Tom Hyland: first impressions of 2007 Barbaresco tasted at Nebbiolo Prima

Above: Vineyards below the town of Barbaresco, May 2010, by wine writer, photographer, and VinoWire contributor, Tom Hyland.

Writing from Alba, where I am with several dozen wine journalists from around the world for Nebbiolo Prima, four days of tasting new releases of wines made exclusively from Nebbiolo. This year the wines are Roero Rosso 2007, Barbaresco 2007 and Barolo 2006. This post will deal with Barbaresco.

The 2007 vintage arrives with a great deal of hype and the Barbarescos from this vintage show why. The wines offer excellent ripeness and balance and round tannins. The best wines are quite charming and are rather forward. While all of this is nice, the final result is one of moderate pleasures, as the wines do not have the stuffing (for the most part) to age a substantial period of time. I would expect most of these wines to be at their best in 7-10 years, which is a good, but not great amount of time.

While the best wines from the town of Barbaresco and Treiso are beautifully balanced, unfortunately too many examples from Neive are over oaked. This is not the first time I have noticed this trend at this tasting (this is the sixth time in the last seven years I have participated in this event) and again, the winemakers from Neive, in my opinion, are trying to hard to make a bigger, more serious wine than they should. I did find a few bottliongs from Neive that were more restrained in their use of oak, but they were the exception. I would hope this changes in the future.

Here is a short list of my favorite 2007 Barbarescos:

Produttori del Barbaresco (normale)
Molino “Teorema”
Massimo Penna “Sori Sartu”
Eredi Lodali “Lorens” (Treiso)
Fratelli Grasso “Vallegrande” (Treiso)
Pertinace “Marcarini” (Treiso)
Cantina del Pino (Neive-Barbaresco)
Marchesi di Gresy “Martinenga” (Barbaresco)
Battaglio (Neive)
Fratelli Giacosa “Basarin” (Neive)
Pasquale Pelissero “Bricco San Giuliano” (Neive)

The wines were tasted blind, so as always, there were surprises, good and bad.

—Tom Hyland

Brunello producers association elects new advisory council

According to a post published late yesterday EST (and dated May 19) by the Brunello producers association (Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino), the body has elected a new advisory council. Election of the president and vice-presidents is expected within the next three weeks.

    Montalcino (Si), May, 19 – 2010 – The elections of the new Board of Directors of Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino took place on Tuesday the 18th of May.The ballots of votes to elect the fifteen members of Board of Directors went on until about 23.00 [11 p.m.]…The Board of Directors of the Consortium of Brunello di Montalcino has now 20 days to choose among the 15 members appointed, the new President of the Consortium and the three Vice-Presidents who shall hold office for the next three years.

The election results, according to the post:

    Fabrizio Bindocci (Il Poggione)
    Rudy Buratti (Banfi)
    Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Cinelli Colombini)
    Andrea Cortonesi (Uccelliera)
    Marco Cortonesi (La Mannella)
    Maurizio Lambardi (Lambardi, Canalicchio di Sotto)
    Carlo Arturo Lisini Baldi (Lisini)
    Bernardo Losappio (wine industry lawyer, Montalcino)
    Ermanno Morlacchetti (Castelgiocondo [Frescobaldi])
    Guido Orzalesi (Altesino)
    Giancarlo Pacenti (Siro Pacenti)
    Elia Palazzesi (Collelceto)
    Fabio Ratto (Pian delle Vigne [Antinori])
    Francesco Ripaccioli (Canalicchio di Sopra)
    Ezio Rivella (ex-director, Banfi, author of the soon-to-be-released Montalcino, Brunello, and I: the Prince of Wines’ True Story)

The highly anticipated election results were rapidly and widely reposted in the blogosphere this morning by observers of the Italian wine industry, many of whom speculate that either Ezio Rivella or Donatella Cinelli Colombini will emerge as the body’s new president.

A clarification from Banfi

Yesterday, the editors of VinoWire received the following message from Lars Leight (Assistant to the Chairman, Banfi) regarding VinoWire’s May 9 post Six individuals indicted in Brunello scandal:

    I would like to clarify that Paul (aka Pablo) Harri in fact departed Castello Banfi in July 1999, and the Siena prosecutor’s Brunello investigation applies to the 2003 vintage onward, during which time Mr. Harri was the winemaker for Col d’Orcia. The vintages he was involved in making at Castello Banfi are not, and never were, at issue with respect to the investigation. Exclusive association of Mr. Harri’s unfortunate indictment to his tenure at Banfi is misleading and uncalled for. Thanks for setting the record straight!

The reference to Mr. Harri’s employment at Banfi originated in a report published by the Italian national daily La Repubblica on May 1 and subsequently translated and reposted by VinoWire on May 9.

In 2008, Banfi’s managing director Enrico Viglierchio told the editors of Wine Spectator that the winery had agreed to declassify “a very small percentage of the lots submitted for testing” by authorities. “‘The case is closed,'” said Viglierchio, “‘and there will be no further judicial consequences for anyone at Banfi.'”

