A modern day in Monforte d'Alba
Still in the Langhe, we spent the night in a beautiful guest room at Winery Einaudi - a fine winery that also operates a highly regarded (and not terribly expensive) bed-and-breakfast establishment in its historic hilltop building just outside Dogliani.

Monforte d'Alba
The historic upper town of Monforte d'Alba, one of the five Barolo villages.
Sunday morning, Luca Mazzoleni and Eugenio Monzio Compagnoni drove over from Bergamo to join Roberta Vigna and me for another day of winery visits - this one focusing on a pair of Barolo makers near the historic village of Monforte d'Alba, wineries considered "modern" in their willingness to try non-traditional techniques ranging from experimental barrel-fermenting and aging to idiosyncratic vinification techniques in an effort to make better wines.

(Hearing this worried me at first, as I'm not over-fond of efforts in many world wine regions to create "modern" wines so stripped of any local and regional character that they could come from anywhere. Happily, though, this doesn't seem to be the case in the Langhe, where the wines we tasted this day may have evolved - for better or for worse - but still show distinct Piemontese personalities.)

Marco Parusso

Marco Parusso
Wine maker Marco Parusso draws a sample of Dolcetto for tasting.
One new technique that started here but has spread to a number of local wineries is the rotary maceration process, involving horizontal steel drums with an internal screw system that gently turns the pressed grapes after crushing, selectively discarding the grape seeds that produce undesirable "green" tannins, resulting in a softer, more immediately enjoyable wine.

Parusso 1999 Bricco Rovella Langhe Sauvignon Bianco (Barrel sample) - Pale brass color, citric and aromatic perfume. Mouth-filling and balanced; ripe fruit flavors are consistent with the nose, well integrated with sweet French oak.

Parusso 1999 Dolcetto d'Alba (Barrel sample) - Inky dark purple, floral and herbal; fennel and blueberries. Ripe fruit flavors follow the nose, fresh and very tart.

Parusso 1999 Barbera d'Alba (Barrel sample) - Very dark, almost black. Jammy blackherry fruit and star anise. Big, "chewy" flavor, tart and tannic structure and abundant fruit.

Parusso 1999 Barbero Vigna Ornati (Barrel sample) - Old vines single-vineyard Barbera, amazing. Almost jet black, huge blackberry-jam scent; oaky black-fruit flavor, full-bodied and almost unctuous. New French oak awfully dominant in this barrel sample, but it's far from one-dimensional and shows much potential.

Parusso 1997 Barolo Bussia Vigna Munia (Barrel sample) - Dark ruby. Black fruit with pleasant notes of dried fruit, figs and vanilla. Big, textured and tannic.

Parusso 1997 Barolo Bussia Vigna Rocche (Barrel sample) - Clear dark ruby, sweet oak singing the lead over delicate dried fruit and hard candies. Intense, extracted fruit, but it's elegant, not bombastic.

Parusso 1996 Barolo Mariondino - Pretty ruby color. Ripe cherry-berry aroma. Big and full, tart acid balancing abundant fruit and well-integrated oak. Luca notes, accurately, that the combination of fruit, herbal notes and tannins pleasantly evoke black tea.

Trattoria della Posta in Monforte d'Alba

Lunch with wine maker Parusso was another massive feast, featuring the traditional Italian sequence of antipasto, first plate (pasta), second plate (entree), cheeses and dessert, a policy that's fun for two days in a row but that would quickly have me bulging out of all the clothes I packed for Europe.

With a wonderful carne cruda battuto al coltello con Parmigiano e tartufo: hand-minced raw beef with shaved Parmigiano, maché lettuce and a generous portion of sliced white truffles.

Parusso 1995 Bricco Rovella Langhe Sauvignon Bianco - Clear brass. Perfumed floral aromas, delicate and subtle. Very rich flavor, dry and full; a pleasant whiff of asparagus.

Monti 1997 Barbera d'Alba - Very dark ruby. Spicy cinnamon and cloves over ripe black fruit. Full-bodied fruit and tart, cleansing acidity, excellent with food.

With ravioli verdi di formaggio di capra con salciccia di Bra e porri (small green ravioli stuffed with goat cheese and served with a delicate sauce with sausage from a nearby town):

Parusso 1998 Bricco Rovella Langhe (60% Nebbiolo, 25% Barbera and 15% Cabernet) - Very dark reddish-purple. Appealing cherry-berry aromas and flavor, with a pleasant earthy note that Luca identifies as "ink." Juicy and fresh, dry and crisply acidic.

With coda di vitello stufata al vino Barbera (ox tail stewed with red wine):

Parusso 1996 Barolo Bussia Vigna Rocche - Dark ruby. Ripe but elegant, well balanced fruit and acidity.

Rivetti La Spinetta 1996 Barbaresco Vigneto Gallina "Vursù" - Dark ruby-amber. Spicy cloves and intense dried-fruit aromas. Full-bodied black-fruit flavors woven through with dried flowers and spice.

With panna cotta ("boiled cream," a subtle Italian dessert akin to a flan that has died and gone to heaven):

La Spinetta 1999 Vigneto Biancospino Moscato d'Asti - Pale greenish-gold with light but persistent carbonation. Crisp grapefruit and peach aromas, light and pleasantly sweet. (Second tasting, also served last night.)

Gianmarco Ghisolfi (center) is shown overlooking his family's Barolo vineyards with Luca Mazzoleni (left), Eugenio Monzio Compagnoni (partially obscured) and Roberto Vigna (right).
Attilio Ghisolfi

Our final winery stop of the weekend was with Gianmarco Ghisolfi, who made it a clean sweep of four for four amiable and generous Lange wine makers offering samples of wines of real quality.

Attilio Ghisolfi 1998 Dolcetto d'Alba - Very dark reddish-purple. Earthy and floral, delicate wildflowers. Very full and ripe, juicy fruit and lemony acidity.

Attilio Ghisolfi 1997 Barbera d'Alba - Dark ruby. Light perfumed black fruit and anise. Fresh, tart, a bit simple.

Attilio Ghisolfi 1997 "Carlin" Langhe Rosso (a blend of Freisa and Nebbiolo) - Dark garnet, with intensely floral scents of roses. Fresh fruit flavor and zingy acid.

Attilio Ghisolfi 1996 Bricco Visette Barolo - Dark garnet, with good floral and mixed hard-candy aromas, opening up to fennel and leather. Good fruit flavors consistent with the nose, tart and tannic.

(In 1997, Ghisolfi began using the same rotary maceration system as Parusso, and the effect - in the form of softer tannins - seems evident in these two barrel samples.)

Attilio Ghisolfi 1998 Bricco Visette Barolo (Barrel sample) - Slightly hazy purple with an amberglint. Full fruit, some volatile acidity. Evolving in the barrel, hard to judge.

Attilio Ghisolfi 1997 Bricco Visette Barolo (Barrel sample) - Dark ruby, with ripe Barolo fruit and evident oak. Full and "sweet," rounding out as bottling time nears this fall.

Attilio Ghisolfi 1997 Barbera d'Alba Vigna Lisi - Opaque, almost black, with a violet edge. Anise-accented plummy fruit on the nose and palate, full and ripe, with new oak in balance. It seemed odd at first to serve a Barbera after Barolos - but for this big boy it makes sense.

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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