (and in a subsequently archived link), countless Italian wine writers, pundits, and bloggers have admired and applauded Cappellano’s impassioned plea to the opposing panelists, imploring them not to promote the use of international varieties in traditional Italian appellations where indigenous grapes are used. “In my view, provincialism in this case,” he said, “is a positive thing: it is the reason why our wines are different from those made elsewhere and it is the reason why consumers buy our wines.”

Teobaldo Cappellano was 65.

Editor’s note: next week, VinoWire will post a profile of Teobaldo Cappellano and reflections on the impact his passing will have on the world of Italian wine.

Dispatch from Chianti 2007: the news is good and bad

VinoWire contributor Tom Hyland filed this report last night from Montalcino.

I tasted through several dozen 2007 Chianti Classicos and the result is good news/bad news.

What is good about 2007 was that it was a wonderful vintage with big extract, but healthy acidity. So the wines are much better balanced than those from 2006.

The bad: a few too many producers have tried to make a bigger wine than normal. Call them Riservas or Super Tuscans, but a few wines do not resemble a Chianti Classico.

Thankfully, enough producers did make excellent wines. Among the best are Querciabella, which has a wonderful elegance throughout and the delicious Castello di Volpaia, with unusual strawberry fruit and gentle tannins. Both wines should drink well for 5-7 years.

Other beautiful bottlings include Bibbiano and Badia a Coltibouno, both made in a lighter, more approachable style. Castello di Bossi, slightly fuller, but with great balance and complexity and the impressive Castellare di Castellina, San Pancrazio, and Isole e Olena, a very classy wine!

—Tom Hyland

New DOCG: an ancient and forgotten red Moscato from Bergamo

On February 11, 2009, Italy’s Comitato Nazionale Vini (National Wine Committee) gave the greenlight for a new DOCG, Moscato di Scanzo, a red Moscato vinified as a dried-grape wine in the province of Bergamo. The appellation obtained its DOC in 2002 and is the first wine produced in Bergamo to achieve DOCG status. (Lombardy currently counts 5 DOCGs in total, including appellations in Valtellina, Brescia, Franciacorta, and Oltrepò Pavese.) It is produced in the township of Scanzorosciate (SKAHN-soh-roh-SHAH-teh).

In the 50s and 60s, the appellation nearly disappeared, with only a handful of diehard producing it. Today Moscato di Scanzo has re-emerged from relative obscurity but it has long been considered one of Italy’s oldest and most prized appellations. The earliest mentions of Moscato di Scanzo as a coveted and valuable wine date back to the 14th century and by the height of the 18th century, the wine was sold on the London stock exchange.

The new DOCG, said president of the Moscato di Scanzo producers association, Paolo Bendinelli, “will mean significant development in coming years, including growth in employment and an increase in production and sales.”

Tasted: three expressions of Barbera by Craig Camp

Winemaker and blogger Craig Camp lives in California and is the author of Wine Camp, a Points-Free zone. Check out the original post here.

The old saying two sides of the same coin all to often applies to wines these days. Diversity is drowned in the head on pursuit of Points. We can’t really criticize wineries for seeking financial success. I know that it’s strange to think of an elite winery having to make a buck in these days of multi-multi-million dollar wine temples, but it’s a fact that some producers actually have to turn a profit to stay in business. Blaming them for Point hunting seems a bit disingenuous when both the trade and wine buyers are so Point drunk.

Recently I tasted three wines from the same variety and region. Each could not have been more wonderful, lovely or good at what they were trying to be. Each winemaker had a different goal and achieved it. To somehow rank these wines is silly as they were made with different visions, but each accomplishes that vision with equal dexterity. Awarding these wines Pointless Points only confuses the consumer because to every wine there is a season — Turn, Turn, Turn.

Here were three Barbera wines from the Piemonte region of Northwestern Italy that have little in common except variety and the fact that when served with the right meal they’re almost perfect.

2006 Vietti Barbera d’Alba, Scarrone — Scarrone is Barbera presented as a great wine. From old vines planted in a vineyard that by all rights should be planted in nebbiolo for Barolo, winemaker Luca Currado crafts a powerful, magnificent Barbera that ages beautifully. That same evening we tasted the 2006 we had a 1996 Scarrone that had aged into a graceful beauty. Young Scarrone is deeply colored, concentrated, richly fruity and powerful. A wine that always gets big Points — how could it not?

2006 Brovia Barbera d’Alba DOC Sori Del Drago — Brickish with touches of brown in color, the wonderfully traditional Brovia winery has made a high strung graceful beauty. With an aromatic complexity that will please Barolo traditionalists, this firm, structured zesty wine is a wonder with classic Northern Italian dishes — I’m thinking Ossobucco Milanese. This wine is all about complexity, structure and aromatics and power. Points are not what it’s about. I feel this is an exceptional Barbera.

2007 Fontanafredda, Barbera Piemonte, Briccotondo — Purple, fresh and lip-smacking good. A bright, fresh, fruity modern wine that still tips its hat to real Barbera character. The nice acid pucker underneath the veneer of sweet dark fruit reminds you that this is indeed an Italian wine. I’m buying this for ten bucks at Cost Plus and I can think of few better values in a wine at this price. Most wines at this price range have a innocuous jammy sweet fruitiness that quickly bores. There is nothing boring about this fun and delicious wine. Eating pizza or simple spaghetti con pomodoro? This is your wine.

To rank these three lovely wines is Pointless as each served with the right foods will appropriately show their charms. Appropriate is the right word and that responsibility lies with the consumer because if you follow Points, you’ll be led astray at the table.

Craig Camp

Banfi to import Bolla and Fontana Candida

According to a press release issued by Banfi Vintners, it has signed an agreement with Gruppo Italiano Vini (GIV) making it the U.S. importer of flagship brands Bolla and Fontana Candida. The agreement goes into effect on March 1, 2009. GIV purchased the brands from Brown Forman in 2008.

“We are very proud that ownership of the Bolla and Fontana Candida brands now returns to their birthplace, where the soundest winemaking decisions can be made and authenticity of the wines exalted,” said GIV CEO Emilio Pedron in the statement issued by Banfi. “At the same time, our partnership with Banfi Vintners facilitates a keen and valued insight into the tastes and desires of US wine consumers.”

“These brands, now under the proven guardianship of GIV, are true, timeless Italian classics,” said Banfi co-CEO James Mariani.


Surprisingly, foreign sales of Tocai Friulano grow with compliance to labeling restrictions imposed by EU Constitutional Court

Now labeled “Friulano” instead of “Tocai,” sales of Tocai Friulano have increased by 10% in Germany and the U.S., according to Coldiretti Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s new president Dario Ermacora. “The ‘Friulano’ label will be good for Tocai,” said Ermacora. “More Friulano is being sold already, especially in the U.S. and Germany.”

Defeat in the legal battle with Hungarian Tokaj has “turned [the course of] history in our favor,” said Ermacora in an interview with the Italian daily newspaper Il Piccolo. “It may not be the best possible name from a marketing perspective but it certainly helps to identify our region with our products.”

Approximately 1.2 million hectoliters are produced each year in Friuli, representing 14% of the region’s total production. “The new name eliminates confusion with the sweet Hungarian wine,” said Ermacora, “and has a clear connection with our region.” The new labeling, he added, “has helped to pave the way for other locally produced white wines.”

In a 2007 decision in a complaint filed by Hungary (where the homonymous Tokaj is produced), the European Union’s Constitutional Court ordered Friuli to stop labeling the wine as “Tocai,” allowing to be labeled as “Tocai Friulano” only in Italy.