Italian wine industry braces for Brunello consortium election

In what is perhaps the most closely watched and most talked-about election in the history of the Italian wine industry, the town of Montalcino and Italian wine industry observers across the peninsula are bracing for the May 18 election of new members and president of the administration of the Brunello producers association (Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino).

Tensions on the ground are high: in the wake of the recent Brunello controversy (which emerged after producers were accused of adding unauthorized grapes to their wines), authorities recently released the names of 6 persons who have been indicted for “adulterating” their wines, selling fraudulent products, and lying to government officials (11 other individuals accepted plea bargains, according to reports, thus avoiding trial and public scrutiny). The current director of the producers association is among those indicted by authorities and the previous president was forced to resign after he was implicated (although later exonerated) in the inquiry.

In a page seemingly torn from a Verga novella, matters have been aggravated there last week by the circulation of an anonymous and heinous letter defaming some of the more notable candidates.

Yesterday, relative newcomer to Montalcino, Angelo Gaja (more famous for his Piedmont properties and his controversial approach to the vinification of Langa wines), released a statement in which he addressed members of the producers association, informing them that the promotion of tourism and its infrastructure in Montalcino should be their primary concern. He also endorsed the candidacy of veteran producer Donatelli Cinelli Colombini, a producers with a wealth of experience in promoting tourism, he wrote, the only woman in a “council formed solely by men.”

Following publication of the document in the Gambero Rosso forum, the Italian wine blogosphere exploded with reactions, for the most part disparaging Gaja’s omission of issues of transparency and regulation.

A number of high-profile observers of the Italian wine industry have posted strong reactions to events on the ground and to Gaja’s open letter: VinoWire editor and author of the influential blog Vino al Vino Franco Ziliani marveled that Gaja did not address his previously published statements in which he proposed reforms of appellation regulations and a new more flexible DOC;  southern Italy’s leading wine blogger, Luciano Pignataro proposed 10 challenging “questions for the new president of the consortium”; and Antonio Tomacelli, editor of the widely popular blog Intravino, wrote “There’s no question that tourists play their part, for goodness’s sake, but they come to shake hands with Brunello producers — a difficult operation, especially when they’re wearing handcuffs.”

Six individuals indicted in Brunello scandal

The Siena prosecutor has released the names of the six persons indicted in the Operation Mixed Wine investigation that led to the Brunello controversy known as Brunellopoli or Brunellogate in 2008 and 2009. According to a statement released by Italian authorities in July 2009, 20% of the 6.7 million liters of Brunello di Montalcino impounded were declassified to Toscana Rossso IGT.

Six individuals have been asked to appear before a judge in Siena for a preliminary hearing:

Stefano Campatelli, director of the Brunello producers association (Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino) and member of the Brunello certification committee

Baldassarre Fanti, president of the Brunello producers association until 2007

Lamberto Frescobaldi, legal representative of the Castelgiocondo winery

Niccolò d’Afflitto, enologist and production manager at Castelgiocondo

Giampiero Pazzaglia, legal representative of the Argiano winery

Paul Harri, ex-enologist at the Banfi winery [errata corrige: employed by the Col d’Orcia winery at the time of the investigation and in 2003, the first vintage examined by investigators; Mr. Harri’s association with Banfi ended in 1999 according to a Banfi spokesperson]

The defendants in the case have been accused of making false statements to public officials and of selling “adulterated substances” and falsely labeled “industrial products” not in accordance with appellation regulations. According to a report published May 1 in the Italian media, 17 persons received indictments and all but the above 6 negotiated plea agreements with prosecutors.

VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani reported this story in Italian today on his blog Vino al Vino. Translation by VinoWire.

Alfredo Currado, 78, venerated and beloved producer of Barolo, Barbera, and Arneis, has died.

Photo by Gerald Weisl.

Venerated and beloved producer of Barolo, Barbera, and Arneis, Alfredo Currado has died. He was 78 years old.

In 1957, Currado married Luciana Vietti and in 1960, following the death of his father-in-law, he began to manage the Vietti winery.

According to the winery’s website, he earned his degree in enology in 1952 and “was the first to select and vinify grapes from single-vineyard sites, a concept considered radical at the time but today applied by nearly all the wineries that produce Barolo and Barbaresco. The first Vietti ‘crus’ were born in 1961 with Barolo Rocche and Barabresco Masseria.”

Widely known as the “father of Arneis,” Currado was “the first to rediscover the Arneis grape variety” and the first to vinify it as a monovarietal wine. He will also be remembered for his “pioneering” series of artist labels, which he launched in 1970. A wide range of celebrated writers and painters would contribute labels to Vietti’s wines, including: Gianni Gallo, Eso Peluzzi, Pietro Cascella, Mino Maccari, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Claudio Bonichi, Valerio Miroglio, Pierflavio Gallina, Gioxe de Micheli, Janet Fish, Robert Cuttingham, and Wayne Thiebaud.

Beyond his “greatness as a grape-grower and winemaker,” wrote VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani today in a heartfelt remembrance, Alfredo Currado was an “authentic ‘ambassador of Barolo, especially in the United States.” Like another of the “great elders” of the appellation, Bartolo Mascarello, he believed that “producers of masterworks like Barolo shared a mission of cultural expression.”