May 13, 2016
 

PIEDMONT FEATURE

Time to be seduced by Nebbiolo. 

2 styles from 2 gifted winemakers. 

 

Virna - Rare Barolo Mixed Cases 
Abrigo - Single-vineyard Cru Barbaresco 

 

The steep hills of Piedmont

Piedmont is a stunning, mystical region in Northwest Italy, home to two of the country’s most famous wines, Barolo and Barbaresco. Both wines are made from the Nebbiolo grape — it’s thin-skinned, highly aromatic, completely distinctive, and produces structured, long-lasting wines. The climate in Piedmont is one of the coolest in Italy, with vineyards dotting the incredibly steep slopes, shrouded in fog. 

 

VIRNA BORGOGNO, Barolo

Virna Borgogno is the brilliant winemaker behind these wines. Her style is distinctively elegant and perfumed, showing the softer side of Nebbiolo. The Borgogno estate, located just North of the village of Barolo, includes 12 hectares of sustainably farmed vineyards, and has been in the family since 1720.  

Lodovico Borgogno began introducing new viticultural practices in the 1950s in order to extract the highest possible quality from his vineyards. In 2001, his daughter Virna followed in his footsteps, taking over ownership and becoming winemaker. Her goal is to show off the true character of the Nebbiolo grape — in the cellar she uses a variety of larger oak vessels (barriques, tonneaux, botti), aiming to emphasize the subtlety and texture of the fruit, rather than wood.

Great Barolo has to do with the soil: marl, with scattered deposits of limestone amidst clay is the typical composition in the best sites. The detailed vineyard-designation system in Barolo, with its focus on quality and terroir, necessarily calls to mind Burgundy. Virna’s most prized wines come from the ‘cru’ Preda, Sarmassa and Cannubi-Boschis (of which this case includes 2 bottlings). These Cru wines are built to age, which is why we recommend drinking the appellation-level Barolo included in this mixed case while you wait.

In the glass, Nebbiolo offers up cool forest, crushed roses, sweet smoke and leather. Under Virna’s direction, it’s pure, high-toned, and completely ethereal.

 

Virna 2011 Barolo Mixed Case

 

Retail: $98.95 / bottle (6 btls/cs)

2 bottles each of:

 

2011 Barolo
2011 Barolo 'Sarmassa'
2011 Barolo 'Cannubi Boschis'

 

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2011 Barolo 

This appellation-level wine is a superb value and great intro to Virna’s wines. It’s full of classic red fruit and crushed roses accompanied by softer notes of vanilla, cocoa and spice. The wine spends 24 months aging in large (50-60Hl) Slavonian oak barrels. There’s no lack of structure here, but this is a wine for earlier consumption — something to drink while you wait for the Cru bottlings to age in the cellar.  

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2011 Barolo Sarmassa

The Sarmassa vineyard is considered among top growers to be truly outstanding. It produces structured, meaty wines that have an eathier profile with hints of tar. Sarmassa is the most age-worthy of Virna's Barolos. 

90 Points, Wine Enthusiast
Aromas of toast, grilled herb and red berry lead the nose along with a whiff of fresh mint. The palate is still primary; offering bright Morello cherry, white pepper, anise, clove and hint of tobacco while a dried sage note closes the finish. Bracing tannins and brisk acidity provide the framework. 

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2011 Barolo Cannubi Boschis

This single-vineyard wine is one of our absolute favourites. Cannubi Boschis is a famed Cru site where two soil types merge, allowing the fruit to create both power and balance in the wines it produces.

90 Points, Wine Enthusiast
Stewed prune marinated in spirits, coconut, espresso and grilled herb aromas unfold in the glass. The firm palate offers dark cherry, coffee, anise and tobacco alongside bracing tannins and bright acidity. 

 
 

ORLANDO ABRIGO, Treiso

Behold, the darker side of Nebbiolo. Abrigo is a modern winery located outside the village of Treiso. The wines are muscular, bold, and fuller bodied than the Barolos from Virna. Similar to Barolo, the soil in Barbaresco is a calcareous clay, but more nutrient-rich, often resulting in slightly less tannic wines. At Abrigo, the soil is dominated by compact brown-grey sand mixed with blue-ish/white calcareous marl. The estate vineyards are ideally situated on south-facing slopes, allowing for more sun exposure during the long ripening season. The vineyards are so steep that the vine rows on one of them, Montersino, run down rather than across.

Giovanni Abrigo began working at the winery with his father Orlando in 1988, and he continues to make wines of great character today. Over the years, Giovanni has introduced a number of modern winemaking techniques, and also brought Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Merlot to the estate. In 2012, a spectacular gravity-flow winery was completed.

Abrigo's wines are full of drama and flair, boasting tons of intensity on the nose and palate, without compromising finesse. 

 

Abrigo 2009 Barbaresco
'Vigna Rongalio'

Retail: $99.95 / bottle (6 btls/cs)

This Barbaresco is only made in the best vintages, using grapes from the oldest vines of the Rongalio Cru within the Rocche Merruzano vineyard. Two thirds of the wine is aged in large Slavonian oak casks, and the remaining third in 600L tonneaux.

Tasting note: Rich, complex, highly elegant bouquet revealing layers of violets, plums and cherries, cinnamon, pepper and licorice, topped with tobacco and white truffles. Its dry, well-balanced flavour starts out firm and smooth, becoming gradually more elegant and harmonious on the finish.